Emerald Isle Explorer 2023

Wednesday 3 May – Thursday 11 May
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We are delighted to confirm that our 10th ‘Explorer’ tour will be to the stunning Emerald Isle in Spring 2023.

With high class hotels, lovely scenery and world-famous tourist attractions, a journey to Ireland is the perfect way to escape to another world. We’ve got it all covered – we’ve chosen the best routes and locations, we’ve researched the best hotels and must-see excursions, we’ll sort out your luggage and transfers so you can relax and savor every moment. Read on to hear more details on the current plans for this amazing tour.


Day 1 – Meet in Dublin

Passengers will spend their first night in Dublin in RRHMA/Friends of the 261 hotels.

A UNESCO City of Literature that’s twice been named Europe’s friendliest city by TripAdvisor, Dublin is a joy to explore with vibrant art, cobbled streets, hip cafés and traditional pubs.

Pullman passengers will stay at modern 4-star The Mont hotel, located in the middle of Dublin City Center. The city’s top landmarks, bars, restaurants, clubs, and entertainment venues within walking distance.

Passengers also have the option to stay at the hotel* a day before the excursion begins as an add-on.

*$199 per night

Day 2 – Dublin to Galway via Athlone

We set off after breakfast behind steam from Dublin and head west right across the Emerald Isle before stopping at lunchtime at the charming city of Athlone, which lies on the banks of the River Shannon, Ireland’s largest waterway. During our break here, you will have the opportunity to enjoy a river cruise along the Shannon or visit the castle which dates from the 12th Century.

After lunch, we steam on to the vibrant city of Galway, where the River Corrib meets the Atlantic Ocean. The city’s hub is 18th-century Eyre Square, a popular meeting spot surrounded by shops and traditional pubs that often offer live Irish folk music. Nearby, stone-clad cafes, boutiques and art galleries line the winding lanes of the Latin Quarter, which retains portions of the medieval city walls. You will be transferred to hotels by the early evening, where we will spend two nights.

Pullman passengers will stay at the Hardiman Hotel, a refined hotel dating from 1852 set on Eyre Square. The Hardiman is a flawless combination of Victorian grace and opulent luxury.

Day 3 – Exploring Galway

This is a day at leisure in Galway – but that doesn’t mean there isn’t plenty to do! Optional excursions will be on offer to some of West Ireland’s finest attractions and may include trips to the Aran Islands, the Cliffs of Moher and Kylemore Abbey.

Day 4 – Galway to Killarney via Limerick

After breakfast in our hotels, we head off by steam southwards to Limerick along a line which was only opened 12 years ago. Our break in Limerick which will no doubt inspire passengers (as has happened before) to write a poem about their tour. Prizes awarded for the best!

After a couple of hours in Limerick we reboard the train before it turns inland, passing Limerick Junction and heading southwest to Mallow from where we join the mainline southwards to Killarney. In previous years we have enjoyed fabulous steam-hauled journeys along this route which twists and turns its way through this hilly and mountainous area. As you can imagine, our locomotive will be working hard before we arrive at Killarney, which will be our home for the next three nights.

Pullman passengers will stay at the historic Great Southern Hotel in Killarney. Built in 1854 and situated on six acres of beautiful gardens, the view is said to ‘take the guest’s breath away.’

Day 5 – Killarney at leisure or optional steam trip to Tralee

It’s difficult to know where to start with all the fabulous options available in Killarney! We are planning to offer a tour of the Ring of Kerry, one of the most popular tours – a famous scenic route which attracts visitors from far and wide and takes us through stunning parts of this rural part of Ireland including views of lakes, rivers and waterfalls. Other excursions such as a boat tour on Lake Killarney may be available, and the compact town itself is a treat for the senses with welcoming pubs, a craft brewery and a beautiful cathedral.

Later in the day, RRHMA/Friends of the 261 will be offering an optional steam trip to Tralee which tests our locomotive with some challenging gradients whilst we are treated to views of the Slieve Mish mountains on one side and the Stack Mountains on the other.

Day 6 – Killarney at leisure or optional steam trip to Cork

You will again have the choice of an array of fabulous excursions to join today, including The Ring of Kerry tour or a full day steam excursion to Cork.

Passengers who choose to join us on the trip to Cork will leave the hotel after breakfast and join the train which takes us back to Mallow and then south to Cork, where passengers will have the chance to spend at least two hours. The compact city center is set on an island in the River Lee, surrounded by waterways and packed with grand Georgian avenues, modern masterpieces such as the opera house, and narrow streets crammed with pubs, shops, cafes and restaurants, fed by arguably the best foodie scene in the country. On the return journey, the climb out of Cork is one of the steepest in Ireland and the sound of the engine is something to behold.

