Hidden Valley Holiday Park a real haven in the heart of Wicklow.
A funny thing happened to me on the way to Kerry last Friday – I ended up in Wicklow.
Work commitments meant a later than planned start and by the time we were on the road the long anticipated visit to Mannix Point in Cahirciveen had to be put on hold, the four hour run just too much on such a short corner.
But if you are going to visit the Garden of Ireland what better time to do it than when spring finally decides to make an appearance with a typical Irish heatwave, two-days, short and sweet, like the asses gallop.
I think the last time I paid any meaningful heed to Wicklow for a visit was a school tour and the loss has been all mine.
There are lots of camp sites to choose from in Wicklow and we opted for Hidden Valley Holiday Park, near the village of Rathdrum, unusually for me foregoing my normal habit of heading for the coast. But the change was as good as a rest and with 5-year-old granddaughter and chatterbox, Kayla in tow, a family friendly site was crucial.
An ambling cross-country route was an ideal way to unwind en route for the mysteriously inviting Hidden Valley with the first flush of fluorescent yellow furze the green light to the birds and the bees to get busy. The smell of freshly cut grass filled the air as lambs buck leaped in the fields beyond the Curragh and Donnelly’s Hollow as they played starring roles in the rolling hills around the enticing village of Hollywood leading you on to the splendour of the Wicklow Gap as cabin fever gives way to the first official trip of the delayed new season. Easter is a moveable feast but someone forgot to tell the weather.
The genuine welcome to Wicklow by the friendly team at Hidden Valley quickly banishes any lingering winter blues. (A special shout out to Podge at reception for having the patience of Job). The campsite is well laid out and with good services, family and pet friendly – but strictly no dogs allowed in the children’s playground and rightly so.
The playground at Hidden Valley is excellent for young children
The setting is just super, with the park nestled down inside the surrounding slopes and dissected by the babbling Avonmore River whose banks are reserved on one side for tents in a special camping area with otherwise a good mix of caravans, campervans and pod cabins across the river.
There is a dedicated camping area for tents at Hidden Valley
Some of the advertised facilities had yet to come on line due to the sluggish start to the season I suppose, but overall there was plenty to do including free fishing on site – although I didn’t spot a trout of any size all weekend, so I wouldn’t hold my breath on that front. The park did promote the availability of fast food which could be delivered from the two local takeaways, but this seems to defeat the purpose of the exercise to my mind and there were plenty of BBQs stoked up and taking advantage of the fine spell. Afterwards the view from the bank of sinks in the wash-up area made doing the dishes much less of a chore.
The view from the kitchen sink at Hidden Valley takes the hardship out of the wash-up
Kayaking (and paddle boats) in an enclosed and safe internal shallow lake were good fun and value at €6 paid for by tokens; showers at €1 for 6 minutes. There is free Wi-Fi, although I met at least one forlorn Dad desperate to get his boys off the computers and PlayStation and Hidden Valley seemed too tame for their teenage liking – but then again where isn’t?
The village of Rathdrum is only a ten minute stroll up the hill from the holiday park and like so many small Irish towns it has seen better days and is yet to find its way in the new world of commuters and computers. I liked it though, it had its charm. Comerford’s general store and footwear was not only quaint but had lots of goods and bargains (it reminded me of boyhood trips with my Granny to Burke’s haberdashery on Main St., Portlaoise); while Jacob’s Well restaurant and bar was busy and you could easily see why – not just that there was a crowd in for the Leinster rugby match, which created a good buzz and along with the sunshine put everyone in extra good form.
Apart from its own appeal, Hidden Valley Holiday Park is a good base and within easy striking distance of some of Wicklow’s best scenery and attractions. Glendalough is just up the road and the village of Avoca (the setting for the Ballykissangel TV series) is handy in the other direction; Brittas Bay is convenient at 17km away, while just a stone’s throw down the road is the meeting of the waters, forever enshrined in the Thomas Moore poem of the same name:
‘There is not in the wide world a valley so sweet
As that vale in whose bosom the bright waters meet’.
Hidden Valley Holiday Park cost €62 (incl. electricity) for our campervan with two adults and one child, for two nights.
John Whelan is a vastly experienced midlands based journalist and editor who has contributed extensively to the country's leading national and regional titles, as well as broadcast outlets. He runs the media services company, Communicate Ireland www.communicateireland.ie.
John is a keen camping and campervan enthusiast with an interest in music, culture, heritage and outdoor pursuits. He has written for the Sunday Times, Sunday Independent and the Woman's Way on these topics.
He is also an author, and his latest book, The Last Beekeeper, reflects his love of nature, the landscape and our shared responsibility to protect the environment. The Last Beekeeper is available to preview and purchase at www.thelastbeekeeper.ie.