Driving In Ireland – Not For The Faint Of Heart

Country road in Ireland

Country road

I love having the freedom of a vehicle when I travel. I had researched traveling by train in Ireland and wasn’t happy with what I was finding. I didn’t have a lot of time to go from east to west and there were places spotted throughout the country that I wanted to see. So I reserved a car before my friend and I arrived in Ireland. We decided to start touring the countryside and leave Dublin sight seeing for the last day. Surprisingly, we got on the highway, through the outskirts of Dublin and on our way into the country very easily. The same can’t be said for the end of the trip! The highways were pretty standard, but when we started to get in the country, the road started shrinking, at least it felt like it. The road seemed barely wide enough for the car, and the edges of the road became non-existent. Where in the United States we typically have an emergency lane, not here. It is yellow line, one inch of tar, vines, then rock wall. Below is an example of the roads. This didn’t seem to bother the locals, who would walk their dogs on the road, ride their bikes, etc. It made me a nervous wreck. What if I came over a hill and there was a man and his dog, a walker, a bicyclist?

Don’t let the innocent looking vines fool you, nine times out of ten there is a rock wall right behind them holding them up! When we got to a stopping point in a city or town, we could park the car and get a break. Scary part was that some of the towns didn’t really have parking spots, they parked along side the road…mostly in the road. So driving through town on a hill where cars parked, you had to go into the other lane in order to get around the parked car. Every time, I worried about meeting an oncoming car. We were lucky.

I’m a big fan of roundabouts and think the United States should have more of them, but trying to adjust to being on the opposite side of the car and the road on the same trip was challenging. My friend might have been horrified, but she hid it well. She and I were both wondering on which roundabout I would actually pop a tire from hitting the curb! I’m a slow learner, but I was afraid of hitting another car, so I would hit the curb instead.

By the time we made it to Cork, I was ready for a break. Problem was, no parking. So we ended up going into a parking garage. When I finally got us wedged into a spot, I lost my cool. I had a little melt down and didn’t think I could handle this driving anymore. Well, my friend didn’t want to try it, so I had to get a grip. She made a comment to me about taking the car back and flying home, and she was doing this just to get me to snap out of my funk. What I really needed was a very large glass of wine! So we found a great restaurant, Rafferty’s @ Clancy’s and I had two glasses of wine. That was a well needed stop. Normally I don’t want to take my chances with drinking and driving, but we ended up shopping, browsing and walking around town, so enough time had passed where I felt comfortable getting behind the wheel.

Our car near a rock wall in Ireland

Our car near a rock wall

The towns and roads varied on their space, but it seemed like north of the Cliffs of Moher the roads opened up a bit. There were still rock walls, they just weren’t an inch from the road. At the end of our trip we did some sight seeing in Dublin, which went smoothly until we tried to get from Dublin to the airport to drop off the car. We must’ve been stuck on different roads for over an hour! We had maps, but when we were looking for the signs, there would be a sign for the highway we needed, then that highway would never come. I think we ended up seeing water, so we were southeast of Dublin instead of north of Dublin. We asked for directions, but that still didn’t help. Eventually we made our way back to the highway and the airport.

Driving in Ireland was quite the adventure. Would I do it again? Absolutely. I can only get better, right?

7 thoughts on “Driving In Ireland – Not For The Faint Of Heart

  1. Kathi

    Do you remember the round-about in France where we went round and round and round? I can’t imagine doing it while driving on the wrong side of the road!

    1. The Travel Wench

      Nope, I must’ve blocked that one out! 🙂 Must’ve been when I was feeling sick. I do remember Karen’s argument with the cop though! And the fun rest areas – holes in the ground.

  2. blade3colorado

    I totally relate to what you wrote in your post . . . I am in the midst of a RTW trip and I decided New Zealand had to be seen from a car vs. a bus, train or other conveyance (plane? LOL). I’m not certain I was nervous or scared, mostly because I didn’t have time to be nervous or scared. Why? Simply due to the fact that I was too busy trying to follow a convoluted map with directions from the airport to the place I was staying at, watch the road, obey foreign traffic laws, and not pee my pants. Ha.! Mission accomplished . . . I survived. Unlike your experience, once I got out of the big city of Auckland a few days later, I did quite well on the country roads of NZ. Fast forward a couple of weeks later, I’m no expert by any means, but I feel much more comfortable driving here. Glad to see you would go back and do it over again.
    By the by, your friend Kathi cracked me up with her comment about the roundabouts in France. Same experience in London and Madrid many years ago. No lanes and never certain where to get off – I would just go around in circles and make my move . . . umm, 5-10 minutes later, when I was certain. Grin.

    1. The Travel Wench

      I don’t remember the France reference from Kathi – we all took turns getting sick on that trip, but it is funny about going around and around. It’s hard when there is so much traffic though, depending on how wide they are. The more lanes, the harder it is to cross over in a short time. Like Chevy Chase stuck in London, “look kids, Big Ben!” Luckily in Ireland since most of the roundabouts we were on were in the country, there were only a couple of cars…and me, hitting the curb!
      I’m glad you are surviving the driving in New Zealand. Once you get through an adjustment, it’s worth it and it does feel like a great accomplishment. Better that than to let fear stand in the way. Trying to do maps, road signs and drive is challenging. Then if you have a map for your language, but the road sign/names are in the language of the country you’re in, they don’t match. In Germany, I should’ve crossed out some names with the real German names.
      I’m glad you are more comfortable driving in New Zealand and hope you have a great experience there!

      1. blade3colorado

        I think everyone does that with the curb or knocking someones mirror off (on a car that is parked) . . . I did the curb thingy and my friend Mike took off someone’s mirror when we were in Scotland. We went back to the house and told the owner of the car what had happened (essentially, a street that was anorexic. Ha.).

  3. Simone

    O lol… I went through Ireland by car two years ago and I thought the Dublin part was the absolute worst… Driving on the wrong side of the road and trying to find my way… Terrible. But once I was out I loved driving the country lanes. Maybe it helps that I am from the Netherlands and while we obviously have highways we also have those little country roads and the parking in the street things, so it kind of feels normal to me… 🙂


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