Don't follow The Erin Way Until You've Read These Tips and Faqs:
TIP #1: Hire A Driver
Driving a car in Ireland is dangerous and should be taken seriously. We have personally known American drivers who have had not one but multiple car accidents while driving around Ireland within a matter of days. We have seen tourists pulled over on the side of the road, the driver‘s head down on the steering wheel, and the rest of the occupants walking along the edge of the lane towards town. You often see hub caps strewn along the roadside in Ireland and cars creased from front to back on one side...evidence of multiple side-swiping incidents.
Apparently, one of the most difficult parts of driving in Ireland is judging how far the left bumper of the car is from the curb thus making turning corners a nightmare since most roads are unbelievably narrow and don’t have shoulders. Also, avoiding the stone walls which are sometimes inches from the side of the car can be tricky if the traffic is going 65 miles an hour. The person sitting in the front left seat should make it a point not to scream too loudly when first starting out and all the traffic appears to be coming right at you. Try not to react if shrubs and giant masses of flowers slap up against the car and get stuck in the side mirror. Sudden shrieking has a way of offsetting the driver.
The Erin Way, on a day to day basis, is not comparatively speaking that difficult to drive but a 10 day road trip in Ireland can be cumulatively quite grueling on one driver...as he/she will spend many hours a day “on guard.” It would be not advised and actually would be illegal for the driver to be enjoying the “pub life” during the day trip.
Definitely consider hiring a professional Irish driver if you are interested in making this trip to Ireland the trip of a lifetime. Yes, it would somewhat increase the cost of your trip, but you have to consider that you would then not have to pay for a rental car, car insurance or gas, and gas is way more expensive in Ireland then it is in the U.S. Also, and this is something that most tourists don’t consider, you would see, we feel, two or three times more incredible sites in any given time-frame then those tourists who drive themselves. Not only do drivers know where everything is...they know how to get there in what can sometimes be a very difficult country to maneuver. The drivers add another delightful element to the trip because they tend to know a great deal about history, music, literature, pubs and poetry and folk lore and general information about modern Ireland which can come only from someone who lives there.
Testimonial: I travelled to Ireland and took the Erin Way recently with 4 friends and, luckily, someone thought of hiring a professional driver for the whole trip. The result was not only were we all able to relax and enjoy the drive equally, we didn’t have to worry about getting lost or driving off a cliff. The time we spent in the car became really fun and something we looked forward to every morning.
Still, I was not prepared for how much value the driver added to our overall experience. First of all, the trip was so relaxing because we determined our itinerary and schedule!!!. And no one had to worry about having a Guiness at one of the dozens of quaint pubs we passed. But more importantly, our driver showed us places that are not listed in any books or websites...our favorite being a personal tour of one of the oldest inhabited castles in Ireland, not open to the public...complete with medieval artifacts and furnishings, overgrown gardens and tumbling down 15th century walls!!! Having a driver made this trip to Ireland an exceptional one and one we will never forget.
C.J.Wall, St. Paul, Minnesota
Tip #2: Take Along A Michelin Map
Do not go to Ireland without a Michelin Map. You will usually find them at your local bookstore. Buy at least two for every car. Michelin maps have most of the small roads depicted on them (although some won’t be labeled) where as the maps you get free at hotels or the ones you pick up when you rent a car won’t even have some of the major roads on them and are, virtually, useless for The Erin Way. In Ireland, many of the roads are not marked or the markings are difficult to find. Even the professional drivers in Ireland use Michelin maps.
Tip #3: Stay in the heart of Ireland’s small towns or villages
We recommend staying in small boutique hotels in some of Irelands most quaint villages. The 200 plus year old hotels you find there have perfect locations...right in the middle of everything...and allow the tourist to walk around, thus eliminating the tension of driving.
These hotels are usually charming with original detailing and architecture remaining and are as we say, ‘built in the late 1700’s and remodeled in the late 1920’s.” Most are considered 3-star hotels because they are priced in the average range and usually fall short when it comes to meeting room space, air-conditioning (none), lifts(some), and room service(what’s that?). Forget about great cable TV, in fact, forget about TV altogether. The rooms and bathrooms can be small but they are usually very clean and the bathrooms are almost always updated. Note: Most accommodations in Ireland automatically come with a huge hot breakfast. Ask if breakfast is included in your tariff.
