you been to the road where things go backwards?"
asked Eilish, as I sat having breakfast in the Carlow
what?" I replied.
road where things go backwards. It's up near Dundalk.
Daddy took some Americans there last year. There's 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."
started looking for the TV cameras. This was obviously
some sort of joke. The thing was that Eilish was dead
no joke. It's up north of Dundalk. Daddy knows where.
I'll get him on the phone for you," she said.
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, was
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.
to the people who had studied this phenomenon it's 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 isn't the only one; there are many roads
like this around the world.
this news instilled in me the confidence that I wasn't
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 wasn't 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 didn't,
and they were as intrigued as I was.
taking care of some business in Dundalk I headed north
and took the turn off for Carlingford, following Éamonn's
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 Woman's 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.
pulled over to the side of the road and asked an old man
digging his front garden.
you're the second person to ask me about that today. You've
gone past it. Go back out to the Dundalk road and drive
for about five miles and you'll see McCrystals food store
and a big petrol station. The turning is directly opposite.
Ask there and they'll direct you."
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.
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 off.
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.
looking for the road where things go backwards,"
I said, as I was handed my ice cream.
that what you call it then?'
right. If you go left from here to the end of the road
you'll 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 you'll see a big mushroom.
Stop there, put the car in neutral and release the brake.
You'll roll backwards up the hill.'
big mushroom! I thought. This phenomenon has obviously
messed with the minds of the local people.
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 the
were at the very base of the hill, so I put the van in
neutral and took my foot off the brake.
hell!' I cried. 'Look, we're rolling uphill!'
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 who'd just
watched a magician for the first time. I couldn't 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.
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 wasn't 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 couldn't.
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 wasn't even a sign to indicate what it was.
It hadn't been exploited one bit, and was just a piece
of country road with a hidden secret. I liked that most
I managed to tear myself away. We decided to continue
up the road to the Long Woman's 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
Dundalk and take the R173 to Carlingford. Halfway along
you will spot a Texaco Petrol Station. Take the first
left after this, where you'll see a sign for McCrystals
Food Store, and signs for the Táin Trail and Oriel
Trail; there is no sign for the Long Woman's 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.