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My Favourite Drive: Leah Cullen on the rewarding road to Dublin's Strawberry Beds

‘As an instructor, it’s nice to show my students that driving doesn’t always have to be stressful.’

Winding bends on Knockmaroon Hill.
Winding bends on Knockmaroon Hill.
Image: Flickr/Brian Flanagan

Journeys, even everyday ones, can mean a lot. Leah Cullen of Horizon Driving is an instructor with 15 years’ experience. As someone with a passion for motoring, Leah told TheJournal.ie about the drive that means the most to her.

First up, describe the drive.

For me, it’s the drive from Dublin’s west city through Chapelizod and up to Strawberry Beds. I’ve been a driving instructor for 15 years, and this is a route I’ve taken countless times with my students.

There are a few reasons it works as part of a lesson: it’s a handy one to get to from the city, there’s the opportunity to work up a bit of speed on the long stretch down Chapelizod Rd, and there’s a little bit of a challenge in there too, as the road narrows into Chapelizod and up Knockmaroon Hill.

To get there, we usually go over the bridge at Heuston, and go along the left side of the Phoenix Park. By the time we reach Chapelizod, the student has worked up a bit of confidence, but going up Knockmaroon Hill can be stressful. I can always see them focusing hard there!

Is there a view or moment that sums it up?

Once you turn left along the Liffey after Chapelizod and onto Lower Rd, it starts to feel like you’re out in the country. There are overhanging trees, the road starts winding, and you can see the river on your left.

Along that stretch, you’re on the same level as the river, rather than looking down at it, which makes for a really pleasant view.

sony-dsc-248 A stop in the War Memorial Gardens on the way home. Source: Flickr/Infomatique

What makes it special?

Learning to drive is tough, and sometimes I can see the strain in students. It’s nice to show them that driving can be rewarding, that it’s not just something they’re learning to do because they need to for work or because someone’s telling them they have to. It’s something they can do for pleasure too.

If a student has been working hard and making progress, I’ll take them on a route like this one as a little bit of a treat. Outside of lessons, it’s a drive I sometimes do myself with the dogs, en route one of the parks near Lucan, or stopping in at the War Memorial Park on the way back. I last did the route three or four weeks ago, but it’s on my agenda to head there again soon.

More My Favourite Drive: Paddy McGrath carves up LA’s canyons in a Porsche 911

More My Favourite Drive: Ray Furlong travels to an ancient lighthouse to scuba dive

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