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the smaller the better

Free upgrades are one of life’s little rewards, cherished and remembered. First class. Room with a view. Bigger car.

Unless you’re in Ireland. If you’re renting a car in Ireland, a free upgrade can be a burden.

We got a free upgrade.

Next to the Guinness brewery in Dublin, the Ring of Kerry may be Ireland’s most popular tourist attraction. It’s a scenic drive, a 111-mile loop densely populated with tour buses on winding roads barely 20 feet wide. Unless you enjoy abject terror, the smaller the car the better.

We named our (upgraded) Hyundai Harry, after the prince. The day we collected Harry was the day we were to watch The Wedding, and the betrothed were on our mind. Although Harry is black, he’s neither as comely nor as delicate as Meghan (he’s a clackity diesel), so he’s Harry.


Harry the Hyundai

Besides, he’s sorta big. Grownups sit comfortably in his back seat. All of our luggage fits in his trunk. There are enough cupholders for three beers! (And that’s just in the driver’s door.) In spite of that, at home he’d be a small car. On Irish roads, he’s positively Bunyanesque.

drive on the left

Did I mention the left-side-of-the-road, driver-on-the-right thing? Twice Louise and I have opened the wrong doors to get in. There’s the gearshift too—it’s almost impossible to rent a car in Ireland with an automatic—which is shifted with the left hand. Harry’s is a six-speed, just to add to the confusion.

It’s all tolerable, until the tour buses take to the road. They all travel in the same direction—clockwise—around the Ring, so they don’t meet each other head on, but that means the rest of us either go the other way around (and meet the buses head-on ourselves), or follow them, slowly, as they’re nearly impossible to pass.

tour bus

Tour bus on the Ring of Kerry

The only solution is to leave early in the morning. The buses get underway at 10:00; we departed at 8:30. At least we had the road to ourselves for a couple of hours, and a spectacular couple of hours it was.

(Click any image to enlarge)

The Ring of Kerry includes a Twelfth-Century abbey, a rare Irish beach (O’Carroll’s, where Ryan’s Daughter was filmed), hundreds of B&B’s, thousands of sheep…

…and enough tour buses to last a lifetime.