When we think of Ireland, we usually think of rolling grassy knolls, old castles, and probably Guinness and whiskey if you like to drink.
Ireland, the island is made up of two distinct countries. The Republic of Ireland includes Dublin and the southern coast, is part of the EU, uses the euro and posts speed limits in kilometers. Northern Ireland with Belfast is independent and is part of the U.K. along with England and Scotland. They use the British pound as currency and post speed limits in miles per hour; both countries drive on the left.
It gets even more complicated if you ask the Irish! You may find that northern Irish Protestants refer to their country as Ulster whereas on the map Ulster is actually a large province that includes counties from the south. Some may call it the republic. Catholics might refer to Ireland as six counties and the republic as the ‘free state’. This makes for many animated conversations when you add a little Guinness I’m sure!
The population of the Republic of Ireland is about 4.5 million, of which almost 2 million are in Dublin and the surrounding areas. While religion is dropping in popularity there are a lot of cathedrals and churches dotted across the country, many are hundreds and even a thousand or more years old. Certainly those looking for a castle and ancient churches and cathedrals will find these to their hearts content.
Ireland’s rugged shoreline also provides for a multitude of scenic vistas dotted with fishing villages. From the famous Cliffs of Moher to the Ring of Kerry and the Dingle Peninsula one can find a lot of great scenery to enjoy and photograph.
Many tour Ireland with an organized tour, or even with a cruise. While renting your own vehicle may be tempting, keep in mind that you must drive on the left and that most rental cars are equipped with manual transmissions. That means shifting with your left hand and what was surprisingly difficult, leaning over your left shoulder to look back when going in reverse. We did end up touring in a rental car ourselves but a couple of close calls would have us suggest you think carefully about this option. Take the extra insurance, take a smaller car than what you’re used to (we tend to underestimate the distance on the left) and above all take your time. Remember that cars already in the roundabout have priority and LOOK RIGHT and then LEFT!
Roads are separated into M roads (motorways that are typically large multi lane highways with lots of room), N roads (national highways that could be multi lane but are often single lane and could have lots of stoplights and roundabouts), R roads (can get narrow and have little or no shoulder in some cases) and L roads which are local roads that can have you driving through gravel and grass in the middle and backing up to let tractors go by! Heard enough? You can also hire a driver and sit back and relax and enjoy the views!