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Experience the best of the Emerald Isle by train on this thoughtfully designed grand touring holiday.
Starting from Dublin, one of Europe’s great capitals, your tour of Ireland by train begins with a rail journey to Co Mayo on Ireland’s west coast, where the Wild Atlantic Way beckons. Enjoy a private guided road tour to Galway, and from Clare to Killarney, combined with further railway rides from Kerry to Cork, and all the way up the ancient East coast to the captivating city of Belfast. An unforgettable way to experience the Emerald Isle.
Interested in exploring Ireland car-free? Why not do so in the company of an expert local guide on our Dublin, Belfast & Causeway Coast Small Group Rail Tour.
You start the tour travelling by train from Dublin to County Mayo, and a jewel of a town on Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way – the world’s longest defined coastal touring route. You’ll be transferred from your hotel to Dublin Heuston station, for the train journey of just over three hours to Westport, in the shadow of Croagh Patrick, Ireland’s holiest mountain. Arriving late afternoon gives you time to get your bearings and perhaps enjoy a drink before dinner in this classic Irish tourist location.
Your Accommodation in Westport
Just couple of minutes away from the station by taxi, your accommodation in Westport is a richly appealing family-owned hotel. You’ll find the warmest of Irish welcomes here from your host and staff and we’re sure you’ll love the recently upgraded rooms, fine breakfast and good dining either in the orangery or the restaurant. There’s also a traditional Irish pub in-house. The hotel’s location at the centre of Westport makes it the perfect place from which to explore this jewel of a town.
With history stretching back around 5000 years – as reflected in the many megalithic monuments on the Clew Bay Archaeological Trail – there’s a wealth of activity and attractions to enjoy in Westport. Perhaps chief among these is historic Westport House and Park, a magnificent 17th century mansion house festooned with period antiques, art and artefacts, easily reached from your B&B on foot via the defined greenway around the edge of town. Westport’s bustling Quay area features quirky shopping and one or two good dining options, while the town of Westport itself contains colourful shops and restaurants, as well as several classic Irish pubs where traditional music can be enjoyed over a few pints of the Black Stuff on any night of the week.
After a hearty Irish breakfast, get ready for a wonderful day on the road with your very own private guided tour along the Mayo coast, travelling to the lively city of Galway. You’ll be collected at your B&B and taken on an unforgettable tour along the Co. Mayo and Co. Galway sections of the Wild Atlantic Way, including the breathtaking Connemara coastline. Experience coastal villages seemingly untouched by time, enjoy locally caught seafood amidst the most amazing scenery and fabulous artisan produce along the way, while meeting the friendliest people and really getting to know the meaning of ‘the craic’. Your private guide is carefully chosen by us to ensure you’re given the perfect day out.
Right on the harbour at the edge of the city centre, your accommodation in Galway is a bright and modern hotel in a winning location. From here, it’s easy to explore the city itself and it’s just a handful of steps from the pier for the ferry to the Aran Islands.
Catch the ferry this morning at Galway docks for the crossing to Inis Mór, the largest of the magical Aran Islands. Arriving, you’ll be met by the friendliest and most fascinating of local guides, a true man of the Gealtacht. Setting off in a specially adapted Land Rover, you’ll enjoy a tour of the island from this uniquely thrilling and local perspective.
The three rocky limestone outcrops that make up the Aran Islands are a bastion of traditional language, culture and music, unique in their geology and archaeology and unrivalled in their potent sense of history. Each has its own distinct atmosphere and character, and the dramatic landscapes and endless sea form a backdrop to a labyrinth of meandering stone walls and tiny, tightly packed fields. In between, a network of narrow winding roads and grassy lanes sweep from pristine beaches and craggy shores to the dizzying cliffs that mark the edge of Europe. The islands have lured legions of writers, artists and visitors over the centuries – their enigmatic ancient monuments, early Christian remains, holy wells and historic lighthouses adding to their sense of timelessness and mystery. This serenity makes the islands a precious sanctuary from the rush of modern life and their isolation guarantees their place as a stronghold of traditional culture.
You will return to Galway in the early evening, your ferry taking the scenic route via a close pass by the soaring Cliffs of Moher, reputedly the highest in Europe.
