To join your exciting Connemara and Galway Bay Rail Tour , you should make your way to Heuston Station, Dublin by 0710h (7:10am). The tour operator’s representatives (wearing yellow jackets) will be waiting for you beside the customer service desk. They will check you in and show you to your reserved seats on the train. A dedicated host will be available on the train to assist you and may also act as a guide on sightseeing tours.
Your departure station, Dublin Heuston, was opened in 1844 as the headquarters of the Great Southern & Western Railway and is now the official principal station of Iarnród Éireann – Ireland’s national railway company. As your train departs, you will travel in a south westerly direction, passing some of Dublin’s western suburbs – and will soon be travelling through the lush fertile countryside of County Kildare. The train goes through the town of Newbridge, which marks the northern boundary of the Curragh of Kildare.
The Curragh (pronounced ‘curra’) is famous for its racecourse, home of the Irish Derby, and there are many stud farms in the vicinity. At this time of the morning, you are likely to see some of Ireland's finest bloodstock being exercised. Shortly after the Curragh you will pass the town of Kildare, and the Church of Ireland (Protestant) cathedral of St. Brigid’s – completed in 1223 AD – can be clearly seen to the south (left hand side when facing direction of travel).
The line now enters County Laois before arriving at the junction station of Portarlington – the train's first stop since leaving Dublin. Leaving Portarlington, the train takes a westerly course as the line enters County Offaly. Your route takes you into the midlands and the Bog of Allen – vast tracts of peatland. Before then you pass through the County Town of Tullamore and then to Clara across the gentle farmlands of north Offaly.
Leaving Clara Bog, you arrive at the historic town of Athlone and pause briefly at its station, before crossing the mighty River Shannon, the longest river in these islands. You are now heading due west, surrounded by peat bog on both sides of the line. You will begin to notice that the hedgerows give way to dry stone walls, a feature of the west of Ireland.
Ballinasloe, on the River Suck, is the next stop. Continuing through east County Galway, the train arrives at Athenry, a small town immortalised in the song “The Fields of Athenry” and boasting many castles, old forts and ruined abbeys. On the last few kilometres before Galway, you will get your first glimpse of Galway Bay.
Please use the ladies/gents onboard the train before arrival in Galway to ensure a swift transfer to the bus, which will be waiting for you. There is no time to use station facilities.
You will arrive in Galway by 1015h (10:15am) and your conducted tour of Connemara (by tour bus) leaves Galway to the village of Moycullen with glimpses of the Corrib River, on the right. From Moycullen the road rises and falls towards the lovely village of Oughterard on the shores of Lough Corrib, traditionally regarded as Ireland’s premier angling centre.
Now the gateway to Connemara opens. At Maam Cross, the Connemara "crossroads", there is a replica of the cottage used in the 1950's John Wayne and Maureen O'Hara film "The Quiet Man", which was filmed here.
From Maam Cross your tour heads out to Leenane, Kylemore Abbey and Letterfrack (one of Ireland’s major national parks). There is a lunch break (payable direct) at Kylemore Abbey – an 18th century castle now owned by the Benedictine nuns who run an excellent pottery, gift shop and restaurant here. (Entrance to the Abbey is not included in your ticket but you are entitled to a reduced admission fee.)
Continue to the colourful town of Clifden - a leading holiday resort for generations, beloved by the walker, the biker, the hiker or the fisherman. It was here too, at Derrygimlagh Bog, near Clifden, that aviation history was made when Alcock and Brown crash landed after their historic transatlantic flight in 1919.
On the road out of Clifden, the Dan O'Hara pre-famine farm (circa 1840) is on your left, fronted by a replica of an ancient Irish Crannóg or lake dwelling. Back at Maam Cross again and the road turns southwards now through the Screeb, Costello and Rossaveal.
Rossaveal is the departure point for ferryboats to the Aran Islands and is also a major fishing port. You will now be in the Gaeltacht or Irish speaking area of Connemara where Gaelic or Irish is still the everyday spoken language of a bi-lingual people. (For operational reasons, on certain days we will not travel to Clifden – please check with your host/driver)
Your tour of Connemara heads homewards towards Galway City along the shores of Galway Bay, through the Gaeltacht villages of Inverin and Spiddal. In Spiddal there is a craft village and the Standun sweater shop.
After your day's touring you will be returned to Galway Station. Upon arriving at Galway Station please present your ticket and travel pack at the ticket barrier and you will be directed to your reserved seats on the train, where your host will be waiting for you.
If you arrive back early in Galway you can ask your host if there is time to explore the streets around Eyre Square. But please ensure that you are back at the railway station no later than 1755h (5:55pm) for your 1805h (6:05pm) train to Dublin Heuston – this is the last train of the day to Dublin! Your party’s reserved seats are at the very first carriage when you arrive into the station – i.e. the back of the train.
The train arrives back in Dublin at 2045h (8:45pm) and your tour ends at Heuston Station where the trip began.