Family Camping in IrelandAs well as being a firm believer in the benefits of outdoor activities, I’ve always been a dedicated camper. From my early years in the family trailer tent through years of camping with the Irish Girl Guides and on to the more recent luxury of our two bedroom family tent, I love the fun, the freedom and the adventure. I am aware that for some people, camping conjures up ideas of sitting in a small tent watching the rain pour down outside and maybe inside. For others, camping in Ireland is something that belongs to the world of music festivals, with mud filled fields and drunken neighbours. You may think we don’t get the right weather in Ireland for camping. For me, mud, wind and rain are part of it, but so are star-filled nights, supper by the sea, sunrises, dawn choruses, banana stealing badgers and that wonderful feeling of being cocooned safe and warm and dry inside while still being close enough to the great outdoors to hear the elements raging outside. Still haven’t convinced you to consider it? Then read on too see if I can tempt you to try camping with your family. You might even find out more about that badger. I know you’re curious!

1. Kids love it

Kids love being outdoors. Even those who don’t often get outdoors very often respond immediately to the freedom of being able to explore the natural world and outdoor activities will always be very popular with children. Give a child a pair of wellies and they will immediately stand in the nearest puddle and they are generally not too worried about the weather. Add in the thrill of eating breakfast, lunch and dinner outside and the added adventure of air beds, sleeping bags and torches and they are in heaven. It’s also a great opportunity to meet other kids and make new friends.Campsite Garden

We spent a week last summer at Mannix Point in Caherciveen. The campsite was right on the sea shore and my son loved doing a tour of the site every evening, walking along the sea shore and finding new gaps in the hedges and new routes to the toilets. On our last evening, we sat on the rocky shore building a fairy village of little stone huts inspired by our visit to the Skellig Experience on Valentia Island and then finished up with hot chocolate for supper while watching the sun go down over the sea. That’s an experience you’ll never get in a hotel.

Supper on the seashore

2. You carry your accommodation with you

Although campsites vary and there is always the risk of noisy neighbours, you know what you’re getting with your tent. I’ve tried all sorts from the green canvas 8 man Icelandic tents of my early guiding days, through lightweight ridge tents, domes and geodesic tunnels.  In the early days, we all came to camp with our bedding rolls: a sleeping bag and blanket wrapped in a groundsheet.  In those days, no true camper would bring an airbed to camp so foam mats were hailed as a great invention and a thermarest was the height of luxury and a coveted possession.  I spent many a weekend hiking in the mountains, carrying tent, food and cooking gear in a rucksack on my back when the challenge was to keep everything as light as possible.

Family Tent

These days, I’m into luxury camping, bordering on glamping. Our tent is over 2m high inside so you can stand upright, and has two bedrooms and a spacious living area.   We have a thick double airbed that’s as comfortable as our bed at home and we even bring the duvet. It’s also very weather tight as we discovered on our first camping trip.  If you put in a bit of research beforehand and if possible try out someone else’s tent before you purchase so you know what you’re looking for, there’s no reason why you can’t camp in comfort.  The main bonus is if you invest in a good tent at the start, you have your accommodation sorted for several years to come. Also, because campsite fees are relatively low you can have a very good holiday on a budget.

Tent Bedroom

3. The weather is better

Yes I mean it.  The one thing you realise when you try camping in Ireland is that our country is not as wet as we think it is.  Of course, the weather in Ireland can be unpredictable, but showery days with dry periods in between are actually much more common that completely wet days. When you sit inside looking out at the rain, it’s easy to write off a whole day as a wet day, but when there’s only a thin layer separating you from the outside world, you’ll know straight away when it stops and you’ll realise that there are very few days when it rains all day. Of course, the rain always sounds heavier from inside a tent, but since you have to go outside to walk to the toilet block anyway, you’ll quickly realise it’s not as bad as it seems and get out and do something.

Out in the rain

We bought our tent 3 years ago when our son was only 2 and took it to Corofin in August.  A few days into the holiday, amid severe weather warnings from Met Eireann, we were considering whether to bail out altogether but we compromised on packing all of our spare clothes into the car so we could be ready to leave at a few minutes notice if necessary.  As it turned out, the wind wasn’t too bad at all and we had only one wet day. Otherwise the days were beautiful and it rained pretty much all night every night.  Walking on the floor of the tent was like walking on a water bed but we were perfectly dry inside. And of course, once you’re secure and know your tent won’t let you down, nothing beats the feeling of lying in bed listening to the rain and the wind outside. Of course, the feeling quickly evaporates once you realise that you need to go to the toilet, but hopefully that won’t happen that often.

