New luxury ‘rail cruise’ to hit Irish tracks this summer

Emerald Pullman service will depart for destinations across Ireland on a private train

An Irish travel company is hoping to continue navigating through the Covid-19 pandemic with a new “rail cruise” across the country later this summer.

Railtours Ireland has launched “a staycation with a difference” with its Emerald Pullman train service, which is due to depart on August 8th and 22nd and September 5th from Dublin.

Now in its 24th year of operations, the company has traditionally catered for North American and European visitors but now has its sights predominantly set on the domestic market.

The trip will take 79 guests on a private train, a three-car Intercity set provided by Irish Rail, as well as a series of coach tours from stations across the country. The train has a capacity of 190 seats but only 79 passengers will be carried to allow for social distancing. Guests will also need to be vaccinated to travel.


"Railtours Ireland First Class has been a casualty of the pandemic – we are part of the aviation sector, as almost all of our guests [traditionally] have accessed Ireland by air. By the time of our first departure of our Emerald Pullman, on August 8th, we will not have done any meaningful business for almost 18 months," says Jim Deegan, chief executive of Railtours Ireland.

“We are calling it a rail cruise because, once you are on board all drinks and light snacks are included.”

The railtour company, along with the country’s entire tourism sector, has been deeply affected by the pandemic, and the new express service is its latest means of responding to it.

“The concept of the Emerald Pullman is a Covid-19-driven idea which would make it feasible to streamline our very extensive inventory of tour options to be rationalised in the new tourism landscape,” Deegan says.

“Luckily, we have made use of the various government measures to enable us to survive until now. Our industry has been very badly damaged, and it will take years for it to recover to 2019 levels.”

Glen Murphy

Glen Murphy

Glen Murphy is an Irish Times journalist