6.11.2012

Notes about driving in Ireland

I hated driving in Ireland. I just need to admit it.

Was it that they drive on the LEFT (wrong?) side of the road? Or the lack of street signs? Or the round-a-bouts? Or the roads the size of California bike lanes? Or the maps that only show main streets?

Why YES! It is all of those things that I didn't like about driving in Ireland.

The irony is that I never once drove on our trip in Ireland. I was the navigator or the person in the backseat. But now that the trip is over and I have had a little bit of time to think about it, I realized that I will never take a trip like this again. I really didn't like being in the car for that long. I didn't like not knowing where I am going and I REALLY didn't like not having a good map.

Some of the the driving lowlights (instead of highlights) included the lack of street signs. We stopped and asked for directions a lot and everytime but once the stranger who helped us would give directions based on landmarks. Every Irish person we talked to about driving in Ireland told us how bad the signage was and not to trust it at all. They even admitted to getting lost in Ireland, and they were IRISH. This made us feel a little better, but we spent the first four days of our trip being lost and frustrated. Not a good way to start things out. Another thing about the street signs is that they were always placed behind a plant or tree of some kind so if there was a sign, we couldn't read it!

An obvious lowlight was driving on the left side of the road. The Middle Sister did a great job but I think it was unsettling to all of us. Almost psychological. It was really strange and not fun to be the person sitting in the front passenger seat. Needless to say, I don't see a driving trip to England anywhere in my future.

Round-a-bouts (going left) were also not our favorite thing. We hit our first one right after picking up the car and went the right (correct) direction. After this we did okay at each round-a-bout. If we missed our exit we just went around again. We also liked them for "U-turns" when we ended up going the wrong way (which happened a few times on my watch). But overall they were not very fun. They would show up in the middle of major roads or in a tiny town. They were everywhere.

Another thing that was hard was finding a good map. We had a map of the country provided by the rental car company and it was okay. We bought a detailed map at a gas station and it was okay. I think I looked for a good map everytime we stopped. The truth was that the maps we found (even the city maps we got) were not very detailed. They would give main roads and such, but never the smaller roads. This made it difficult to know if we were in the correct area when we were trying to find something. Which is why we were always asking for directions.

I live in California and there are a lot of BIG cars and BIG roads. I knew the roads and cars in Ireland were going to be smaller but I guess I didn't quite realize how that was going to look. The roads looked like bike lanes. And I hated driving on them. Additonally a lot of the roads we took did not have shoulders on them so it was hard to pull over so people could pass us. They also were not straigh so we were cautious at ever turn. Another layer of stress to driving in Ireland I guess.

People asked me if the drive was pretty and I have to say here is something else I didn't know about driving in Ireland. Yes, the drive could be pretty. I saw a lot of cows and sheep. But most of the time there were little mounds of plants right next to the road and that is all we would see. It was like being in a green tunnel. The roads were simular to the curvy roads I find in the California wine country or on Pacific Coast Highway. And the speed limit was 80-100 kilometers per hour! That is really fast on curvy little two lane roads.

So we would be driving along, in the green tunnel, with no shoulder to pull off on, behind a tracker, trying to find a sign to make a turn, using a map that sucked, and still we managed to make it around Ireland. Would I do this again. No! But live and learn. I can't think of another way to see Ireland so now I can check that off my list.

Having a car in Ireland gave us a certain amount of freedom and allowed us to see the things we wanted to see and go where we wanted to go. All the "hassel" of driving in Ireland was the price we had to pay to do this. It was a higher price than I thought it would be.....

A few pictures from the road:

The Middle Sister driving

Our Ford Focus STYLE

Typical road with narrow lanes and green hedge and no shoulder.


Just another tracker on the road. We saw these all the time. I even saw one on the main moterway.

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