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The best wee campsite in Donegal

The best wee campsite in Donegal

We could have easily stayed put at Sleepy Hollows and much of that is down to the effort, enthusiasm and positive energy of the proprietors

I want to quash the notion that everyone in Donegal has a beach in their back garden. But I can’t.

It seems that on every bend of the road, and Donegal roads have lots of bends, there is some sort of shoreline, foreshore, headland, point, strand, seashore, seaside, cove, tráor beach.

No surprise then that Donegalhas the longest coastline in the country of over 1,100 km, constituting close to a massive one fifth of the entire Wild Atlantic Way. All that’s before you start throwing in the significant offshore islands, the likes of Tory and Arranmorefor good measure.

When you hit Bundoranin the south you still have a good two hours drive ahead of you before you would make it to the further reaches of the north of the county, and that’s providing you stick to the main roads and don’t stray off the beaten path and take the scenic route.

You have your motorhome and you think you are going to do the dog and divil in two weeks and cover the entire ground. Big mistake. That’s not going to happen.

In this regard Donegal is a bit like California. The amount of people I know who hired an RV, hit the Pacific Coast Highway for a fortnight with great plans to surf and see all the sites and they end up behind the wheel driving solid for two weeks with very little daytime downtime to show from their dream holiday.

The secret is to accept that you are not going to take it all in, or anything like it, at the first attempt or in one go. Donegal is best enjoyed at a slow pace, a little at a time with lots to bring you back, to look forward to and enjoy when you revisit.

It’s vital therefore to have a good base, a cosy spot that you can relax and repair, and from where to head off for your adventures and activities. Donegal is such a sprawling and dispersed county, largely covered by country roads across its rural landscape and peninsulas. I suggest it is best to divide up your itinerary and strategically base yourself accordingly. We are just back from a 16 day stint based across four different campsites in the county, all with their own unique and distinct offering, which will be covered in a series of blogs over the coming week.

Even though I’ve been going to Donegal for quite a while there are still lots of locations on my wish list. Having a good base is vital, especially if you plan to use it as your hub for daily excursions on foot, by bike or in your vehicle.

One such base has got to be Sleepy Hollows. It’s a great spot.

Sleepy Hollow montage
Donegal is blessed with an abundance of fantastic camping and campsite options and for my money, Sleepy Hollows is right up there as the best wee campsite in Donegal.
I can’t claim credit for discovering Sleepy Hollow, as my prompt came from another motorhome enthusiast (Maree Donovan) who posted a tempting review on the online forums. So I had to check it out for myself.

Sleepy Hollows was every bit as impressive as had been suggested. A snug site, nestling in woodland with a river running through it. The set-up is old school with a real camping feel, the real deal, an authentic campsite atmosphere with tents and eco-friendly campfires. The entire footprint of the facility has a strong environmental bent using only green bio toilet fluid and a range of camping options available from under canvas, to caravan and campervan hardstands and a cosy chalet for rent.

Sleepy Walk
Sleepy Motorhomes
Sleepy River

It’s a magical spot. The only sound is that of silence and while it’s unusual for a Donegal camping site not to be at the seaside, the coastline is never far away (nearest spot 3 km) and just a few minutes stroll down the road is the famed Leo’s Tavern, the hallowed musical home place of Clannadand Enya, (which also serves up a full food menu and I can personally vouch for their superb seafood chowder!) in the village of Crolly, (Croithshlí as Gaeilge).

Sleepy loo
Sleepy Tents
Sleepy Levis
Sleepy Rules

We could have easily stayed put at Sleepy Hollow and much of that is down to the effort, enthusiasm and positive energy of the proprietors, Nicola and Ian. They seemed to be constantly on hand, working so hard to keep the place in ship shape, the toilets and showers spotless in their rustic setting. The campers’ kitchen too was fully fitted out and operational and Sleepy Hollow sets an example as to what can be achieved in terms of services and facilities with some elbow grease, enterprise and a bit of co-operation and common sense. So hats off to them on that front also.

For the world of me I can’t understand how shutting down showers and toilets is supposed to be in the best interests of public health and hygiene? In some ways I think it’s a bit of a cop out on the part of some sites and I don’t see any corresponding reduction in their charges accordingly.

Important to note, though, that while Sleepy Hollows is pet friendly (and there were lots of well-behaved mutts about), it is an adult only site, so no children.

Sleepy guests
Sleepy view
Sleeping dog walker
If there is a drawback to Sleepy Hollows, well, it has to be the midges. While this bugs some more than others, the site is prone to them and they would eat you alive. The ever so helpful and obliging Ian is upfront about this on your arrival and has a solution to hand in the form of the fairly effective Smidge spray for a tenner. (I have my suspicions that he has the franchise and is the North West distributor for the stuff!!). There was also talk of otters and deer showing up in the still of the dusk but it was only the midges who made an appearance.

The Sleepy Hollows folk also have a generous supply of citronella incense to hand and are equally generous with the fresh ingredients from their abundant herb patch for those with a culinary flare and fancy adding rosemary to the roasties just like your granny did for some home cooking.

Sleepy Herbs
Lots of herbs for the campers who fancy themselves as chefs.
The charge per night for a motorhome hard stand with generous green space adjacent is €25 including electricity (EHU) and 24/7 hot showers. For the other rates and options you’ll find them on and I do like the way they also give a concession for single occupancy.

Like I said, the best wee campsite in Donegal. Furthermore it opens all year round.

Sleepy directions

Sleepy Hollow is an ideal staging post for numerous activities and trips. Dungloe is just down the road and nearby also is Burtonportand the ferry for Arranmore. A trip up to the Fanad Head Lighthouse is highly recommended for the scenery alone.

Fanad montage
Also within half an hour are the villages of Gortahurk and Falcarragh and just off the road in Falcarragh is the stunning 5km Drumnatinny Beach and Ballyness Way walking trail.
The beach is spectacular, pristine and car free with landmark bearings left and right for Tory Island and Horn Head.

It is served by a small car park, which fills up quickly from early morning, is popular with the highly regarded Dunfanaghy based Narosa Surf School, while the Sleepy Hollows people give a big shout out to their friends at Selkie Sailing (0862223328), who offer a range of activities from surfing, kayaking and sailing. On certain days the car park is served by the popular Mountain Melts who do a brisk business for their coffees, savouries and cakes.

Falcarragh montage
For those with an interest in angling there is fishing at both the River Crolly and the Ray River at Falcarragh, but they are both controlled fisheries and a permit is required.
Another campsite option convenient to this general locality is Concreggan Mill near Dunfanaghy (which we reviewed previously) is under new ownership and I’m hearing only good reports. You can check out our blog here:
Sleepy Hollows is the first of a series of blogs from Vanhalla’s recent excursion to Donegal with others to follow in the coming days from Rossnowlagh, Killybegs and Downings. So if you are interested in this part of the world you can keep an eye out for those.

Any questions, queries or feedback don’t hesitate to shoot us off a message. Safe camping…

Sleepy at Night
Sleepy sign

About The Author

John Whelan

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 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 Safe travels...

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