Journalist for Life

Driving in Ireland: round and round

The lesson to know before hand: You CAN get there from here, but more slowly.

Ireland has about 54,000 miles of paved road, but less than 100 are classified as highway. Most of the rest is two-lane, rural roads and on these you are bound to find yourself behind tractors or large trucks.

So remember that you can’t go anywhere quickly. Distances on road maps do not equate with the sort of driving times learned in the United States.

The Irish Republic’s traffic engineers are more than just fond of roundabouts — what we call traffic circles. They seem to be more frequent than gas stations. When approaching a roundabout, learn to slow down, always yield to the traffic coming from your right, point the hood ornament to where you need to go and accelerate.

Of course, actually understanding where you need to go is another matter:

Any time you approach a roundabout, or an intersection from which you may need to turn, swallow your Interstate pride, slow down or pull off — on the left side of the road — to decipher the basic roundabout sign. This is a whole or partial circle – the “round’’ – with spokes projecting to the outside. Those are your choices of exits from the roundabout.

The spokes will at least be labeled with road numbers, possibly also road names. You must know which of these you want to turn left on before entering the roundabout. Then you simply assert your right to whatever lanes you need within the roundabout to reach that exit spoke, use your turn signal and leave quickly.

If the confounding signs or traffic cause you to miss your exit, remember these solutions:

/ If you are still in the roundabout, you will be circling toward your preferred exit again, so this time prepare to leave.

/ And if you have already taken an incorrect exit, realize there almost certainly is another roundabout a few miles down the road. Enter that one and circle all the way through, until you can exit back toward the direction that brought you to this second roundabout. Then, understand in advance of the upcoming roundabout which is your correct exit and when you will need to be in the left-most lane to use it.

It takes some getting used to — just as you have to remember to look to the right when leaving a parking lot.

End Bag, the new book from Bob Jenkins, collects his best stories from 19 years as travel editor. Available now on View a sample at Read more about End Bag here.

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