Welcome to Top Gear's lap of Ireland
Join us as we lap the Emerald Isle, from the coast of Antrim to the Ring of Kerry
Posted: 23 May 2014
WESTPORT - KENMARE
HURRICANE. CONNEMARA. THE RING OF KERRY. SAGE ADVICE
We awake to news of extreme weather on our route. "There's some bad weather headed this way, the radio and telly this morning said not to travel that way if you can help it."
"I'm sure we'll be fine!" I enthuse to the charmingly concerned hotel receptionist, "We do this sort of thing all the time, and we've got winter tyres. I mean, what's the worst that can happen? We get swept away by a freak typhoon?! Ha!"
Turns out I was right to be sceptical of typhoon-based danger. Typhoons are tropical. Exactly four hours later, a hurricane hit.
I'm not sure what really happened over the next few hours, except to say that it was an experience I hope never to repeat. Having just traversed the majesty of the Connemara National Park in rain you could chew, the 12C had become something resembling a lifeboat, and the wind had picked up to car-moving strength. The repetitive, semi-rhythmic bounce-and-splash and on-and-off throttle action felt like riding a large yellow jetski across a choppy, narrow fjord. Except with the occasional forestry commission truck passing in the opposite direction, looking a bit confused as to why someone might be driving a bright yellow supercar through remote landscape in what would at best be described as challenging conditions. Clifden and Galway passed with me holding onto the steering wheel with enough force to leave nailmarks, and we whipped back past Limerick and down through Listowel and Tralee barely pausing for breath, and onto the Ring of Kerry with a hurricane over our heads.
Is it better to extend the aerodynamic pack to full downforce in hurricane conditions or leave as standard? These are the questions you might find yourself asking when you've noticed that high-sided trucks are congregating under any available cover and lashing themselves together. You might also ask yourself why we didn't just, y'know, stop, but that felt like giving up. Also, we'd run out of biscuits somewhere near Portmagee, and I could sense Justin starting to twitch like a biscuit addict.
Ireland, on the positive side, is reliably intense, and brilliantly rural. Small villages scattered higgledy-piggledy through the scenery, the Atlantic battering the coast with implacable force and infinite variety, the storm above us whipping the clouds into shapes that inspire poets and make farmers cringe. It's a bit like the wildest Highlands of Scotland, with roads that will challenge car and driver. If you think you can turn up here with track-biased suspension and have fun, forget it - these Irish roads will eat you alive. We stop at Kenmare and slump. The storm is still raging.