There’s nothing like a camping break in Ireland. It’s zipping open your tent on a dewy summer’s morning, the sound of kids of excitedly rumbling through a caravan and the secret envy towards how your enigmatic Dutch neighbours construct their awning. True, we’ve a storied tradition of camping holidays in Ireland but while recent years have seen us hedge our berths towards the Continent, this “season of staycations” is singing a very different camp tune. Camping is back. And when it comes to seeking a budget-friendly and eco-friendly getaway - where social distancing comes as standard - could the Irish camping holiday be sounding like the perfect holiday pitch?
This week, I woke up at Hungry Hill on the Beara Peninsula; one of West Cork’s most scenic campgrounds, located on the foothills of the Caha Mountains. And even considering Sunday night’s gusty windfall, it hand’t deterred my eclectic mix of fellow- campers. There was a group of US semester abroad students on a road-trip West, a Polish family camping for the night, and a large yellow-reg contingent, mostly from Northern Ireland. “Usually at this time of year, we’d be full with Germans, Dutch and French,” explains Owen Johnston, who manages the park along with his wife Barbara.
“But that’s all changed. We’re at two thirds occupancy right now - which is promising - although we have to manage our bookings with campers in tents, so as to not over- pressure the common areas.” According to Con Quill of the Irish Caravan & Camping Council, the summer’s looking bright. “Camping and campervan holidays in Ireland have experienced a massive recent surge in popularity due to the both the outdoors appeal and allowing people to easily isolate,” he tells me. “Many sites reported a very busy first weekend, while still reducing occupancy to ensure the safety of guests and staff. And as these sites are the lifeblood for many regional communities throughout the country - that’s very positive to see.”
Fortunately for we the campers, those regional communities are also host to some of Ireland’s most spectacular scenery. And nothing grounds you to the country more than waking up to that. Sure - there are reservations (the weather, mar shampla), but the camping experience has advanced in recent years and there’s nothing you can’t find in the middle aisle of Aldi that won’t kit you out for a cozy night of slumber. Perhaps it’s time to stop seeing the Irish camping trip as a compromise - and rather as one of the best holidays on the market. Just don’t forget to pack your sense of adventure. And the fly- sheet.
Wild camping is largely illegal in Ireland and landowners permission is required if you fancy pitching up on more remote turf. There is a glorious exception, however. In Wicklow Mountains National Park, camping is allowed beyond Glendalough valley. It’s a popular option for you seasoned campers (not shy of hiking) - with the obvious proviso that “the wild camping code” must be observed. More details on that (incl. how to build your own latrine) are on their website wicklowmountainsnationalpark.ie.
Offering an ideal spot to explore the Beara Peninsula, Hungry Hill Lodge and Campsite cost myself and my dog just €12.50 for one night (so don't say the value ain't there!). Owners Owen and Barbara also camp on-site for the season, so you can expect facilities to be utterly spotless. Activities in the area include stunning hiking, visiting the Beara Gin Distillery or kayaking with seas in the bay. The park also have an onsite self-catering lodge which they're hoping to open later in the season. From €12.50pp,
There’s stiff competition in the hospitality sector on the the Ring of Kerry - but that’s what keeps standards so high. I’ve a soft spot for Fossa Caravan & Camping Park for its tranquil yet handy location, just outside Killarney. While in the area, go horse-riding at Killarney Riding Stables, pay a visit to Kate Kearney’s Cottage, or even enjoy a cheeky sundowner at The Europe across the road. Economy mobiles from €400 per week, fossacampingkillarney.com
Their seriously swish camping experiences come thanks to their Indian-made safari tents while their premium Hideaway Tent, stocked with antique furnishings, is secluded in the woods with stunning veranda views and also comes with a mini-bar and breakfast to your door. From €185 per night, dromquinnamanor.com For more details on Fáilte Ireland approved camp grounds check out Irish escapes,