Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Ireland by rail and by sail

Ireland is my new favourite escape.

This is not just because of the Guinness, the food, or even the beautiful countryside for that matter, but the fact that it's so easy to get to but still feels like another world.

Given that we try to avoid flying where possible, we booked our Sail Rail tickets, amazed they cost only £50 return from London

We jumped on a train at 0930 direct to Holyhead, which is one of the most beautiful train journeys sweeping the Welsh coast and passing small fishing villages along the way.

A quick change at Holyhead and you're on an Irish Ferry, which was surprisingly plush. You can choose to stand out on deck and watch Wales disappearing behind you or snuggle up in the comfy chairs and watch a movie.

We were in Dublin by 1730 feeling rested from a relaxing journey, then headed straight to Wicklow.

County Wicklow is a wonderful area, just 35 minutes south of Dublin yet boasting some of the most remote rural areas you could hope to find.

We stayed in a traditional hostel called Glenmalure Mountain Lodge. It was paradise, situated at the foot of the mountains along a 6km track from the nearest small road. It was about 15km from the nearest village shop.

In the hostel there is no electricity or running water, so if you like your creature comforts you may be better off staying in the cosy pub down the road. But for 15 Euro a night you can't really complain.

Burbling through the lodge's garden is a mountain river which has ideal bathing pools for washing and splashing around. There is also a natural spring delivering the crispest mountain water you'll ever taste.

I should mention that we were the only people staying here apart from the warden so we really had the whole place to ourselves.

By the time we had to say goodbye and return to the bright lights of Dublin we felt we could have done with another two weeks there. Still, we'll be back. And for just £50 return by Sail Rail, we might be back sooner than we thought.

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