The Golden Vale rail experience

Thu, Jul 24, 2014, 01:26

Sir, – My wife and I returned on Saturday evening from a circular 300-mile tour of south Leinster and Munster by chartered train, ably organised by the Irish Railway Records Society and the Railway Preservation Society of Ireland. The itinerary was Dublin to Waterford via Carlow and Kilkenny and then across the rich Golden Vale via Carrrick-on-Suir, Clonmel, Cahir, Bansha, Mullinavat and Tipperary town to Limerick via Limerick junction. We returned to Dublin via Ballybrophy, approaching Dublin Connolly through the little used Phoenix Park tunnel.

In the Golden Vale we traversed Victorian bow-string bridges and viaducts in cut blue limestone. We alighted at quaint Gothic stations built by the intrepid Carlow-born engineer and contractor William Dargan. We enjoyed delightful glimpses of semi-ruined Norman keeps and Cistercian monasteries, the magnificent Cahir castle and Gothic revival churches designed by John Semple. As we travelled sedately through the vale the afternoon sun lit up the Comeraghs, Knockmealdowns, Galtees, and Slievenaman mountains and the large herds of cattle grazing in rich pasturelands. A memorable and stress-free day to gladden the heart.

Sadly it is feared that the Waterford through to Limerick Junction section of this most scenic of Irish and European cross-country lines is threatened with imminent closure by an overly centralised administration. Surely the local communities and development agencies can be motivated to follow the example of their inspired counterparts on the western seaboard who have initiated the Wild Atlantic Way and the Great Western Greenway cycle experience.

There are many successful tourist-centred railways that can provide a model of good organisation and robust local engagement – the Scottish West Highland railway from Glasgow to Mallaig, the Forest of Dean railway in England and the popular summertime excursions from Anduze to Saint-Jean-du-Gard in the remote French Cévennes.

A “Golden Vale Railway Experience” involving expanded train services and stopovers at selected hotels and historic sites along the line, if imaginatively promoted and managed, could be the equal of any of the above and bring welcome benefits to a treasured but less known tourist destination. Are there interested individuals and organisations in the counties of the Golden Vale who might take up an exciting challenge ? – Yours, etc,

HUGH M FINLAY,

New Park Road,

Blackrock,

Co Dublin