Coming around a blind curve at 100 KPH, the legal limit on many of Ireland’s narrow winding roads, and finding yourself face to face with a tour bus significantly wider than the oncoming lane can be a bit daunting. At this point the center lane, if there is one, holds no meaning. There are no shoulders and the vegetation now brushing the side of your car most probably conceals a substantial stone wall. Add to that driving from the right side of the car on the left side of the road. Ask anyone who’s been there, motoring in Ireland is an adventure. Why don’t they widen the roads?, is a frequent question from fellow travelers shaken by a recent encounter.
In fact the Celtic Tiger brought with it a significant surge of road construction and now dual carriage ways (double lane highways) bypass many villages. While I appreciate the advantages of fast travel from point A to point B, I go to Ireland to savor time, not save it. And what is lost for me is a slow crawl through narrow village streets, delivery trucks double parked, garbage trucks stopping every few feet to empty trash containers, and pedestrians crossing wherever convenient.
But in much of Ireland the roads remain as they have for centuries. Yes, they are frequently resurfaced, but they are rarely if ever widened or straightened. The roads are shaped by the land, the farms and fields which are small enough without carving out larger lanes. Those stone boundary walls are not easily moved, physically, socially or emotionally. And the Irish don’t seem to find the narrow winding roads much of an impediment. After all the speed limit is 100KPH.