Day 7 – Killarney to Kilkenny

Once again, we set off after breakfast towards Mallow and then Limerick  Junction where our train reverses in one of the more unusual movements and more unusual junctions of the world – where else but in Ireland? From here, it’s a just a short way to Tipperary, where we will stop for a photo opportunity before steaming to Waterford. There will only be a short break here, but for those who would like to visit the Waterford Crystal Factory and Visitor Center, you can spend more time here and transfer by road coach to your hotels in the early evening.

From Waterford our train will be travelling North to a new destination for RRHMA/Friends of the 261, Kilkenny, where we’ll stay for the next two nights.

Pullman passengers will stay at either the exclusive Mount Juliet Estate set outside of Kilkenny in its own stunning grounds, with an original 18th Century Manor House boasting splendid Georgian architecture and the chic sophistication of Hunters Yard, or the Waterford Castle Hotel & Golf Resort. Set on an enchanted 310-acre private island accessible by ferry over the King’s Channel, the historic 16th Century luxury Castle hotel combines the gracious living of an elegant past with every modern comfort and convenience.

Day 8 – Kilkenny at leisure

If ever a city exemplifies the delights of Ireland, it is Kilkenny, boasting a Cathedral, Castle, brewery and distillery! Spending a day at just these attractions is not enough time in this convivial city.

For those who want to maximize their steam mileage, you can join an optional day trip on board our train as it moves to Wexford, in readiness for tomorrow’s journey. As the crow flies, it’s just 30 miles or so, but will be a couple of hundred miles as the Irish railways dictate! Our journey starts in Bagenalston and heads north, steam hauled, to Kildare towards Dublin where we change to diesel in the suburbs. We continue, passing through the city center and along the beautiful marquee line along the coast to Wexford. From Wexford, you will be transferred by road coach to Kilkenny to your hotel by the early evening.

Day 9 – Wexford to Dublin

Sadly, our wonderful trip on the Emerald Isle is coming to a close. After breakfast in our hotels, we will be transferred by road coach to meet our train in Wexford. This is a fantastic way to finish the tour as for large sections of the journey we will hug the coast as the railway dips and climbs. As we approach Dublin, we cross the River Liffey and arrive back at Connelly station at approximately 2 p.m.

From here, passengers can make their own way home.

Locomotives & Services Onboard

Throughout the tour we will be working with the volunteers of the Railway Preservation Society of Ireland (RPSI), who are – even on an island well known for its hospitality – extraordinarily welcoming and friendly.

This tour is planned to be steam-hauled throughout, and some passengers will be pleased to know that it is in fact not allowed for a diesel to work with steam so no diesel-assisted sections! The RPSI have several steam locomotives and the mainstay for our tour will be old favorite V Class No. 85 Merlin, built in 1932 for express passenger trains. Merlin will be joined by No. 131, Q class, an express passenger locomotive built in 1901.

The crowning glory of the carriages we will be using is the wood-paneled bar car – the only railway bar in the world to serve draught Guinness (as well as many other drinks!). Passenger carriages will consist of a set of refurbished 1960s Craven coaches. They are different to those used on our trains in the UK as uniquely in Ireland they have a wider 5ft 3ins gauge. The carriages each have 64 seats on tables of four (a whole table can be booked privately for two in Pullman Style Dining) and wide gangways. While less decorative than some of our UK coaches they have a very singular Irish ambience, are very comfortable and are excellently looked after by the RPSI.

As always with RRHMA/Friends of the 261, your luggage will be transported directly between your hotels so you can relax and savor every moment.

We look forward to welcoming you to Ireland, the Friends of the 261 way!


Class Descriptions and pricing listed below. $1,500.00 deposit required at time of booking, final payment due February 10, 2023.

Pullman Class

Double occupancy is required at this time

$4,799.00 per person Double Occupancy

Additional nights in Dublin

For those looking to stay in Dublin the night prior to the tour, this option is for you. Relax in comfort at the Mont Hotel prior to excursion. Payment for additional night required along with deposit.

$199.00 per night

Please select your choice of room type.
Please select your choice of room type.
Passenger #2
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All online orders are subject to a 4% Credit Card Processing fee. If you wish to not pay this, please follow the link below form, Emerald Isle 2023 Booking, for a printable PDF form to mail in.
Final payment due February 10, 2023
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American Express
Supported Credit Cards: American Express, Discover, MasterCard, Visa
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