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Travel guide: Visit Ireland by train

Thinking about travelling Ireland by train? With improved rail services, and an extensive network, you can now explore the Emerald Isle at ease from the north to the south. Discover the best routes and itineraries for an unforgettable trip to Ireland.

Cathedral and colored houses in Cobh, Ireland
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Lisbeth Wahl

Lisbeth is part of our team of travel consultants and is our product manager for tours in the UK and Ireland. She has lived in London for over 25 years and has been lucky enough to travel and explore the wonders of Ireland on many occasions.

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Why travel around Ireland by train?

The interior of a train in Ireland with vibrant red seats.
Train Seating. Photo: Norrie3699 via canva.com

 


Explore Ireland by train - fast, easy, and comfortable

Travelling by train around Ireland is a fast way to explore the country. Major cities and towns are easily accessible through Iarnród Éireann / Irish Rail in the Republic of Ireland and Translink in Northern Ireland, with intercity journeys rarely exceeding 3 hours.

Sit back, relax, and soak in the breathtaking views, as many of rail routes showcase the country's most scenic landscapes. Most trains offer excellent services such as free WiFi connection, catering, and power sockets.

Cheap if you book in advance

While the train may not always be the most economical choice for travel, booking tickets in advance can make it budget-friendly and secure you a guaranteed seat. Explore various ticket types and book easily on the Irish Rail website. If you don't want to book a long time in advance and you're feeling spontaneous, you can always use ticket machines or station offices.

What are the most scenic train rides in Ireland?

A flock of fluffy white sheep grazing on lush green fields in Ireland.
A flock of sheep in Ireland.

Downpatrick to Inch Abbey

Make your way to Downpatrick in County Down in Northern Ireland from where the journey will start onboard a steam engine train. Inch Abbey is only 10 minutes from Downpatrick, but the journey offers magnificent views of the Mourne Mountains and the County Down countryside.

Inch Abbey is a ruined monastic site and is one of the many locations in Ireland that was used as a filming location for the popular series Game of Thrones.

Map of Ireland: Train route from Downpatrick to Inch Abbey on the east coast.
Mourne Mountain photo © M-image via canva.com

 

Train from Derry to Coleraine

Still in Northern Ireland, explore the city of Derry and the city’s 400-year-old walls, then join Waterside Railway for a 40-minute journey to Coleraine. From the beach to Binevenagh Mountain, you will enjoy impressive views of Irish wildlife along the way. You will pass through Ireland’s longest tunnel which runs under the famous Mussenden Temple to Coleraine.

Map of Ireland: Train from Derry to Coleraine
Downhill beach. Photo: Joaquin Ossorio-Castillo via canva.com

 

Train from Dublin to Galway

Embark on a 3-hour east to west train journey from Dublin to Galway. The last part of the trip will amaze you with the views it has to offer. You will cross the River Shannon in Athlone to the Galway coast.

Related: experience this this train ride on the Panorama Tour of Ireland

Map of Ireland: Train route from Dublin to Galway
Galway City. Photo: JByard via canva.com

 

Train from Dublin to Belfast

From one capital to another, the train journey between Dublin and Belfast is breathtaking. From Connolly Station, you will travel along the coastline of Malahide Marina before reaching the Northern Ireland countryside.

Enjoy some of the best sights of Ireland as the train crosses the River Boyne, the UNESCO-listed archaeological site Brú na Bóinne and the 18-arch Craigmore Viaduct.

Related: experience this train ride on the All Ireland Rail tour

Map of Ireland: Train route from Dublin to Belfast
Craigmore Viaduct. Photo: Alan Hopps via canva.com

 

Train from Howth to Greystones

From Howth, a small but interesting sea town not far from Dublin, hop on the train to Greystones to experience one of the most beautiful train journeys in Ireland.

Follow the Irish Sea coast past the beautiful towns of Sandycove, Dalkey, Killiney with its particularly beautiful bay and keep your eyes peeled during the last 10 minutes of the journey, from Bray, Co. Wicklow to Greystones as the views are well worth admiring.

Map of Ireland: Train from Dublin to Howth and Greystones.
Bray Cliff. Photo: Dejan Stojakovic via canva.com

 

Train from Cork to Cóbh and Killarney

The journey between Cork city and Cóbh (pronounced “Cove”) is short, only twenty-five minutes, but it is one of Ireland’s most scenic rail routes. You'll enjoy views of the Belvelley Canal and the Atlantic Ocean before catching a glimpse of St. Coleman's Cathedral on arrival in Cóbh. You will continue to Killarney, a must-see town surrounded by incredible nature. 

Related: experience this train ride on the Exclusive Rail Tour around Ireland

Map of Ireland showing the train route from Cobh to Cork and Killarney.
Cobh. Photo: Susanne Neumann via canva.com

What are the top attractions accessible by train in Ireland?

Travelling by train in Ireland lets you easily visit major cities and towns, experiencing the diverse landscapes across the country from north to south and west to east, however, certain areas like Donegal, Monahan, and Cavan have limited or no rail services.

Furthermore, it's important to note that iconic attractions such as most of the Wild Atlantic Way, the Aran Islands, the Cliffs of Moher, as well as most historical monuments like Blarney Castle and Newgrange, cannot be reached by train.

To visit Ireland's main attractions, consider booking a vacation package that blends scenic train rides with coach day trips, providing a balanced mix of scenic travel and guided visits with local experts. See for example the All Ireland Rail tour.

Ireland train map

Click on the link to access a comprehensive Ireland train map featuring all intercity routes of the Irish Rail network. 

 

By Lisbeth Wahl / Aug 31 2023

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