A Guide to Exploring Ireland by Train

There’s no better way to sit back and relax while basking in the beautiful scenery of Ireland than travelling via train. Ireland’s rail service has improved over the years making it an easy and convenient way to explore both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland in the one trip. Read our short guide below on exploring Ireland by train.

Ireland’s Rail Network

Irish Rail in the Republic of Ireland and Translink in Northern Ireland are the 2 rail networks that operate in Ireland. While Dublin and Belfast are the 2 main rail hubs, there is a train station in other cities and towns too. The main train stations in Ireland are:

Popular routes 

There are of course lots of rail routes in Ireland, but some are more popular amongst travellers than others.

Cobh to Cork

Visit 2 of County Cork’s most famous locations, Cobh and Cork, just a 23-minute journey between each other. You’ll get to experience the best of both worlds via this route, as Cork is a thriving city, while Cohb is more of a quaint seaside village. You’ll also get to witness spectacular views over the Belvelly Channel and the Atlantic Ocean.

Dublin to Sligo

The train from Dublin will depart from the city’s main station, Connolly Station, and will arrive at Mac Diarmada railway station in Sligo. The journey from Dublin to Sligo lasts over 3 hours, but you will pass through several other towns and landmarks like Phoenix Park, Maynooth town and the River Shannon, with the option to hop on and off. 

Derry/Londonderry to Coleraine

The route from Derry/Londonderry to Coleraine in Northern Ireland has been described as one of the most beautiful rail journeys in the world. The journey only last around 40 minutes and passes by golden beaches and oceans. There are lots of opportunities to hop on and off to check out some of the local sightseeing spots along the way, like the Benone Strand and Downhill. 

Downpatrick to Inch Abbey

Starting your journey at Downpatrick in County Down, climb aboard a vintage steam train for a trip to the ruined monastic site of Inch Abbey. This rail route is surrounded by wildlife and farmland and offers beautiful views of the Mourne Mountains. Lasting only 10 minutes, this is a short journey, so be sure to take in as much of the scenery as possible. 

Fares and tickets

Standard single or return tickets can always be purchased, however, travellers often like to purchase rail travel cards like the Leap Visitor Card or the iLink Card. Travel cards like such are more convenient, especially if you know you’re definitely going to be hoping on and off trains over a few days. 

Leap Visitor Card

  • Prepaid card
  • Allows unlimited travel
  • Touch and go
  • Card can be topped up with money up to 5 times

iLink Card

  • For Northern Ireland
  • Touch and go
  • Unlimited daily, weekly and monthly travel on rail services within zones 1-4 and the North West, as well as some bus services
  • Top up card at stations

Best of Scotland Holiday’s All Ireland Rail Tour allows travellers to explore the country by train. This tour covers a large part of the Wild Atlantic Way and Causeway coast. We head South to visit Cork, Blarney Castle & the Ring of Kerry, West to the Cliffs of Moher, Connemara, the Aran Islands in Galway Bay and North to the Giants Causeway. 

You can get in contact with us here if you’d like to find out more about this tour.

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