Driving in Ireland is no longer the ordeal it used to be with new motorways linking all the major towns and cities. And you will soon get used to driving on the left hand side of the road if you stay in the flow of traffic and take your time at the first couple of roundabouts (traffic circles) Tolls are relatively cheap and you can pay at the kiosks as you pass through. The only tricky one is the barrier free M50 which is the tolled ring road around Dublin, this €3 toll is simply charged to your car rental account so you don’t need to worry about it. Petrol ie gas is expensive, currently €1.49 a litre so it’s worth upgrading to a diesel car if you intend doing a lot of mileage.

And its only when you leave the motorways that you will encounter the narrow country roads that for some reason seem to terrify our American cousins? Relax, you are in for a treat especially if you take any of the coastal routes? For example the road from Ballyvaughan to Doolin, out along the northwest coast of Clare has been voted one of the best road trips in the world by Conde Nast Traveller and is truly spectacular with the wild Atlantic Ocean on one side and the mountains of the Burren on the other, ditto Dingle and Donegal. Nor can you beat the wild heathery mountains and inky blue loughs of Connemara either. Just keep your eye out for sheep; they love to sleep on the tarmac verges.

Anybody crafty enough to detour off into the midlands will have the inland waterways, lakes, boglands and drumlins all to themselves as apparently only 1% of visitors go there in their rush to the east or west coasts. I can never understand this, as it’s absolutely beautiful, with Belvedere House, Birr Castle, Clonmacnoise and the Rock of Cashel, not to mention not one but two whiskey distilleries Lockes &Tullamore Dew waiting to be explored.

And besides what could be more magical than pitching up on a river bank or in a verdant little glade of an old ruined castle of stonewalled graveyard and having nothing around you but the birds and bees and maybe a few sheep or horses raising their lazy, inquisitive heads to have a look at you? And don’t worry about getting lost it really is a very little island!

Thrifty Car Hire doing a special deal for the month of April, with a week’s car rental starting at €80. So, what’s keeping you? And while prices will go up as it moves towards the peak season, there is always value to found (ask online) and it really is the only way to see and experience the ‘real’ Ireland.

For more details visit Thrifty Car Hire

Susan Byron author of http://www.irelands-hidden-gems.com/