Ireland by Rail
Most travelers and vacationers plan a trip to Ireland with plans of renting a car. This makes plenty of sense – Ireland is a small enough country with very cute and picturesque towns and villages to stay in, and driving gives the freedom and flexibility to “get off the beaten path”. But, when you’re a solo female traveler who has never driven on the opposite side of the road, driving a car through Ireland can seem pretty intimidating.
When I was planning out my week traveling through Ireland, I decided to opt for mainly train travel instead. I don’t regret this decision at all. Train travel in Europe is great, and in Ireland it is no exception. It is extremely affordable, safe, enjoyable and makes for beautiful window watching! Below is my route I planned for one week in Ireland. At the end is a suggested two week itinerary. I’ve also included some helpful tips and information regarding both train travel and bus travel.
Day 1 – Travel Day to Dublin
I took a direct flight on Aer Lingus from Boston to Dublin, but you could easily alter this itinerary by flying into Shannon outside of Limerick on the West Coast. Once arriving in Dublin, see if there is public transportation you can take to your accommodation. There is a great Airlink bus that takes you to the center of town, and was extremely affordable, reliable and easy to navigate. If you only have a week in Ireland, I recommend only spending one night in Dublin. It is possible to spend most of your day doing the popular tourist attractions, such as the Guinness Store House, Trinity College and some other tourist attractions which interest you. For night head towards Temple Street for some Irish fare and live music and drinks. Dublin is a big tourist city, and as such you will meet many international travelers.
Day 2 – Train Ride Dublin – Cork
Head out of Dublin from Dublin Heuston train station to Cork Kent train station. The ride is beautiful and peaceful, and makes worth it waking up early after a full day of sightseeing and jet lag. Arrive in Cork around noon, check into your accommodation, and spend the day exploring Cork. Some highlights include The English Market and downtown Cork, the Cork Butter Museum (Something I missed out on but really wanted to check out) and enjoy a great dinner at one of the local restaurants and some drinks at a local pub.
Day 3 – Train Ride Cork – Cobh
Take a day trip and short half hour train ride to Cobh, Ireland on the coast of southern Ireland. Here is where the Titanic last called before it’s fateful journey out to the Atlantic Ocean, the Lusitania, and the last of Ireland many emigrants saw before leaving for the Americas, Australia and South America. Check out the Cobh Heritage Center, the Titanic Exhibit, and endure the steep hills for beautiful views of the town and ocean beyond.
Day 4 – Train Ride Cork – Killarney
Spend the day on a longer train ride from Cork to Killarney, Ireland. I did not get to check out Killarney because of Storm Brian, but this is a place I definitely want to visit on my next trip to Ireland. Spend the day bike riding through Killarney National Park and visiting places such as Muckross House and Ross Castle. Stay at a cute bed and breakfast or other accommodations for the night.
Day 5 – Train Ride Killarney – Galway
Take a longer train ride with some connections from Killarney to beautiful Galway, Ireland. This was by far my favorite city. It’s a smaller city feel, with live music on every street corner and in every bar. The coffee shops are cozy, the bars are warm and friendly, and the people are cosmopolitan and international. Spend the afternoon and evening exploring the city center and stopping in at some great warm pubs in the evening.
Day 6 – The Cliffs of Moher and The Burren
The Cliffs of MoherSpend the day traipsing through The Burren and driving the Wild Atlantic Way to make your way to the Cliffs of Moher. Opt for an affordable day tour through Viator. I was originally scheduled to do the Cliffs of Moher and Inis Mor island tour, but unfortunately the weather wasn’t cooperating and the ferries weren’t running. Never fret though, our tour guide took us to the Allwee Caves instead. The Cliffs of Moher do not disappointment, and are well worth the time and money spent. Once back in Galway spend the evening at another great pub with live music.
Day 7 – Travel Day
Depending on the time of your flight, catch the comfortable and extremely affordable GoBus from Galway straight to the Dublin Airport. The scenery is beautiful, with more Irish countryside and enjoyable views.
If you have two weeks in Ireland, here is the extended itinerary I suggest:
Day 1 and 2 – Dublin, Ireland
Day 3 – 5 Cork, Ireland with potential day trips to Kinsale, Ireland; Cobh, Ireland; and Blarney Castle
Day 6 – 7 Killarney, Ireland
Day 8 – 9 Limerick, Ireland with day trips to Ennis, Ireland and Kylemore Abbey
Day 10 – 12 Galway, Ireland with day trips to the Aran Islands, Cliffs of Moher, and Sligo, Ireland
Day 13 – 14 back to Dublin, Ireland
An important item to note: When booking your train tickets through Irish Rail, make sure you book them online. I looked at pricing for my train from Dublin to Cork, and it was an affordable 20 Euros. When I got to the station to purchase my ticket, the price was 65 euros. I asked the ticket agent why the surplus, and he said it was much cheaper to purchase online. I purchased my train ticket from Cork to Galway a couple of hours before I left and only paid the 20 euros as listed.
How else do you recommend traveling around Ireland besides by car?