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Always had a soft spot for Galway… but Salthill has a sting in the tale

Always had a soft spot for Galway… but Salthill has a sting in the tale

Spiddal is an ideal base for visiting either Galway city or Connemara when you’re into the west

I love Galway. Always have. Galway was the craic before the word was invented. Even when the rain comes splish splashin’ down around in the Galway town – with apologies to The Sawdoctors – the city with the friendliest familiarity of a smaller town, always retained its charm, its character, its charisma.

The fondest of memories of bunking down in a family friend’s caravan out at the campsite in Salthill in the early days of the Galway Arts Festival, the mighty gigs at Seapoint and The Warwick and the blues and breakfast in The Quays, when Macnas was just a glint in the eye of Pauric Breathnach and Ollie Jennings, hatching their plans to conquer the universe and The Druid strutting their stuff across the world stage. ‘Tis hard to beat Galway.

Then there were places out the road, whispered about in reverential tones by those in the know and a wink was as good as a nod to lead you astray.

There was blues up beyond in Clifden; Mike Scott and The Waterboys were hanging out in Spiddal and the in-crowd had debunked out to Moran’s of the Weir for their brown bread, Guinness and oysters. Crinniú na mBád with its turf laden Galway Hookers was an earthier affair out in Kinvara.

So, it was with an air of excitement and expectation that Vanhalla set sail for Spiddal for the St Patrick’s long weekend, especially chosen to rekindle that Galway promise, a warm welcome and some traditional tunes for the day that was in it…

Galway Camping for caravans and campers
Spiddal campsites
Spiddal campsite
Spiddal camping in Galway
Spiddal campervan parking

Our base camp for this trip was Spiddal Caravan and Camping Park or perhaps more appropriately Páirc Saoire an Spidéil as it’s part of the Connemara Gaeltacht, all part of its charm and appeal. A family run park situated a little over 1km from the village which is well within easy walking distance. However, you’d be well advised to heed the advice to walk along the more scenic by-road to the village as the cars would cut you out of it on the main road from Spiddal to Moycullen as there’s no footpath.

The campsite is a tranquil spot ideally placed as a staging post to strike out further into, the wilds of Connemara, or 15 minutes drive back in the other direction the bustle of Galway City. It’s family friendly and lots of space for kids to roam, run-around and make friends on the banks of the Boluisce River.

However, we may have got the venue on the hop at the start of the new season as the services block wasn’t up to scratch, and it was a pity that it was so poorly maintained in this popular and busy campsite. Also unusual with so many children milling around that a half-built construction was not properly cordoned off. A pity to have to say this but important to be both fair and reliable in our reviews at the same time.

Camper vans site in Galway
Campervan sites in Galway
Campervans parking west of Ireland

Spiddal is a grand spot with plenty to commend it along its park, harbour, playground and small beach. The local hotel An Crúiscín Lán is a friendly spot with prompt service with lovely views out the shoreline from its veranda. The village though, like so many others across the country was the worse for wear with many premises closed and 3 of Spiddal’s 5 pubs shuttered. Not the sign or semblance of a song or seisiún to be had even across the St Patrick’s holiday weekend. That was a shame as it was one of the reasons we had opted for Spiddal in particular, that there would surely be some traditional music in store. Not even a bloody bodhrán in sight and the ghost of The Waterboys long since departed these shores. We had to settle for watching the Irish rugby match in An Nead and that was good fun and bilingual banter.

Spiddal Camping
Galway camping Spiddal
Spiddal campsite Galway
Galway Caravan Parks

Proximity to Galway City is a big advantage

Proximity to Galway City is one of the big advantages of basing yourself in Spiddal, and quite a few motorhomes take advantage of the space to do so down at the pier in the village.

En route to the City of the Tribes are Forbo, Barna and Silver Strand Beach, which is popular with kite surfers and day trippers, but be aware of its headroom barrier and tricky turning space at the end of a narrow cul-de-sac.

Forbo has handy waterfront parking

Forbo is far handier with convenient waterfront parking, a lovely beach, ideal for sunbathing, sandcastles, and rock pooling, but do beware of the incoming tide. The ample beachfront parking makes it convenient for the popular Padraicíns Seafood Bar and Restaurant. Bizarrely this establishment, which was doing a bustling trade, didn’t have any sign of a trad tune either, wasn’t showing the Ireland game (the 6 nations finale against England) and the seafood selection on the menu was scant.

Vanhalla Camping Galway

Galway City itself has come in for some criticism lately for giving the cold shoulder to motorhomes and that view is justified. Parking down around the harbour and docks is €2.20 an hour, costing us €8.80 as we wanted to see the St Patrick’s Day parade. The overnight parking option on the metres was deleted and unavailable with multiple signs warning of no motorhome parking and clamping in operation with an €80 penalty. Hardly worth the gamble.

Campsite Galway
Camping in Spiddal 1

Salthill seems to single out motorhomes with its no parking policy

Likewise in Salthill there were multiple headroom barriers for the carparks. Even where there was kerbside parking freely available along the promenade there were numerous signs warning off motorhomes. These signs were unwelcoming and unclear as they were only targeting and singling out motorhomes. The signs did not designate any time limits, either specify what restrictions were in place or was it prohibiting overnight parking.

Neither was there any sign of traffic wardens to advise on exactly what is permitted or not, whereas several people took the time to caution us not to park along the prom in Salthill as they maintained from personal experience the fines are issued remotely by post, rather than in person.

This is a most unfortunate and unnecessary approach by the local authorities in Salthill as we left quite a bit of spend in the swimming pool at Leisureland, the Fun Fair and the Galway Atlantaquaria, all in the vicinity of Salthill. Bad form to single out motorhome families in this fashion, particularly for normal daytime parking the same as any other vehicles.

Campervan camping Spiddal

Fortunately, there was a warmer welcome out the road in Kinvara and in particular in the famed Morans of the Weir in Kilcolgan, just past Clarenbridge where we adjourned to sample the house speciality seafood and oysters. A word of praise too for the staff, service, and lobster in Beef & Lobster in Galway city centre before we headed off home on the Sunday.

Galway Caravan and camping

Galway is still tops on so many fronts, but Salthill is certainly a sting in the tale with its unwelcoming attitude to motorhome tourists.

Spiddal Camping Park cost us €25 per night and didn’t charge anything extra for the electricity or our grandchild, although there’s usually an extra tariff of €3 per child and €5 for EHU. There’s no charge for showers.

They can be contacted by or +353 87 7607698.

SEE ALSO: Camper Diem! Go to Connemara when you can

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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