All aboard for Ireland

All aboard for Ireland

Ireland’s first luxury touring train launches this August. Discover why Belmond Grand Hibernian is set to add a new dimension to the Emerald Isle.

Spotting herds of wild ponies as you glide through rugged countryside in Connemara National Park, sipping a smooth Irish whiskey in your plush carriage while soaking up the breathtaking scenery of Ireland’s countryside, or joining the folk of Galway with a Guinness in a buzzing Latin Quarter pub…. from August 2016, these are some of the experiences that guests on board Belmond Grand Hibernian, Ireland’s first ever luxury touring train, will enjoy. Departing from Dublin, the new train will carry 40 guests to famous attractions as well as off-the-beaten-track locations in both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, along the way encountering vibrant personalities and making memories to cherish.

The inspiration for the train was sparked by an old railway map that Gary Franklin, Managing Director of Belmond Trains & Cruises, happened to find. He realised there was a network of track through beautiful countryside, linking many of the country’s top destinations and making it a great place for a new luxury train. Having toured Ireland several years back he had fond memories of his travels. “I found the people so welcoming. You walk into any pub and there’s music being played, stories being told, simple, hearty fare such as mussels and soda bread being served. Together with the stunning scenery, these are the sorts of rich, authentic experiences we like to offer our guests.”

Belmond Grand Hibernian will naturally offer the exceptional onboard experience and exciting excursions guests have come to expect from Belmond, but the look and feel is distinctively its own. As the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express is all about the art deco era and Belmond Royal Scotsman has the feel of a Scottish country house, so Belmond Grand Hibernian also has a sense of place. The designers, James Park Associates, have cleverly drawn on Georgian architecture—which is predominant in Dublin—to influence the interiors and then given them a light, contemporary twist. Each carriage is named after a different county in Ireland and decorated in distinct colour schemes. So Kerry is in soothing shades of purple and blue, Leitrim has accents of red, Waterford is in green hues. The lavish, relaxing cabins, each with a private en-suite, offer details such as tartan cushions and generous wardrobes.

In the two onboard restaurants—elegant, fine dining Sligo and light-filled Wexford, both featuring Irish touches such as Waterford crystal and Celtic motifs—guests will be treated to exquisite cuisine crafted from local specialities including artisan cheeses, smoked fish and Irish whiskies. In the Observation Lounge the convivial atmosphere of a traditional Irish pub is evoked with rich woods, antique mirrors and cut glass.

All of which provides a sumptuous moving base for exploring the Emerald Isle. Guests can choose from a variety of journeys. The four-night “Legends and Loughs” covers highlights of the Republic of Ireland, including a private tasting at the Jameson Whiskey Academy near Cork, a visit to medieval Blarney Castle with its famous Stone, a boat trip on Lough Leane in the magical Lakes of Killarney and an exhilarating sheepdog display in Connemara National Park. For golf lovers, tailor-made extensions to try out Ireland’s world-famous courses can be added. Stays in Dublin, to explore the vibrant city, can also be arranged before or after your journey.

On all journeys guests are able to enjoy experiences that would otherwise be inaccessible. For example, many people are familiar with Blarney Castle, but guests of Belmond Grand Hibernian can exclusively visit magnificent Blarney House, ancient seat of the MacCarthys of Muskerry, and be shown round by the owner. Then there are the unexpected surprises Belmond likes to offer—drinking champagne on the shore of a lough or listening to toe-tapping music in a pub.

The new train is clearly hotly anticipated. Clients on existing trains often ask: where next? Where can we come with you in the future? So for lovers of luxury rail travel this is a momentous development—and indeed a number of journeys are already sold out.

The observation Car on Belmond Grand Hibernian

“For me,” says Gary Franklin, “one of the main joys is the sense of relaxation you get from travelling on a train. You have time to read, absorb the changing views through the window, chat to fellow guests in the Observation Car. Meeting people from all over the world is a major part of what we offer. On a recent Belmond Royal Scotsman journey, for instance, out of 36 passengers we had 21 different nationalities!” Belmond Grand Hibernian is set up to accommodate groups and families in interconnecting cabins, so all ages can enjoy the experience together.

As the countdown to the new train’s arrival begins, start dreaming of extraordinary journeys into the heart of Ireland.