experiences

Adventures in Ireland: Driving

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I normally try to go in chronological order when posting about my trips, but I’m still so excited about my weekend adventures, that I have to start with the most exhilarating part: driving.

I’d driven on the wrong side of the road once before – when I rented a car on the North Island of New Zealand in order to see the glow worm caves and other sites beyond the normal bus routes. It was a bit terrifying, but worth it. So once my friend Shawna and I had decided we wanted to see the Ring of Kerry and Dingle Peninsula on our weekend in Ireland, renting a car seemed the best choice, as very few tours run during the winter months.

We landed in Shannon around noon after a painfully long layover in Heathrow, and headed straight for the Avis counter. I’d done a lot of research beforehand (more details on that come) and determined I would be most comfortable with the extremely expensive, but inclusive, zero deductible CDW coverage. We were only renting the car for three days, not worrying about rocks or bushes or anything would make it much better.

Avis SNN rental

We headed out to the parking lot to find the automatic economy size I’d booked. It was smaller than I had expected. Out of habit, we wound up on the wrong sides of the car, but eventually we got it straightened out and I was finally in the driver’s seat. Terrified, but excited.

Keri SNN Car Rental

And I couldn’t find my seat belt – something I never quite figured out the whole trip…

Driving in Ireland reaching for seatbelt

We headed out to find our hotel and Bunratty Castle along the way. I was having trouble figuring out how close the car was the side of the road on the left, but Shawna was a great navigator. She advised me when I was too close to the edge, read the directions ahead of time so there was never that moment in the roundabout trying to figure out what exit to take, and she provided regular encouragement when I’d start to get anxious.

We decided not to push it and ended our driving around 4PM that day. The next morning I felt a little bit more confident, which was good, because the directions to Dingle had me driving through downtown Limerick, something I’d hoped to avoid.

Driving in Ireland Limerick Traffic

But I made it through, gaining a lot of confidence with the 70KM stretch on major highways, which went through gorgeous countryside.

Ireland major highway

Driving in Ireland Scenery

Confidence that carried me through roads that looked more like bike lanes along the Dingle Peninsula.

Ireland Drive on Left

Ireland narrow roads

I even made it through a few miles of unexpected sleet/ice about 2-3 inches thick on the road. I only panicked when I crossed a narrow bridge at the same time as a major commercial truck.

Ireland Sleet on road

My one rule for driving was that I wanted to avoid downtown as much as possible and absolutely refused to try and park there. It worked out well. We were both really excited to have the freedom of a car and thanks to pre-planning and my friend’s great navigation (and the lack of traffic on country roads in the winter), we wound up avoiding situations that would cause a lot of stress. And pretty sure I didn’t annoy other drivers either!

We lucked out and had great weather, the only rain falling on the one day we were taking a tour bus!

Foggy Rainy Day in Ireland

By the end of the trip I was so comfortable that I was starting to criticize the drivers in front of me for not going as fast as the speed limit. 🙂 Always a good sign.

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7 Comments

  1. Kevin

    January 22, 2014 at 12:44 pm

    Been there, done that. But really love Dingle and currently trying to use united before February 1 devalue. Looking at April again!

  2. Girl

    January 22, 2014 at 1:04 pm

    We spent 19 days driving around Ireland. Such an amazing time and I am dying to get back. We managed to take out one hubcap trying to park….fortunately the car rental responded with “we’re just happy there are still tires (or tyres) on the car.”

    The Dingle Peninsula was one of our favorites, likely due to our stay at Pax House.

    In fact, we preferred the small towns over places like Dublin and Galway.

  3. Denise L

    January 22, 2014 at 1:41 pm

    Sounds like you did very well driving on the left. My problem is that we usually rent cars with manual transmissions, so I have a hard time shifting with my left hand since I am right handed. Feels very awkward. Looking forward to hearing about the rest of your trip.

    • Keri Anderson

      January 22, 2014 at 3:17 pm

      Since I was so anxious about driving, we decided it was worth it to pay twice as much for an automatic instead of a manual ~$17 a day vs $8 for the very reason you mention!

  4. MaryE

    January 22, 2014 at 3:56 pm

    Glad you made it to Ireland, my other home country. I was there in 2005, 2009, 2012, and just this past summer. Love, love, love Galway; although not in the winter.

    Next time you get to Dublin, check out New and Not So New in Dublin at Meetup.com You’ll meet locals to go to the pubs with, and travel around Ireland. Free, and I made a lot of friends in the group there.

  5. kevin

    January 24, 2014 at 5:20 pm

    April all set for another Ireland trip. Enjoy your blog! Need your advice renting a car in Shannon airport and driving to Dingle. We will spen 5 nights there. Thanks for your time!

    • Keri Anderson

      January 24, 2014 at 5:34 pm

      Absolutely!! I’m working this weekend on a post about all the research I did and what I recommend for renting cars. You’re going to have such an amazing time and I think you’ll actually be hitting it during the PERFECT season.

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