Have you thought about seeing parts of Ireland by train? One way to do that is to take one of these 5 scenic train rides that show off parts of the island’s beautiful coastline.
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From the Coastal Causeway in Northern Ireland to the Waterford and Suir Valley Railway in the southeastern part of the country, there is a lot to see and experience on these 5 rail excursions.
Downpatrick to Inch Abbey
You’ll need to make your way to Downpatrick in Co. Down to begin your journey.
Downpatrick is about 21 miles (34 km) from Belfast and is known as the burial place of Saints Patrick, Columba, and Brigit.
Downpatrick takes its name from a fort that once stood on a hill overlooking the town. Today it is the site of Down Cathedral.
Before taking the train at Downpatrick Station, be sure to visit the Saint Patrick Visitors Centre a fascinating tourist attraction that retells the story of Ireland’s patron saint.
In the churchyard of Down Cathedral, you’ll find a boulder that marks the place where St. Patrick died during the 5th century. A few miles away, Patrick is said to have converted the first person to Christianity at Saul.
The Catholic church in Downpatrick is St. Patrick’s Cathedral, which is close to the train station.
In no time at all (10 minutes to be exact), you’ll be at Inch Abbey, a ruined monastic site where St. Patrick’s mission to spread Christianity in Ireland began.
The abbey was established as a Cistercian monastery in the 12th century by the Norman knight John de Courcy.
The abbey’s main feature is its chancel (the space around the altar), which has three high windows.
It is believed that de Courcy commissioned one of the monks to rewrite the legends of St. Patrick, and some believe that this is where the legend of St. Patrick banishing the snakes from Ireland originated.
The site of the abbey was one of several locations used to film scenes for the hit HBO series Game of Thrones.
Admission to Inch Abbey is free.
Derry to Coleraine
This train ride has to be one of the most beautiful on the island of Ireland.
In fact, Michael Palin of “Monty Python” fame described it as “one of the most beautiful rail journeys in the world.”
You’ll begin your 40-minute journey in Derry (also known as Londonderry), where there’s a lot to explore, including the city’s 400-year-old walls, Guildhall, the Tower Museum, the Bogside Murals, and more.
Take the train at the Waterside Railway Station, sit back and enjoy the incredible views.
Some of the highlights include glimpses of the 7-mile Benone Strand with mountain and clifftop scenery that stretches across to neighboring County Donegal.
The beach is a favorite destination for not only swimming but also watersports, walking, picnicking, and fishing.
The track runs right along the beach, so you’ll get spectacular views all-round.
Look on the other side of the train and you’ll spot the impressive Binevenagh Mountain, used as the backdrop for several scenes in the Game of Thrones series.
The surrounding sand dunes and cliffs that you’ll see in this part of the country are home to a variety of wildlife and serve as a habitat for many birds, including the peregrine falcon.
The journey continues on to the pretty seaside village of Castlerock and through the longest tunnel on the island of Ireland, which runs beneath the famous Mussenden Temple.
The striking building sits on a 120-foot (36-meter) clifftop, with spectacular views in all directions.
The temple was built in 1785 by Frederick Augustus Hervey, bishop of Derry, as a summer library for his cousin, Frideswide Mussenden. It was inspired by the Temple of Vesta in Tivoli near Rome.
Past Castlerock, the train ride will take you along the River Bann and to your destination, Coleraine.
Howth to Greystones
If you’re staying in the Dublin area, be sure to hop on the DART, Dublin’s rapid transit system that runs from North Dublin to Co. Wicklow.
The rail line is about 53 km long (32 miles), starting in Howth and ending in Greystones, Co. Wicklow, and is one of 5 scenic train rides you could take while visiting Ireland.
Before hopping on the train at Howth, you might want to take the Howth Cliff Walk, the start of which is conveniently located at the DART station.
If you’d like to get a sense of Howth’s history, including its importance as a trading port from the 14th century on, take the Howth Peninsula Hiking Tour, a 4-hour trek of the area courtesy of experienced guides from Shane’s Howth Adventures.
The nearby Howth Castle is worth exploring, too.
While it isn’t open to the public, the grounds of this 16th-century building are free to explore.
Before reaching Dublin’s city center DART stations, you’ll see North Bull Island in the distance.
The island is located in Dublin Bay and is home to Dollymount Strand, which runs the entire length of the 5-km-long (3-mile) island, which is designated a National Bird Sanctuary.
On your DART journey, you’ll discover the seaside suburb of Clontarf, which is where the famous Battle of Clontarf was fought in 1014.
On April 23rd of that year, the Vikings launched an attack on Brian Boru, the High King of Ireland. Boru was victorious but was unfortunately killed himself in the battle.
About 5 minutes from Dublin’s Grand Canal Dock station, you’ll reach the affluent suburb of Sandymount.
From the train, you’ll be able to see the Sandymount Strand, a Blue Flag beach that is also home to the infamous Poolbeg Chimneys (seen from the plane as you make your descent into Dublin Airport).
During the summer months, kitesurfing is a popular activity on the beach.
The village itself has lots of cool cafes, restaurants, and artisan shops to explore.
Continuing south, you’ll pass the delightful towns of Sandycove, Dalkey, and Killiney.
Killiney Bay is particularly beautiful and has long been compared to the Bay of Naples, so don’t take a nap while you’re passing through this beautiful seaside village!
Bray, Co. Wicklow, is a mere 10 minutes from Greystones.
The Dublin and Kingstown Railway opened in 1834, turning Bray into a popular seaside resort.
The promenade designed during the Victorian era and the bandstand are both signature attractions in Bray.
Cork City to Cobh
The 23-minute train journey from Cork City’s Kent Station to Cobh (pronounced “Cove”) is a very pleasant one, with scenic views of the nearby Belvelley Channel and the Atlantic Ocean.
St. Colman’s Cathedral is the first thing you’ll notice when arriving in Cobh, seconded by its colorful row houses that have been photographed time and time again.
The town was originally known as Queenstown (named after Queen Victoria). Its harbor, the largest natural one in the world, was where millions of emigrants left for North America between 1848 and 1950.
The Cobh Heritage Centre is the main draw for tourists. Its exhibition, the Emigration and Maritime Story, has become an integral part of Cobh’s history and legacy.
The exhibition, which is housed in a beautifully restored Victorian railway station, retraces the journey of the Irish people who left from Cobh on coffin ships, early steamers, and ocean liners.
You’ll learn about the conditions they faced on the coffin ships and on the convict ships that left from Cobh for Australia at the beginning of the 19th century, as well as the untold stories of earlier emigrants who were sent to the West Indies during the Cromwellian period of the 17th century.
Kilmeadan to Waterford City
The Kilmeadan to Waterford City train trip is part of the Waterford & Suir Railway, Ireland’s longest narrow-gauge railway line.
On the 50-minute journey, you’ll travel over 10 km (6 miles) of railway track. The banks of the River Suir and the Waterford Greenway are visible along the way.
The beautiful scenery includes 11 bridges, three viaducts, and a 400-meter tunnel in an area known as the Copper Coast.
The journey is particularly popular with families.
Perhaps you've already taken one of these 5 scenic train rides described above. Let me know in the comments below.