Camping’s time has come and the time has come for camping


One thing we can say with some certainty is that of all the holiday options, camping is the one best cut out for social distancing. It is safe and healthy in the great outdoors, where you can bump into friends while still keeping your distance. 

June 29th!!!
Who in their right mind, wildest dreams or worst nightmares could have imagined that the 2020 camping season would not get underway until June 29th?
Normally we’re on the road by St Patrick’s Day, Easter at the latest, the May or June holiday weekends and the mid-summer solstice usually see the camping season in full swing.
But not this year.
And yet camping enthusiasts can afford to be grateful for small mercies and have some reasons to be cheerful.
One thing we can say with some certainty is that of all the holiday options camping is the one best cut out for social distancing and is safe and healthy in the great outdoors, where you can bump into friends while still keeping your distance. The NASA space programme slogan ‘I need my space’ comes naturally to down-to-earth campers.


Initially, the proposed timelines for the restriction on countrywide movement and the prospective re-opening of facilities like campsites was July 20th (and August 10th for businesses like pubs).
So here we are on June 29th ready to hit the road and salvage the summer. Even though most festivals and music events remain cancelled there is still plenty to look forward to in the months ahead.
Recent years have shown that the mild weather and campsites remaining open can run right into late October.
However, all the indications are that the first few weeks from the lifting of the lockdown restrictions are going to be fairly hectic and unpredictable.

Ardmore Seaview Motorhome Park, affectionately and better known as Dick's Field (above) and Achill Seal Caves Campsite are re-opening but with restrictions and reduced capacity in place.


There are a few factors feeding in to this and not just the pent up cabin fever.
Thousands of regular campers, caravan owners and seasoned motorhome enthusiasts are unable to make their traditional excursions abroad to the popular destinations like France and Spain due to the rolling cancellations of ferry services.
This in turn has led to increased demand on home shores for stay-cations and the well located Irish campsites. Normally a surge in demand would be welcome all round but under the present circumstances it is leading to campsites being booked out for the peak season of July/August and led to certain other restrictions.

Camping enthusiasts are chomping at the bit to get back on the road for the long delayed 2020 season leading to huge pressure and demand for spaces on campsites, particularly as overseas travel is greatly curtailed due to Covid-19 restrictions. It is also driving up the cost of second hand caravans and campervans. 

While some of the ferry companies have signalled that they are intending to resume a reduced leisure passenger service from June 29th, all this remains fairly fickle with cancellations still occurring. Doubts over return voyage availability and the uncertainty surrounding quarantine requirements when returning to Ireland or the UK. At the time of writing there is an expectation that such 14 day quarantine restrictions may be eased from July 9th.
Meanwhile campers who booked and paid for ferries to the continent in good faith now find themselves stranded and scrambling for an alternative stay-cation option. Ferry fares for couples and families well in excess of €1,000 are now in a limbo with the ferry companies initially offering credit note vouchers valid for up to two years, while those seeking a full refund are being frustrated and stalled as companies decline calls or don’t reply to emails. Standard email replies are stating it can take 45 days to secure a refund in preference to a voucher.
Nevertheless it should be helpful when the hundreds of campsites across Northern Ireland and the UK reo-open and this is currently being mooted on a phased basis across the four jurisdictions from July 4th. At present however, there is no consistency on the re-opening dates or the related restrictions across the UK.
There are other notable changes and issues emerging post Covid lockdown on the campsite front also. The vast majority of campsites who have notified that they are re-opening this week are doing so under new restrictions. They are signally well in advance that they will not be taking any arrivals on spec, so advance bookings are essential.

While respecting other people's personal space is standard on campsites, most facilities are reducing capacity and require advance bookings this season.


While this is understandable under the circumstances it does greatly reduce the options and strips away the spontaneity of a trip.
Campsites are also setting out that due to HSE/Tourism Ireland guidelines they will be operational at reduced capacity; many are declining tents entirely as they do not intend to open shared facilities such as shower and toilet blocks or campers’ kitchens. Others are indicating that they are looking for a minimum booking of up to 7-days.
Here is a list of the campsites which have indicated their opening dates from the Camping Ireland site: https://www.camping-ireland.ie/blog/caravan-camping-park-re-opening-dates-2020
With sailings to the continent precarious and bookings for campsites choc-a-bloc it is definitely a good time to explore going off-grid and the wild camping options, for those who have the capacity and self-contained facilities to do so.
Wild camping is great in these circumstances and for those who don’t mind roughing it a bit, but it’s not without its pitfalls. Evidence from the UK is that overnight camping is being discouraged and in some case legal action and fines are being issued.




Off grid wild camping is not risk free and many local authorities are clamping down.



Elsewhere it’s not much of a wild camp if too many turn up at the same time which can often rile the locals and the authorities. In some towns where informal overnight parking had been tolerated this is now being clamped down and local bye-laws and restrictions being enforced. While not always the case campers in certain instances brought this attention on themselves through poor behaviour around waste disposal and littering.
On the other hand serviced overnight Aire in places like Cobh continue to work well, with a new such facility scheduled to open shortly in Kilmacthomas off the Waterford Greenway another welcome addition for those into a bit of cycling and the appeal of a road trip style holiday.
These next few weeks will test the capacity of the sector and it should be fine once things settle down despite the restrictions.
Have facemask will travel. Noeleen Leahy from the Irish Motorhome Group has made these funky facemasks in preparation for hitting the road next week.(If you are interested you can contact Noeleen directly on her Facebook page @CraftyNoeleen).

Wild camping is great, so long as everyone else doesn't rock up and decide to park there as well...


But one other note of caution. There is mounting evidence that there is growing demand out there for second-hand caravans and motorhomes as people adjust to the international flight and travel restrictions. This upsurge in demand has led to a premium being paid for vehicles as the supply and demand equation is pushing up prices. So it’s not really the best time to splash out on your dream campervan if you can hold off. Many of these vehicles will come back on to the market in the autumn at much better value as would be campers run out of road, enthusiasm and a place to park them up after their short-loved romance in an Irish summer.
One thing we can say with some certainty is that of all the holiday options camping is the one best cut out for social distancing and is safe and healthy in the great outdoors, where you can bump into friends while still keeping your distance. The NASA space programme slogan ‘I need my space’ comes naturally to down-to-earth campers.

Space comes naturally to down-to-earth campers.


Camping’s time has come and the time has finally come for camping. Vanhalla will be hitting the road too and we’ll keep you updated on all the developments on the camping scene.
Enjoy and stay safe and for campsite reviews and road trip options check out the other posts on our Vanhalla - Camper Heaven Blog www.vanhalla.ie