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The 10 Best Places to Visit in Ireland by Train (A Local's Guide)

Discover the best places to visit in Ireland by train. From day trips from Dublin by train to longer weekend trips, explore top Ireland destinations.
There are plenty of awesome places in Ireland to visit by train thanks to Irish Rail. We lived in Dublin for over 12 years without owning a car and managed to see nearly every corner of the Emerald Isle thanks to train travel. 

Is it easy to get around Ireland by train? It's true, there are some places in Ireland that are best experienced by hiring a car. I'm thinking back to the Dingle Peninsula on St. Patrick's Day weekend and places along the Ring of Kerry Drive in County Kerry. However, you can still travel to many of the popular places to visit in Ireland by rail from Dublin. 

Here are my picks of the best train trips from Dublin starting closest to the capital and then exploring Irish rail itineraries further afield. 
Travel Ireland by Train from Dublin: Church in Maynooth, Ireland

🔎 Why not spend a few days in Dublin before heading out to see the rest of Ireland by train? Check out our huge list of one day Dublin City itineraries to keep you busy.

Getting Around Ireland by Train

Best Places to Visit in Ireland by Train
What's the best way to get around Ireland by train? You can certainly buy point-to-point tickets and pay as you go. 

Irish Rail tickets tend to be cheaper if you pre-book in advance. Single tickets range from about 20 EUR to about 60 EUR per adult. 

If you are traveling as a family, consider purchasing a family ticket which covers 2 adults and up to 4 children traveling together. 

If you are visiting Ireland as a tourist, a Trekker pass (110 EUR at the time of writing) gets you unlimited travel in Ireland by train for 4 consecutive days. 

The Explorer ticket (160 EUR per adult at the time of writing) gives you five days of travel over a 15 day period. 

Ireland train parked at Cork Kent Station

You can compare the different types of tickets available on the Irish rail website.

Note that if you are 66 or older and living permanently in Ireland, you can travel by train for free on Iarnród Éireann (aka Irish Rail) via the Free Travel Scheme.

The Eurail Ireland pass covers destinations in Ireland and Northern Ireland. Using this rail pass, you can travel by train between 3 and 8 days in a month. Prices range from about 120 EUR - 230 EUR at the time of writing.

Dublin has two major train stations for intercity travel. Heuston Station caters to destinations south and west. Connolly covers destinations in the north and northwest.

Best Places to Visit in Ireland by Train at a Glance

What are the best places to visit in Ireland by train? Here are my top picks at a glance whether you are looking for a day trip from Dublin or traveling further afield.
  1. Howth
  2. Maynooth
  3. Athlone
  4. Kilkenny City
  5. Limerick City
  6. Galway City
  7. Cork City
  8. Belfast (Northern Ireland)
  9. Westport
  10. Sligo Town
Now we'll explore the best places to travel in Ireland by train from Dublin in greater detail.

Day Trips from Dublin by Train

Let's start with a couple of short and easy Dublin day trips. Take the DART train up and down the coast of the Irish Sea or take commuter rail to cool towns that you can comfortably get to and back in a day or less. You can use your Leap card to access these local day trips from Dublin.

1. Hop on the DART Train for An Easy Day Trip from Dublin to Howth

Living in Dublin, we're lucky to have the DART train running up and down the coast making for easy day trips out of Dublin city. Howth is one of our favorite destinations by train for walks along the Irish Sea, eating great seafood, and wildlife spotting. 

For an added adventure, take the ferry from Howth to Ireland's Eye for some fine birding.
Travel Ireland by Train from Dublin: Cliff views in Howth Ireland

2. Ride Dublin's Commuter Rail to Maynooth for a Photowalk

Travel Ireland by Train from Dublin: Instagram photos from a photowalk in Maynooth
Maynooth is just slightly further afield from Dublin clocking in at about 45 minutes by train from Dublin City Center making it an easy day trip itinerary. Maynooth is one of my favorite destinations in Ireland for a photowalk

The charming old campus of Maynooth University offers endless photo-ops. Combine this with an atmospheric ruined castle (one of the coolest ruined castles in Ireland) and gardens of wildflowers and you've cemented Maynooth's place as a fantastic day out by rail from Dublin.

