Who needs a sat nav in Ireland when you have the wonderful Irish way of calculating distance: it all depends on when you have to be there. Guest Blogger and regular visitor Gerard Britt explains.
One of the many things that fascinated me about Ireland was its monastic history. And the site that fascinated me most was Skellig Michael. Beehive huts? Puffins? Big chunk o’ rock in the Atlantic? Sail on, child of Brendan!
Skellig Michael was marked on my tourist book map with a big orange ‘?’ This translated as ‘love to see it, a bit far out, we’ll see.’ I was looking at it while my wife and son packed up on our last morning in Kenmare. They packed and unpacked. I planned, drove, arranged, and guided. It worked out well.
As I parked our bags by the front door of the Waters Edge B&B (I did the heavy lifting, too), I spoke to the owner about our plans and mentioned
Skellig Michael. What followed gives, I believe, an excellent picture of the Irish people.
Mrs. O’Shea went on about what a good idea that was, how only so many can go each day, we’ll love it, and who did we make our reservations with? Um well, see, there’s this big orange question mark. “The boats only hold about a dozen people”, she explained, “and there’s only
3 or 4 boats that go each day.” Ah, well, I thought, it was only a possibility anyway. Then Mrs. O’Shea proved that in Ireland, yes, all things
are local: “But I know one of the boat drivers, Seanie. I’ll give him a ring, maybe he’s got room for you.” Four boats a day from a distant port and
my hostess knows one of them well enough to ring him up on short notice!
She came back from the kitchen. “Okay, Seanie said he’s got room, but they may not go out today. High waves. But if you want to go, he’ll wait for you. You’ll have to leave now, it’s a bit of a drive.” She gave clear and precise directions through town to the Portmagee road. Three turns later I was already confused and pulled over to ask to two workmen.
My wife and I discussed the exchange all the way to the port:
Me: “Excuse me, good morning, could you tell me which road to take for Portmagee?”
Workman #1: “Hello, hello. Portmagee?”
Workman #2: “Portmagee? Which way do you want to go?”
#1: “You’ll want this road to the left, but you can take the other, too.”
#2: “It depends on which way you want to go.”
Me: “Um, whichever will get me there faster.”
#1 & #2: “Oh, well in that case you’ll want the road on the left.”
Me: “How long is the drive?”
#2: “Oh, it’s a good hour and half, at least.”
#1: “At least.”
I looked at my watch. 9:30. The boat left at 10:30.
Me: “Well, shoot, that’s not good. We’re trying to catch a boat to Skellig Michael and it leaves in an hour.”
#1: “Oh, well in that case you can make it.”
#2: “Just take the road on the left.”
Me: “You think I can make it in an hour?”
#1: “If the boat leaves at 10:30 you can make it.”
In Ireland, as I discovered then and after, time and distance are often relative to one’s needs. A 90-minute drive became an hour’s drive because two workmen didn’t want to disappoint a stranger. I thanked the men and pointed the rental at the road on the left. As we pulled away I could’ve sworn I heard one of the men call, “Tell Seanie we said hello”, but that may have just been my imagination.
This is not our first sweet tale from Gerard Britt, read his personal account of tracing his roots in Ireland.
If you fancy a driving adventure in Ireland yourself, download our new Great Irish Road Trips Brochure PDF.