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Train ‘check in’ at the Westbury Hotel Dublin. Transfer to Heuston Railway Station. Board Belmond Grand Hibernian train where lunch will be served. Train departs for Thurles Station. Disembark for short drive to Coolmore Stud. Coolmore, near Fethard County Tipperary, is headquarters of the world’s largest breeding operation of thoroughbred racehorses and is owned and managed by the Magnier family.
Coolmore was also home to Patsy Floyd, who obviously has many fond memories. We will be shown some of the greatest stallions alive today and visit the stunning Coolmore Museum. It is usually not possible to visit Coolmore, so we do feel particularly privileged and grateful to be personally invited. We return to the train for drinks and dinner onboard, followed by some local entertainment.
The train continues to Limerick Junction as breakfast is served. We disembark here and drive to Tipperary, where we have a private invitation from the Stack family to visit their renowned Racing Yard, situated at the heart of the county’s beautiful countryside. Fozzy Stack will introduce us to his racing skills and we will be able to watch the horses working on the gallops. This will be followed by a glass of wine in the home of Tommy and Liz Stack. As a jockey, Tommy is best known for leading Red Rum to victory for the third time in the Grand National. It will be a real treat to spend time with the family, as well as a fun and amusing occasion. Return to the train for lunch and continue on to Cork.
Afternoon visit to Fota Arboretum, previously owned by the Smith Barry family and recently restored by the Irish Heritage Society. For garden lovers, it’s a must! Roy Lancaster, the renowned gardener, thought Fota was one of the best restored and maintained gardens. We are fortunate to have Bernard, the Head Gardener, to show us around. An ideal time to admire the gardens, relax, go for a good walk or sit down in the house for a cup of tea. We leave Fota for the short drive to the home of perhaps the most famous of Irish Whiskeys, Jameson. A private tour through the Old Midleton Distillery and on to the new state of the art training facility, the Academy, where we are honoured to be joined by a member of the Jameson family for a few tastings. Return to the train in Cork for dinner and more entertainment.
After breakfast, disembark in Charleville for a short drive to Kilgobbin. Kilgobbin is one of Patsy’s favourite homes in Ireland and is owned by the Dunraven family. A delightful house of Georgian design full of interesting family pictures and portraits. Countess Dunraven (Geraldine) will personally guide us around her garden before coffee in her special home. This is a very private visit and we are very thankful to the Countess for her kind invitation.
Board the train at Charleville and enjoy lunch on the way to Killarney, arriving around mid-afternoon. It is then only a short drive to the Muckross Estate. This stunning property is set on the side of the Killarney Lake amid many rhododendrons and shrubs. Good retail therapy is also available at the Muckros Shop, where you will be able to watch the local Weavers at work. Wine and canapés will be served while we learn the history of the local area. Return to the train for dinner.
Overnight: Killarney Station.
The train departs Killarney Station fairly early while we enjoy a relaxing morning and breakfast, arriving at Ennis at 11.30am. Transfer by coach to The Burren with its extraordinary limestone pavements at Doolin, which contain a wealth of flora and fauna of Arctic, Alpine and Mediterranean diversity. It is as if you have just landed on the moon. Little wonder then that it’s been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. You will be joined on the way by famous Plantsman Carl Wright, who is a mine of information and huge fun. He will instruct us on the flora in and around the rocks, before taking us to his own remarkable garden, Caher Bridge. By first clearing all the black thorn scrub and hazel, then importing tons of top soil, Carl has exposed all the rocks and created his own piece of magic.
Late lunch on the train before departing for Woodville House and Gardens near Kilchreest Loughrea. These gardens are a huge contrast to The Burren, but are still set in the wild west of Ireland. This small walled garden with its two storey Dovecote is at the centre of a working Irish farm, which the Donohue family acquired through the Land Commission one hundred years ago. We will be celebrating our last visit with the owners by learning about Irish farming and gardening in County Galway with a glass in hand. Dinner on board the train before final local entertainment.
Overnight: Athlone Station.
Enjoy breakfast. Arrive at Heuston Station, Dublin at approximately 08:50 where arrangements end.
It was a complicated itinerary for 12 people and Tania got it spot on!- EM, South Africa