Ireland by Train: Destinations Less than 2 Hours From Dublin

There are a number of great destinations that you can visit in Ireland by train that take less than two hours to get to. These destinations are beyond commuting distance to Dublin, but you could consider an ambitious day trip or weekend itinerary in these places. Travel to these destinations from Dublin Heuston Station.

3. Take the Train from Dublin to the Midlands

Ireland by Train: Sean's Bar in Athlone

Athlone is located in the very center of Ireland and is just a 90 minute train ride for Dublin. Grab a pint at Sean's Bar, the oldest pub in Ireland. 

Take a tour via bus or boat along the River Shannon to Clonmacnoise, one of the oldest and most important sites for early Christianity in Ireland. Clonmacnoise is on the UNESCO World Heritage Site Tentative List. 

Athlone itself is good for a day trip or a short weekend getaway. If you're feeling more ambitious, hire a car so that you can experience all the fun things to do near Athlone including historic small towns like Birr and Tullamore. 

4. Get Your Groove on with a Train Ride to Kilkenny

There are so many fun things to do in Kilkenny, whether you visit for a day, a weekend, or longer. Kilkenny is our go to town for festivals and fun. 

Kilkenny is just an hour and a half by train from Dublin. We've visited for the Kilkenny Roots festival a few times. 

Kilkenny packs its pubs with folk musicians from all over Ireland and the world. Most gigs are free but a few of the bigger name acts are ticketed.
Travel Ireland by Train from Dublin: Kilkenny Castle
If you travel by train to Kilkenny for a music festival you'll definitely be busy in the evenings, but what is there to do during the day? Kilkenny has one bad-ass castle and hiking trails on the castle grounds. 

You can also check out the arts and crafts complex near Kilkenny Castle. The Smithwick's brewery tour is another highlight and is the only beer tour I've been on featuring a centuries old ruined abbey. 

Smithwick's is located along Kilkenny's Medieval Mile which is anchored at one end by Kilkenny Castle and at the other end by St. Canice's Church and Round Tower.

Ireland by Train: Destinations Between 2 - 3 Hours From Dublin

If you're feeling more ambitious, these Ireland cities are great for a weekend break from Dublin. You can travel to these destinations by train in two to three hours.

5. Inspire Poetry on a Weekend in Limerick

Ireland by Train: King John's Castle in Limerick City
The sometimes off-color, but always fun Limerick poem got its name from this city in the West of Ireland. It takes about 2 hours to get from Dublin to Limerick City by train. 

In my detailed post covering all the fabulous things to do in Limerick, I wrote a number Limericks. Here is just one example.

On a train to Limerick City
Here we are sitting pretty
A weekend away
Oh, what the hey!
That you aren't here too is a pity!

Did you know that Limerick is home to 13th Century King John's Castle? You can also get to Bunratty Castle, one of the most popular tourist attractions in Ireland, on public transportation from Limerick. 

If castles aren't your thing, Limerick is also a great destination for foodies with awesome craft beer and a world-class food market (The Limerick Milk Market). Don't miss Limerick's amazing street art either.

6. Travel Ireland By Train from East to West to Galway City

Beautiful Places in Ireland by Rail from Dublin: River in Galway
If you invest two and a half hours on the scenic train ride from Dublin, you can get all the way across Ireland to Galway. Galway is a quintessential university town with a lively town center and raging river and rapids coursing through it. 

I particularly love the National University of Ireland Galway campus in the Autumn when the ivy covered buildings light up in red foliage.

Galway is also a great starting point for a road trip around Connemara in Ireland's Gaeltacht (Irish speaking region). You'll need a car to effectively explore the wilds of Connemara National Park but you can shave nearly 3 hours off that drive from Dublin by taking the train to Galway. Spend 24 hours in Galway City and then embark on a remarkable road trip!

7. Aw, Go On So and Take a Train Trip from Dublin to Cork City

Corkonians are a lively bunch and there are tons of things to do in Cork City, one of my favorite places in Ireland to visit by train. You can travel to Cork City from Dublin by rail in about two and a half hours. 

Did you know that the Ireland rail service between Dublin and Cork is one of the few services offering a first class car aboard the train? Considering splurging on a first class ticket to make your ride a bit more comfortable.

