Belfast Telegraph

Eamonn Holmes in line for a first trip on Northern Ireland's most famous railway after surprise admission

By Ivan Little

Globetrotting Eamonn Holmes has travelled on some of the world's most famous railway journeys, but has surprised TV viewers here by revealing that he has never been on Ulster's most scenic line.

The Belfast-born presenter also upset transport chiefs in the province by saying that people here didn't use the railways.

But Eamonn has told the Belfast Telegraph that he is accepting an invitation to jump on board the scenic Belfast to Londonderry train along the breathtaking Atlantic coast.

He raised eyebrows on yesterday's This Morning programme on ITV after travel expert Simon Calder recommended the top train journeys in the world.

He said one of his favourite trips was from Belfast to Derry.

"It's not the Orient Express but it's absolutely glorious," said Simon, who's not alone in his admiration for the route.

It has also been acclaimed as one of the world's finest railway journeys by Monty Python star and travel programme maker Michael Palin, and former politician and rail buff Michael Portillo.

Yesterday, as pictures flashed up on screen of the Derry train passing Downhill beach and Mussenden Temple, Eamonn admitted he had never been on the track. He told an incredulous Simon: "Northern Ireland is so small that we don't use trains.

"So therefore I would have missed out because we know the coastal roads, we know those journeys."

Simon said he could "thoroughly recommend" the journey and its "wonderful" views over the Foyle estuary on the way in and out of Derry.

He joked that there were particularly good deals available on Sundays on the line, which was used by the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh last year.

He told Eamonn: "I'm genuinely shocked and I would urge you to try it out."

Eamonn, who said he'd been on the famous Blue Train in South Africa and the Rocky Mountaineer in Canada, vowed that he would take a ride on the Belfast to Derry train.

He was late back to his presenter's chair after an ad break, and his Strictly Come Dancing star wife Ruth Langsford asked him if he had been sorting out tickets for the Derry train with Simon.

"That's exactly what we were doing," said the presenter, who holidayed in his youth in Ballycastle, Co Antrim, and on the north coast

After the programme Translink tweeted an invitation to Eamonn and Ruth - and Simon - to be their guests on the Belfast to Derry service.

And later Eamonn told the Belfast Telegraph: "We will definitely be taking them up on their offer.

"I tend to drive everywhere at home, but I look forward to seeing the line. Simon Calder is certainly a huge fan."

As for his claim that no one uses trains in Northern Ireland, Translink said: "NI Railways passenger figures have more than doubled in the last decade from six million to over 14 million.

"We are on course for another record year, to coincide with the 50th anniversary of NI Railways.

"We look forward to welcoming Eamonn, Ruth and Simon on board our scenic Coleraine to Derry/Londonderry line."

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