Story time in the tent

4. The days are longer

When you’re staying indoors on holiday, it can be easy to take your time getting out in the morning and once you’re back in for dinner in the evening, you may not go out again. In contrast, when the morning sun shines into your tent, it can get quite stuffy inside, so you’re more likely to get up and about early.  Of course when your first visit to the bathroom involves putting on your shoes (and possibly rain gear) and taking a walk to the toilet block, you’re out early anyway. I actually love that feeling of being outside early in the morning when very few people are up and about, when the air feels fresher and cleaner and everything is so still and quiet that you become really aware of the sound of your feet on the gravel path. Similarly that last trip down the path late at night before crawling into bed can be a lovely experience. Last year, I used to love my solitary rambles down the path late at night, trying to keep my balance and not topple over while gazing upwards at the beauty of the starry sky above me and listening to the soft night-time calls of some unidentified sea birds. Caherciveen is in the middle of the Kerry International Dark Sky Reserve, which makes Mannix Point a perfect spot for stargazing.

Night time in the campsite

5. Nature is closer

If you love the outdoors and nature, there’s nowhere better to be than in a tent.  You can wake up to the sound of the birds singing early in the morning and fall asleep to the sound of gentle rain on the tent.  If the aforementioned noisy neighbours happen to be an issue, slightly heavier rain will effectively cover all sounds. The toilet block early in the morning can be a great spot for discovering a variety of moth species that are attracted by the lights at night.  I’ve also discovered that earwigs for some reason are attracted to the velcro fastenings on our tent (the outside of the tent, not the inside).  On the other hand, if you’re squeamish about encountering creepy crawlies, there’s no real need to worry.  The built in ground sheets of most family tents mean that you’re no more likely to have unwanted tiny visitors than you are in your own home.

Poplar Hawk Moth

Some campsites are ideally situated for getting out walking or cycling for an up close encounter with the natural world. In August 2013, we spent a few days in Ballinacourty House Caravan and Camping Park in the beautiful Glen of Aherlow in County Tipperary. The campsite led directly on to a number of looped walking trails where you could get straight out into the woods and onto the mountain slopes. An English family with 3 young boys who were camping near us had brought their bikes and spent several days safely cycling around all the nearby beauty spots.

Glen of Aherlow Camping

Sometimes, too you will have a close encounter with larger wildlife. Before we were married, I introduced my husband to camping for the first time. He had spent his childhood holidays in a caravan, but never slept under canvas, so we took a weekend trip to Lough Key, Co. Roscommon in early September in a small two man tent. Returning from the common room after dark, we were surprised to hear a loud rustling coming from the tent. As we got closer, the noise stopped and on reaching the tent, we discovered the cool bag we had left in the porch ripped open at the bottom. We had noticed a badger set in the nearby woods earlier in the day and the next morning in the middle of a small pathway in the trees, we discovered one of our bananas.  Our badger friend had evidently carried it some way from the tent before deciding that he didn’t actually like bananas.

Sunset in the campsite

So maybe I haven’t quite convinced you yet to go buy a tent and go camping in Ireland but hopefully you’ll understand some of the attractions of family camping and have been inspired to at least consider it. Or maybe you’re a seasoned camper already.  Either way, I’d love to hear your thoughts, stories and questions.

 

This post was part of a blog storm by the KLCK Bloggers Network where complete novices, occasional bloggers and the seasoned pros got together to write something on the theme of ‘Ireland’. If you’d like to read some of the others, you can check them out here.  I’ll add more links as the blogs are published.

Lorna was harnessing the power of the blarney stone for her post on How To Give Your Blog the Gift of Eloquence

Louise ponders the question “What Will Craft Be Like in 100 years?” in her first ever blog post

Amanda gives advice on “7 Ways to Celebrate St Patrick’s Day Online”

Danette looks over her time in Ireland in “35.5 years to Magic – My 35th St. Patrick’s Day in Ireland”

Laura describes her own quest for better health in “2 Best Ways to Start Your Healthy Paddy’s Day”

Liga describes her own experience of a “Perfect Destination for a Creative Weekend in Ireland”

Cliona describes a day out in Ireland in “Picnic at Russborough House