Andrew McCarthy’s Road Trip in Ireland

Andrew McCarthy’s Road Trip in Ireland

Courtesy of Andrew McCarthy
Courtesy of Andrew McCarthy
Andrew McCarthy explores local lore in search of Ireland’s Magic Road.

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.

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