Spins and staycations are a joy ... but only if you’ve got a car!

There's so much to explore in Ireland - but  the bus service needs extending.... so says Colette Sheridan
Spins and staycations are a joy ... but only if you’ve got a car!

The Healy Pass, Cork.  Picture: David Creedon / Anzenberger

WHO needs to queue up at an airport with all the uncertainty around flights not taking off at their scheduled times when you can have a great time in Ireland with its astonishing landscapes and dramatic coastline?

Not to mention avoiding clocking up too much of a carbon footprint when you fly.

OK, so you can’t always rely on the weather here. But once you get over that, Ireland is beautiful. It should be open to all, but the reality is that it’s hard to access this country’s places of beauty if you don’t have a car.

Recently, I went on a road trip (evocative term for ‘a spin’) in West Cork and into Kerry. With my brother at the wheel, we took off from the Skibbereen area with the goal of crossing the Healy Pass.

At Glengarriff, we stopped for lunch from a turquoise truck. There were several of them in a car park. You could spread your spending around, buying a sandwich or a burger from one truck, moving onto another one for ice-cream and a third one for coffee.

That’s the thing about road trips. You drop a few quid everywhere you stop off. It’s good for local economies.

The route to the Healy Pass is breathtaking. You drive through a meandering road in the Beara peninsula which crosses the Caha Mountains via the pass. The brother is more appreciative of arresting scenery than I am. He stopped the car to take it in.

“It doesn’t get better than this,” he declared, arms outstretched to emphasise the vista.

We took a few selfies and drove on to Kenmare.

When visiting a town, I have a policy of calling into the first hardware store that I spot on the basis that you never know what you’ll pick up in one of these places. This time, I bought some funky jewellery - lime green chunky pearls.

Buying jewellery in a hardware store was a first for me. Don’t ask why they were on sale in a shop stocked with the usual household implements. But I’m not complaining. The beads cost just under €8.

We went for coffees in one of the town’s hotels, with nothing more onerous to bother us than deciding where to go for dinner. We settled on Nico’s in Schull and were lucky to get a outdoor table, not having booked.

Not being a car owner, I wouldn’t have been able to properly see West Cork and a small part of Kerry without the brother’s willingness to drive. Better public transport would help this country in a big way. And making it cheaper is a short-term response to the higher petrol prices that are plaguing drivers.

Bus fares have come down a little bit, which is welcome. But as the realities of climate change become increasingly and frighteningly apparent, we need to start thinking long-term about massively improving the public transport provision.

When it comes to car ownership, it can be cut down by expanding car sharing schemes so that people have access to a car when they need one, without having to pay rip-off car hire prices. Retrofitting old cars is another way of being a bit more sustainable. It’s already underway but we need this at scale.

This summer, for three months, Germans and visitors to Germany will be able to travel the country for just €9 a month in a scheme to tackle the soaring cost of living while also getting people to leave their cars. All local and regional transport on trains, buses and metro is included in the government’s initiative - although inter-city trains are not included.

It’s an example of bold thinking and a really meaningful way to support people beleaguered by the high cost of living. It’s a win-win, good for the environment and for the pocket.

The German transport minister, Volker Wissing, has described the €9-a-month tickets as a great opportunity. Would it be possible here? Hardly. But at least bus fares have decreased while we hear about car hire costing five figure sums for a week. You could buy a reasonable second hand car for the cost of some car hires. It’s crazy.

I took the bus from Cork to Skibbereen which, for a return ticket, cost €26. Not, bad although if you book online, you could get the train from Cork to Dublin for less than that.

I love the bus to West Cork. I get an uplifting feeling when we hit Rosscarberry, knowing that it won’t be long before I disembark.

Only Losers Take The Bus is the title of a Fatima Mansions song which was inspired by Margaret Thatcher’s casual cruelty. But I’ll keep taking the bus while hanging onto the hope that the service might be extended. A staycation is on the cards.

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