Forgotten Small Towns of the Midlands

Driving across Ireland from Dublin to Co. Clare at high speed yesterday I thought, as we flashed by yet another turn-off to a small town, how the Irish driving experience has changed for the worse. No longer is it a slowish procession through interesting main streets with bars, hardware shops and town halls. No longer does one get stuck behind a tractor and start looking at the landscape and buildings and hedgerow flowers.  Where once a driver would talk about the changing scenery and the stories of his journey, now people boast how quickly they did the drive. In some ways it’s a manifestation of our need for instant gratification, wanting to get to a destination as quickly as possible. The midlands then become just an annoying interlude from Tourist Zone A to Tourist Zone B.

Eventually we turned off at Loughrea and sat and ate cheese and ham sandwiches in an old churchyard while the kids played and suddenly I knew where I was once more. Then we continued on to Croughwell on the old road and time stopped speeding past so quickly. I lost the temptation to be permanently overtaking and we became part of a lovely slow convoy behind a lorry, pootling along at a more authentic 50 miles an hour.

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