It’s just a short, scenic train ride today, so take your time over a leisurely breakfast before setting off for Galway Railway station and boarding your train to Ennis, the county town of County Clare.
In a little over an hour, you’ll be in the ‘Mecca of Irish Traditional Music’, the friendliest of towns, where you’ll find a session in every pub, a smile on every face and the craic on every corner. There’s fine quirky shopping here, too, as well as a growing number of good places to eat and some really superb, authentic Irish pubs. The impressive granite cathedral and its spire loom over the end of McConnell Street, while the fast-flowing River Fergus cuts through town on its way to the Atlantic. We’ll provide all the recommendations you need to make sure you get the very best from your day out in town.
Your Hotel in Ennis
Your hotel in Ennis is a long established and iconic, family owned town hotel, standing proudly in the shadow of the cathedral. Cosy and comfortable rooms, a bustling bar full of locals and tourists alike, a good bistro (do try the seafood chowder with a pint of Guinness) and a terrific fine-dining restaurant, combine with friendly and attentive service to make your stay a memorable one.
You’re in for a really special day out today, with a private guided tour around some of the most famous and arresting sights in County Clare. The mysterious rocky landscape of the Burren, the spectacular Cliffs of Moher, including the stupendous views from O’Brien’s Tower, the clifftop walks at Doolin, as well as Doolin Cave, and the world class beach at Lahinch are just a few of the Wild Atlantic Way attractions within easy reach of your hotel, and your carefully chosen guide will ensure you have a fabulous day out.
Get set for another great day on the road, the last of your private guided tours, as our carefully chosen expert guide takes you on a fascinating route around Clare’s fabled Loop Head peninsula and onwards to Killarney in beautiful County Kerry. You’ll see sights including the famous Bridges of Ross, eerie Loop Head Lighthouse and the gorgeous beach at Spanish Point, and maybe enjoy a seafood lunch and ‘the last pint of Guinness before America’ at Kilbaha, before boarding the ferry at Killimer for the 20 minute crossing to Tarbert in Country Kerry. Once landed, you’ll be taken the long way around the fabulous North Kerry coastline and onwards to your hotel in Killarney.
Your Hotel in Killarney
A long established family owned-and-run hotel provides your comfortable stop for two nights near the centre of the bustling town of Killarney. A warm welcome and impeccable service, along with well appointed rooms and a comfortable restaurant make this a supremely relaxing place to stay. Its convenient location makes the hotel perfectly placed to explore this most charming town and its surroundings.
The vibrant town of Killarney – ‘the Town in the Park’ – surrounded by beautiful Kerry countryside, is famous for its welcoming atmosphere and convivial hospitality. Perfectly placed on the Ring of Kerry by the three Lakes of Killarney, it’s one of our favourite places to return to time and time again. Enjoy a morning in the company of a Jarvey on one of the town’s famous jaunting cars for a fun trip around beautiful Muckross Park and towards Ross Castle, or take one of the many superb walks that circumnavigate the town. Later, head back to eat at any one of the dozens of fine eateries and to have a browse of the many quirky shops – not forgetting to pop in to a welcoming pub for a pint or two of the Black Stuff.
Back on the train today for a scenic journey to the lovely and historic fishing town of Kinsale in County Cork. You’ll take the train from Killarney to Cork City and enjoy a 30 minute road transfer from here to your hotel in Kinsale.
Your Hotel in Kinsale
Right by the River Bandon water’s edge, your hotel in Kinsale is a fresh and appealing harbourside jewel. The restaurant and each of the well appointed en-suite bedrooms enjoys a view of the shimmering water, at this very edge of the Wild Atlantic Way, while the traditional in-house tavern is a great spot in which to enjoy a cold one before setting off for the evening.
Famed for the quality of its seafood, served in any number of superb restaurants with frontages painted in vivacious colours, Kinsale is one of the prettiest towns in Ireland and is home to a number of fine historical attractions, all within easy walking distance of your hotel. As you’ll find across Ireland, the quality of the welcome and friendliness of the people are simply world class.
To help you get your bearings, a foodie walking tour around the town is included. Make sure you arrive with an empty stomach!
Today you’ll have one of your most fun days on the trains as you make the journey from Cork all the way to Belfast, via Dublin. You’ll be transferred back to Cork City to catch the train to Dublin Heuston, then make a connection on the “Luas” (light rail) across Dublin to continue your tour of Ireland by train from Connolly Station to Belfast.
