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Home or away you won’t beat Binion Bay

Home or away you won’t beat Binion Bay

Out of the way, out of everyone’s way. Off the beaten track. No traffic jams here in Binion Bay, your own little piece of paradise with a beach thrown in for good measure.

Every year throws up a special place. A place which stands out. A place that somehow saves the day, then goes on to save the summer. A place that carves out memories that last forever, that nourish, replenish, and restore, every time they are recalled, as if summoned on to do so. Memories that grow, then grow on you; grow on you in such a way that they seem, improbable, unreal, a fantasy.

But you know for sure they happened; you were there. A place so good that you want to share it, tell everyone about it, and yet keep it to yourself, as your secret spot, so that it is not spoilt, overrun, and overcrowded.

One such place is Binion Bay.

Binion Bay a birds eye view
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Binion where, I hear you say?

Maybe it’s all in the head. Or whatever is in your head at the time. Or just the simplicity of the place, its serenity, seclusion, the seabirds squawking in delight at their rare remoteness, the empty beach, the friendly neighbours, the unusual linear layout, us all lined-up in a row on our holidays, hoping for the best and getting the best, the best of the weather, in years, in spades. It’s bucket and spades weather.

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Then there were the stories and the directions of the owner, Ian McEleney, from a family rooted in these parts and its traditions for generations, the Sweeneys on his mother’s side from Scotland, sharing their homeplace, at the very tip of the country. He’s a one-man tourist office with an encyclopaedic and forensic knowledge of the landscape, lore, and landmarks of Inishowen, his directions doubling-up as an entertaining and engaging history lesson.

Out of the way, out of everyone’s way. Off the beaten track. No traffic jams here in Binion Bay, your own little piece of paradise with a beach thrown in for good measure. I love Achill, but who needs Keem Bay when you can have Binion Bay, all to yourself, sort of. No congestion, crowding, confusion or clamouring for space here.

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No tailbacks, just tall tales from Ian in his thick Donegal brogue worth the price of admission alone. You could listen to him all day, telling stories, giving advice, promoting the places round about, but as for the directions, well I’d take those with a pinch of salt. Pointing to barely visible ribbon of boreens accompanied by a folly of stone walls heading nowhere in particular that I could see, bar perhaps the sky, a mountain goat wouldn’t chance them, let alone a motorhome.

‘What happens if you meet someone?’ I foolishly enquire.

‘Sure, all you have to do is reverse.’

Binion Bay. You can check out anytime you want, but you can never leave.

The outstanding Causeway Coastal Route

Our Binion Bay haven, which turned out to be our own little piece of camper heaven, came at the end of a road trip which had commenced in Carlingford and taken us through Belfast, the Antrim Coast, Ballycastle, the outstanding Causeway Coastal Route to Portrush, Portstewart, Castlerock, and Benone, before crossing over into Donegal via the Lough Foyle Ferry from Magilligan to Greencastle (€20 one-way) onto the Inishowen Penninsula, along the coast to lovely Moville before cutting inland off the Derry Road across to Carndonagh, towards Culdaff and on to Binion Bay.

Binion Bay itself is on the road to nowhere. A small narrow cul-de-sac of a boreen which takes you to its location. The campsite itself is unassuming with its linear layout, a mix of mobile homes, caravans, touring campervans, families in tents and a separate glamping area. You won’t find it trending on Instagram. The services block is in the middle of the long line of camping, again, nothing spectacular, but spotless and constantly maintained.

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What is spectacular about Binion Bay is its setting; its stunning scenery, surrounding countryside; its pleasant atmosphere, the warmest and personable of Donegal welcomes and a short walk to your very own ‘Keem’ beach with only the grazing cattle for company on the narrow path, which takes you to this piece of paradise nestled between the Urris Hills and the Atlantic Ocean at Pollan Bay.
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Binion Bay is certainly secluded but not isolated. It’s a short cycle into the villages of Clonmany and a little further on to Ballyliffin, Pollan Strand, Doagh Famine Village, with the famed Five Finger Strand across the narrow stretch of water. A short distance in the opposite direction is the Glenevin Waterfall, which has picnic areas, a smashing coffee shop, and toilets at its trailhead. It’s a handy enough walk and popular with families. The Gap of Mamore is a little further on again.
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Binion Bay Waterfall

Award winning seafood chowder in Ballyliffin

I come out in a rash with the mere mention of golf, but if it’s your thing, Ballyliffin Golf Club is ranked among the finest links courses. More up our street is Nancy’s Barn, which boasts the best seafood chowder in the world. It would be a brave person who would tell them it’s not, and as a self-appoint chowder connoisseur I can vouch that this award-winning recipe is worth the trip alone. €11.50 for a mains portion which comes served with Nancy’s homemade breads and recommended to accompany their own Kinnegar Craft Beer.  Other dishes include signature salads, Kinnegar Beer battered line-caught cod, and Lousianna style squid. There’s also Afternoon Tea, which unlike in some other establishments doesn’t cost an arm-and-a-leg, and a junior menu. Booking is advisable as they just about managed to kindly squeeze us in on a busy Sunday evening, with numerous tourists being turned away.

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Back at Binion Bay camping you’d be half expecting Leonardo de Caprio to come wading out of the tall bamboo-like shoots sheltering the campers from ‘The Beach’. It’s read bed grass, good stuff all round for birds and biodiversity in this reclaimed swampland. Over the dunes there’s an ideal walk to the headland and a pebble beach, with Malin Head out yonder on the horizon. Here red shanks screech to each other in seabird morse code. There are no coffee horse-boxes or ice cream wagons here, only sheep, horses, cows and donkeys on a tidal shoreline.
Binion Bay pebble beach
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As evening falls, not a sound in Binion Bay other than the good-humoured banter and pleasant singsong to mark Ian’s birthday, with BBQ and burgers all round for everyone. There’s a full moon. A full moon party Binion Bay style.

The rate per night for motorhomes/campervans with 2 adults is €30 and this fee includes EHU; showers are €2 for 6 minutes. Large tent pitches (including 4 guests start at €40 with EHU an additional €5 per night; small tents with two guests, €20 per night; glamping prices start at €99 per night.

The showers and services block are spotless; there’s lots of bins (though no recycling that I could see); the freshwater points are a little walk away and the campers’ kitchen is a bit cramped, with only one sink, and a large washing machine for laundry at a fee.

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In many ways Binion Bay salvaged last summer, admittedly in the middle of a blue-skies heatwave, which certainly helped. Either way, it’s easy to recommend, and well worth going out of your way to Binion Bay.
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Binion Bay operates on a two-night minimum stay for all campers; Eircode F93 F381; 074 93 76800; (the best time to call to book is after 8pm) Email: binionbay@gmail.com or for more info go to www.caravanandcampingireland.ie

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

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 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. Safe travels...

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