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To do full justice to this region, you really need a car—and a good map: don't rely on GPS for the many small by-roads.
The 219-km (136-mile) Dublin–Galway trip takes about three hours. From Cork City take N20 through Mallow and N21 in the Limerick City direction, following signs for the tunnel (toll €1.80) before reaching the city, to join the N18/M18 Ennis–Galway road. The 209-km (130-mile) drive from Cork to Galway takes about three hours. From Killarney the shortest route to cover the 193 km (120 miles) to Galway (three hours) is to take N22 to Tralee, then N69 through Listowel to Tarbert and ferry across the Shannon Estuary to Killimer. From here, join N68 in Kilrush, and then pick up N18 in Ennis.
The West has good, wide main roads (National Primary Routes) and better-than-average local roads (National Secondary Routes), both known as "N" routes. There is one stretch of motorway, the M18 north of Shannon, that bypasses Ennis and finishes north of Gort. If you stray off the beaten track on the smaller Regional ("R") routes, particularly in west Clare, you may encounter some challenging roads. Narrow and twisty, they are also used by hikers and cyclists from April to October, as well as local traffic (which can take the form of huge trucks serving the local agricultural co-ops, school buses, and tractors). The speed limits on these Regional routes is a whacking great 80 km per hour (50 mph), even for trucks and buses, but use your common sense and adjust your speed accordingly. If traffic builds up behind you, it is customary to signal to the left and slow down/pull over to let the locals fly by. Your kind gesture will usually be acknowledged with a nod or a wave.
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