The island’s most scenic railway routes

Combine a backdrop of mountains, rolling green fields and sea cliffs with historic sites and countryside hiking trails, and you’ll have railway journeys on the island of Ireland that are just a little bit special. 

First to mention is the route named by Lonely Planet as one of Europe’s Top Train Journeys. The DART (Dublin commuter train) travels the length of Dublin Bay, offering incredible coastal views. Head south and stop at Dún Laoghaire to look out for grey seals as you walk the 1.3km East Pier, stretching out into the Irish Sea, before heading on towards the town of Bray with astonishing sea views along the way. If you go in the northerly direction around the bay to the scenic village of Howth, you can walk the majestic Cliff Path along a wave-lashed peninsula. 

Next up is County Waterford, where the 12km Waterford Suir Valley Railway was restored as part of a community heritage project. Hop into a period train carriage at Kilmeaden Station and enjoy the views as you travel across farmland and along the banks of the River Suir. You may even catch a glimpse of Mount Congreve Gardens, one of the “Great Gardens of the World”! 

Travel writer Michael Palin once described the train journey from Derry~Londonderry to Coleraine as “one of the most beautiful rail journeys in the world”. This 40-minute route along part of the Causeway Coast features sandy beaches, towering cliffs and awe-inspiring ocean views. We recommend stopping off along the route at Castlerock and visiting Mussenden Temple, which was built as Earl Bishop Fredrick Hervey’s summer library around 1783 and perches at the edge of a cliff. 

Go old-school on the vintage steam train from County Down’s Downpatrick to the ruins of Inch Abbey – a monastic site on the banks of the River Quoille and a Game of Thrones® filming location. The scenery on this journey is magical as the train takes you across the hills of County Down and over the River Quoile with the Mourne Mountains in the background. 

Not all railways have to include trains…the island of Ireland is home to Greenways and designated pedestrian and cyclist paths across rural areas, many of which follow former railway tracks. 

The Great Western Greenway in County Mayo follows a scenic 49km section of the old Midlands Great Western Greenway. This route links the lively town of Westport to Achill Sound with stunning scenery along the way, including views of Clew Bay, Clare Island and Croagh Patrick. The New York Times voted it as one of the top three cycle trails in the world, so what are you waiting for? 

Further inland along the Midlands Great Western Railway, you’ll find the Old Rail Trail Greenway. This 43km path links Athlone to Mullingar in County Westmeath. Located deep in Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands, it offers peace and serenity found in this region’s countryside fit with bogs, farmland and luscious grassland. Hire a bike here and see it for yourself. 

Pick the purple train on the Waterford Suir Valley Railway in County Waterford.
Pick the purple train on the Waterford Suir Valley Railway in County Waterford. © Tourism Ireland

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