6 driving situations that only happen in Ireland

From sheep traffic jams to Irish-style directions, here are six situations you’ll encounter when driving in Ireland.

Driving in Ireland is always an adventure. You’ll be cruising through the countryside and suddenly come upon medieval ruins, scenic cliffs, or an abandoned cottage; hidden gems are everywhere. But everyday driving situations can also be amusing here, thanks to sheep, rain, and other very Irish conditions.

So if you’re coming to Ireland for the first time and planning to rent a car, take note. And if you’re already a seasoned Irish driver, you’ll know exactly what we’re talking about. Here are six situations that happen when driving in Ireland.

6. A sheep roadblock

Situations that only happen when driving in Ireland include a sheep roadblock

Picture this: You’re driving through the peaceful Irish countryside, surrounded by farmland and rolling green fields, with the road practically all to yourself. Then you hug a bend and notice cars stopped ahead. You come to halt, wondering what’s holding up the traffic. An accident? An intersection?

Only as you get closer do you realize that it’s not other cars that are holding up the traffic. It’s sheep. They’ve gotten onto the road somehow and are crossing at their leisure or maybe not moving at all.

Nearly 4 million sheep reside in Ireland, so it’s almost inevitable that this situation would happen here now and then. As long as you’re not in a hurry, it’s not so baaaahd.

5. Having to pull over on a “two-way” street

Situations that only happen when driving in Ireland include narrow two-way roads
Credit: Tom Purves / Flickr

Another driving situation known to happen in the countryside has to do with the width of the roads. Most roads are technically two-way, but in reality they are too narrow to comfortably fit two passing cars at once.

Most of the time this is not an issue; country roads are not exactly inundated with traffic. But once in a while a car will come the other direction, and one of you has to pull over (somehow!) to make room for the other to pass. The tricky bit is deciding who will be the one to pull over.

4. Asking for directions and getting a very Irish answer

Situations that only happen when driving in Ireland include getting Irish-style directions

Anyone who’s gotten lost on a road trip in Ireland and asked for directions will know that the response isn’t always straightforward. What it is, though, is special. For example, pubs are often used as the main point of reference, as opposed to road names or major landmarks.

You might also be told a story about the place you’re trying to find, and by the time it’s done, you’ll have forgotten the directions and need to ask again.

3. American tourists on the wrong side of the road

American tourists who rent a car in Ireland need to remember to drive on the left

Many tourists who visit Ireland rent a car, as having one makes exploring Ireland much easier. With the island being relatively small, travelling by car makes it possible to see a lot during one trip—including gems that aren’t accessible by public transport.

The only problem is that drivers in the U.S. and most of Europe drive on the right side of the road, not the left. Ireland gets a lot of American first-time visitors who hop off a plane and into a rental car, not fully prepared for the disorientation of switching sides.

So if you’re driving on the correct (left) side of the road and someone’s driving straight at you, it’s safe to assume they’re tourists. It’s also wise to lean on your horn and watch out!

2. Road signs suddenly changing from kilometres to miles

Road signs in the Republic of Ireland use kilometres and those in Northern Ireland use miles

If you’re driving in Ireland, you may rely on road signs to show you the distance remaining until you reach your destination. And if you notice that all the signposts suddenly change from miles to kilometres or vice versa, don’t worry, you’re not going crazy. It just means you’ve crossed the border.

The island of Ireland, after all, is made up the Republic of Ireland—which uses kilometres on all signposts placed since the 1990s—and Northern Ireland, which is part of the UK and uses miles. Surprisingly, many tourists come to Ireland not knowing this, but it’s good to keep in mind if you plan to do any driving in Ireland.

1. Floods often transforming roads into small lakes

Credit: Kenneth Allen

Ireland is known from many things, from pubs to castles to rolling green hills, but it’s also known for being rainy (which makes it so green in the first place!).

As a result, it’s not uncommon to see a street temporarily turn into a small pond or lake because it rained a lot—again—and to see cars still drive through it, but very, very slowly. The Irish have places to be, after all!

No matter where you’re going when driving in Ireland, you’re sure to encounter amusing situations. But through it all, remember to buckle up and drive safe!

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