- THE ROAD WHERE THINGS GO BACKWARDS
Bloody hell! I cried. Look, were rolling uphill!
you been to the road where things go backwards?" asked Eilish,
as I sat having breakfast in the Carlow hostel.
"The what?" I replied.
"The road where things go backwards. Its up near Dundalk.
Daddy took some Americans there last year. Theres a section
of road that goes downhill and if you stop the car at the bottom,
put it in neutral and release the brake the car will roll backwards
up the hill."
I started looking for the TV cameras. This was obviously some sort
of joke. The thing was that Eilish was dead serious.
"Its no joke. Its up north of Dundalk. Daddy knows
where. Ill get him on the phone for you," she said.
Before I knew it I was speaking on the phone with Éamonn who proceeded
to tell me all about it and how to get there. I put the phone down with
a feeling of slight apprehension. I had never before heard of such a thing,
and still wondered if I was the target of a local joke. But then again,
Weeks later I found myself heading to Dundalk in my little camper van
with the intention of checking out this phenomenon. I had mentioned this
story to other people and found out that it was in fact true. When it
was first discovered there was major publicity; RTE filmed it, scientists
studied it and people swarmed to experience it. According to the people
who had studied this phenomenon its actually an illusion, but a
very convincing one. Apparently the funny angle of the hill means that
although it looks like you are rolling up the hill, you are actually rolling
down. Also, it isnt the only one; there are many roads like this
around the world.
While this news instilled in me the confidence that I wasnt the
subject of a joke, it also filled me with a sense of disappointment. If
so many people knew about this then that meant it wasnt a secret
that I would have the honour of unveiling to the public, or at least the
people who actually read my stories. But along with the people who did
know about it, there was a sizeable amount who didnt, and they were
as intrigued as I was.
After taking care of some business in Dundalk I headed north and took
the turn off for Carlingford, following Éamonns instructions
which had been hastily scribbled on a piece of paper. My travelling companion,
Nika, was as eager to see this as I was. At the turn off I was supposed
to continue along the road for eight miles before turning off for a tourist
attraction called the Long Womans Grave. The Carlingford road takes
you along the stunningly beautiful Cooley Peninsula, awash with low green
mountains and ocean views. The road we were on circumnavigates the peninsula
and is such a lovely drive that I missed the turn off and before I knew
it was pulling into the town of Carlingford.
I pulled over to the side of the road and asked an old man digging his
"Ah, youre the second person to ask me about that today. Youve
gone past it. Go back out to the Dundalk road and drive for about five
miles and youll see McCrystals food store and a big petrol station.
The turning is directly opposite. Ask there and theyll direct you."
Carlingford turned out to be pretty little town with narrow streets and
whitewashed cottages. It sits alongside the lovely Carlingford Lough and
the 587-metre Slieve Foye, which forms an eye-catching backdrop.
We left Carlingford and headed back out on the Dundalk road. I clocked
up five miles and came across a petrol station, where we found the turn
After another wrong turn we headed back and found McCrystals Food Store
just a little way up. We pulled over there for a drink and an ice cream.
"Im looking for the road where things go backwards," I
said, as I was handed my ice cream.
Ah, Magic Road.
Is that what you call it then?
Thats right. If you go left from here to the end of the road
youll come to a T-Junction, take a right and then an immediate left.
Follow the road to the top of the hill, then down into a dip where youll
see a big mushroom. Stop there, put the car in neutral and release the
brake. Youll roll backwards up the hill.
A big mushroom! I thought. This phenomenon has obviously messed with the
minds of the local people.
We followed his directions. We were now on the Táin Trail, which
is a 40-kilometre trail consisting of a mixture of surfaced roads, forest
trails and green paths that makes a circuit of the peninsula through the
Cooley Mountains. The road led up a long, straight and steep incline and
then at the brow of the hill went down into a dip. At the bottom of this
dip I spotted a large, brown, circular storage hut, which, if you imagined
hard enough, could have been a giant mushroom. Immediately I slammed on
We were at the very base of the hill, so I put the van in neutral and
took my foot off the brake.
Bloody hell! I cried. Look, were rolling uphill!
And we really were, we were rolling backwards up the hill. It was amazing.
The hill slanted upwards slightly then became steeper halfway. At this
point we picked up speed, until finally reaching the brow of the hill.
I braked, put the van in gear and drove down again. Once again we rolled
back up the hill. I felt like a child whod just watched a magician
for the first time. I couldnt believe what was happening. I rode
up and down that hill for the next half an hour, as traffic passed cautiously.
The local people watched with amusement, obviously knowing exactly what
I was up to. The tourists looked on with bewilderment at this deranged
man driving up and down the hill.
I drove up the other side and turned around. A man was building a wall
in front of his house, and watched us with a smile. I stopped at the same
place, to see if we rolled forward. We did, but somehow it wasnt
as dramatic. So I turned around again and repeated the backwards roll.
I swung my head from back to front looking from both angles trying to
see how this worked. I couldnt.
I got out and walked up the hill, and it felt like I was walking downhill.
I walked downhill, and it felt like I was walking uphill. So it was definitely
an illusion, but an absolutely perfect one. But what I liked even more
was that there was no queue of tourists paying to try it. There wasnt
even a sign to indicate what it was. It hadnt been exploited one
bit, and was just a piece of country road with a hidden secret. I liked
that most of all.
Eventually I managed to tear myself away. We decided to continue up the
road to the Long Womans Grave before heading back down to spend
the night in Carlingford. Once again we passed the man building his wall
and waved. He waved back, took one look at our huge grins, and burst out
laughing. I guess this was a familiar sight for him.
Directions to Magic hill
Leave Dundalk and take the R173 to Carlingford. Halfway along you will
spot a Texaco Petrol Station. Take the first left after this, where youll
see a sign for McCrystals Food Store, and signs for the Táin Trail
and Oriel Trail; there is no sign for the Long Womans Grave. Follow
the road around and past McCrystals until you reach a T-Junction. Turn
right and immediately left on the other side, again following signs for
the Táin and Oriel Trails. Follow the road straight to the brow
of the hill, go down into a dip and stop immediately next to the big mushroom.
Then watch in amazement as your car rolls back up the hill.
© Ian Middleton 2006 update
Ian Middleton Travel Writer & Photographer http://www.ian-middleton.co.uk
http://www.ianmiddletonphotography.co.uk Check my new travel guide
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