Driving Lessons in Ireland
Midlife Adventures in Ireland | Traveling My Way
Ireland Travel, Part 1
Me, My Guy and a Small Red Car in Ireland
Let’s start with driving. The Irish very inconveniently drive on the left side of the road. Flying into Shannon, a small airport, gives us time to practice our skills. Just in case Google Maps disconnects we opt for an old-fashioned Garmin navigator as well. The car rental agent asks several times if we have insurance coverage. He says Ireland is very often excluded in worldwide coverage. Not a confidence booster. He also says more than once, you will remember to drive on the left side of the road. He smiles like he said something funny. I repeat it to myself like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, yes, I will remember to drive on the left side of the road; yes, I will remember to drive on the left side of the road.
Off we go in a little red car the size of a soup can. The trunk fits one of our suitcases, and there are no visor mirrors or inside lights. No quick peeks at how I look before getting out of the car here. We watched YouTube videos in preparation. My Guy takes the wheel. Within minutes an Irish driver shouts at us as he passes letting us know the slow lane is on the left, not the right, you silly. The Irish have a need for speed. Get out of the way and they’re happy. You get the little one finger wave then. Up ahead, oh no, the dreaded roundabout. Roundabouts are
traffic circles where cars enter at four different places and go roundabout until exiting. Look right, turn left. At the roundabout, Missy Garmin says, take the second exit. Oops, off the first exit he goes. No worries another one ahead. At the Roundabout, she says again, take the third exit. Oops off the second one we go. The pressure to go roundabout is just too much. To make sure we get enough practice there’s a roundabout every quarter mile or so as we start out and head toward the Cliffs of Moher. At the roundabout, take the….okay we got it now. Driving lesson number one: Trust the Garmin. Listen to and do whatever she says. She’s like an all-knowing voice from heaven. Don’t bother trying to read the road signs. They often don’t match the directions or are non-existent. While the Irish are good at many things, signage is not one of them.
Do’s and Don’ts of Driving in Ireland
Now we’re off the highway on what I would call back roads barely wide enough for one car let alone two. Yikes, there are no freakin’ berms on these roads. My side of the car brushes the overgrown bushes lining the edge of the road. I think I’m going to be sick. Being the driver and driving on the left side of the road is not the hard part here. Being the passenger is the hard part. I learn to look straight ahead and not get alarmed as the branches scratch against the door. Our map has the major roads marked by the letter N and a number. We call these the Nice roads. The secondary roads are marked by the letter L which we decide means Lousy, filled with bumps, pot holes and curves. Then there are the roads marked by the letter R, for Roughshod. These are the ones with grass growing right down the middle, seriously like a cow or tractor path. About the third day I took the wheel on the Beara Peninsula after My Guy got tired of the back roads and cliff driving. It lasted under fifteen minutes. Being next to a cliff is not a good introduction to driving on the left side of the road. My Guy’s anxiety got the best of him especially with my speedy driving and hanging close to the edge. Stop the car he shouted looking green, I can’t take it. We switched drivers. I didn’t get another chance behind the wheel until the following week when My Guy had some digestive issues going on and needed to get home quickly. I obliged but couldn’t decide if driving slow and delaying getting back or driving fast and risking more motion sickness were the best options. We made it. I drove again in Kinsale, a small town of winding, small streets with cars parked along them like there was even enough room. This was necessity driving in that My Guy was golfing at Old Head, a famous golf course, and unless I was going to spend a day staring out at the beautiful scenery, which I could have, I needed to get behind the wheel. We did a practice run first. Okay, so I hit a couple of curbs going around curves at a decent rate of speed. I figured out though if I watched the white center line out of my side mirror I could stay within the allotted space. I was good to go. My driving time in Ireland…probably less than an hour.
I figured I had to be using up calories with all the bouncing and jiggling going on in the car. Wasn’t there a fitness center designed on that concept a while back? You put the belt around your thighs and it vibrated your excess. It must be the secret to keeping weight off in Ireland for sure. About two-thirds of the way into the trip we realize both our navigation systems take us as the crow flies which means we bumpity bumped our way through Ireland. Truly off the beaten path we were. An adventure I highly recommend if you have the stomach for it. Don’t forget you’ll be burning up extra calories.
My Irish Eyes are smiling.
This is Part 1 of my Ireland Travel Series. Read more about my adventures HERE.
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I’m Dyanne Kelley. You can find me @soulfirewoman where I share my musings, wisdom, coaching, mentorships and soon-to-be book, “Soulfire Woman: How to Torch the Past; Ignite the Present, and Set Your Soul on Fire.” For a sneak peek at the first chapter, fill out the form below. And shoot me your comments. I love to read your feedback.