Beach, Bar, Campsite … I died and went to Camper Heaven


Camper Heaven - blue skies living at The Beach Bar in Aughris Head, Sligo. The place has palm trees and Ben Bulben as a backdrop for heaven’s sake. A full menu from midday and fresh crispy pints served al fresco with your food.   During our visit the north-west was positively balmy with blue Californian skies.

In the summer of 2020 we were all chomping at the bit to hit the road post lockdown. After a few false starts, June 29th was signalled as the date the country would open up for internal travel and the dawn of the #staycation.

To get to a beach, to find a bar that was open, or to secure a much sought after space on a campsite were all daunting tasks. Any of the three would be a challenge, to score a hat-trick seemed well-nigh to impossible.

So to wake up in a campsite right next to a glorious beach, beside a pub-restaurant aptly called, The Beach Bar appeared to be a mirage, a miracle in this strangest of summers.

I died and went to Camper Heaven and woke up in Aughris Head in Sligo.

I had heard fables of such a place; rumours, whispers, but could they possibly be true?

And they were. To add to our good fortune, we unwittingly arrived at the Beach Bar Camping just 24-hours before the authorities announced the local #LOKdown for Laois, Offaly and Kildare.

We were to spend the next fortnight on the road in a series of excellent campsites in  Killybegs, Crolly and Downings, but could easily, and were most tempted to, stay put in the idyllic Beach Bar Camping in rural Sligo.

The place has palm trees and Ben Bulben as a backdrop for heaven’s sake, a full menu from midday and fresh crispy pints served al fresco with your food. With flood alerts in the south of the country the north-west was positively balmy with blue Californian skies.

This is Yeats County. Cyclists and horsemen pass by. But this is surfing country, cycling country, hiking country. This is a great countryside.

The last time I was in these parts Chuck Berry headlined the festival in neighbouring Ballisodare (1981). Bizarrely, on that occasion I had to explain to the security staff that Peter Starstedt was indeed a performer and entitled to go backstage. Ok, he was a one hit wonder, but it was a damn good one…

Where do you go to my lovely’ when you are looking for a great spot to camp up and chill out following a four-month lockdown, but the Beach Bar campsite in Sligo.

Sandwiched in between Strandhill and Easkey villages, with Enniscrone just down the road on the Sligo coast, The Beach Bar Campsite is its own hive and hub of activity with the small and sheltered beach, coastal walks and paths, and some ideal cycling options all to hand. (You can hire a wet suit and Stand-Up Paddle Board (SUP) gear for €30 for two hours). Sligo and Ballina are within easy striking distance.

Easkey deserves a special mention.

Within cycling distance of Aughris Head (16km) it has really got its act together, a worthy stop-off in its own right, with an impressive community hub campsite in the middle of the village. You can check it out here:

There are river walks, picnic areas, angling (by permit), surfing, an open water swimming pool on the shoreline, lots of vantage points and popular wild camping spots, places to explore and Pudding Row deli, which saved the day with its excellent fayre on the Sunday we visited, when everywhere else was closed. Up on the headland the village’s public toilets were exemplary and clearly well maintained. Top marks all round to Easkey! But beware of the open water here which can prove perilous for currents and freak waves. Three youths had to be rescued near the pier here in recent months by the vastly experienced and vigilant surfer Zoe Lally.

Back in Aughris, The Beach Bar Camping is a cosy and friendly spot, a family run business. Everyone is busy playing their part, even the charming rescue dogs, Penny, Casey and the friendly Rottweiler Bobby that are knocking about. It’s popular with families, and if you don’t fancy camping they also run the B&B next door.

It’s a simple and basic formula, but a winning one.

A field out front of the pub, which faces the snug beach through a grove of palm trees with Ben Bulben keeping watch across the Bay and the bright lights of Sligo twinkling in the dusk beyond. Days like this it could as easily be California. Staycations we could soak up any day.

There is an over-flow hard-stand area to the rear of the premises, which wouldn’t be my cup of tea, but was also busy.

The cost is €15 per night and a fiver extra if you want electricity (EHU). There are toilet facilities and showers available 24/7 (operated off a metre) which takes €1 and €2 coins. There is also refuse disposal, recycling and a cassette disposal point.

In an update for this summer The Beach Bar is not taking bookings and is operating on a first come, first served basis. They are not accepting tents this season, only campervans and caravans. There is a maximum one week stay limit to 'give everyone a chance of getting a break', says the proprietor Darren.

For honours the site could do with a few more EHU’s and fresh water points, with proper signage for waste disposal and perhaps relocate the cassette disposal from the rear of the building to a more suitable point, also clearly signed, to deter some from using the toilets for this purpose.

There is a good easy-going vibe here. The kids were all happy milling about, day-trippers mingled with the camping residents. To their credit the staff busied themselves to keep the show on the road and maintain Covid alert cleaning and protocols.

With a localised lockdown in force back home it all seemed a little surreal, a mythical place.

A sheltered beach, blue skies, palm trees and just then on Sunday evening when you think it can’t get any better, a cadre of traditional musicians roll up to celebrate one of their birthdays. Their tunes wafted into the evening air by the shore. You couldn’t script it.

Camping at Aughris Head, a Garden of Eden for motorhomes, with its very own pub across the road… Camper Heaven.