Please don't go to Northern Ireland AROUND JULY 12th - for more details about the parades for july 12th see my pages of Londonderry and Belfast !
Go there ANY OTHER DATE OF THE YEAR ,for the great landscapes, for Giant's causeway and for the big majority of the population, who voted for peace some years ago !
Local people will know about the specific dangers, BUT tourists will not : there are places of "historic importance" for some people and you might get into a demonstration or protest-march on a major highway and then you are stuck there and a single wrong word to the wrong person...
I had such a situation, when after a nap on a parking, suddenly the highway to Belfast was completely empty, only police-cars standing on the side, BUT they did not warn me at all, that I was about to drive towards trouble at the next street-crossing....
I was aware of the date, but had no idea where Dumcree would be, it is too small to be mentioned in a map, BUT in the memories of some weird people it is an important place of history and still has to be defended...
Northern Ireland with the Giant causeway and many other attractions is not very far from County Donegal and hopping over the border may be done easily and without any controls !!
Drive the country roads with care.....this cow would not be moved.....unless you are a good cattle herder please be patient. A lot of the roads are very narrow & winding with high fushia & hawthorn hedges so be vigilant & drive slowly the tour buses are more dangerous than the animals.
As you might know the drinking in Ireland is rather big problem and sometimes non-hardened travellers might not take the quantities to well.
Just as in the UK - the "BINGE DRINKING" culture is a real issue ...
My suggestion is to take it easy with the pints of Guinness ---- trust me you will NOT be able to drink the locals under the table... not even the girls!!!
:D Slainte! & avoid the hangover!!
When most people think about animal threats to their well-being, they conjure up images of ferocious bears, ravenous sharks or lethal snakes, but in Ireland the most threatening fauna is the sheep. No kidding! Be careful of sheep while you're driving, as they are often being herded across the narrow by-ways of western Ireland. I'm sure hitting one is not good for your car, and probably would be an unpleasant biking experience as well.
Of course, some sheep can also be damaging to the male ego, as you can see in this photo.
The roads in Ireland are VERY narrow. If you rent a car GET the extra insurance! It will ease some of the stress of driving on the narrow roads. Stone walls often line both sides of the road. See my picture? The area that looks like a shoulder is the lane for oncoming traffic. Trucks and buses are wider then their lane, you may scrape the stone walls to avoid them. Get the extra coverage!
The Cliffs of Moher are a beautiful sight, especially in the evening when the setting sun illuminates them or (more often) the rolling fog enshrouds them. But don't be fooled by their beauty. The winds can be strong and about 6 people in 2003 died in falls from the Cliffs of Moher. Don't be paranoid -- given the number of visitors, I'm sure your probability of death is low. Just don't tempt the Cliffs -- especially after too many pints!
When you're used to driving in a country on the right side of the car and on the right side of the road, it takes some practice before you can master the driving in Ireland. The round abouts are tricky, so I suggest taking it slow. The roads are narrow and don't always have "a shoulder" as we say in the US, not aways room to move over to the side of the road due to the rock walls hugging the road. We ran into fog on the west coast, thick as soup. You will encounter sheep in the road, we saw many of them on the "Ring of Kerry" -- so drive carefully!
The new laws that was due to come in during January 2004 to ban smoking from all all pubs, restaurants and other such places finally came into force on 29th March 2004.
I know this has happened in New York and California, but I wasn't sure if it would work in Ireland.
I envisaged some kind of Gandhian civil resistance movement happening - with Irishmen armed with only a pair of wellies and a packet of Rothmans, marching (not marching perhaps, more of wheezing amble)on Brussels to demand the right to light up.
On the other hand perhaps the Catholic Church of Ireland would see it as a recruitment opportunity and fill the incense burners with Lambert and Butler or John Player specials, to allow the worshippers to have a crafty drag in public.
Update - The concensus seems to be that it is in fact working. My sister in law claims the only downside is in Nightclubs where the smell of ciggarettes used to hide the whiff of stale B.O. I'm saying nothing about the quality of clubs she must hang out in.
Update 2- June 2004 : Its still working ! although on the downside many pubs now seem to have placed objects like beer barrells outside their doors where smokers can congregate - so you still get a blast of the evil weed as you enter or leave.
I really wanted to get a good picture down the face of the Cliffs of Moher, I was going to climb over the fence that is put up for people like me -- when I saw another silly soul walking along the cliff's edge and slip on the wet grass. He climbed back over the fence without a picture. I didn't try it!
Especially for holders of U.S. or non-EU credit cards: You have a choice of letting the merchant immediately submit a charge in your home currency AT THE RATE THEY ASSIGN or asking for the charge to be submitted in Euros. NOTICE this and make a decision.
