When the Belmond Grand Hibernian launched in August 2016, Ireland was given its first luxury sleeper train, showcasing Irish hospitality in a nostalgic setting. What’s more, on each rail journey the Belmond Grand Hibernian winds through Ireland’s lush countryside and along its rugged coastline, with excursions that give an insight into Irish culture, stopping off at Ashford Castle on the way.
Four and six night journeys depart from Dublin, before clattering west through the undulating landscape to reach Cork and Blarney Castle. But instead of simply passing through each destination, passengers disembark to experience the local culture and take in the city or landscape’s most fascinating sights.
While a stop-off in Cork encompasses a Jameson whiskey tasting experience, a visit to Blarney Castle and Gardens gives passengers the chance to join a private tour of the castle’s impressive grounds. An afternoon in the Lakes of Killarney, meanwhile, includes a pony and trap ride, as well as a boat trip on Lough Leane.
Both the four-night ‘Legends and Loughs’ trip and six-night ‘Grand Tour of Ireland’ take in Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Coast. Here, the soaring Cliffs of Moher are undoubtedly one of the biggest draws, and an optional excursion for guests on the journey.
A walking tour of the atmospheric city of Galway is another optional trip, or passengers can choose to see one of the city’s outstanding craft centres. Either way, a visit to the waterside city is accompanied by a taste of the area’s cuisine, with a lavish meal of Champagne and oysters served at a local restaurant.
A highlight of these railway journeys is the chance to revel in the grandeur of Ashford Castle, where in addition to exploring the sweeping estate, guests can experience the ancient sport of Falconry in the company of a local expert.
A diversion into Connemara National Park follows, opening up the extraordinary landscape for everyone on-board. This is where passengers on the Legends and Loughs journey disembark, while those on the Grand Tour of Ireland continue back to Dublin before travelling to Belfast and the Viking port of Waterford.
On each of these rail journeys, the landscape of each destination undoubtedly steals the show, but this isn’t any ordinary train either. Each of the Belmond Grand Hibernian’s cars is named after a different county of Ireland, with elegant private cabins, an observation car for passengers to mingle in, and the two dining cars, Sligo and Wexford, serving fine dining plates encompassing artisanal Irish produce.
Of course, a flying visit to the Ashford Estate, Connemara and Galway may just whet your appetite to further explore this part of Ireland. If you do decide to return, you know you’ll be welcomed in to Ashford Castle with open arms.
Image credits: Images of Belmond Grand Hibernian © Belmond. The Cliffs of Moher © iStock / espiegle. Ashford Castle © Red Carnation Hotels.