Laura and I visited Ireland in January to attend Showcase Ireland in Dublin, the Irish crafts and products trade show. After finding a number of spectacular new items to add to the Ever Irish Gifts site, we rented a car to travel the Irish countryside and visit the workshop and studios of several of our craftsmen. What a fabulous—and, occasionally, exciting—adventure.
Ireland is truly a majestic country and so worth a visit, but if you decide to tackle it from behind the wheel of your own car, we suggest you keep a few points in mind.
- To my mind, renting a car is the best way to see the countryside. Notice that I said “countryside,” and not Dublin. Dublin is congested, lots of one-way streets, and challenging parking. Walk or take public transportation or a taxi when in the city, and then do as we did, go by taxi to the car rental location, which is preferably is located on the outskirts of town.
- Driving on the left side of the road is a bit confusing at first, but you get used to it. Strangely enough, readjusting to driving the right side again once back in the States was actually more difficult for me. My advice, however, is to rent an automatic car. Unless you are very experienced with a manual transmission, operating a stick shift with your other hand, while sitting on the other side of the car and driving on the other side of the street, takes way more concentration and dexterity than you may be prepared to devote. We hadn’t even driven our stick-shift car out of the rental car lot before we changed our minds, hopped out, and went back in to the office to exchange it for an automatic. Yes, it was more expensive, but it was worth every euro to me. Just make sure you indicate your preference when making the reservation.
- Rent as small a car as you reasonably can fit into. You will be shocked at how narrow many of the streets are once you get off the main motorways. A number of times, as a vehicle approached from the opposite direction, I would pull as far over to the left as I could, stop, and then just close my eyes and pray as it roared by. Mind you, I may have slowed down, but the other drivers, particularly those in trucks, apparently never even considered applying the brakes. Take my advice and accept the insurance from the car rental agency (and read what is or isn’t covered, because it is different from the policies in the U.S.).
- Understand that addresses basically don’t exist in many villages. Street names are difficult to determine since many of the signs are hidden or simply missing. When visiting some of our suppliers, all we had to help us in locating them was a village name, but somehow we managed to find everyone–eventually. If your spouse (like mine) has a difficult time reading a map, save your relationship and get a GPS. Realize, however, that you are most likely going to have to enter the longitude and latitude coordinates, so make sure you know how to do that.
- Don’t expect to get anyplace quickly. It always took twice as long for us to travel the same distance as it does over here. Signs are either nonexistent or confusing, roundabouts can be tricky (although you can keep going around in circles while you figure out which road you want to take), and one-way streets as you enter towns can throw you off course easily. So go at a leisurely pace, plan to get lost, and enjoy the scenery and experience. It is worth the drive.
Of course, in the 1700 and 1800s, traveling in Ireland was a lot different, but the maps of those eras were beautiful and awe-inspiring. Check out our selection of brilliant Irish country and county map reproductions. You won’t be making a wrong turn.
Stay Ever Irish,