In most cases (but not all) your local bank may be giving you the best exchange rate and you may not wish to accept the merchant's exchange rate.
In other cases there may be a fee for using your charge card in Ireland and having the rate in dollars may avoid the fee. You might wish to ask your bank before you leave home.
I've NOT experienced this in other countries though I hear it is a growing practice. I did not notice it until I returned from Ireland! I am accustomed to everything in Euros as I live in the Netherlands temporarily and I travel a lot.
SAFETY POINTERS IN IRISH DRIVING, PART TWO OF THREE
THE LOCALS: are just as impatient as we are, oftentimes because traffic, construction or other issues have made them late. They've had years of experience negotiating these narrow roads in the rain...YOU HAVEN'T. Let them pass if they're in a hurry. Use your turn signals. That way you won't be another "foakin' American". :)
NO PLACE TO BAIL. There are no shoulders on many roads, and the locals drive like bats outta hell. Country roads are lined with stone walls only a few inches from the edge of the pavement. On such roads, a large truck has no room to maneuver, and as you try to avoid them, there's a strong chance you'll end up scratching your car along the stone walls. When things look iffy, slow down.
SPEAKING OF DAMAGE: WHY YOU SHOULD SPRING FOR THE EXTRA INSURANCE: it's often worth the extra fortune to get extra insurance from the rental car company. Many US auto insurance policies don't cover accidents overseas. Even a mainstream rental company like Avis won't let you go without paying a king's ransom if you damage your vehicle with inadequate insurance. Trust me, it's worth it.
COWS OR SHEEP AROUND THE CURVE: The speed limit's 70 and you've just negotiated a curve to encounter a road full of sheep being herded from one field to another. This happens often. Slow down as you approach blind curves in the country...you never know what will be waiting on the other side.
Next tip: Part 3
I had made a "nominal" inquiry of the office of my insurance agent about being covered outside the US. Unfortunately I had not memtioned that I was NOT talking about North America!
So I truly "LUCKED OUT", thinking that I was "covered" I drove for 5 days in St. Petersburg Russia (where there are NO lane markings, you drive where you want to as long as you make a "token" effort to "keep right")
Then I drove for 6 days on "the wrong side of the road" in Ireland, again WITHOUT ANY COVERAGE!
BE VERY SURE you are "covered" ANYWHERE. It seems that there are actually very few companies that will write an "AnyWhere" Policy and very few that will put an "AnyWhere rider" on your US policy. My friends in the military said they have few choices when they take their personal vehicles overseas for their families. So READ UP on your coverage.
The photo is my "blessed" little Opal Cadet wagon that I drove in St. Petersburg in 2001. Talk about LUCK!
SAFETY POINTERS ON IRISH DRIVING - PART THREE OF THREE
ROUNDABOUTS. Called traffic circles in the US, most don't have stop lights. As you approach a roundabout, watch for signs as to which exit you'll need to take out of the circle. Keep an eye out for cars approaching from the right. Enter the circle slowly. If the exit is nearby, stay to the outside lane, and use your turn signals before exiting. If it's three-quarters of the way around, go ahead and steer toward the inside, but watch to your left as you prepare to exit. ALWAYS look over your shoulder.
SUMMARY: Ireland is one of the most beautiful places on Earth. Unless you're rude, arrogant or acting like an idiot, the Irish are generally friendly in the extreme. Your trip will be even more magical if you arrive with an open mind and don't expect it to be like the States.
Don't assume... be careful and enjoy.
- Eric Weaver
One of the things that i didnt like about ireland was the lack of pavement! While i was camping, the campgrounds were miles away from town, and me and my Travel Buddy (VT Username J.I.M) liked to walk to town for good exercise, passing through pleasant countryside. However, there is no pavement to walk on, and you just have to stay as close to the side as possible. And this becomes really annoying when the roads become really narrow.
The Dereen Inn, Abbeyknockmoy, Co Galway
I celebrated the new year of 2004/2005 in this unholy cesspit. Don't ask why, it's quite complicated story and involves mythical Brazilian lap-dancers.
This pub, if situated in London would probably be referred to a 'designer dingy', but here it's just a crap pub. The toliets in particular have to be smelt to be believed. Tiling like this comes with it's own visible health warning.
They had a re-fit a few years back which involved repainting the place the same dismal colour it was before. To be fair the classy arrangement of broken mirror glass arranged on the wall in the manner of crazy paving was removed.
On the plus side they serve Guinness and you can always be sure of a seat.
More Regions in Ireland