I’m not sure who drives on the wrong side of the road, us or the Irish. The decision to drive on the wrong side of the road in Ireland also included putting the driver on the wrong side of the car at the same time. A “RHD” car means that the driver is sitting in the right hand seat, contrary to our LHD cars. The Irish (and the Brits, but I’m not a big fan of the Brits) thus decided to put RHD drive cars on the left hand side of the road, completely opposite the American system. You’ve probably seen movies where that was in play (James Bond, for instance) and thought little about it. But add in a roundabout where multiple lane roads are all entering a roundabout, well, it gets interesting.
Most of the time I just followed the GPS directions and “take the second exit from the roundabout to stay on N22.” But from which lane do you do that? Being an American, I just took up all the lanes so that no one could push me where I didn’t want to go. It’s an American thing. But sometimes the sign for N22 wasn’t where we expected it, if it was there at all. So I would just keep driving around the roundabout until I could figure out an exit plan. Besides confusing the GPS, it clearly confused the Irish drivers, but they were so pleasant all the time that they’d just wait for the silly American to finally do something and then they’d go on.
Maybe it’s because they’re Irish and it’s hard to be in a hurry in Ireland, since it’s not like you’ve got a lot to do. The cows and sheep will graze just fine if you’re a little late. The pub, where everyone goes to eat, will still be there. They never run out of Guinness, so you don’t need to be a in rush for that. But the Irish as really, really patient drivers. They don’t honk, use middle fingers or get upset.
Their roadways aren’t that complicated. A “M” is a motorway. Pretty much like an American interstate, if not better. Wide lanes, lots of signage and no cops. Never. Not once did I see a “guarda” (I told you last week, that’s Irish for police) on a motorway. Or any roadway, except to assist at the occasional accident. Next up is “N” roads, which are “National” roads. That can be a nice road, or it can be the width of your driveway even though it’s the main connector from Mayo Abbey to Balla. It will generally accept two cars (small, itty bitty cars) passing each other in opposite directions, but not always. There were some speed limit signs where it said 100kph (about 60 mph) where even I wouldn’t dare have gone faster than 25 mph. Plus, they don’t apparently believe in wasting steel on guardrails, so in 99% of the cliff areas, it’s a good idea to pay attention to the road.
They have “R” roads, which are “regional” roads. Generally a R road will at least have asphalt, and will usually be passable, in places, so that two cars can get around each other. Most of the time the road will be about the width of a good size American driveway, but with pullouts every so often so cars get can around each other.
Then lastly, they have “L” roads, meaning local roads. Might be asphalt, gravel, dirt (but not much dirt there, grass covers most everything). Might be wide enough for your car to get through without getting scratched up. They have absolutely no compunction about putting a 90 degree turn in the road and no warning sign. If you’re not sure footed enough to drive on their roads, they just don’t need you.
Mary Ann and I drove about 1500 kilometers and never once were we on the wrong side of the road. But I can add this, it doesn’t matter which side of the car you are on, the scenery is spectacular. We finished off our trip on what they call the Copper Coast Geopark, a 17 kilometer “ooohhh” and “aaahhhh” trip where you can’t take all the pictures you want because there simply isn’t enough time. The photo shows an inexplicable roadway ramp into the Atlantic. What is inexplicable is that there is no way a car can make the turn, it had to a cart path for donkeys or horses.
If you can go to Ireland, go. If you can drive, drive it. Whatever you do, take a camera but the real memories are etched in your heart forever.