Getting Around the Place
Public transport within Éire is perhaps not as extensive as nearby Britain and recent cutbacks due to the state of the Irish economy and a sudden deep deterioration in the public finances due to a drop in tax returns have done nothing to expand it. While the entrenchment certainly is true of some rail, coach and bus connections within the Republic, private operators seem to be getting along O.K. and it surprises me how many services they provide with such a dominating state-owned operator about. I cannot speak very much for ferry operations and how the economy is affecting them but there seem to be a goodly number of independent operators, each serving their own individual area. With all the modes of travel featured here, you should be able to develop a sense of what is available and the trip options that may open up for you.
Travelling by Rail, Coach or Bus
In these uncertain economic times, Éire's state-owned travel group (CIE) has been racking up huge loss so services have been scaled back. Because of that, a spot of timetable checking could be very sensible if you plan on make use of any of their services. Private operators have their own battles too, though Aircoach launched a new service between Greystones and Dublin Airport last year and there are signs of expansion in the sector. In fact, it surprises me how extensive their offerings have become.
Coras Iompar Éireann
This Irish semi-state transport company, is the of the three companies listed immediately below and dominates public transport provision in the Republic. Semi-state companies are owned by the government but run their own affairs themselves, albeit with some government direction. The advantages of a single state-owned transport company are very apparent if you are a student: adding a Travelsave stamp to an ISIC card at any USIT office in the Republic entitles you to savings on the fares on services operated by all the companies comprising the CIE group.
The company that runs the majority of the country's bus services outside Dublin as well as maintaining all the Republic's bus stations. Besides services which run between different towns and cities, Bus Éireann also runs bus services within the other cities in the Republic.
Runs the vast majority of the bus services in the Irish capital and many of the commuter ones in the areas surrounding the city.
Runs all of the country's train services, with the possible exception of services between Dublin and Belfast, as well as maintaining stations and railway track.
Formerly a home-grown Irish company, this First Group subsidiary has moved on from its days of getting passengers to and from Dublin Airport to serving Cork and Belfast as well.
This company has had a varied history with home grown beginnings followed by Veolia ownership before a recent return to independence again. One constant theme has been their operating coaches that ply their way between Galway and Dublin Airport and I saw one that that was not looking too empty on my latest trip to the home country.
This is the Irish cousin of Scottish Citylink and started out providing services between Galway, Dublin city centre and Dublin Airport. Since then, places such as Shannon Airport, Clifden, Limerick and Cork have been added with services to the latter pair being discontinued for a while before service was restored, albeit at a reduced level. Apparently, many customers lobbied for the restoration, never a bad verdict on any business.
Ferries Serving River Crossings and Offshore Islands
They may not be as many in number as those possessed by Scotland but Eire has its offshore islands too. Continuing the comparison, Scotland may have a much more indented coastline but there are gashes in the Irish equivalent that necessitate river crossing ferries too. It is from both of these that this collection will be drawn. You'll notice that there isn't a major operator of island ferries like Scotland's Caledonian Macbrayne and that car ferries are a rarity when travelling over the sea; river and estuary crossings are a very different matter.
This handy service saves having to go around by the city of Limerick and braving its traffic when wanting to go from North Kerry or West Limerick to West Clare. The company has existed for decades now and €28 is the not too unreasonable return fare for a car with passengers. Service frequency is up to half hourly and seems very reliable too, subject to fog, daylight and other operating conditions. The thing feels like its been there forever now and long may it last.
Aran Island Ferries
These bastions of Irish language and culture remain devoid of my footfall but my encountering the website of this ferry operator is causing me to wonder about resolving this state of affairs. Then mainland port of Rossaveal is 23 miles west of the city of Galway so coach travel is in order if you are without a car; it helps that the ferry company can sort things out for you if needed and that helpfulness may extend to on-island accommodation too. Even if you have a car, you don't seem to able to take it onto the islands anyway, not a surprise given their sizes and travel by bicycle or on foot is little hardship anyway.
Aran Doolin Ferries
This a summer season operation between the coast of County Clare and the Aran Islands that may come in handy if you are based around that part of the world for a stay.
Cape Clear Island Ferry
Prepare for a good deal of Irish usage on this website because the ferry is run by the islanders for themselves. There's English too but I find it nice to see the use of the Irish language, something with which I am familiar from my school days (it has to taken as a subject all the way to the end of secondary schooling). The boat is a half-decker so it's foot passengers only and Ireland's most southerly island isn't big anyway so a car would be surplus to requirements.
Sherkin Island Ferry
My first ever school trip was to Sherkin Island and I have to admit that it would mean more to me these days than it did back then when this sort of thing was very new to me; coach and boat rides, a longish walk on an island and other things were too far outside of my experience then for me to make anything of them. All of that may been a while ago but there is still a semi-open deck foot passenger service connecting the island with Baltimore on the mainland and with a good frequency too.
Tory Island Ferry
The trend of an island stronghold of the Irish language having a local ferry company serving its needs continues with this entry. During the summer months of July and August, sea cruises around the North Donegal coastline are on offer too. The vessel is a another half-decker that conveys only foot passengers but the island's size means that the lack of a car shouldn't be felt either.
Blasket Islands Ferry
Until the 1950's, there was a viable community of hardy islanders but they had to leave for the mainland out of necessity. The outcome is that any human incursion nowadays is only fleeting and this passenger service fulfills that need. My impression is that peace and quiet is what will await you on a day when the weather is well behaved. The idea of visiting somewhere deserted by humanity sounds desolate but there is something enigmatic about the idea too, especially when you consider how much literature came from the minds of former islanders.
The winter timetable has two sailings each way seven days a week on this passenger ferry and separate hires for purposes as diverse as weddings and school trips are possible too. All in all, it makes the island an easy visits and doubtless helps for the viability of the island community too.
In spite of the name, the first of these serves Inishturk too while the second restricts itself solely to Clare Island. With two companies operating passenger ferries to the island, you have to conclude that there is sufficient demand for them from islanders and visitors alike.
Unusually for an Irish island, both of these will carry cars as well as the more usual mix of foot and cycling passengers. The schedules are good too and Bere Island must be visited by quite a few to justify this extent of service.