SELF DRIVING – IRELAND, WALES & ENGLAND
The Driving Experience – What to expect
The UK and Ireland with a combined population of about 75m is quite densely populated. This particular combination is a little bit Jekyll and Hyde however, so it’s worth running through the broad schema
We would anticipate you landing in Dublin. The Irish capital is quite heavily congested and needn’t be considered an ideal baptism but the airport is on the north side of the city, the same as Portmarnock. We get lucky in other words. It’s only 7 miles (about 20 mins) from the airport to the Portmarnock hotel. Most of this journey is completed on country lanes leading down to the coast. It’s quite a gentle ‘welcome to Ireland’ experience and should comfortably be within the compass of any vaguely competent driver. The trips out from the hotel to the Portmarnock, and ‘Island’ golf clubs are even shorter on similar roads. They’re quite a good way to ‘get your eye in’!
The first trip that we would suggest might prove a little bit more demanding involves that between Portmarnock and the ferry terminal in Dublin, This 12 mile journey takes about half an hour, skirting the city centre to the east, and so avoids the worst of things. Embarkation is normally straight forward as there are plenty of signs to help guide you and people directing the flow of the loading.
You disembark in North Wales on the Isle of Anglesey. This is probably the easiest section of the lot for congestion. Today’s A5 is the main route off Anglesey (the A5 broadly follows the ancient Roman road of ‘Watling Street’). Once off Anglesey you head south on another uncongested road to Portmeirion. You will likely need to use the Sat Nav to locate Portmeirion. It isn’t that well signposted and tucked away a little bit
The drive between Portmeirion and Hoylake/ Liverpool is the longest single push of the entire trip and takes about 2 hours. There are three ways in which you might complete this, all of which take about 10 minutes of each other. For scenery you’d probably want to use the Conwy Valley heading inland to the picturesque town of Betws-y-Coed and then heading north to the seaside resort of Llandudno. On balance however, we’d probably be inclined to reverse the route of the previous evening to the town of Bangor, and then joining the A55, the much improved coast road. This is much more akin to laned traffic now and just keeping the vehicle pointing east, until your sat nav takes you the Wirral Peninsula to Hoylake
The journey between Hoylake into Liverpool involves using the Mersey tunnel. This should be the only section where you’ll face congestion in an urban area, but by now you should have about 4 hours under your belt and growing a little bit more accustomed to things. Although heavy traffic is what tends to intimidate overseas drivers most, strangely enough congested conditions are often easier. The traffic is frequently gridlocked and allows you much greater opportunity to observe, plan, and even follow others if need be. The most challenging conditions are what we might describe as busy traffic that is still flowing
The A55 coast road might take 5 -10 mins longer than going ‘cross-country’ but it’s probably the easier road to follow
Although you will need to adjust to driving on the left-hand side of the road quite quickly, for such time as you’re in urban areas this is fairly easy to do as other motorists will ‘keep you honest’. Overseas visitors who are used to driving on the right-hand side of the road tend to be more vulnerable to lapses of concentration in remote rural locations. There are signs dotted around the Highlands saying ‘keep left’ but that needn’t be enough. Some modern driving management systems do of course have a warning ‘bleeper’ if they detect the vehicle has crossed a ‘white-line’ and moved onto the wrong side of the road.
Faraway Fairways will nearly always be able to secure you an automatic transmission, which means you have one less thing to worry about since changing gear only to find yourself winding down a window is a little bit alarming at first until you’ve adjusted. In addition to this aide, we will normally look to put an audio GPS Sat-Nav into a hire as well, so as to allow you to concentrate on steering and general road craft rather than navigation
There are some things however that you’ll need to ‘take-on’. We might as well run through these, but by the same token you shouldn’t be too alarmed. Hundreds of thousands of visitors face the same thing every year and just about every single one of them manages
- You will have a right-hand drive vehicle
- You will need to drive on the left-hand side of the road
- You will encounter strange road-signs and highway laws that you’ll need to adapt to quickly
- You will encounter unfamiliar things like ‘traffic roundabouts’ and ‘giving way to the right’
- Even with sat-nav, you’ll run an enhanced risk of navigational error. This is more annoying than anything more serious though
- We would normally expect to be able to source an automatic transmission (we can’t recall a situation where we failed to do so), but could end up with a manual gear-shift if you leave a booking very late
Small Size Group travel (two players) – Self Drive
Seating capacities are rarely an issue on a golf trip. Luggage however is. In addition to a standard luggage item such as a suitcase, golfers also generate a golf bag. As you realise, golf bags are an awkward shape. Golfers invariably require a bigger vehicle than their bare number suggests they should. A two ball party should therefore be looking to use a ‘large estate car’
Small Group travel (four players) – Self Drive
Although we don’t see it that frequently, three is the critical number whereby we have to begin using a nine-person MPV (no estate car can take six luggage items – don’t allow anyone to kid you into thinking otherwise). The MPV such as the Mercedes V-Class is very much the workhorse of the UK golf industry. This would be the largest vehicle that most of you will be able to drive legally but adapting to an MPV isn’t that demanding, they’re quite powerful and responsive.
The Hyundai 40i estate, typical of the vehicle in this class Mercedes Vito typical of the MPV in this class
Medium Group travel (eight golfers +) – Self Drive
To a large extent everything in golf transport is geared towards multiples of four. An MPV has luggage capacity for nine items (four players using a golf bag and suitcase each). Tee times are of course sold in fourballs. It works out well. Consequently groups of eight are advised to use two MPV’s. Indeed, groups of twelve are advised to use three, we do eventually begin to encounter a problem however on larger groups as you might imagine
Large Groups – (sixteen plus)
By the time your group begins to exceed sixteen or more, your options for self-drive are beginning to resemble an elaborate convoy solution! Yes, you might be scoff a little bit at this for looking clumsy and complicated, but it is still feasible incidentally, and shouldn’t be dismissed. Because everything is based on multiples of four you’d still enjoy all the same flexible advantages if adopting this, but we’d also need to accept that the more rigid midi-bus/ coach is starting to make some appeal too.
Faraway Fairways normally provide transport in line with comfort to distance. Many of the journey’s we undertake aren’t that far removed from a daily commute by way of time burden (45 mins). Consequently de-luxe options with their extra wide seats, individual arm and footrests, seat back tables, air-conditioning, TV/DVDs, mood lighting, double glazed windows and full draw curtains and cool boxes or fridges might be considered an unnecessary extravagance. It’s a decision you’ll need to make, what we can tell you though is that Brits and Irish don’t travel like this. If you choose to do so, you will be advertising that you’re an overseas visitor. Having perhaps said that with an air of disapproval Faraway Fairways are equally aware that this might be something of a false equivalent. For many a golf trip of this nature is something of a life-time ‘experience’. There is the old saying of, if it’s worth doing, then it’s worth doing properly.
To help you make a little bit more sense of the geography, mileage, and journey times, we’ve linked the RAC’s journey planner. Simply add the ‘to’ and ‘from’ destinations (A & B) and then click ‘Get Route’. You can add a ‘via’ point by clicking ‘add destination’ underneath the two options you’ve entered.