Driving in Ireland


By Rick Clayton
My wife and I visited Ireland in the spring of 2011 and Scotland and England in the autumn of 2012. Each trip was about two weeks long. We started out in Dublin in the Irish Republic. After touring on foot for a few days, we rented a car and took off for the country. A cab from our hotel to the suburban rental place got us there well before opening time, so we had a nice breakfast while waiting. We were assigned a small 4-door hatchback Vauxhaul Corsa. This thing had a 1.3 litre petrol (gasoline) engine. One thing when renting a car you should discuss your route out of town and the basic control functions with the rental agent before striking off. I didn’t do either of these things. We did have a new Garmin GPS to guide us, but sometimes the first turn isn’t obvious. We struck out in the wrong direction, and had to double back. That was when I discovered that the turn signal worked differently than I am used to. The turn signal switch didn’t have a mechanical detent and cancel system. You just push it down or up and then release. It signals and corrects under electronic control. The is also a lane change feature that seemed to operate with a brief push. I never did get it completely figured out. Everything else was fairly normal, except of course the steering wheel location on the right. The other thing is to make sure you have all your mirrors adjusted before you start out. That way you don’t have to hunt for the mirror control button while trying to drive a strange car and navigate (get lost) in a strange town.

About the GPS- don’t depend completely on these things. They cannot always discriminate every situation. You must also be looking for the road signs telling you where you need to go. Assigning the GPS to the co-driver/navigator is the best way we found. This means you can concentrate on driving without looking down at the GPS. But the GPS is invaluable when driving in unfamiliar territory. Don’t leave home without it. Whenever we got into trouble it was because we were looking for an attraction that wasn’t listed in the GPS database and we were working from guidebook or pamphlet directions. For instance, we were trying to find the Irish National Stud Farm (for horses). It isn’t well marked. We apparently went past it so we stopped at a small store to ask directions. After getting the directions, we pulled out on the road and discovered another car driving straight for us! I was on the wrong (right) side of the road. After a quick realization and correction, all was well. The other GPS foible was it trying to steer us on to a pedestrianized main street in one town. We had to double back and park in a paid lot. A couple of useful features were the display of the speed limits and warnings of speed camera zones.

The little Corsa was gutless. It had a 5 speed manual transmission that you couldn’t upshift until the engine was winding away like crazy. You had to downshift from 5th on the highway for the smallest grade. However, it did get us there. It is good that it was small because the Irish roads are small. Two lane roads are often under 5 metres wide, and sometimes less than 4 metres. Sometimes the centre line is a joke. There are often stone walls on either side of the road. These will be marked at 100 km/hr. We came to one place where the road paralleled a river. We came to a bridge where the road made a tight 90 degree corner on each end. As we crossed the (single lane) bridge there was a 100 km/hr speed limit sign to keep us under control. Some perhaps wise wag had spray painted out one of the zeros so it read 10 km/hr, which was more appropriate for the corner. I don’t think we were ever able to drive at the speed limit on any of the roads, between the powerless car and the road construction standards.

The two big differences of driving in Ireland were keeping to the left and traffic circles. I don’t have (much) of a problem with driving on the left. The first day you change is when you are in greatest danger of forgetting to keep left, as happened to me. Because we were in the middle of nowhere, the mistake didn’t show until we encountered the first car. Get your co-driver to remind you frequently for the first day. After that, it becomes normal. Traffic circles take a bit of getting used to. There is a little sign showing the plan for the circle as you enter. It shows the entry at the bottom and the various exits. You don’t have time to read this sign while driving, because you don’t stop entering the circle in most cases. The GPS becomes really valuable here. It will tell you to “take the 3rd exit”. All you do is count them and take the 3rd one. I found the clockwise circles to be more intuitive than the counter-clockwise ones I took in Spain. It seems more natural to yield to cars approaching from the right.

We worked our way to the west coast of Ireland by way of the Powerscourt Gardens in Wicklow, the Stud Farm, Mount Cashel, and Killarney. Ireland has quite varied terrain and is incredibly GREEN. It rains virtually every day for at least a little while. We came to a place called the Cliffs of Mohr. This is right on the west coast, incredibly rugged and windy. You need to lean into the wind and hang on to your hats and smaller children.

From there we headed north for Northern Ireland (Ulster). We took a ferry at Tarbert to Killimer to cut off Limerick and save some distance. We try to have at least one ferry crossing in our motor trips. It is a great break from driving and adds some interest. We stopped overnight in (London-)Derry and had a look around. From there on to Belfast and home. Belfast is the home of the “Troubles” of recent history. The undercurrents of the Troubles are still there. Every so often there will be residual outbreaks, so if you visit Belfast you need to check the political temperature first. The most interesting thing for me to see was the Harland & Wolff Shipyard where the Titanic was built. They have a very good tour that is a “must see”. There was a recent television series about re-creating the technologies of the Titanic that constructed a replica of the bow section that is on display. Much of it looks like everyone just dropped their tools and left. We dropped off the car on our way in to Belfast, so we were on foot for this part. There is a “hop-on, hop-off” tourist bus that stops out at the shipyard.

That was the end point of our Ireland tour. Some interesting points about the differences between Ireland and Ulster. The traffic lights are different. In the UK, there is a brief yellow signal between the red light and the green light. This is intended to allow you to shift into gear and prepare to start up. If you don’t start the instant the green light shows, you will be honked at. Ireland is more relaxed and doesn’t have that yellow warning. The lights do not have the ridiculously long yellow lights and timing gap that we have here. So you don’t stretch the yellow light into a “blushing amber”. Outside of the big cities traffic lights are rare, and often used only for pedestrian crossings.

This is the end of our Ireland Trip. The next installment will be about our Scotland and England trip last fall.

Are you a Graphic Designer?

The Saab Club of Canada is looking for a little help.


We need someone who can design print quality business cards and window stickers.  They don’t have to be fancy, but they do need to be effective.  The business cards are for club members to hand out to other Saab owners as we try to grow the club.  The window stickers are for members to display in the windows of their Saabs, showing their passion for the club and brand and providing a little additional advertising.


If you have the skills and are willing to put them to use, please contact Scott for additional information.
saabscott (at) saabclub (dot) ca

March Meeting: So you want your Saab to be unique but dont know where to start?

Our monthly club meeting is Wednesday March 20th and all are welcome!

Speaker: Alex Berezovsky

Have you ever wanted your Saab to be more unique or more modern without breaking your wallet on expensive repairs? Do you have damaged leather or plastic that has been abused by the elements? Well not to worry.
Come out to our March Saab club meeting where Alex will cover some of the basic things you need to know and the parts you will need in order to preform relatively simple things such as leather restoration to something as complex as big break upgrades, bodywork, custom interior, and headlight modifications. Please participate in our poll and Alex will cover the most requested topics chosen by you.

Meeting is a eZone in Etobicoke- see Club Events for more details.

Click below for Alex’s presentation!

Making Your SAAB unique