10 campsites you’d love to visit after lockdown

 



While there is heavy demand for camping spots again this year there are plenty of places to chose from, so don't panic. Do your homework and some research, make a plan and you'll find the perfect match for you. Here's some great spots to get you started...

So many places, so little time. And that’s a good thing. Read on and I’ll explain…

We got a great reaction and feedback to last week’s blog post on our picks for the top seven campsites in the country.

One thing the response brought home to me was that when it comes to camping, one size does not fit all.

A number of comments mentioned that while they liked and agreed with the choice of campsites, two of them did not accept dogs.

And that’s a good point to keep in mind, particularly if you’re an animal lover and must bring your beloved mutt with you.

Not all sites - regardless facilities, management or location - suit everyone as it all depends on your preferences when it comes to activities, amenities and attractions within the ambit of where you park up.

Me, I’m always on the lookout for a shoreline, the possibility of a surf, somewhere to cycle and explore, whereas others might just like to kick back and relax and relish the thoughts of the 5 o’ clock chime on the nearby church tower so they can head over in good faith to their favourite tavern.

Another aspect worth considering is that while many campsites are smashing in the sunshine and offer a bag of opportunities for selfies and Instagram snaps, what if the weather closes in and you can’t stir out? It’s always worth considering what are your rainy-day options in a locality - especially if you are trying to entertain young kids?

Don’t worry, help is at hand. Here at Vanhalla the plan was to follow up last weekend’s choice of the best campsites we had visited with a selection of places we have yet to head and would love to visit after lockdown.

Campsites have already started to take online bookings for the summer season so it's time to start researching and planning your trip. (Image courtesy Jim McCormick Total Motorhome Ireland)




There is light at the end of the tunnel. Are you ready to hit the road?


I thought we’d select five. But between places we wanted to see, places we had booked and had to cancel last year due to the restrictions, and spots that people we trust had recommended, the list soon ran up.

So many places, so little time. And that’s a good thing, especially when it’s anticipated that there will be heavy demand for camping berths this year. Many campsites have already opened their online booking systems and are chock-a-block.

The point is there is no need to panic, to rush into booking somewhere for the sake of it or worry. There are plenty of places to choose from and lots of capacity. Last year in August we hit the road on a Thursday evening for over two weeks and stayed in four different campsites and had not a reservation in any of them, rocked up on spec and got fixed up.


Achill is glorious and offers a range of camping options.

Our back up plan was to wild camp if necessary between campsites and we did so by choice a couple of nights so as to be near the beach for an early morning surf. It’s not always necessary to have a booking but it’s always good to have a back-up plan.

The other thing that stands out as we drew up our bucket list of places we’d love to visit (for the first time) once this lockdown is over, is the amount of choice we have. We found it hard to draw a line at twenty spots. The truth is there are so many options you wouldn’t get around to them in a month of Sunday’s let alone one summer’s holidays.

There is also plenty of help at hand to assist you suss out a good spot that suits your particular needs. It may not be necessary to have a reservation but it is vital that you do your homework, some research, so that you can plan ahead and then have a plan B.

With an upsurge in interest in camping and enforced overseas travel restrictions there’s no doubt however that there is heavy demand for camp sites, spaces and campervan hire. This was exasperated even further last year when many campsites opted not to open at all or to open with restricted services by not accepting tents but self-contained units only as toilets and shower blocks and kitchen facilities remained closed off. Hopefully, that scenario will improve this summer.

There are also early indications of hefty demand for campervan hire this season leading unfortunately to some price gouging.



At this juncture it seems that the earliest the camping season will open will be after Easter and even into May. Either way, one thing we always try to do is to avoid the bank holidays altogether as very often it just leads to congestion, overcrowding and unsavoury situations anyway.

Likewise, it's best avoid the peak season in August in particular and you give yourself a far better chance of getting a good spot and even some value.

There are lots of options, so do your research. There are plenty of campsite and road trip reviews here on Vanhalla.ie. Another useful resource is the Camping Ireland directory. It’s updated annually and available free from all tourist offices or from www.campingireland.ie  It’s not a comprehensive guide but it is a good place to start and all its listings are quality approved.

Go online to Facebook and find the numerous motorhome, campervan and camping forums and groups. They have a wealth of knowledge and experience to offer and share and are most supportive of newcomers to the scene. There are some great tips and advice to be gleaned from these groups once they are respected. Usually you just have to request to join them and wait for a moderator to verify and approve your application.



Another helpful publication is the ACSI Campsite Guide. Updated annually this authoritative source has been on the go since 1965 and is a comprehensive directory of over three thousand inspected sites across Ireland, Britain, France, Spain and Portugal. It can be ordered online from their website for €12.95.

