Ireland travelblog: Irish trains run on time, just like in the rest of Europe

Ireland travelblog: Irish trains run on time, just like in the rest of Europe

Our 2½-hour train ride to Galway was not overly crowded, the accommodations were quite pleasant and the eight stops at Irish towns were quick and interesting,

Berry Tramel

By Berry Tramel

| May 3, 2024, 6:00am CDT

Berry Tramel

By Berry Tramel

May 3, 2024, 6:00am CDT

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GALWAY, Ireland — The Irish Rail train left Dublin’s Heuston station at 9:25 a.m. Thursday, bound for Galway on Ireland’s west coast. It was scheduled to leave at 9:25 a.m.

The train pulled into Galway station at 11:55 a.m. Thursday. It was scheduled to arrive at 11:55.

Remember the phrase that people sometimes use, referring to efficient people who “make the trains run on time?” Hard to beat the efficiency of the Irish Rail.

Of course, that’s quite true of most European railroads. European transportation culture demands a reliance on trains, which leads to remarkable efficiency. I’m all for more train travel in the U.S., but it’s not as easy as in Europe, which is more densely populated than the American West, where train travel tends to fizzle.

But I digress. Our 2½-hour trip to Galway was seamless and pleasant, and it cost only $29 per person. The train was not overly crowded, the accommodations were quite pleasant and the eight stops at Irish towns were quick and interesting, giving us a slice of Irish life.

My only quibble? Wifi that was intermittent. 

No matter. We’ve got two more Irish train rides to go — Galway to Cork, Cork back to Dublin — but so far, I’d say the Ireland rail experience trumps the Italy rail trips that Trish the Dish and I experienced a decade ago. The Irish trains seemed more modern and comfortable.

The decision to use trains was sound. We always thought we’d rent a car and drive around Ireland, but that wasn’t feasible with a party of six, and besides, driving on the left side of the road on the packed streets of Dublin and the curvy byways of the rural countryside can get dicey. Just watching out for drivers driving on the left is harrowing.

So we’re using Uber to get around Dublin, Galway and Cork. And it’s working fine.

Dublin to Galway is completely across the island, 207 kilometers (128 miles), and we made it easily, giving us a half day in Galway, which is the fourth-largest city in Ireland.

The latest census shows Galway with 85,910 residents, which ranks behind only Dublin (592,713), Cork (222,333) and (Limerick 102,287) among Ireland cities. Galway is a tourist destination, with its proximity to Galway Bay and its reputation as an arts and musical hotbed in Ireland.

The rail station is near the waterfront and commerce in Galway. After we found a place that would hold our luggage for a nominal fee, we headed into the city.

We grabbed lunch at Skeff Bar and Restaurant, which was established in 1850. Skeff was an emporium; it looked like something out of San Francisco in the 1800s. I had fish and chips again; I never will tire of eating fish.

Then we walked around Galway, with its eclectic shopping on the aptly-named Shop Street. The blocks-long pedestrian mall has stores and bars and restaurants; some of them are tourist traps, but Shop Street also has some great Irish stores, like Weavers of Ireland and Aran Sweater Market.

I have a few Irish-made items of clothing – a tweed sportcoat, a long dress coat, a heavy jacket — and can endorse them with gusto. I always thought it would be cool to shop in Ireland, and here was my chance. 

I can get lost in those stores, though I managed to exit without buying anything. Not saying I’ll get out of Ireland without something tweed, but I made it Thursday.

The weather was cool and rainy — low 50s, drizzly; slightly cooler and slightly wetter than what we found in Dublin — and we had our challenges, including not having anywhere to exchange our U.S. currency. We didn’t need Euros in Dublin, but we’ll need them more in Galway. Alas, currency exchange is available only at the airport, unless you use an ATM machine, which charges a 26% exchange rate, instead of the 7% it should be.

Galway also is known as one of the bastions of the Irish language, also known as Gaelic. Both English and Irish are the official languages of Ireland, but there wasn’t much Irish spoken in Dublin. We heard more in Galway.

Late in the afternoon, we grabbed our bags and jumped in a couple of Ubers to take us to the Connemara Coast Hotel, about eight miles up the bay.

The Connemara is a vintage hotel, built in the 1970s but still holding onto older times. There’s not even an elevator, though one flight of stairs is the maximum climb. The Connemara sits hard by Galway Bay, and our room has a partial view of the water. Very nice.

The hotel costs more than we usually pay — $284 a night — but we figured it would be worth it for three days on a special trip.

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Berry Tramel is a 45-year veteran of Oklahoma journalism, having spent 13 years at the Norman Transcript and 32 years at The Oklahoman. He has been named Oklahoma Sportswriter of the Year by the National Sports Media Association. Born and raised in Norman, Tramel grew up reading four newspapers a day and began his career at age 17. His first assignment was the Lexington-Elmore City high school football game, and he’s enjoyed the journey ever since, having covered NBA Finals and Rose Bowls and everything in between. Tramel and his wife, Tricia, were married in 1980 and live in Norman near their daughter, son-in-law and three granddaughters. Tramel can be reached at 405-760-8080 or at [email protected].

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