A GoCar Road Trip to Ireland's County Wicklow (Pros and Cons vs Hiring a Car)

GoCars in Dublin, Ireland
Dublin is an amazing place to call home. We live near the City Centre and Dublin is so compact that we don't need a car. We can easily walk into town or take a bus or the DART to get most places in and around the city. There are occasionally times when we want to go further afield outside of Dublin and a car makes things easier. We recently tried GoCar to unlock a day trip to Ireland's County Wicklow. There are a number of pros and cons that I'll share with you today and I'll show you the fantastic places we were able to visit for the day down in Wicklow.

How GoCar Works

GoCar is a car sharing service much like ZipCar in North America. Sign-up for an account, scan the front and back of your driver's license, wait for your license to be validated and then you're good to go. GoCar will send you a membership card that you can use to unlock their vehicles. The next step is to make a reservation. Think carefully about where you want to go because you'll be charged by the km and by distance traveled. Here's an overview of how GoCar works

Mount Usher Gardens

Tables and chairs at Mount Usher Gardens in County Wicklow
We used GoCar to visit Mount Usher Gardens, approximately 40 km outside of Dublin. Upon arrival, pass through some high end shops and an Avoca Cafe, buy your ticket (7.50 EUR at the time of writing) and explore the grounds.
Mount Usher Gardens in County Wicklow
A lazy river runs through the property.
Tree stumps at Mount Usher Gardens in County Wicklow
Moss paths at Mount Usher Gardens lead up into a forest featuring trees curated from all around the world.
Mushrooms at Mount Usher Gardens in County Wicklow
It was definitely damp when we visited in the Autumn and gorgeous mushrooms were growing in various shady places around the gardens.
Purple flowers at Mount Usher Gardens in County Wicklow
Pink rose at Mount Usher Gardens in County Wicklow
Summer was not so far gone though. Plenty of colorful flowers still brightened the landscape at Mount Usher.
River running through Mount Usher Gardens in County Wicklow
We walked along the river and practically had Mount Usher to ourselves. It pays to visit County Wicklow in the shoulder season after the hordes of tourists have departed.
Waterfall running through Mount Usher Gardens in County Wicklow
We enjoyed listening to the sound of a small waterfall rushing past.
Suspension bridge in Mount Usher Gardens in County Wicklow
We swayed across a rickety suspension bridge. I must say, I was slightly alarmed when I emerged on the other side and noticed a warning not to jump on the bridge. Uh oh.
Warnng sign on the suspension bridge in Mount Usher Gardens in County Wicklow
Ireland is known for lush gardens and County Wicklow has a number of lovely examples. We wandered past an old mill wheel at Mount Usher inside a walled garden overflowing with riotous wildflowers.
Walled Garden and millstone at Mount Usher Gardens in County Wicklow

Wicklow Town

Wicklow Gaol
After a good long walk, we left Mount Usher Gardens and drove to Wicklow town. Public parking is free on Sunday so we parked our GoCar at Wicklow Gaol and went in to have a look around (tickets cost 7.90 EUR at the time of writing). In use since the 18th century, Wicklow Gaol has a storied history. The self-guided tour of Wicklow Gaol introduces visitors to a number of key characters in the gaol's history. Petty thieves were locked up with murderers in extremely cramped conditions. Rebels from both the 1798 Rebellion and 1916 Rising were incarcerated here. 
Characters at Wicklow Gaol
Characters at Wicklow Gaol
There is even a replica transportation ship on the upper floor to show what conditions would have been like on the journey to Australia.

The Black Castle

Harbour near Wicklow Town
After we finished our tour of the Wicklow Gaol, we left our GoCar parked there and proceeded to explore Wicklow Town on foot. We were running out of time on our reservation but there was still more we wanted to see. No problem... we checked the GoCar app on our mobile phone. Since no one was waiting to pick up the GoCar upon our return, we were able to extend our reservation by one hour. This allowed us to travel down to the waterfront in Wicklow Town. We followed the Vartry River to the spot where it meets the Irish Sea. Climbing a small hill, we arrived at a windswept point overlooking the sea. 
Cannon near the Black Castle in County Wicklow
Cannon near the Black Castle in County Wicklow
The ruins of Wicklow's Black Castle stood nearby, clinging to the cliffs. Dating back to the 12th century (now I see why they call this region Ireland's Ancient East), the remains only hint of the castle's former glory in the era after the Norman's arrived in Ireland.
The Black Castle in County Wicklow
We scrambled up and around the hill enjoying spectacular views out to sea. It's easy to understand why this spot was ideal for a fortication in centuries past. It was a clear day and we could see for miles.
Ruins of the Black Castle in County Wicklow
The views from Wicklow's Black Castle were simply stunning.
Ruins of the Black Castle in County Wicklow
After exploring the Black Castle for about 30 minutes, we made our way back to our GoCar for the return journey to Dublin.

The Pros and Cons of GoCar vs Hiring a Car

GoCars in Dublin
So, what are the pros and cons of using a GoCar instead of hiring a car for a day trip from Dublin?

GoCar Pros

  • Picking up and dropping off a GoCar is much faster and simpler than renting a car from Hertz, Enterprise, or the like. Unlock the GoCar with your card or mobile phone once the reservation starts and off you go. 
  • You can reserve the GoCar for just the amount of time you need (we booked the GoCar for about 6 hours for our trip to County Wicklow).
  • There is no need to refuel the GoCar before returning it under most circumstances
  • You can extend your trip using a mobile phone as long as no one has a reservation immediately after yours.
  • You aren't beholden to a car hire company's office opening hours for pick up and drop off (i.e., the Hertz location in Ballsbridge is only open limited hours on Sundays). 

GoCar Cons

  • If the GoCar has less than a quarter tank of petrol, you are supposed to refuel using the card provided. Both times we've used GoCar, the fuel gauge has been at or below a quarter :-/ The refueling card is not the most intuitive to use (you need to go to a specific brand of petrol station and figure out what your car number and PIN are).
  • GoCar can be more expensive if you take one for a long time or long distances since you are charged by the hour plus a per km surcharge.
Overall, we found that the pros outweighed the cons in taking a GoCar on a day trip from Dublin to County Wicklow. It was a bit more expensive than hiring a car but the convenience more than made up for it. We look forward to using GoCar to get to more places that aren't well served by Dublin's public transportation system.

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Sidewalk Safari | Part-time Travel Blog: A GoCar Road Trip to Ireland's County Wicklow (Pros and Cons vs Hiring a Car)
A GoCar Road Trip to Ireland's County Wicklow (Pros and Cons vs Hiring a Car)
Learn more about using GoCar for a day trip to County Wicklow, Ireland and the pros and cons of GoCar vs hiring a car. A photo-rich post by travel blogger, Jennifer (aka Dr. J) from Sidewalk Safari.
Sidewalk Safari | Part-time Travel Blog
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