You'll be endlessly entertained in Cork's lively pubs filled with fascinating locals eager to buy you a pint plus great music. This is starting to become a theme but I love exploring university campuses and University College Cork (UCC) is very atmospheric and picturesque. 

UCC is great place to focus on if you take a Cork Photowalk. Don't forget to check out the bustling and picturesque English Market while you're at it. 

Take the train from Cork to Cobh for a day to explore the Titanic history in the area.
Beautiful Places to Travel Ireland by Train from Dublin: University College Cork

8. Ride the Rails from Dublin to Northern Ireland and Experience Belfast

Travel Ireland by Rail from Dublin: Murals on Falls Road in Belfast

Consider taking the train ride 2.5 hours north from Dublin to Belfast's Victoria Street Station and experience Northern Ireland. Make sure to bring your passport because Northern Ireland is part of the UK, not the Republic of Ireland. 

Explore the North's troubled history with a walk among the political murals on Falls Road.

Continue the exploration of history in Belfast with a trip to the amazing and interactive Titanic Museum; one of the best museums I've ever been to. The Titanic was actually built in Belfast and you can see the dry docks where she was housed before her tragic maiden voyage not far from the museum.

Lift the weight of history from your shoulders with a trip to St. George's Market for great food, treats, and crafts.

For more about visiting Belfast, check out these fun things to do in Belfast. From Belfast, why not explore the Antrim Coast including beautiful places like the Giant's Causeway and Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge.

Destinations 3 hours or More from Dublin by Train

Ireland is a relatively small Ireland so even the farther points on the train line are still feasible for a weekend getaway. If you're willing to go the extra mile and spend three to four hours on the train you can explore some destinations that are further afield in Ireland's Northwest counties. Trains to Northwest Ireland leave from Connolly Station in Dublin.

9. Take Irish Rail West for a Weekend in Westport

County Mayo is about three hours from Dublin by train so why not plan a weekend in Westport. Westport is one of our favorite towns in Ireland. We love the Westport Folk and Bluegrass Festival held here each year. We also adore the Great Western Greenway for cycling and walking.

The grounds of Westport House are worth a stroll to see the idyllic swan boats (Note: there is an admission fee). Views of Croagh Patrick will greet you at every turn in and around Westport.
Travel Ireland by Train from Dublin: Croagh Patrick in County Mayo, Ireland

10. Chew, Chew, Chew, Your Way by Train from Dublin to Sligo

Beautiful Places to Visit in Ireland by Rail from Dublin: Benbulben in County Sligo
The scenic train trip from Dublin to Sligo town takes a little over three hours. I absolutely loved Sligo. This county has heart! 

From stunning landscapes, poetic history, charming urban areas featuring award winning restaurants like Eala Bhan, and easily accessible coastline, Sligo has something for everyone. 

In particular, Sligo is definitely an up and coming foodie destination. Check out custom adventure and food experiences along the Sligo Food Trail. You can even combine a wild hike up Knocknashee with some great food near Tubbercurry

If you're into poetry, there is no better place to visit in Ireland. Sligo is ideal for a Yeats-focused trip

Sligo is located on the Wild Atlantic Way and you can feel the wind whipping off the Atlantic Ocean at Strandhill, one of the most beautiful places I've seen in Ireland.

Ireland by Train Map

Click on the image of the map below to open up an interactive version in Google Maps to explore the destinations in Ireland that you can visit by train from Dublin.

Map of Ireland by train

Are you having a hard time deciding where to take the train in Ireland? Check out these 106 pictures of Ireland to inspire your next trip.

Useful Links About Rail Travel in Ireland and Train Accessible Itineraries

I love that it's possible to travel Ireland end-to-end from Dublin in about 3 hours by train. Thanks to Irish Rail, it's possible to visit the best places in Ireland by train giving us countless weekend trip ideas from the capital.

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Ireland by train: The Best Destinations Accessible from Dublin by Train

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Sidewalk Safari | Part-time Travel Blog: The 10 Best Places to Visit in Ireland by Train (A Local's Guide)
The 10 Best Places to Visit in Ireland by Train (A Local's Guide)
Discover the best places to visit in Ireland by train. From day trips from Dublin by train to longer weekend trips, explore top Ireland destinations.
Sidewalk Safari | Part-time Travel Blog