If it hadn’t been for the flooding issues that caused the first b&b to cancel on me, I’d have been waking up in S. Ireland this morning. As it was, I was still in Magherafelt and all set to get going on my road trip for real. After some lovely daily drives around my old stamping grounds in Norn Iron in mostly decent weather, it was a bit dull and overcast when I set off just before 10am.
My route was to take me across the border, around Dublin, over the Wicklow Mountains and on to the Enniscorthy b&b near Wexford. It didn’t quite work out that way though.
I had road choices all the way and as I initially didn’t want to head towards Belfast, I took the potentially slower route around the west side of Lough Neagh, which is the largest lake in the British Isles and provides 40% of N. Ireland’s water.
Every few miles I came to small towns with 30mph speed limits, traffic lights, pedestrian crossings and of course, local drivers who would just stop and chat with friends and not care if they held up traffic behind them ! It took me over an hour just to drive 20 miles and with 200 miles to cover to get to the b&b, it was not a great start.
I finally realised I’d crossed the border when the A1 that I was on became the N1 and I saw a sign reminding me that road distances would now be given in kilometers. I don’t even remember seeing a sign saying “Welcome to Ireland” or any such derivation thereof. Some, but not me, would say I’d already been in Ireland since Monday !
If only all border crossings were that easy ! Then again, probably a good idea that they’re not !
It was at this point that things went slightly off plan and this was partly, just partly, due to some lack of knowledge on my side.
When on my road trips, I try my best to avoid tolls. It’s not just that I don’t like paying to use these roads; it’s more because they’re always motorways and when abroad, I prefer to be on minor roads to get the real local experience and usually better scenery. So I always set my GPS/SatNav to direct me away from toll roads but therein lay the problem.
I was using 2 devices.
Before leaving Leeds, I knew my navigation device of choice wouldn’t work in Ireland as I wasn’t paying for using my phone abroad. So I’d brought along my old (mostly) dependable TomTom which already had all the maps for Western Europe stored internally. The downside to using the TomTom was that its maps had never been updated since I bought it a decade or more ago so sometimes it got a bit confused and me with it.
I remembered that a relatively new feature of Google Maps was you could download large map areas for use offline so before setting off from Leeds, I’d downloaded the whole map of Ireland BUT I assumed this would only be helpful when walking around towns – in other words it would just be like having a map on my phone that I could manually manipulate (zooming in and out etc and maybe using a search option) and that would be all I could expect from it.
Not so, as it turned out.
A few miles across the border and the Google Navigation (GPS) app on the phone was still working happily. It seemed to have switched smoothly to using the offline maps I’d downloaded and so didn’t need a phone signal to continue working as a GPS. This really was a bonus and something I’d never expected. Just to be sure I wasn’t racking up data charges, I tried to start the Waze app but it said there was no signal so I was happy that the Google app really was working offline.
I also had the TomTom going next to it as I still expected the phone app to pack in at any moment……but it never did ! It seems that by downloading the maps of Ireland offline, I’d allowed the Google app to continue working as a GPS with only a few options being unavailable…..ones I never noticed, so didn’t care about.
Brilliant. But, and I believe this was the crux of the first problem today, one feature it didn’t have was the ability to know about toll roads ! When I got to the M50 which goes around Dublin, the TomTom, bless its heart, was trying to take me away from it while the phone app was telling me to get on it. I didn’t know the reasons why the TomTom was acting like this as before leaving Leeds I’d checked which roads in Ireland were toll roads and I didn’t think the M50 WAS one.
But it seems a small section of it WAS.
So being more up to date, I trusted the phone app and went onto the M50 and being a motorway, I soon made up time after the slow start. At no point on the entry slip road or once on the motorway did I ever see a sign saying it was a toll road. Then I saw a gantry ahead telling me I was about to have my licence plate photographed and if I’d not prepaid the toll charge, I would have until 8pm the next evening to pay it by phone or online !
Anyway, this seems a good point to show the dashboard setup I had at the start of the trip….before I trusted that the phone app would work all the time. Then I was able to remove the TomTom and keep it under my seat as a backup. It was never needed again.
The units at the front are the GoPro (white power lead plugged in) being used as a dashcam, the phone with the Google Navigation app and the TomTom. Below them is my little mp3 player (yes ok it’s pink. don’t judge me) which is connected to an FM transmitter allowing it to play through the car speakers via the radio and all are powered from one “cigarette lighter” supply point !
Told you my car is a basic model.
I couldn’t stay angry about the toll road fiasco for long as I needed to keep my wits about me in order to know when to leave the M50 below Dublin.
I wanted to go over the Wicklow Mountains on a specific road, the Old Military Road, as it looked really scenic on Google Street View, a lot like the North Yorkshire Moors near my home. I didn’t mind being away from the eastern coastline on the drive south and this road looked like it would provide a great alternative to motorways and main roads on my way to Enniscorthy.
And it did.
It’s hard to describe the scenery along this mountain road, so different from the coastal scenery I’d be seeing for the rest of the road trip, so I’ve put up a short 52 sec video onto YouTube and here it is……………
Sadly the sky was overcast but at least it was dry and remember, I was just driving down the east side of Ireland to quickly get to Wexford anyway. The scenery changed so many times on that road that I think I experienced the full range from what you saw in that video, to almost alpine views and through to full forest sections on the way back down to sea level.
Much better than being on a motorway.
By 16:30 I was approaching Enniscorthy only to discover it wasn’t the classic small Irish town by a river that I expected. I seemed to hit it at rush hour and was stuck in very slow moving traffic for the last km as I headed for the town centre and the b&b. I’d suspected parking would be an issue when looking on Street View but the owner assured me via email that there was ample street parking by the b&b.
Well after going around the area 3 times and having to contend with the slow moving traffic each time, I didn’t agree. All the street parking was pay and display and all the bays were taken so after about an hour of getting more frustrated, I’d had enough of Enniscorthy and I drove on towards Wexford.
Along the road I stopped and sent the owner an email apologising for not “turning up” but I explained the situation and left it at that. I never got a reply !
Staying on the N11, I came to a bridge over the River Slaney near Wexford having just seen a b&b sign for a place called Ferrycarrig Lodge. As it was now 17:30 and I really didn’t want to go into Wexford to look for a b&b, I did a u-turn after crossing the bridge and turned right, onto the R730. A few hundred yds down the road I found the driveway for the b&b and was immediately impressed with the lodge.
And the price….€50….or £39….or $56 which still turned out to be the most I had to pay for any b&b on the whole trip.
Having checked out its web site for this blog post, I seem to have been given a room not mentioned on the site. It also seemed to have more than 4 rooms so I’m not sure why the site hasn’t been updated accordingly but in any case, I was happy to be settled for my first night in Ireland and looking back now, I’d not made use of either of the b&bs I’d provisionally booked before leaving Leeds !
I took the time to have a cup of tea and rest up for a while after the 197 mile drive from Magherafelt before heading the short distance into Wexford to have a look around and find somewhere to eat.
I’d been to Wexford before and will always remember it as we (myself with US friends Debby & Dennis Braman) had stopped off there on 17th March 2004 to watch the St. Patrick’s Day parade.
It looked a lot different this time as it was getting dark, was starting to rain and the streets were mostly deserted. I had something to eat and went back to the b&b for a quiet evening and to plan the route for the next day….when I’d go to Waterford and the start of the westward coastal drive and the Wild Atlantic Way.