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Our Golden wedding anniversary on Belmond Grand Hibernian – Ireland

Our celebrations started on the Saturday evening with a party at home where we were entertained by 1960’s folk singer, Julie Felix, now in her eighties. 

The train journey was just 4 nights although a six night option is available.  To extend the break we took a leisurely Sunday rail trip to Birmingham Airport an overnight stay and a mid-day flight to Dublin.

We arrived in Dublin the day before the start of our journey .  We could have booked into the Westbury hotel, which our fellow travellers did but we chose the Arlington Hotel which offers a daily Irish Evening with entertainment and a 3 course meal.  The music and dancing was designed for tourists but it was an excellent start to our break.

After a leisurely breakfast at the Arlington we strolled down to the Westbury to start our Belmond experience.  Our luggage was quickly taken from us at the door and we were escorted to the Sidecar Lounge for registration and coffee.  We turned out to be a group of 14, although the train can cater for a maximum of 40.  Following general introductions we were coached to Hueston Station.  This took a while because at the time of embarkation Dublin was experiencing 15 mm of rain in 15 minutes and the staff only had 2 umbrellas!

From the coach to the train we were led by a piper with bagpipes (Irish we assume), much to the delight of those in the station. We were taken to the Observation Lounge, introduced to our hosts with a glass of champagne and then shown to our cabins.  Ours had 2 single beds, dressing table, wardrobe and en-suite facilities.  Whilst best described as “compact” they were fine for the trip.  Our agent, Ponders Travel, had organised a welcoming bouquet which lasted the entire break and was greatly appreciated.  In our cabin was a personal welcome from the train manager which included greetings for our up-coming anniversary.

Whilst the train slowly progressed along the Irish tracks we returned to the Observation Car for more introductions to our fellow travellers  – an eclectic bunch from Canada, USA, Australia, China, England and Ireland.  Before we had time to settle we were invited into the Dining Car for Afternoon Tea.  The first of many meals together.

Before 5:00pm we had arrived in Cork and were taken to Cobh for a short guided walking tour followed by a visit to the Queenstown Heritage Centre and was personally looked after by the Centre Manager.  We have been to Cobh before but found the experience new and exhilarating.

After a short coach trip back to the train we enjoyed our first full meal together as the train travelled to Charlesville where we “stabled” for the night.

Dinner offered 2 options for each of the three courses and one was vegetarian.  After dinner, cheese and drinks were served in the Observation Lounge.  This was the pattern for the next three evenings although each of those was accompanied by local entertainment – a duo of guitar and drums, a harpist and a trio.

The menus for each day were published in advance and we were encouraged to request changes which were quickly responded to.

The day-time activities were carefully chosen to be very typical of Ireland and they were all personalised for our small group.

Day 2 started, after a full breakfast, with either a trip to the Jameson Distillery or a walking tour of Cork with 2 specialist guides, followed by a pre-lunch of local delicacies from the English Market.  After lunch we embarked on a jaunting car (horse and cart) ride through a National Park and a boat trip complete with both commentary and music on Lough Leane.

Day 3 started with a restful morning train journey to Galway where most of us enjoyed a short guided tour of the city followed by tea with scones, cream and rhubarb jam and a sheep-dog demonstration.

Because of the high temperatures our evening harp entertainment took place on the platform, with rugs, lights and drinks.

Day 4 continued the highlights of Ireland with a trip to the National Museum of Country Life, lunch in a pub at the foot of Croagh Patrick, a walking tour of Westport, a guided tour of Westport House, afternoon tea and an excellent falconry display.

Our final evening was again followed by entertainment.  One of our favourite folk songs is Dirty Old Town by Ewan McCall and it followed us around.  Julie Felix sung it, the band at the Allington Hotel sung it and it was the last song sung on the train.

The tour finished after breakfast on day 5.  Most people returned by coach to the Westbury Hotel but we took the bus to the airport to connect to a lunch-time flight to Birmingham.   As we arrived into Birmingham Station, the music playing was Dirty Old Town!  Our break concluded at the Hippodrome Theatre with a production of the musical Annie, an overnight stay and a leisurely rail trip home.

An excellent way to celebrate our anniversary.



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