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On top of the world in Downings

On top of the world in Downings

Time flies when you’re having fun on top of the world in Downings at Sheephaven Bay along the Rosguill Peninsula in Donegal.

Sometimes when it comes to a camping trip you need a bit of luck.

With the weather, with your route, the location where you park up, your neighbours and the spots and people you happen upon by chance.

Last August on the way back from an excursion to Fanad Lighthouse we had one of those strokes of luck, when totally on spec we decided to wheel-off the road and take a look around the Donegal village of Downings.

The visit to Fanad Lighthouse was glorious and the young people working there were so pleasant and helpful it made the experience all the better. Interesting place, well worth a visit.

We were heading back to Sleepy Hollows campsite when we took the opportunity to swing off the road and take a look around Downings. Ambling about on a grey enough day, the sunshine of the previous week was giving way to a misty drizzle, the portent of a forecast storm from the South.

Our stay at Sleepy Hollows was coming to an end, if only because they were completely booked out due to long standing prior reservations. We had just rolled up there on spec for a couple of days and they kindly fitted us in. We were top of their list if a cancellation came, and had our fingers crossed for that.

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On the stroll around Downings we chanced upon Casey’s Caravan Park and ventured to see if they had any space. Bingo! They had one. We seized the opportunity and booked in for the next day. So glad we did.

Casey’s is a long established caravan park. An old school, slick operation, they know their stuff. It’s family friendly and pets are welcome. To their credit they were one of the sites that kept their shared services – toilets, showers, kitchen and pot-wash – open last season.

Casey’s campsite, pretty much like the entire village of Downings itself, is built around Sheephaven Bay and snuggles in a sheltered horseshoe beach with the campsite directly on the water’s edge along the magnificent Rosguill Peninsula. To one side is the small fishing harbour, to the other are the local GAA pitches and golf courses. As I am one of those who falls into the school of thought that golf is a great way to spoil a good walk I’m not the one to be asking, but I’m assured by those in the know, that there are two splendid championship links at the Rosapenna Golf Resort. Each to their own.

More on my radar are the possibilities of foraging and rock-pooling on low tide and this is a lovely spot for windsurfing, sailing, horse riding or just a leisurely idle stroll on the beach with Muckish Mountain away in the distance to keep you company.

Even on a dreary grey day the picturesque beach wants to be turquoise and I’m guessing that on a sunny summer Sunday, Casey’s and the beach double the population of this charming seaside village.

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I take a gander around on the pretext that I’m checking out the harbour, but I see steps to higher ground and possibilities.

Sure enough I hit the jackpot as the Harbour Bar is open for outdoor service once you order food. The bar has teamed up with its neighbours Fisk, a funky restaurant whose cheery staff ensure that I land the catch of the day – crispy pints served with scrumptious sea food!

The persistent drizzle escalates to a more annoying squall of a shower. Sensing my discomfort the staff usher me to some space that has opened up in their ‘beer garden’ out the back. I’ve arrived. I’m on holidays, what more could you ask for? Another pint of Heineken please and a look at that menu…

We are all here, where The Harbour Bar meets Fisk, where two worlds combine, cooperate, and copulate in Camper Heaven, overlooking the harbour, the campsite and the weather.

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For a moment all our paths cross, as we pretend to mind our own business and keep our distance to justify another early afternoon refreshment off the back of that delicious menu, and it will be 5 o’clock soon enough anyway.

There are woolly jumpers, woolly accents, sea-faring hats, tattoos, salty dogs sniffing about for any morsel that might fall their way; young ones leveraging pocket money and other ridiculous promises if they agree to stay put and stay quiet for another little while, until this latest shower blows over. There are cyclists nursing pints sheltering in their lycra; three generations playing out a well-worn summer ritual, talk of taking the boat out of the water if Storm Ellen makes its way up the coast and the chances it might bring a surfing swell down in Falcarragh on its tail.

I was in another world, happy out, in the middle of this melting pot of accents from at home and abroad and those home from abroad; for a moment sharing the delights of toasted sourdough prawn sandwiches in our shorts and sandals, one clan, at least for today. Then at 8pm it all came to an abrupt end. The food service stopped, just as I was eyeing up the seafood spring rolls. Perhaps just as well. Time flies when you’re having fun on top of the world in Downings.

Casey’s costs €30 per night for our campervan and two adults, including electricity. In light of the discussions on forums concerning some campsites jacking up their prices this year, Casey’s have held their tariffs at the same for this season. However, I do note from the Camping Ireland 2021 Guide that they have added a €5 for electric hook-up. There is also a €2 charge for a token operated showers, which are available from reception. There are designated wheelchair accessible pitches and the services on site are all wheelchair friendly. The charge for the Wi-Fi is €3 for 24 hours per device or €10 for the week.

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The Rosguill Peninsula is a fantastic area to explore with some amazing and isolated scenery to experience. Beware that many of the roads are narrow and steep, so don’t always go with the route prompted by the Sat Nav, especially if you have a larger motorhome or towing a caravan. As this is a Gaeltacht area much of the signage is in Irish so it helps if you brush up on your cúpla focail. Downings is signed Na Dúnaibh and Dungloe for instance is An Clochán Liath.

Other options to base yourself in this locality include the legendary Singing Pub, Rosguill Holiday Park and Quiet Moment Camping, all which you can check out or contact online.

Oh and did I tell you about the fabulous savoury crepes we had from The Crépe House for our breakfast-on-the-go as we headed for Falcarragh… they were amazing.

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SEE ALSO: If you are going to get locked down, best hope it’s Donegal

                     Sleepy Hollows, the best wee campsite in Donegal

A popular port o’ call in Killybegs

Dunfanaghy and the weekend you never want to end

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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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