You will soon be able to travel around Ireland on a luxury sleeper train. The “Irish Orient Express” is perhaps the slightly fanciful description being given by the media to international luxury operator Belmond’s Irish Cruise Train venture. They bought 10 Irish Rail carriages, with plans to transform them into a luxury ‘Grand Hibernian’ train which is set to provide overnight rail experiences throughout the island. Belmond is a highly credible company who locally to me operate Raymond Blanc’s famous Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons at Great Milton in Oxfordshire. If you have seen some eye wateringly beautiful and expensive hotel in a travel article chances are it is theirs.
The ‘Belmont Grand Hibernian’ anticipates its launch in summer 2016. The train was announced after Belmond Ltd., a global collection of luxury hotel and travel adventures, acquired ten carriages from Irish Rail. It plans to transform them into a luxury sleeper train with accommodation for up to 40 guests over the next two years.
The ‘Orient Express’-style train will be the first luxury overnight rail experience of its kind in Ireland, with plans for tours of the countryside, coast and cities both north and south of the border. Guests of Belmond, which also operates the legendary Venice Simplon-Orient-Express and Belmond Royal Scotsman, will travel in 20 elegant, en-suite cabins. The ‘Grand Hibernian’ will offer two, four and six-night rail experiences, with all-inclusive prices starting from an eye watering €3,200.
Travel on-board “will be akin to a land cruise, offering daily excursions such as tours of historic estates, rounds of golf and visits to Titanic Belfast,” the company says.
The train’s interiors will be designed by James Park Associates, who have worked on Belmond’s Eastern & Oriental Express. They will draw inspiration from Dublin’s classic Georgian architecture, adding a “contemporary twist” to Ireland’s ancient folklore and traditions.
The Belmond Grand Hibernian will feature an Observation Car with a bar, contributing to what a PR representative terms a “country house party” atmosphere on-board. There will be nightly entertainment, with local musicians and story tellers embracing the spirit of Ireland. The train will also feature four interconnecting suites to accommodate families, two restaurant cars and an observation bar car.
John Scott, President and Chief Executive Officer, said:
“Ireland offers today’s luxury traveller a rich and diverse cultural experience, with unrivalled scenery and warm hospitality that fit perfectly with Belmond’s offering of enriching and authentic hotel, rail and river cruise experiences.”
The train’s haulage services and Dublin depot facilities will be provided by Irish Rail. It is good to see Ireland’s railways getting some of the attention they deserve. Belmond used to be Orient Express Hotels and for some reason they changed their name to something meaningless. This is their promotional video for the new service but the rail shots are the Royal Scotsman on the West Highland Line to Fort William.