Train the Snow
Train the Snow

5 Scenic Train Rides to Take in Ireland

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 Brigid.

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The town of Downpatrick in Co. Down. Photo: By Ardfern – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=7593099

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.

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St. Patrick's reputed burial place outside Down Cathedral in Downpatrick. Photo: Tourism Ireland.

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.

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A steam engine train that travels on the heritage line in Co. Down, one of 5 scenic train rides you should take when visiting Ireland. Photo: By Milepost98 – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=47210199

The steam engine journey will take you through the rolling County Down countryside, with magnificent views of the Mourne Mountains in the distance.

In no time at all (10 minutes to be exact), you’ll be at Inch Abbey, a ruined monastic site where Saint Patrick’s mission to spread Christianity in Ireland began.

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Inch Abbey in Co. Down, where scenes for Game of Thrones were filmed.

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 Saint Patrick, and some believe that this is where the legend of the saint banishing the snakes from Ireland originated.

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Another view of Inch Abbey, which is located by the Quoile Pondage Nature Reserve. Photo: Tourism Northern Ireland.

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.

As of May 2024, the steam engine line is not yet open. Be sure to join the Downpatrick & County Down Railway email list.

Read More: A Self-Guided Tour of Northern Ireland's Famous Game of Thrones Attractions

Derry to Coleraine

This train ride has been described by Michael Palin of Monty Python fame  as “one of the most beautiful rail journeys in the world.”

a city at dusk City of Derry visitor pass
A view of Derry, also known as Londonderry. Photo courtesy of Tourism Ireland.

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.

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Horseriding on Benone Strand, with Mussenden Temple in the background. Photo: Gardiner Mitchell, Tourism Ireland.

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.

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Binevangh Mountain in Co. Derry, which forms part of the Antrim plateau. This was the setting for the Dothraki Grasslands. Photo: Tourism Northern Ireland.

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.

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The Mussenden Temple in Co. Derry. Photo: Emanuele Bresciari for Getty Images.

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, County 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.

Soak up the views of Lambay Island, Ireland’s Eye, and the entire Dublin Bay region.

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Walkers on Shane's Howth Adventures. Photo courtesy of ©[email protected].

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.

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Howth Castle. Photo: O'Dea at Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 4.0, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=73405857

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.

a beach 5 scenic train rides
Dollymount Strand in Dublin. Photo: Alasabyss for Getty Images.

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.

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a promenade 5 scenic train rides
The Clontarf Promenade. Photo: Paola Floris, Failte Ireland.

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.

a beach by a town at night 5 scenic train rides
Killiney Hill, Dublin, at night. Photo: JPosvancz for Getty Images.

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.

a road along the ocean 5 scenic train rides
The coastline from Bray to Greystones, Co. Wicklow. Photo: Giuseppe Milo, https://www.flickr.com/photos/giuseppemilo/. https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

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.

Read More: Learn All About Dublin's Free Attractions

Cork City to Cobh

The 23-minute commuter 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.

Along the way, you can make stops at Little Island and the Fota Island Wildlife Park.

a church and houses by a harbor 5 scenic train rides
Cobh in County Cork. Photo: Chris Hill, Failte Ireland.

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.

a bronze statue of a woman and two children 5 scenic train rides
Statues at Cobh Harbor in remembrance of the millions of Irish who left from there during the 19th and 20th centuries. Photo: Chris Hill for Tourism Ireland.

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.

tables and chairs in a renovated railway station 5 scenic train rides
The Cobh Heritage Centre. Photo: Peter Craine, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=9364079

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.

While in Cobh, you might want to visit the nearby Spike Island or choose from a number of walking tours available in the seaside town.

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.

a couple looking at a waterway 5 scenic train rides
Views from the Waterford & Suir Railway, one of 5 scenic train rides waiting for you in Ireland's sunny southeast Photo: Stefan Schnebelt Photography for Tourism Ireland.

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.

a castle at the end of a long curvy road 5 scenic train rides
Waterford's Copper Coast. Photo: Luke Myers, Failte Ireland.

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.

colette

Colette is a County Sligo native who created Ireland on a Budget to provide her readers with money-saving tips on how to get to Ireland and then save even more when they're there. She's a professional copywriter who lives in the New York area with her husband and two children.

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