Jamie Jenkins: Sharing the Road in Ireland



"It's not 'my side of the road' or 'your side of the road.' It's just 'the road' and it's shared as a cooperative adventure." That is how travel guru Rick Steves describes driving on the narrow rural roads in Ireland.

After returning last weekend from my first visit to the Emerald Isle I have a first-hand understanding of what Steves meant. My wife and I arrived in Dublin, rented a car, and drove over 1500 kilometers (900-1000 miles) in eight days. We took the motorway (like our interstate highways) for the first leg of the journey (Dublin to Galway) and the last short day's drive from Kilkenny back to Dublin. But the rest of the trip was on smaller roads.

Throughout our time on the roads we would regularly see a sign that indicated very curvy roads ahead. Occasionally there would be a sign that warned that there were sharp or dangerous "bends" ahead. I thought it would make more sense to simply post a sign once in a while that informed you that there were 100 yards of straight road ahead.

I am accustomed to driving on very curvy roads in the mountains of North Georgia and North Carolina. The difference in Ireland is that you are driving on the left side of the road and the speed limit is 100-120 kilometers (60-75 MPH) on those hair pin curves and most of the time the roads have no shoulders. The yellow line on the edge of the road runs constantly along a huge rock wall or an overpowering hedge row. If the person coming at you crosses the center line- if there is one- you have nowhere to go.

We enjoyed staying overnight in Bed and Breakfast facilities which were wonderful. Not only did the local folks who owned the B&Bs extended exceptional hospitality, they also provided very helpful advice on things to see and do that were not always on the itinerary of most tourists.

Having a car gave us flexibility to follow some of their suggestions and get out into the country away from the touristy areas. Once we left the "main" roads" described above and got onto the small(er) rural roads we found that Rick Steves advice about "the road" was exactly right.

When two cars met on one of those country roads, one driver would find a place to pull over enough for the other to pass and barely scrape the vegetation alongside the road. Everyone was courteous. Not once did either driver stand their ground and make the other give way.

What a different world it would be if that attitude was adopted by everyone in every situation. It's not "my side of the road" or "your side of the road." Life is "the road" and we share it in cooperative adventure.

Jamie Jenkins


From Jamie's blog, Thoughts for Thursday