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A stealth stopover with Stella in the Big Smoke

A stealth stopover with Stella in the Big Smoke

Dublin has more designated parking spaces than anywhere else in the country. It would be a shame not to use them.

A friend asked me, where did you stay in Dublin? Just around the corner from the Shelbourne, I replied. It was true, but not in the manner that most people would expect.

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There is this dilemma about a weekend city break in the capital. I like Dublin. There’s lots of interesting spots, things to do, places to visit and shows to see. But it can prove expensive, not least with the way hotel accommodation is skyrocketing in the Big Smoke, especially at weekends, peak times, around concerts and events and the summer season.

Visitors have understandably started to flock back to the city to explore and enjoy what the city has to offer and of course even more so in the build up to the St Patrick’s Festival.

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After two years of rolling lockdowns and travel restrictions the appetite for a Dublin adventure is even more appealing. The Vanhalla campervan more than ever came into its own. For the cost of accommodation alone you could afford to have a right good day out, treat yourself, paint the town red, and still have change.

There are several different options and strategies to be employed if you are planning a sleepover in the Big Smoke.

Camac Valley is a highly regarded and well-reviewed camping park in Clondalkin, just off the Green Isle Link Road. It’s open all-year round and is easily accessible by public transport, both buses and the Luas. The Hop on/Hop off Tour Bus calls to the campsite 7 days a week and it’s also serviced by the scheduled 69 bus route.

The tariffs at Camac Valley are €26 to €31 per unit and two adults. You’ll pay ten times that for any sort of a decent room in the city (and some). We haven’t used this campsite ourselves but all the reports I have heard are positive, and it’s dog friendly.

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On the other side of the city is the option to park up at Dunlaoghaire Harbour, where the tariffs are €6 for the day and an additional €4 to overnight. Again, there’s pretty good public transport, buses and the DART running regularly to the city centre. If you don’t mind locating a bit further out the DART line services Malahide/Howth and Bray/Greystones in either direction, and is a pleasant journey in itself along the seafront. On a recent trip to Greystones I wanted to recce this option, and whereas the station car park itself has a height restriction barrier, there are plenty of alternative free parking options in the vicinity of the DART terminus.

There is another option. Just around the corner from the Shelbourne, so to speak. Dublin has more designated parking spaces than anywhere else in the country. It would be a shame not to use them.

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Common sense and a small bit of research is required to make this proposition a success, and a strategy which can be repeatedly deployed. A few years ago, I heard of a situation where an app dedicated to identifying city parking spots for French motorhome owners recommended a leafy affluent suburb in Dublin. It was a good sleepover spot for sure, but the residents of the posh cul-de-sac were known too impressed to awaken on a Sunday morning to find that the ferry from Cherbourg had deposited a virtual convoy of motorhomes on their doorstep.

Urban stealth parking

I personally don’t count overnight park-ups in the city as wild camping or off-grid, but rather urban stealth parking, but everyone has their own definition.

For it to be safe and successful I think it’s important to do a small bit of research and reconnaissance. There’s plenty of options especially if you venture a little out of the city centre. It’s important not to be a nuisance, to draw attention by parking on corner junctions or even partially blocking someone’s driveway, or to be too conspicuous. In this regard a campervan conversion such as our Ford Transit has an advantage over the more obvious and bigger motorhomes. But good quality, convenient, safe, overnight stealth parking is eminently possible for both.

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Safety is foremost. Street noise and traffic sounds too, a consideration, making it worthwhile to move away a bit from the city centre. Parking metres and the possibility of being clamped must be factored into your plans.

While the parking charges in the city centre can apply across the full week, once you move out a bit to the suburbs the parking metre charges do not apply on Sundays and in many areas on Saturdays either. This is ideal when planning a weekend city break. Look out for quiet terraces used for offices or businesses, which are then unoccupied at weekends, with plenty of free parking spaces parallel to the footpaths, so no dodgy overhanging or sticking out onto the roadway.

Favourite Dublin haunts

It is great to have some of my favourite city haunts back up and open once again and I do enjoy catching up with friends in establishments such as The Palace Bar, Grogan’s, Mulligans, The Boar’s Head, Kehoe’s, Ryan’s of Parkgate Street (very handy to Heuston train station) and Doheny and Nesbitt’s. They’re all great pubs, serving up creamy pints, but each in turn has its own distinctive charm, personality, and characteristics. The Palace has carved out a special place with its selection of whiskeys; while Grogan’s is a unique corner house with art hanging from its walls, no telly, and their toasted special achieving the status of a protected national monument.

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However, on this occasion Vanhalla Camper Heaven was on the hunt for something a little bit more sophisticated than pints, as we were heading on a long overdue date in Dublin, a day out, and a sleepover.

On the menu was a trip to the theatre, with The Gaiety staging Martin McDonagh’s Lonesome West; the afternoon matinee performance provided the opportunity to take in The Ireland v England rugby match before a reservation at the Stella Cocktail Bar and Cinema rounded off the evening.

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It worked a treat. A great play. A fantastic rugby match and a lovely evening at the Stella Cinema complex in Rathmines. Such is the style and service at the Stella that it got me thinking that my movie going experience has certainly come a long way since I frequented Terry Mac’s Model Cinema in Monasterevin in awe of Charles Bronson, Bruce Lee, John Wayne, and Seán Connery. No cocktails to your table in Terry Mac’s.

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Parking up along St Stephen’s Green was ideal for the play in the Gaiety. Parking there is at a premium, €3.50 an hour, but worth it for the convenience as we could just cut across the park and time was of the essence if we were going to make the rugby match. After the show it was a quick dash out to park up in the Rathmines area. We legged it to Rody Bolands and it was a great venue to watch the match, superb service, and the food offering also looked good. The pint here was €5.90, a Jameson €5.80.

I cannot praise the Stella setup enough. Its cocktail lounge also has a tempting food menu, well presented and priced, while the spacious and luxurious screen settings make for a cinematic experience par excellence.

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A stormy night and downpour did little to disturb our snug slumber and the trip was rounded off with a stroll down to the Stella American style Diner, with a hearty breakfast and lots of coffee top-ups for two coming to €22.90.

And that was our sort of steamy and stealthy stopover with Stella in the Big Smoke.

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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