Writing this blog has given me the opportunity to meet so many wonderful people! Some are in the process of relocating to Ireland (or considering it), while others are just visiting. Most recently, Domina contacted me to ask for my advice about her upcoming trip to the Emerald Isle. Here is her note, followed by my reply.
LETTER FROM DOMINA
Hi. I’m a knitter, mom, graphic designer, artist….a few things I see we have in common! So I thought a kindred spirit might be able to help me. I’ll be visiting Ireland with a friend in September, any suggestions on places we must see or stay? Or avoid?
We’ll fly in/out of Dublin, so of course we see that city a bit, but we’re into seeing some lovely countryside, castles, and general Irish culture.
How hard was it getting used to driving on the left side of the road? That makes me nervous.
Any kind of direction will be helpful – thanks!
RESPONSE FROM ME
Why yes, we do have a few things in common! And a trip to Ireland will be such fun for you and your friend.
If you have a car, definitely take to the roads and explore beyond Dublin. Dublin is the city most Americans want to visit. Cork is the second-largest and not as shiny or large, but I live here and love it. You know the say, “it’s a nice place to visit but I wouldn’t want to live there”? Well, Cork is a nice place to live, but it’s not overrun by tourists much unless it’s sunny. But, WOW, it is an amazing place to live and the music scene is more intimate plus we have several yarn shops!
My favorite places to visit in Ireland with a car:
Connemara (Clifden is a good base place to stay)
Belfast (Northern Ireland is lovely too)
Glendalough (Wicklow Mountains)
Though I’ve been to Athalone and Monasterevin, I’ve heard that the middle of the country is not much of a destination. Of course, there are always unexpected gems if you are in the right mindset.
I was very nervous the first day driving on the left (back in 2006) and even after was more on edge than usual, but I think that made me a more alert driver. Also, the traffic circles (they call them ’roundabouts’) are frequent and remember to go clockwise around them. The rule of thumb is to stay in the left lane if you are exiting between six and 12 o’clock (if the traffic circle is a clock face) and in the center or right lane is you are exiting beyond 12 o’clock. Have your passenger study up on navigating and whenever you reach an intersection or turn have her say ‘LEFT’. It helps. Also, drive the speed limit. If you are going slowly, stay in the left lane (reverse of in the States). Move over, if you can, when you see someone about to enter the highway you are on. Parking in towns and cities has time limits and in cities expect to pay. Oh, when approaching a traffic circle, your passenger should be looking for the large sign before the circle which states where the roads lead off that circle and then tell you ‘Third Exit’ or ‘First Exit on the LEFT’ so you know what lane to be in and how to proceed. It saves A LOT of stress to have this be consistent. Also, don’t be worried about going around the roundabout more than once. Just do so safely.
The biggest challenge is driving on the tiny tiny back roads since some are about 1.5 car widths wide and the edges are used when cars approach from the opposite direction. Those kinds of roads are mostly on the coast, like Dingle (not the Dingle town part) or Connemara. But both places have such natural beauty that no one is speeding along on them unless they drive that route daily.
September is a good time to visit. We were honeymooning here at that time of year and the weather was ideal. Bring a raincoat or a jacket that can handle getting a little wet or blocking wind. Dress in layers as the weather changes throughout the day. It’s easy to buy such things here, but more expensive for the most part.
Within my blog, you can search for town names and it will provide posts I’ve written on the places. Also in categories it is broken down a bit. Here are two posts you will find interesting:
Understanding Irish Phrases
Day in Dublin
Hope this helps.