Ireland is a very popular destination for many tourists. Known for its rolling lush landscapes, beautiful and picturesque towns and cities, and rich history, it’s a great place to go on holiday to get away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. Of course, thousands of tourists fly to Ireland and get to see a bit of the country, often using public transport. But one of the best ways to explore Ireland is by car, especially your own car. Why? Simple. Taking your own car means you can pack it full of all the luggage you want to take. We’re talking things like golf clubs, fishng roads, windsurfing gear – all the essentials! Plus Ireland is easy to get by car – you can take the ferry to Ireland from a wide range of ports in UK. And once you are there, you have the chacne to explore the length and breadth of the place in the comfort of your own car, and of course, driving on the left. So, if you enjoy a bit of driving, discovering Ireland by car can be a great way to totally immerse yourself in this stunning place.
Where should I go?
There are plenty of places to explore. One of the most popular choices is the Causeway Coastal Route in Northern Ireland. This offers travellers some of the most incredible views in all of Ireland, weaving across County Wicklow for some exceptional scenery, particularly in Sally Gap. This particular route is known as one of the greatest road trips to take in the world, specifically because of the Giant’s Causeway. The route in general is filled with incredible natural beauty, a magnificent combination of scenery and heritage. It is a journey that should be savoured, where every village provides the traveller with a new adventure, and every scene is like a vision from a dream. Discover the rocks, castles, cliffs and beaches from your driving seat at your own pace, and take a camera to record the exceptional views.
What can I do on a driving holiday?
What can’t you do? Driving gives you the freedom to do whatever you want, whenever you want. If you’re the outdoorsy type, you can bring whatever your hobby is along with you. If you’re a big walker, pack up your hiking boots, drive to the foot of a hill, and take a trek up to the top for some spectacular scenery. There are plenty of isolated mountain paths. If you’re big on water sports, strap your surfboard to the top of the car and drive to any number of the local beaches. There are plenty of locations around the coast which are ideal for surfing. Catch a wave in a tranquil setting. If you are a keen golfer, bring along your clubs and head to one or more of Ireland’s courses. There are over four hundred to choose from. Fishing is also another way of experiencing the peaceful countryside. There are hundreds of rivers and lakes offering a variety of fishing opportunities. And if you are a big cycler, load up the bike rack and leave the car at the B&B for the day, as there are plenty of cycling routes to explore. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Other outdoorsy activities include horse riding and equestrian sports, adventure breaks, sailing and other water activities, and spa breaks.
Drive Your Own Car
Taking the ferry across the sea is the easiest and cheapest option. Rather than having to carry luggage on trains, spend money on taxis or bus tickets, pack up your bags, hop in the car, and drive to one of Europe’s most beautiful countries. Even the petrol prices tend to be cheaper in the Republic of Ireland. Ferry crossings are as short as ninety-nine minutes, so you’ll be there in no time at all. If you are travelling to Dublin, ferries are available from Holyhead, the Isle of Man, and Liverpool. If you want to go to Belfast, travel from the Isle of Man, Liverpool Birkenhead, or Stranraer. Cork can be reached by ferry from Swansea, Ballycastle can be reached from Campbeltown, and Rosslare from Fishguard and Pembroke. Larne can be reached by ferry from Cairnryan and Troon.
Hiring a Car
If you don’t own a car, it shouldn’t stop you from going on a driving holiday around Ireland. Why not hire a vehicle for the duration of your stay? You can hire a car at nearly all of Ireland’s airports, as well as in most major ports and towns. That way, if it’s easier or quicker for you to fly over there, you’ll save on UK driving time. This is particularly useful if you are only holidaying for a few days, or a long weekend.
You can book in advance at a number of places, or just turn up and drive away with your hire car. However, it is advisable to book in advance, particularly if you are travelling during the busy tourist seasons. It’s definitely the more cost-effective option. Most cars available to rent are standard shift. If you want to drive an automatic for the duration of your stay, get in touch with the hire company in advance and they may be able to provide one, but it is likely you will need to pay more. Other additional extras include child seats, if you are planning to take the whole family with you. This may or may not be available at an extra charge, but to ensure availability, make sure you request it on booking.
If you are hiring a car, you obviously need to hold a full and valid driving licence or an international driving permit if you are visiting from abroad. Make enquiries with your national motoring establishment if you are unsure. When booking a hire car, always make sure you thoroughly read the terms and conditions, and also advise the company if you are planning to travel between Northern Ireland and the Republic.
In case you are unfamiliar, here are a few driving laws to adhere to during your stay in Ireland.
Seatbelts must be worn by all passengers at all times in both the front and back of the car. If you have hired a motorbike, both drivers and passengers must wear helmets at all times. You must drive your car on the left-hand side of the road.
Speed limits in Northern Ireland are different that in the Republic of Ireland. In Northern Ireland, the limits are seventy miles per hour on motorways, sixty on single carriageways, and thirty in most other places. In the Republic of Ireland, the limits are sixty miles per hour on national roads, fifty, on non-national roads, and thirty in most other areas.
Laws on drinking and driving in Ireland are very severe. Any driver breaking these laws will be penalised greatly. Do note that signposts in the Republic of Ireland are shown in kilometres per hour as opposed to miles per hour, so make sure you know your conversions. They are also mostly bilingual in Gaelic and English. The only place where this is not the case is in and around Gaeltacht, where signs are in Gaelic only. This is not the case in Northern Ireland, where signs are still in mph and English.
Benefits of Car Holiday
One of the great benefits of travelling around Ireland by car is the freedom it gives you. You can go wherever you want, whenever you want. There’s no waiting round for public transport, which can be annoying, as well as time consuming, especially if it’s late. And you don’t have to stick to the main tourist areas. Take yourself off the beaten track whenever you want and explore Ireland’s remote towns and villages. There are an abundance of quaint places to visit. And the journey there can be all the more spectacular if you drive. Roads might wind along a steep cliff top, along a winding beach, or snake through hills and fields, cutting through the lush countryside. There is always incredible scenery to make the drive more interesting, and local flora and fauna to tantalise the senses. You can take the journey at whatever pace you want. Stop off for a picnic in the woods, or a hike up the hills. It’s your holiday to do exactly what you want.
There’s always the worry with driving holidays that you might get lost on your way, so it’s wise to take maps and a sat-nav. But even if you do get lost, it’s all part of the adventure! If you find yourself not quite knowing where you are, drive by your instincts. You never know what might be around the next corner: a secluded little cove, or a picturesque village. Failing that, stop off and ask the locals for directions. It’s a great way of getting to know the people, who will always be willing to help!
Meeting the locals is all part and parcel of the journey. People from Ireland are well known for their hospitality and sense of fun. So even if you do go on a driving holiday, you’re bound to experience the great Irish welcome at some point. Of course, during your stay you’ll have to stop off at bed and breakfasts. A lot of these places off the beaten track are run by families, so you’ll have a really personal welcome. You might stay in a rustic farmhouse, or a historical building. It’s a great way to immerse yourself in Irish culture and everyday life. And often, the owners will be more than happy to give you tips on local points of interest that you may have missed otherwise. So your overnight stay is bound to be more than just a quick sleep and a fry up.