Follow the signs and leave the sat nav at home, that’s the advice to the thousands heading to the national ploughing championships.
A detailed Garda traffic management plan will be activated at dawn ahead of the three-day festival which President Michael D Higgins will officially open at Screggan, Tullamore, Co Offaly, at noon tomorrow .
Ground conditions are reported to be “good to soft”. Today and tomorrow are expected to be mainly dry. The weather forecast for the rest of the week is mixed.
Motorists are being urged to plan in advance, follow the direction signs to the venue and factor in at least double the normal journey time due to the anticipated heavy traffic volumes on the eight main access routes.
They are also being asked to follow the directions of the gardaí who will be on duty at each relevant junction and car park entrance, along with National Ploughing Association stewards.
Garda Chief Supt John Scanlon has appealed to motorists to ease the early rush by travelling perhaps a little later in the morning.
“We would ask that everyone would not try and come for 7am,” he said, pointing out that huge crowds will be attending the event.
Visitors will also have the opportunity to get train transport from around Ireland to Tullamore, where Bus Éireann will operate a shuttle service to and from the site.
Motorists travelling northbound on the M8 from Cork are being particularly advised to exit at Junction 6 (Horse and Jockey) and proceed to Thurles and on to Templemore and Roscrea on the N62.
The event, which attracted a total attendance of 281,000 people last year, is costing about €5m to stage and is estimated to be worth some €40m to the economy.
It will have more than 1,500 trade stands and will see some 355 ploughing competitors chasing national titles in 28 classes.
Taoiseach Enda Kenny, political and farming leaders, and members of the diplomatic corps will also attend during the week.
National Ploughing Association managing director Anna May McHugh said it was great to see the phenomenal interest in the event.
“We are delighted that so many have already committed to the ploughing championships because that is a real seal of approval for the event.
“It is the primary aim of the NPA to make the event better every year for visitors and exhibitors alike and early bookings give us much more design time,” she said.
Ms McHugh said the championships not only provides a national stage for showcasing all things agricultural, but also brings together people from all sectors of Irish society, both rural and urban, to enjoy three days immersed in country living.
NPA chairman PJ Lynam said there will be an array of new exhibitors as well as hundreds of outstanding veteran companies exhibiting their products and services in dynamic ways.
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