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Ireland by train?

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This is my first time in Ireland, actually in Europe too! I'll be going for 5 nights in late October and flying from London. My return flight MUST be out of Dublin, but I can fly into any airport on arrival from London. I know I want to spend at least the last 2 nights in Dublin, but what to do the rest of the time, given the time of year? What highlights and routes are recommended, and can it be done by train rather than car? If the west coast is a must, should I fly into Shannon or another airport rather than Dublin? What are the best places to stay overnight?

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