To join your exciting Cork, Blarney and Cóbh Rail Tour, you should make your way to Heuston Station, Dublin by 0640h (6:40am). 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. The Curragh is also the headquarters of the Irish army and their buildings can be seen in the distance to the south. 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).
Your first stop is the town of Portlaoise (pronounced ‘Port Leesh-eh’), home to Ireland’s only maximum security prison – ask your host to point it out. You will pass the town of Templemore – home of the Garda Síochána Training College –Ireland’s national (and unarmed) police force. Shortly after Templemore, you pass Loughmoe Castle, which can be clearly seen on the southern side of the train. Built in the 15th century, the Purcell family (of Norman origin) lived there until 1760, when it went into ruin.
The train stops at the town of Thurles, where the Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) was founded in Hayes Hotel in 1884 – the hotel is still in business today. The GAA is the sporting body responsible for promoting Ireland’s national sports, Gaelic Football and Hurling.
At Limerick Junction – a number of passengers from another tour (the Cliffs of Moher) will be leaving the train. Please remain on the train. Your final stop before Cork is at the town of Mallow – at this point, please use the ladies and gents facilities aboard the train to ensure a swift transfer from the train to the bus upon arrival at Cork.
The final approach to Cork station is through Ireland's longest railway tunnel, which is a rather modest 1.2 km. On arrival in Cork at 0950h (9:50am), you will transfer to a coach and will be taken on a guided excursion through Cork City to Blarney Village and historic Blarney Castle – built in 1446 by Dermot Mc Carthy. There will be a live commentary on the coach. You will be able to follow the example of everyone from Sir Walter Scott to various American presidents, world leaders, and international entertainers who have kissed the famous Blarney Stone; doing this is said to give you the gift of eternal eloquence!
There is also time for shopping and refreshments at Blarney and we recommend that you take this opportunity to have lunch (payable direct), as this will be the only opportunity during the day to have a substantial meal.
You depart Blarney at around 1330h (1:30pm) for Cóbh, via the city centre and a short city tour. Cork’s population is approximately 150,000 (Ireland’s 3rd largest city after Dublin and Belfast) and is the only city centre in Ireland that actually stands on an island – the River Lee divides and rejoins and either end. It is also home to the Murphy’s and Beamish and Crawford breweries – the Southern Capital’s rivals to Guinness.
On arrival at Cóbh (pronounced Cove), you will leave the train and board a coach for your sightseeing tour. You will visit St. Colman’s Cathedral before proceeding down along the sea front, passing the former White Star Line offices en route to the beautifully restored Victorian railway station/transatlantic terminal. This is now the Cóbh Heritage Centre, home to the Queenstown Story, the ticket for which is included in your tour.
When Queen Victoria visited Ireland in 1849 she came to Cóbh and the town was renamed Queenstown in her honour – it was renamed Cóbh after Irish independence in 1922.
Cóbh was the final port of call of the RMS Titanic and this theme is well expounded. The centre also houses much information about the Great Famine and subsequent Irish Emigration – 3 million Irish people emigrated from Cóbh, (principally to the United States) including Annie Moore, whose statue is located in front of the heritage centre.
The Lusitania was torpedoed off the coast of Cork – marking the United States’ entry to the First World War – and the small number of survivors were brought to Cóbh for refuge. Cóbh is also the headquarters of the Irish Navy and you will most likely see some navy ships.
We will be dropped back at Cork Station at 1630h (4:30pm) – or as directed by your host. On arrival in Cork you transfer immediately to the Dublin train. Your return train to Dublin departs at 1730h (5:30pm) and arrival in Dublin Heuston Station is scheduled for 2015h (8:15pm). There is a snack service on this train, serving tea, coffee and selection of alcoholic beverages. Your host will be able to advise you of the location of the snack car.
The tour ends at Heuston Station, Dublin, and you will need to make your own arrangements for returning to your accommodation.