Two other excellent books which I’d strongly recommend are: Take the Slow Road - Ireland by Martin Dorey (€23.99) is a superb account of inspirational journeys around Ireland by campervan and motor home and I Love the Seaside - The Surf & Travel Guide to Great Britain & Ireland (€38.99) which tweaks the camping experience in favour of those who prefer to hug the coastline and walk on water. Both books provide a great opportunity to conduct some useful research while confined to 5km travel limits these dark evenings.



When it comes to camping, one size does not fit all. Fortunately, there are plenty of options to choose from...

All packed up and ready to go. It's important to prepare properly.

Even though here at Vanhalla we’d go travelling at the drop of a hat and camping at every opportunity there are still so many places we have yet to visit in person.

So here, in no particular order, are some of the best spots we have managed to suss out from reconnaissance while on other trips, from reading up and research, and from recommendations from other seasoned travellers and campers, that we would love to visit after lockdown. Feel free to add in your own suggestions…

Clifden Eco Beach Camping, Galway

This campsite is just so top of our must-do list that I’m ashamed to say that I’ve yet to stay here in person. Have checked it out though and it’s everything you’d want, hope for and dream of in a great campsite. Well managed, amazing shoreline location in the heart of Connemara. While it is extremely well organised the pitches are more ad hoc and informal than the standard style of pitches which gives it that more authentic camping experience all with a strong emphasis on sustainability and a healthy eco-vibe. Stunning views and sunsets are fitted as standard, with an earthy and organic vibe. And it’s just out the road from Clifden, which I’ve also been meaning to visit for its Arts Festival among other things. You also have the Connemara National Park on your doorstep and this is oyster country too, so do make time for an oyster picnic.





Valentia Island Camping, Kerry

An attempt to get back to Valentia Island last October was scuppered by the reintroduction of travel restrictions. We had a booking for Valentia Island Camping and Emma could not have been any more helpful. So looking forward to making it back to Kerry this year where we have had only fantastic memories of Mannix Point in Cahirsiveen, Goosey Island in Sneem, and Anchor Caravan Park in Castlegregory. Valentia Island Camping took advantage of the lockdown to further upgrade and develop their facilities.




Ardmore Seaview Motorhome Park aka Dick’s Field, Waterford

Ardmore Seaview Motorhome Park has achieved a sort of spiritual iconic status among the Irish motorhome community, which is a little difficult to fathom as it’s essentially just a field, in a country that’s made up of so many fields.

Affectionately and better known as Dick’s Field in fact, it must have something going for it, but what has it got that other fields haven’t got?

It is famed for its beach front, cliff walk and proximity to the picturesque and quaint Waterford village of Ardmore.

Last year Dick’s Field was in such demand that the family had to post twice-daily updates on their Facebook page to keep campers informed of the availability of spaces. Mostly it was full.

Dick’s Field is an aire type facility, more than a campsite, with only basic facilities where all vehicles are required to park in a line facing in the same direction, albeit towards the seafront.

Personally, I yet remain to be convinced why everyone seems to have a horn on for Dick’s Field or what all the excitement and fuss is about. I do hope it’s not an anti-climax when Vanhalla eventually makes it there.



Cobh Aire, Cork

I hear only good reports of the aire in Cobh. A credit to the local authority and the local community who appreciate the value of motorhome visitors in their area. This waterfront aire at the mouth of the port from which the Titanic set sail is also a sight to behold when returning on the ferry from the Continent to Cork. The aire facilities are ideal and pay as you go and an ideal opportunity and base in which to explore Cobh and the adjoining hinterland.

There are other similar facilities in places like Bantry and Portumna and they’re so popular and work so well I can’t understand why other local authorities don’t get on board.


Arriving in Cobh by Ferry. The aire along the harbour waterfront here is highly recommended.

Causeway Coast and Glens, Antrim

Back a few years ago before we graduated to our campervan we had a fantastic trip North in our little tent based in Bushmills. Dunluce Castle and Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge were real highlights, although long anticipated visits to the famed Bushmills Distillery and the Giant’s Causeway left me distinctly underwhelmed.

A return trip along this magnificent coastline and countryside is long overdue with plans to incorporate the Titanic Experience in Belfast en route and a hankering for a surf in Portrush.

My trusted and seasoned camping sources recommend a number of options in this vicinity starting with the Benone Tourist Complex, the Causeway Coast Caravan Park in Ballycastle, what I’m assured is ‘a lovely little site right on the coast’ in Cushendall, and a number of options in the Portrush locale including a centrally situated aire. I’m on my way…

Battlebridge, Leitrim

When we were departing Falcarragh last summer the Google Maps suggested our best route home to Laois was via Derry and Dublin but we opted instead for the scenic route through Leitrim and it was a revelation. As we often head north-west I’m always on a good stop over to break the journey and Battlebridge Glamping, Camping & Caravan Park looks like it could hit the spot.

