To give you an idea of the size of the island of Ireland (that’s including Northern Ireland AND the Republic of Ireland), I consulted the route planner of the helpful Automobile Association of Ireland:
- If you were to drive from the almost northernmost point (Malin Head) to the almost southernmost point (Mizen Head) (see here for the actual extremities), you would cover a distance of 619.95 km, and it would take you 10 hrs, 22 min. Clicking the option to “avoid motorways” ratchets the distance up to 622.85 km and the time to 10 hours, 34 mins.
- And from east (Dublin) to west (Clifden), more or less across the middle of the country, that’s a distance of 294.36 km, which should take you about 4 hours, 18 mins. Avoiding motorways merely increases the distance to 297.10 km, but the time rockets up to 4 hours, 58 mins!
- For the sake of completeness, it might interest you that the distance from Ballyhalbert, Ards Peninsula (near Burr Point, the easternmost point of mainland Ireland, though technically in Northern Ireland) to Dunquin, Dingle Peninsula (near Garraun Point, the westernmost point) is 567 km, which would take you 8 hours, 6 mins.
Having driven on some of Ireland’s roads, I surmise that these relatively long driving times may be caused by, for instance:
- the sharp-cornered single-lane country roads (and I DO mean single-lane – one car narrowly fitting between the hedges and stone walls);
- the freedom-seeking sheep;
- the ubiquitous road works and nonsensical detours; and
- the picturesque villages, idyllic scenery and hidden treasures off the beaten track, all demanding to be investigated.
Or, perhaps, the AA has a vested interest in some of the pubs and coffee shops one may pass en route?
Perhaps they feel that it is most likely only tourists and foreigners who would make the effort of clicking on the route planner, and said foreigners might be more likely to dawdle along the countryside, cameras at the ready?
I did find it intriguing, though, that ‘avoiding motorways’ didn’t change the distances or times much. Hm… Perhaps there aren’t (m)any motorways? Though judging from the aforementioned omnipresent road works, that may be about to change.
To compare this with distances in South Africa, it’s about 670 km from Cape Town along the N7 to the border with Namibia, and about 300 km from Cape Town to Laingsburg on the N1, or to Heidelberg on the N2. On our national roads, we are usually able to drive about 100 kph (our national roads do tend to be quite a bit broader than Irish roads, though with an approximately equivalent percentage of potholes), this should take 6.5 hours and 3 hours respectively.
We should probably get out there and test that theory.