Driving across Wales to Fishguard on 6th July on the start of our Ireland trip, in the beautiful weather that came as such a surprise in our normally dismal British summers, I could not help but be struck by the beautiful rolling green vistas of Pembrokeshire as we approached Fishguard. It reminded me of so many spots in the foothills of the Highlands, but that was only a foretaste of the beautiful drive we had from Roslare to Youghal.
The Republic of Ireland that Ruth and I first started visiting back in the eighties had at least one key similarity with the Romania we visited recently – the roads! Wherever you went you were faced with narrow winding roads and with potholes that would swallow a car, or at least wreck a suspension. So much so that almost every car was an old banger – why invest in a decent car that could be wrecked on the first outing?
If not mangled in a pothole then any car was at risk of being crumpled in a head on collision on the “shared overtaking lane” roads that were the ubiquitous low cost alternative to a dual carriageway. For my younger friends who have not had the privilege of driving on these types of roads let me explain: cars traveling in either direction were given the right to move out into a shared central third lane for overtaking. Of course two cars coming in opposite directions could be lulled into a false sense of priority, move out to overtake, and crunch! Just as when dealing with the overtaking and tailgating habits of the average Romania, the visitor had to keep their wits about them!
But decades of “Tiger Economy” status and EU development fund investment has transformed the roads of the Republic of Ireland into snaking smooth ribbons of tarmac that rivals anything seen in the UK. And with the low density of traffic, on a quiet island that is one again exporting its young to the rest of the world, it is easy to cruise at the generous speed limits while watching the beauty of the rolling fields and broad coastal estuaries of the south coast of Ireland as the sun slowly falls in a rate pale blue sky.So, my friends, am I biased do you think? Wales and Cornwall, Scotland and Ireland – the best of our islands countryside seems to be westward facing where the Celtic people in all their forms have clung tenaciously to the green coated rocks over the millennia. Perhaps it’s that the countryside that shaped the people. Or perhaps – like so many parts of the world – the weaker Celtic tribes were left with the marginal corners of land that more successful invaders did not sufficiently value.
What do you think? Why do the Celts have all the best vistas in these emerald islands of ours?