Located along the Shannon and although Carrick-on-Shannon is technically the address, the appealing Leitrim village is just a 15 minute walk away. This site offers a full range of options including indications that it will take small tents without EHU this season prospectively from May 1 and Beirnes of Battlebridge bar and restaurant is on site. How convenient!




Meath Eco-Park, Meath

I had my heart set on this spot last year but like so many plans it came a cropper when travel restrictions were reimposed. Some days you just want to hang out, chill out, get away from it all and go fishing. Yes you heard right.

“We have 18 pitches with electric hook up, it’s an adult-only site, most of our clients are over-50’s, looking for a break or looking for a break from the kids, out in nature, where they can relax and we also offer fishing as an activity,” explains Dave Robinson, who opened Meath Eco Park, one of Ireland’s newest sites near Dunshaughlin, last summer.

As a thoughtful gesture they even leave two fresh eggs from their own hens at the door of your motorhome each morning. Now isn’t that lovely?

If anyone asks, I’m ‘Gone Fishing’!

Tree Grove, Kilkenny

Kilkenny is a fantastic city. There’s always lots to do and see and I have some great friends there, so I don’t need any encouragement to visit.

I’ll always have a bed for the night in Kilkenny but sometimes you just prefer to do your own thing. Previously, I have parked up discretely in a quiet spot within walking distance of the city centre, there are loads of safe options, and lots of festivals and music to explore.

Tree Grove on the Bennettsbridge Road in Kilkenny has just come on my radar and it really sounds like the job to me. It’s set in an old Georgian farm estate with a real country feel to it and yet it’s just a 1.5km stroll in to Kilkenny city itself. Sounds lovely. I’m on my way…

The Singing Pub, Donegal.

As regular readers of Vanhalla will know, I love Donegal. I just can’t get enough of the place. No camping year is complete without a trip to Donegal.

Donegal must have some of the best options for all camping tastes anywhere in the country.

I just love the sound and the look of The Singing Pub in Mevagh out the road from Downings in Donegal offers an aire type arrangement with EHU at the rear of the premises. Stories of the sessions and tales of the food here are legion and the stuff of legend.

It’s a great base to explore the awesome scenery and rugged landscape of this region but beware the roads are narrow and sketchy in parts and in some instances the signage only in Irish in this Gaeltacht area.

Can’t wait to get back to Donegal this summer with Raphoe and Ramelton, The Secret Waterfall, Grianán of Aileach at Burt, Muff and Murder Hole Beach and perhaps a run over to Arranmore and Tory islands on a long list of so many things yet to do.



Dublin

Dublin, yes Dublin. I really miss Dublin.

It might seem a strange one but Dublin is great craic and has so much to offer when it’s firing on all cylinders. And a campervan sleepover is the perfect way to enjoy a night on the town, a concert or cocktails, some art-house cinema in the Lighthouse in Smithfield or The Stella in Rathmines (where you can always treat yourself to breakfast in their American Diner or Elephant & Castle across the road).

Now here’s the dilemma. Dublin requires some astute stealth parking. This is where the Ford Transit Vanhalla conversion comes in to its own. It’s discreet and unobtrusive and fits nicely into a standard parking space. Simple but effective black-out curtains are a crucial component for city stopovers, affording both privacy and a low-key look so as not to attract unwanted attention.

But secret spots are called secret spots for a reason and that’s the way they should stay.


Vanhalla discreetly parked up in Dublin City Centre.

A few years back this French motorhome forum recommended a place suitable for overnight parking in a leafy south county Dublin suburb. Disaster. The following week the neighbourhood woke up to a parking lot of motorhomes and consternation!!

With that salutary lesson in mind it’s suffice to say that a bit of reconnaissance and cop on go a long way. Vanhalla has eyed out a few great overnight spots in the city centre, Dún Laoghaire direction and in around Rathmines.

Keep in mind that parking meters kick in from 7am and it’s best to avoid residential areas. (For more info see: For urban camping it's curtains for me).


And there are lots of other places too. There’s Lettergesh in Galway, Lough Key Forest Park in Roscommon, Sexton’s of Timoleague, Strand Camping, Doonbeg and Norman View in Wexford. The list goes on and on, so do your homework and you’ll find the best spot for you.

Safe travels and have a lovely trip…

SEE ALSO: 25 tips to help make you a Happy Camper