A single traveler’s reflections on driving around Ireland

Looking back over the last year as a single traveler I am surprised by the number of places that I visited, mostly while travelling alone. From The Hook to Newry,  Killarney to the Hill of Tara, the FourSquare check-ins mounted up over the course of the last 12 months adding detail and color to the kilometers on my trusty Ford.

‘We three’ is how I have come to think of the combination that comprises me, the car and my SatNav and the more often I take to the road with only technology for company, the more I find that I enjoy being a single traveler.

There was a time I was much more cautious. What if the car broke down? What if I got lost or some other disaster struck miles away from home and friends and family? But new communication technologies have changed all that and cell phones and SatNav, in particular, have taken the fear out of driving alone since SatNav eliminates the risk of getting lost (even if it sometimes takes you places you might otherwise have chosen to avoid) while cell phones put help within reach if and when it might be needed.

It’s not just the obvious ability to take you to the right destination that makes me love my SatNav. It is just as much the clear and unemotional advice it delivers about which lane to take when approaching a roundabout — a calmer and more considerate voice than any human travelling companion I’ve encountered.

Cars have become more reliable too since I purchased my first set of wheels in the 1980s while Irish roads  improved, particularly during the boom years, although you will still experience occasional ‘white knuckle’ driving moments on smaller roads when your hands clutch the steering wheel out of the sheer terror of meeting another car when there is room neither to pass nor anywhere to back up to. But,  by and large,  away from the major urban centres driving in Ireland is a pleasant experience and there is no shortage of places to go and things to see.

Hens provide fresh eggs for breakfast at an Irish country house hotel
Hens provide fresh eggs for breakfast at an Irish country house hotel

Irish hotels also improved during the boom years when a lot of new properties opened up. Quite a few hotels now offer a ‘room rate’ rather than a ‘per person sharing’ rate which offer good value if you are sharing.  Since the downturn in 2007/8 those hotels that have survived are competing hard for your business which means that good deals are to be had, even for a single traveler.

While I tend to stay just one night in each place I visit, some places definitely merit a second night particularly if you are interested in visiting places of historical interest : Limerick, for example, has a castle well worth seeing, an interesting cathedral (St Mary’s) while Bunratty, Craggaunowen and the Cliffs of Moher are all just a short drive away from the centre.

As a general rule, I try not to drive for more than 2 hours in a day so that there will be time to make unplanned stops if something interesting catches my eye. One such stop this year was at the Rock of Cashel  in the Golden Vale on a glorious sunny August day when the views of the surrounding countryside were clear and vast. This glorious historic site dating back to the 12th century with impressive architecture that includes a 13th century Gothic cathedral was definitely one of the highlights of my year.

So, if I were to offer one tip for anyone planning a road trip in Ireland in 2014 — whether as a single traveler or with companions — it would be to take your time and enjoy all that the countryside has to offer by not trying to cover too much distance in any single day.