London to Ireland by train and ferry – part 1

Published on 14 December 2009 in , , , , , ,

Regular readers of this blog may have noticed that I tend not to fly anywhere. I haven’t banned aeroplanes from my life, however airports tend to make me feel rather stressed and fed up and as such I’d much rather avoid using them if I can. As such in 2007 and 2008 I travelled to France and Switzerland by Eurostar and the French high speed railway network, TGV and local trains.

Beware of Trains

This year I ended up going to Scotland a fair amount and discovered the delights of using the sleeper train to travel between London and Edinburgh, Aberdeen and Fort William. Suck on that Heathrow!

However for various reasons, mainly involving Catherine writing her book (out next year – pre-order your copy now!) we didn’t go abroad anywhere, by plane or otherwise. However as Catherine’s submission date drew close we began to formulate plans.

Early November isn’t the high point of the tourist season, but we decided to celebrate by visiting Ireland, spending a few days in Dublin before moving to Cork (we originally wanted to include Kilkenny however decided it would be a bit too much for the time we had available.) Via the excellent Man in Seat Sixty-One website, which is dedicated to travelling by train and ship, we plotted our options.

Via the site we discovered the extremely cheap “Sail/Rail” packages – for just £29 each, each way, you can get to London all the way to Dublin using the national rail network and using either Irish Ferries or Stena Line from Holyhead. If you consider the flight would cost you about £100 this is a bargain indeed. But even more so, the standard foot passenger fare for both companies is £25! The £29 is the maximum price you’ll pay for sail/rail to Ireland, and you can do it from pretty much anywhere in the UK – there are similar cheap offers for other ferry crossings to Ireland.

Whilst undoubtedly slower than a plane, when you tot up all the time travelling to and faffing around at airports, the journey isn’t significantly slower.

The plan to go to Cork did pose a few problems. Until recently there was a Swansea-Cork ferry service, however that all went belly up in 2006 when the operator sold its sole ferry because it “needed a bigger one”, only to find themselves “not able to buy a bigger one”. Conspiracy theorists would have a field day with that one…

Anyway, in the end we decided to sail to Dublin and spend a few days there before getting the train to Cork, spend a few days there before returning to Dublin for one more day, before heading home. Such fun won’t be necessary from next year when a new cooperative takes on the Swansea-Cork route. However we couldn’t really wait until March…

Whilst it was a slightly clumsy plan, it was a plan. We got the tickets; we booked the hotels. And on Saturday 31 October we arrived at London Euston. Ireland was just a few hours away…

Tomorrow in part 2, what to expect other than a post about actually travelling to Ireland by train and ferry!