Most Americans will not stay in the middle of towns. Is it because they equate the center of cities with danger and violence? Or too much traffic? In Ireland, many American tourists tend to stay outside of town in hotels that are newer, more modern and have big parking lots. The problem with this is it isolates the tourist from having a real Irish experience. And, often they will say when they return from Ireland, “There was nothing to do in Ireland at night and the food was blah.”
Staying in the heart of small Irish towns is one of the richest experiences Ireland has to offer. The time you spend strolling around villages, getting a close-up view of the architecture, enjoying the pub life, the music and interacting with the Irish people is to be cherished. The food in local pubs and restaurants is usually hearty and delicious. This is a wonderful opportunity to observe a culture which seems to be steeped in the 19th century, the 20th century and the 21st century all at the same time. What a privilege!
Tip #4: Stop at every Information Center (look for a small case “i” in green and white)
Ireland has terrific Information Centers even in small towns. If you don’t need help at the moment, stop anyway as their gift shops can be loaded with high quality gifts/souvenirs including: CD’s, books, maps, original artwork, woolen goods and beautiful photos already matted.
What time of year is the best to take this trip?
We favor May-September because the days are much longer then at other times of the year. In June and July it is virtually light out till 10 at night. If you travel any other months, you will not have as much time to sight-see. If you compare November, for example, to June, June allows you a good 6 hours more per day for your schedule. The Erin Way could not be completed as described unless it was taken in the summer, but could be easily modified and shortened to accommodate your individual time-frame if you travel in other months...or you could allow for more days on the road.
How long will it take the average tourist to take this trip?
When we drive The Erin Way we travel in late June when the days are the longest, we know where we are going and we have a driver who was born there so, and this is very important, we do not make major errors when it comes to following the route and it takes us the full 10 days.
You could very easily stay in one of the areas on the route, for example, Connemara, for 3 weeks and still not see everything. So, what we are doing for you is providing a punch list of highlights for you to review and a loosely constructed route because it will be up to you to review and choose what things are important to you, which sites you decide to see, how strong your driver is, how much daylight you have and how long you are going to tour each day. Some people can start at 7 a.m. in the morning and tour till the sun goes down. Others prefer a much shorter day. We usually start at 8:30 a.m., have a short lunch and then call it quits by about 6 at night and basically see most everything that we describe. (Still, if the sun is shinning on the Dingle Peninsula we have been out at the school house ruins from Ryan’s Daughter at 10 at night to watch the sun set over the Atlantic. Unbelievable!)
Also, life has a way of changing people’s itineraries on tour. For example, we have known tourists who have a full day planned in front of them, but who then find a village (usually a pub in a village) that they are so enamored with they scrap the rest of the day and stay right in their new favorite spot. It is common to veer off the path to golf or seek out relatives which makes it difficult to guess how long it would take you to get back on track. Recently, we timed a new route we were taking in Connemara and we were averaging 25 m.p.h. Be aware that sometimes it is impossible to look at a map and judge how long it will take you to reach any particular destination in Ireland.
So, basically, the length of time it will take is up to you.
How do I find original Music?
Staying in Ireland in the small towns allows you to be steps away from the shops, pub activity and especially the music. There are more musicians out in the summer months especially July and August but music can be found just about anywhere at anytime if you plan right. The thing is you have to seek out the music. The music will not come to you. After you have checked into your hotel, begin asking where there might be music that night. Walk around town and observe small notes on the front doors of pubs announcing “Sessions.” Most musical sessions begin about 9:30 at night. Sometimes, you will find great gatherings of musicians in churches and halls as well. If music is a top priority for you, travel in the July or August, review the websites of the towns you are going to visit ahead of time and see if they are having any music festivals. Also, check out all the pubs you will be seeing as many of them have their own websites and advertise their live music schedules. There are many music festivals held in Ireland even in the smallest towns and they would be well worth seeing, even planning your trip around. Our favorite musical towns on The Erin Way are Dingle Town, Lahinch, Letterfrack and Westport just to name a few. (See favorite pubs along The Erin Way in Favorites
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What about golf in this regions?
There are world-famous links courses along The Erin Way including Tralee, LaHinch, Ballybunion and Doonbeg as well as lesser known courses that are cheaper and also have stunning ocean views. We ran into some Irish golfers from one of the not so famous courses and they announced to us that the winner of their tournament that day received a head of cabbage, the second place golfer a bunch of carrots and the third place a turnip. Yet, this course is reputed to have some of the most stunning views in the west of Ireland...every hole with dramatic ocean vistas!
Ireland On My Mind