As promised yesterday, here are the driving pointers from a stateside friend. Buckle in and enjoy the ride.
1) They drive on the left side of the road in Ireland. I'm sure you already knew this, but I'd hate for you to be surprised. It has to do with Britain's stubbornness against Napoleon, but you don't need to know all that. It's not that big of a deal, really. Just keep it in mind when you make a turn and your instinct tells you what lane to move into. Just don't forget and you'll be fine. If nothing else, the gear stick being in the "wrong" place will be a constant reminder. I kept banging my right hand against my door. :-D
2) Like most of Europe, the automatic transmission is luxury most cars don't come with as standard. If you really don't (or can't) drive stick, be sure to ask for it at the time you make your reservation and be prepared to pay more for it (a lot more). But shifting gears as you swosh up and around the hills and curves of the countryside is a blast!!! (I suggest building up your leg muscles before going if you are out of practice with a clutch.)
3) Don't drive in Dublin. You don't need a car and you won't want one. They have overcrowded roadways and good public transportation for everything that isn't actually in walking distance (most things).
4) Once you get outside of Dublin the rolling and sweeping vistas are a joy to drive! But there are a few things to be wary of:
4A) Sheep. I almost ran over two outside of Hollywood (they filmed Braveheart there). I was actually hoping to experience more "Irish traffic jams," but did not. Better luck to you. ;-)
4B) The roads are on the narrow side. Except for the major highways around Dublin and into/out of Dublin, the roads are small. To give you some idea: the Irish (Gaelic) word for road literally translates as "cow path." (Did I mention that the roads are narrow?)
4C) Expect to do your civil duty and trim some roadside hedges with the car. The driver's side mirror should be on a spring; don't worry about it.
4D) Beware of the farm equipment. The tractors (and there are a lot of them) are wide (remember 4B) and slow. Be patient and polite; the Irish are and it seems to work.
4E) You won't see too many bicyclists or pedestrians on the country roads, but they are out there so keep an eye out and give them a wide berth (or as wide as the narrow roads will allow).
4F) Beware the tourist busses! These behemouths are the only thing I hated about driving in Ireland. The only things worse than getting stuck behind one is have a bus or large lorry (truck) pass you in the opposite direction. Just do a little hedge trimming and don't panic. It's not as bad as it looks (although it does always look bad).
4G) The major highways that circle Dublin and spoke out from it are clearly marked and bypass major urban centers. However, most of the "cow paths" (the fun driving) go through the many, many small towns. This gets confusing. There aren't a lot of signs in the towns/villages and none of the roads are straight. Christine saved us from getting turned around a lost several times, each day. (I plan to submit this to the Vatican, after she dies, as one of her many miracles.) In short, bring a co-pilot to help with directions.
5) I'm sure I'm missing something, but this "note" has turned epic, so I'll stop now before I run out of room. Driving in Ireland is a real treat. Don't be scared off; just be prepared and enjoy the ride!
That last line sounds like a great motto for life, huh?