I’d heard about it for years. A legend that captured the blarney and the self-aware self-mockery tinged with pride so unique to the Irish. The Magic Road. A road that defies gravity, where a car, set in neutral, will roll uphill of its own accord. It couldn’t be true, could it?
Day One: Dublin to Enniskerry
It went wrong from the start. Someone had told me that the Magic Road was in the Wicklow Mountains, south of Dublin. I headed out of town on the N11, but something didn’t feel right. (This kind of a fool’s errand is all about feel.) I got off the motorway at the picturesque village of Enniskerry, and stopped in at Johnnie Fox’s Pub (Glencullen; 353-12/955-647; drinks for two $13), a rustic charmer famous throughout Ireland. Nobody had heard of a magic road anywhere near there. What was close by was Powerscourt, a 12th-century country estate with formal gardens. I asked around without success, but really I was lingering, absorbed in the peace and views of Sugar Loaf Mountain. I decided to cut my losses for the day and check in to the Ritz-Carlton, Powerscourt (doubles from $413), on the property. Smart move.
Day Two: Enniskerry to Donore to Carlingford
I’d gotten several hints that the road I was looking for might be in County Meath. I headed north. The day was gloomy and wet, ripe for some Irish magic. I bypassed Dublin and eased onto the M1, then the N51, then onto a narrow, hedge-bound lane that looked the way roads in Ireland used to, before all that EU money. Suddenly I was in front of the ancient monument of Newgrange—the Neolithic Unesco World Heritage site. After a mesmerizing hour I was back on the road. But I was closer, I could feel it. Most people I asked knew what I was after; some had even been there. Past Dundalk I turned onto the coast road. Outside Carlingford I asked again. Yes, I was close, very. A left, another left, and a right, and I was there. It looked like any other road; in fact, I rolled right over it and had to backtrack. I found the swale, shifted the car into neutral, turned off the ignition, released the brake, and...only in Ireland.