This is a short article I wrote for the student newspaper’s ‘travel’ section.
There was something appealingly quixotic about getting a train ticket that says ‘Dublin’ on it. I looked forward to seeing the reaction of the conductor. However, Tamworth to Crewe merely gave me a quizzical look, which was the most emotional response I’d had since I forgot to renew my 16-25 Railcard last August. Crewe to Chester made no comment at all, and by the time I got on the train to Holyhead, most of the other passengers had Irish or American accents anyway.
At Holyhead, where the ships depart for Dublin, I followed the crowd on a well-trodden route through the station and into the ferry terminal. I put my rucksack into the back of a white van, a police officer gave my passport a cursory glance, and before I knew it I had embarked on the good ship Ulysses.
Who needs the Dublin Writers Museum when you’ve got Irish Ferries? I sat in the James Joyce Balcony Lounge on a reclining seat that, in a complex modernist twist, didn’t seem to want to unrecline. Perhaps a meal from Boylan’s Brasserie, or a romantic stroll on the Sandycove Promenade Deck? The ferry is not just the largest thing on the Irish sea (12 decks high, up to 2000 passengers per journey), it’s a literary experience.
Most of the people on the Sandycove Promenade Deck were just smoking, of course. But there were also some twitchers pointing out guillemots, and, sheltering from the wind in a sun trap besides the stairs to the helipad, a tanned, wrinkled old man was writing in a journal. He was wearing shorts, had a bushy white beard, and a battered pipe hung from his mouth. He looked lost on this giant freighter, with its two cinemas, department store, restaurants and bars.
When faced by the size and noise of the Ulysses, it’s hard to think of it was being the environmentally-friendly option. But, according to Seat61.com’s figures, taking the train and ferry from London to Dublin produces 73% less CO2 than a plane. Our ferry brought me into Dublin, where I picked up my luggage from an airport-style conveyor belt. Outside, a connecting bus was waiting to take me to the city centre. I can’t say that the SailRail scheme has revolutionised my travelling experience, but there was very little hassle, and at £33 from any UK train station to Dublin, with no taxes, luggage surcharges, or other Ryanair extortion, it was cheap.
For train tickets to Dublin, see http://www.sailrail.co.uk