Your Hotel in Belfast
Your hotel is a locally owned guesthouse close to the University area and a mere 10 minute walk from the city centre. This AA four star rated accommodation comes highly recommended for offering great value for money and a comfortable base from which to enjoy the city. There is complimentary WiFi in all rooms, a light, airy breakfast room and, within a few minutes’ walk, a host of restaurants and bars to suit all tastes and budgets; as they say in Belfast, “the craic is never far away”.
At the head of Belfast Lough, the city is compact and easy to get around, whether by public transport or on foot. Belfast is teeming with a multitude of stylish bars, gourmet restaurants, trendy clubs and some of the best shopping in the UK. Visitors can enjoy traditional Irish music in a local pub or dance the night away to the latest vibes – the choice is yours!
The birthplace of the Titanic, Belfast’s industrial heritage has shaped a city steeped in culture, seen at the City Hall, the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum and the city’s many preserved historic buildings. Also, the city’s many parks, gardens and galleries offer a perfect haven to relax. Don’t miss the newly refurbished Ulster Museum; it has an enviable collection of Irish art and the wonderful Girona Exhibition of Spanish Armada gold.
Enjoy a final hearty Irish breakfast before transferring back to the Railway Station or airport for your onward journey home.
This holiday is part of our ever-growing collection of public transport based holidays, enabling you to reach destinations around Ireland without the need to drive. We feel strongly that true sustainability also means promoting and helping to maintain a way of life in areas where the economic benefit of tourism can make a genuine difference to the local community, which is why we have used locally owned small accommodation and local guides on this holiday.
Our self-guided tour starts from Dublin with a first stop on the west coast at Mayo, then to Galway, Clare, Killarney and Kinsale in County Cork, before a final stop in Belfast. You can then return to Dublin or complete the trip in Northern Ireland. We can then add nights in Dublin to the itinerary, as you prefer.
It is also possible to customise the itinerary to start from Belfast, Cork or Limerick, just let us know your preferences.
£2935 per person for departures in April & October, £2985 per person in May and £3125 per person in June to September.
Prices are based on two adults sharing a double or twin room for 12 nights on a bed & breakfast basis, staying in our hand-picked selection of small hotels and guesthouses. This holiday includes train travel as described above, and transfers, as well as a day trip and tour on the Aran Islands, a day taxi tour to see the famous Cliffs of Moher and The Burren, a guided foodie walking tour of Kinsale, and a black taxi tour of Belfast with entrance to the Titanic Visitor Centre.
The price for a single traveller with sole occupancy of ensuite double rooms is £4050 for April & October, £4250 for May and £4450 for June to September.
Travel to Ireland
We would be delighted to book your travel to Ireland from Britain for this holiday. The holiday can be tailored to match the ferry routes from Holyhead or Fishguard in Wales, or to Belfast from Cairnryan in Scotland.
Flights to Dublin, Cork, Shannon or Belfast would also be ideal starting points.
Before your departure, you will receive personalised holiday information including full directions, recommended routes, and suggestions on places to visit depending on your interests and our local knowledge to help you get the most from your holiday.
All Ireland itineraries and room types are presented subject to availability at specific hotels.
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This tour of Ireland by train can be arranged from April to October.
Availability is individually checked for a hand-picked selection of smaller hotels, guest houses and other independent businesses, so please bear with us and we will respond in 1-2 working days.
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All our holiday prices include a service charge of £9 per person per night towards the costs we incur in researching, planning and designing your holiday.
We guarantee to refund this service charge if you believe that arranging your holiday through McKinlay Kidd has not met your expectations for value. All we ask is that you write to us within 7 days of your return and explain your reason for claiming the refund. This will ensure that we can improve the experience for all our future guests.
When I’m exploring a new part of the world car hire is usually one of the first things I book so I know how I’m getting from A to B, espec...
The favourite part of our experience was the wonderful driver/tour guides we had.Susan, Alberta
Seeing the beautiful scenery, enjoying excellent meals and having interesting conversations...I can't think of anything we would change.Karen & James, Maryland
A great variety of places and experiences.Kathleen, Washington, USA
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