Looking for hidden pots of gold
Enjoy the Emerald Isle during its most colourful season with this 2-week itinerary
Coastal cliffs, mysterious castles, lively pubs and lots of beer and whiskey - these are just a few of the things you're going to see if you add Ireland to your next rail adventure. Divided in 2 parts, one belonging to the United Kingdom and one being independent, you will be able to experience two different cultures without leaving the island. What they share in common though, is a love for legends and mystical creatures (did someone say leprechauns?), as well as having a pint of Guinness while enjoying the music at one of the many local pubs. Find out how to experience all of that with our itinerary below and have a craic-ing good time.
Itinerary in short
The itinerary starts in Belfast, which you can reach by both plane and ferry. If you arrive at Dublin, Cork or Rosslare, you can adapt the itinerary in a way that suits you the best.
1. Belfast 2. Giant's Causeway 3. Londonderry 4. Dublin 5. Galway 6. Cliffs of Moher 7. Killarney 8. Cork 8. Kilkenny
From Kilkenny it's a short train ride back to Dublin, from where you can continue your adventures or head back home.
You may know it for its troubled past, but today Belfast is a bright, optimistic, and forward-moving city. Boasting an excellent nightlife and fantastic food, Northern Ireland’s capital should not be missed. The past is not forgotten, however, and memorials like the Peace Wall can be seen by visitors. Check out the revamped Ulster Museum and the magnificent City Hall. If you need to unwind, head to Belfast Castle to have a lovely afternoon tea or take a walk to Cave Hill for a panoramic view of the city. If you and your travel buddies lack energy, rent a Belfast beer bike and explore the city centre in the most unique way possible.
Praised for its outstanding natural beauty, this spectacular rock formation on the north coast contains 40,000 interlocking basalt columns – the result of a volcanic eruption 60 million years ago, although local legends have a different opinion on that! Be sure to look out for the bizarre chimney stacks and the Giant’s Boot, while breathing in the fresh sea air. There are 3 different trails suited for all types of levels, but Runkerry Head certainly provides the best two-mile walk.
→ The Causeway Coast can be reached by bus from Portrush and Coleraine train stations.
Just travelling to Londonderry already makes it worth a visit, as the journey is one of the most scenic train rides in Europe. The city itself has a lot of history, which you can learn about at the Museum of Free Derry, the Tower Museum and the famous Guildhall. There is also a Craft Village in the city centre, where you can experience the Irish culture through the numerous craft shops and coffee places. If you’re chasing more impressive scenery, don’t miss the Peace Bridge or the City Walls, the ultimate highlight since Londonderry is the only completely walled city in the whole country. If you’re planning to travel in autumn, celebrating Halloween in the city is a unique experience and shouldn’t be missed.
This vibrant, multicultural mecca has an ancient soul, but a youthful attitude. After a day of sightseeing, including Trinity College & Book of Kells, Dublin Castle, the National Gallery and the Dublin Writer’s Museum, be sure to save some energy to tour the Guinness Storehouse and party the night away in the Temple Bar district. In Ireland, the Guinness flows like water, and visitors should at least indulge in a pint or two. If beer is not your cup of tea, the Jameson Distillery might sparkle your interest.
Known as the "cultural heart" of the Republic, Galway is home to an exciting blend of ancient architecture and modern fun. Immerse yourself in Irish crafts and art in the Latin Quarter, observe locals at Eyre Square and Quay street, or head for a relaxed walk by the sea at the Salthill Promenade – there is so much to choose from. At night the decision-making becomes even more difficult as there are lively pubs and bars at every corner, although the Latin Quarter and Kirwan’s Lane are always a winner for a memorable pub crawl. Knowing the lyrics to Ed Sheeran’s song Galway Girl is not mandatory, but always makes the night better.
Cliffs of Moher
The karst landscape of The Burren, and the breath-taking Cliffs of Moher are the reasons that a million visitors per year come to County Clare. The cliffs are simply stunning and well worth a day of exploring. Hike around, or take a spectacular boat ride to admire the dramatic cliff-face from below. It won’t be hard to imagine you’re part of the Harry Potter movies, which also used this beautiful location for some of their scenes, and let yourself be captivated by the amazing scenery. While in County Clare, check out Bunratty Castle, a 15th century wonder, and Folk Park, a 26-acre wonderland.
→ The Cliffs of Moher can be reached by bus from Galway or Ennis.
This little town situated in the more rural part of Ireland might not be on the top of your list, but will definitely win your heart with the stunning landscapes surrounding it. Just a short walk away in Killarney National Park, you will find Ross Castle and Muckross Abbey. The Gap of Dunloe, a lovely valley, is one of the highlights and can be explored by foot, bike, boat or a car. But undoubtedly the best place in the area is the Dingle Peninsula, where you can see the most incredible views of the Atlantic coastline and the Harbour. Looking for something more unusual? You can take a jaunting car from the town centre to the National Park and feel like a Disney character!
Many residents consider Cork (Corcaigh) to be the true capital of Ireland. And with good reason. The city has a modern, vibrant and progressive feel, and a colourful history. Movie lovers will be delighted to visit the Titanic Experience at the harbour, while those always looking for delicious food can head straight to The English Market, one of the oldest in the world. Home to Murphy's Stout and host to the famous Guinness Jazz Festival in October, Cork is also the city closest to Blarney (An Bhlarna), location of the famous castle and even more famous Blarney Stone. An absolute must-see on your Irish rail adventure.
→ From Cork Kent Station, it’s a 15-minute taxi ride to Blarney.
Also known as "the Marble City'', this little gem boasts stunning Medieval architecture, that goes way beyond the popular Kilkenny Castle. The best way to experience all of the highlights is through the Medieval Mile, a trail that connects the above-mentioned castle and St. Canice’s Cathedral, while walking past lots of bars and little shops and meeting the locals. You can then continue to Brandon Hill (which is actually a mountain!), from where you will get a beautiful panorama of the whole area, or go on a ghost tour and learn some of the local legends and myths. After that unwind with the Smethwick’s Experience, the oldest brewery operating in Ireland.
How can you add Ireland to your rail trip?
To visit Ireland as part of a Global Pass trip you will need to arrive by plane or ferry. Flying is faster and is possible to the island’s 5 international airports: Dublin, Cork, Shannon, Knock and Belfast (Northern Ireland)
Or if you have more time you can take a ferry from either Wales (Great Britain) or France. These routes are operated by Irish Ferries and Stena Line, which both offer 30% discount on foot passenger fares for Eurail/Interrail Pass holders. Check here for more information about routes, ports, terms and conditions.
You can start your trip at any of the cities on our itinerary, though Dublin or Belfast might be the easiest to reach by plane. If you arrive with a ferry to Rosslare, the easiest option will be to take a direct train to Dublin.
Which Pass do you need?
If Ireland is the only country on your list, then the Ireland Pass is perfect for you. You can choose between 3 and 8 travel days in 1 month to ensure you will have the perfect time to explore the Celtic culture.
If your wanderlust is still not satisfied after this, then get yourself a Global Pass and continue exploring the rest of Europe. Whether you will take short-haul flights to the mainland or make use of the 30% discount for Pass holders on ferries between Ireland and the UK/France, you will still end up travelling conveniently and prepare for the upcoming adventures.
Wondering if you need to pay for additional reservations? You’ll be happy to hear that trains in Northern Ireland do not require any, while in the Republic of Ireland they are optional, but not mandatory. For the ferries, however, you do need to make a reservation to secure yourself a spot.