‘Orient Express’ company Belmond jumps tracks to Ireland

Firm behind famous luxury train trip teams up with Irish Rail to offer high-end holidays

Imagine the Orient Express, luxury dining cars in tow, steaming through Limerick junction – and not an Irish Rail ham sandwich in sight.

It's set to become a reality next year when the company behind Europe's most famous train franchise launches in Ireland.

Belmond Limited – the international hotel, train and river cruise group – plans to offer luxury train holidays in Ireland from August 2016.

The “Belmond Grand Hibernian” – as it will be known – will be akin to a land cruise, according to the company, with daily excursions to historic sights and top golf courses included.


Guests will travel in 20 luxury en-suite cabins, styled on the original Orient Express, immortalised by crime writer Agatha Christie, albeit with subtle Georgian and Celtic themes specifically for Ireland.

Five-star sleepers

The five-star sleeper trains, driven by Irish Rail staff, will able to take up to 40 passengers at a time.

Belmond, which operates the Venice Simplon Orient Express and Belmond Royal Scotsman, acquired 11 carriages from Irish Rail and refitted them to luxury specifications at a cost of $10 million (€9.3 million). It plans to spend a further $1 million marketing the service to high-end customers in Europe and North America.

Ahead of its official launch in Dublin last night, Belmond chief executive John Scott told The Irish Times the success of its operation in Scotland prompted it to consider Ireland as a destination, with demand from North America expected to be stronger for Ireland.

“It’s really less about transportation and more about the experience – offering guests a chance to see the country as opposed to staying in a hotel and having to drive.”

He said he expects the business, which will create 50 jobs, to repay its start-up costs within five years.

Belmond said it was taking reservations for two-, four- and six-night itineraries. The four-night tour will depart on Tuesdays from Dublin to Cork, Killarney, Galway and Westport, taking in Jameson's Whiskey distillery, Blarney Castle, the Killarney lakes, Connemara and Ashford Castle. The two-night tour will depart on Saturdays from Dublin to Belfast and Portrush, and encompass the Titanic museum in Belfast, the Giant's Causeway and the Old Bushmills Distillery.

Prices will start at €3,160 per person for the two-night journey and €5,420 per person for the four-night journey, and €7,000 for a combined option.

The original Orient Express ran from Paris to Istanbul between 1883 and 1977.

Eoin Burke-Kennedy

Eoin Burke-Kennedy

Eoin Burke-Kennedy is Economics Correspondent of The Irish Times