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Travels aboard Iarnód Éireann

by Craig S. O'Connell


My Irish Holiday
Iarnód Éireann is the Irish Railway system of intercity trains and the Dublin Area Rapid Transit (DART).My travels were aboard the DART southbound from Dublin to Bray with stops in between on Wednesday, July 21 and aboard the intercity train from Dublin to Cork City on Thursday, July 22, 1999.

This is the Pearce Street DART Station in Dublin, named in honor of Patrick Pearse, the man who heroically led Dublin's famous Easter Rising at the GPO on O'Connell Street in 1916. This area, south of the River Liffey which bisects the city, is known for its Euro-style cafes, trendy shops, pedestrian friendly cobblestone streets, art galleries and literary culture venues. The transit journey begins here.

I must have entered the station with that typically clueless tourist expression because I was quickly approached by a friendly employee who, after enquiring on my itinerary, suggested a "Family Rambler" package. For £6.00 my wife, my daughter and myself could travel the entire DART system, north and south of Dublin's fine city, with unlimited stops until 11 p.m. that day. In US funds that amounts to $7.80 for the three us! Sure an offer no sane traveler could refuse. The gentleman, solicitous and friendly as I found all the Irish people to be, skips the queue and with my £6.00 buys the ticket for me and we're on our way.

The DART trains are efficient and run on time with one leaving every 20 minutes in either direction. The one above is heading north to Howth but we decide to go the entire distance southbound to the end of the line at Bray and then work our way back again to Dublin with intermittent stops.

As can be seen from the picture here at Bray, the DART, like most rapid transit systems, is electrified and uses overhead catenary for its juice. And, as you can't help but notice the cloudy skies, they were a welcome relief from the steamy 98 degree day when I left JFK airport in the states. The light scattered showers seemed designed for the stateside tourist.

Along the way we made three other stops, one at the small picturesque storybook town of Dalkey where we had the coffee and scones, the second at the chic seaside town of Killeney where we walked the beach and finally in the suburban community of Blackrock for a pint of the Guinness to quench my thirst. Guinness, by the way, was served chilled everywhere I went, just as it is on this side of the pond. The major difference is that the stout in Ireland is fresher and smoother.

Here's our stop at Killeney where the rail journey tracks the southshore beaches. Killeney, said to be the home of the celeb set, is often known as the Beverly Hills of Ireland. I didn't chance upon any high profile VIPs but did chance a walk on the extensive pebble beach.

Our final stop before Dublin was in the bedroom community of Blackrock. Tourists, looking for a better price on accomodations, often stay here in the south suburbs. I recommend the view from the Wicked Wolf Pub where I raised a pint before reboarding the return train to Dublin just in time for the seating of The Gaiety Theatre's performance of "Moll" a hilarious comedy by Ireland's pre-eminent playwright John B. Keane.

OUR NEXT RAIL JOURNEY was aboard the intercity trains to take us from Dublin to "Rebel" Cork, known for it's brand of fervid nationalism and early 20th century Fenian Movement. While the Liffey (personified as Anna Liffey by James Joyce in Finnegan's Wake ) bisects Dublin, the River Lee flows through the center of Cork. Our rail journey, almost a century after my grandfather sailed to America, was about four hours all told...sure I'm not one to keep one eye upon the watch while traveling by rail. The port city known as Cobh (Cork's harbour), Ireland's second largest (pop. 175,000), was the city of origination for many of the "coffin ships" that took the perishing famine Irish to lands far from home.

These two photos capture the tiled interior beauty of the Pearse Station in Dublin. Herself is the lovely lady in the photo; that would be my wife.

We arrive by taxi about 40 minutes early to the Heuston station, located not far from the infamous Kilhmainham Gaol (jail), a potent symbol for students of Irish history or Brendan Behan literature. There is already a queue as pictured below. Our journey begins at 9:05 a.m. and the train leaves precisely on time.

The intercity train takes us from Dublin to Mallow. The train is comfortable and spacious, the ride smooth, the scenery transitioning from urban to rural.

Here's a view of the interior of the intercity train that took us from Dublin to Mallow.

Upon arrival in Mallow we have to change trains. The train to Cork is on the other side of the platform and to get there we have to climb to a walkway that crosses over the tracks and then down again, with all of our luggage, which after shopping in Dublin is a good bit heavier and bulkier than it was 72 hours ago. As I struggle to lift one weighty suitcase up the steep staircase I suddenly feel that my burden has significantly abated. Glancing back, or gaping would be more like it, I catch a glimpse of a young woman lifting the suitcase from behind. Now if that wasn't enough, on the way down a gentleman assists me by taking one handle of the suitcase and carrying it down to the platform below. Needless to say I was pleasantly amazed and delighted by the friendliness of the Irish people. I was to experience these "good Samaritan" encounters throughout my ten day journey through the Emerald Isle.

The train that takes us the short distance from Mallow to Cork is not nearly as plush and comfortable as the one we just left. Nevertheless we arrive in Cork on time where we rent an Opel Vectra stick shift sedan for the rest of our travels in Ireland. Before venturing out on the narrow winding roads driving on the left side we stop in one of the many cafes for lunch. I'd love a Murphy's, the Cork brew that rivals Dublin's Guinness, but I'm not one to drink and drive you know.

Without elaborating on the rest of this glorious ten day journey I will share just a few pics.

After driving to Goleen on the rugged Mizen Peninsula in western Cork County we spend the rest of our time in this lovely stone cottage, located just 2 minutes from Dingle Town. Ahhh...I can still smell those turf fires!

Dingle Town is the main center along the brilliant Dingle Peninsula in County Kerry. It's from Dingle that I'll set out to discover my long lost cousins who reside on the famous Ring of Kerry near the town of Caherciveen, home of the famous "Great Liberator" Daniel O'Connell, and deep into the heart of the Gaeltacht region where Gaelic is still spoken as the first language.

But this is Dingle. It is a brilliant, colourful town with plenty of shops, pubs and restaurants alongside the harbor. The pubs, where nary a tv set is found, are great fun at night with set dancing, musicians and good "craic"--a term that refers to the warm social climate of inspiring conversation and lively entertainment. The mood in the pubs is not only joyous but infectious. One can easily be lulled into the lifestyle enjoyed here. Yes, this is Dingle...It's a fine place to bed down to explore the rest of the peninsula and, indeed, the fine county known as Kerry.

So those are the pics boys and girls. There are many more grand adventures to share but we will end here.

Okay, more pic...Ireland in it's forty shades of green....



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