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A heads up on Howth and the lowdown on Dalkey

A heads up on Howth and the lowdown on Dalkey

Dalkey is a delicious deli of delight. On days like this you could be in Sorrento, not Sorrento Road.

People often ask, ‘what’s the difference between a motorhome and a campervan’? To a great extent the differences are negligible, a matter of opinion or just personal preference.

However, for my money, the most significant difference is when it comes to towns and cities. Campervans are generally less conspicuous than motorhomes, usually more compact, and therefore have more opportunity and options when it comes to an urban park-up. This is especially the case if you are an all-year-round campervan enthusiast who also uses your vehicle for city breaks or trips to concerts, events, festivals – or even the cinema – as is the case with Vanhalla, when we make a foray to the Stella in Rathmines, as recently for the epic Mission Impossible.

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Nothing is impossible in terms of parking when it comes to a campervan, but I venture that the usually larger and more obvious motorhomes are far less flexible or versatile. Maybe motorhomes are more comfortable and spacious but in the city in particular they stick out like a sore thumb and find it much harder to fit in, in every sense of the word.

Our Vanhalla Ford Transit conversion fits into a regular car parking space, whether in the city or supermarket and therefore offers a whole range of convenient parking possibilities for urban camping (or stealth parking)… which I don’t personally regard as ‘wild camping’ or ‘off-grid’, but those terms are sometimes applied.

Ultimately, for safety, services and security, it’s hard to beat a good campsite. However, that option is not always possible or available, especially if you want to be in the thick of it in a town, or the heart of the action in a city. Proximity is often as important as the parking spot itself.

Urban Camping

In the vicinity of Dublin, for instance, there are the options of Camac Valley, Clondalkin and the North Beach Camping, Rush, in north county Dublin. Both are excellent sites by all accounts. Vanhalla has not frequented either in person, but they get consistently good reviews, nearby local services and amenities and served by public transport. Nevertheless, they are remote in terms of the heart of the action and city centre buzz. I met up with friends in the city centre recently to celebrate an occasion. They were booked into a hotel on Stephen’s Green for €350 per night (excluding breakfast!!) and without giving the game away, it’s sufficient to say I was parked nearby for €3.50 an hour, until the metre requirement expired at 7pm.

For urban camping such as this, once a spot becomes over-used, too popular or over propagated on social media it usually leads to problems and blow-back, often followed by further impediments and height restriction barriers. From Vanhalla’s experience, low-key, low profile works best when it comes to urban camping.

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Basic consideration, common courtesy and cop-on are good rules of thumb. Some common-sense guidelines – try not to stick out, leave no trace, be discreet, don’t impede access or block driveways, don’t wear out your welcome by hogging space (or multiple spaces) for too long. Needless to say, yellow lines, footpaths, over-hanging, chairs on the pavement, BBQs (hard to believe, I know!!), litter, improper waste disposal are all red flags, and like a red flag to a bull, if you are looking to attract attention. From personal experience and peace of mind Vanhalla has found that it’s generally best to try avoid residential areas and housing estates.

All that said – and while height restriction barriers continue to pop up – such as rather unfairly and unnecessarily in Dun Laoghaire earlier this year, there’s still plenty of scope for urban camping and stealth parking for that city escape, especially in a campervan.

A case in point is last summer when we decided to hit Howth and Dalkey for weekend breaks and to enjoy the Howth Roots and Blues Festival and the Dalkey Lobster Festival. Both are running once again this summer by the way. See details below.

Despite dire warnings that we would never get a parking spot in either location for a car, much less a campervan, this was not the case. Yes, there are headroom restrictions, street closures and vigilant traffic wardens only too willing to dish out fines for the slightest transgression – such as a wheel up on the pavement.

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Overall, however, we had no difficulty in securing a safe, legal, overnight parking spot in either Howth or Dalkey, at the height of both festivals. More recently we ventured to Malahide, and again no problem getting a park-up, albeit during the day, with parking metres and a time limit. Again, one of our advantages is that while Vanhalla does fall victim like most other campervans to the height restriction barriers, we do fit snugly into a regular parking spot. In most instances where there are parking charges, they expire at 7pm and if you are lucky, often don’t apply across the weekend.

Howth hospitality is lovin’ the blues

For blues heads, music heads, you gotta head for Howth head. What a great place to stroll, soak up the atmosphere of this fishing port, local markets, the waterfront, pier, fish‘n’chips, and a hike out to Howth Head if you are feeling energetic.  The seagulls, lots of seagulls, provide the second soundtrack to this seascape.

The line-up of blues and roots acts is superb and mostly free of charge, over 30 gigs across the town’s taverns. There’s a big vibe for Philo, in homage to local hero Phil Lynott. After Philo, Wrights and Beshoffs are the big fish in Howth. But even they are just a small part of the selection of eateries, cafés, and pubs to choose from. There are pricey dishes in some of the finer joints but a range of places to suit all pockets, with good value oysters, sardines, and crab if you mosey around the fish-mongers – some with their own restaurant just next door and catch-of-the-day off the trawler docked out front. That’s what you call fresh fish.

The big guys, beardy guys, inked up tattoo guys in Howth aren’t singing the blues, they’re lovin’ the blues from Mary Stokes, Delta Dogs, and Parchman Farm, roots revelations by The Rye River Band and the Niall Toner Band. Our paths first crossed at the Mountmellick Mardi Gras in 1987 in his days as Hank Halfhead and the Rambling Turkeys; while Rusty Jacks are turning the day on its head with a powerhouse set and ‘Dancing in the Moonlight’ in a middle of the afternoon session at The Bloody Stream. What a venue, and a menu to match too!  On tap there’s the craft beer, Handsome Jack, from the local Hope Brewery. My Granny used to call me Jack. Handsome Jack will do nicely. Howth, what’s not to like?

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Dalkey is a delicious deli of delight

Not to be outdone, Dalkey has its Lobster Festival. Dalkey definitely has notions, fancies itself. That’s fine, as we also fancy Dalkey. Sure, lobster can be saucy, but you can have a lobster roll to get you started. Dalkey is a dinky spot, and the lobster festival takes place along its narrow streets, with long-table-street-food-menus bursting with flavour and fun, in a family-friendly atmosphere; music and markets, beer gardens and a buzz that says it’s summer, tuck in, take part. We’re parked just a ten-minute stroll away. It’s delightful. Dalkey is a delicious deli of delight. Time for another lobster roll, some songs and a Jack Sparrow lookalike pirate on hearing my accent who insists he’s from Clonaslee

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There’s lots of parks, playgrounds, public spaces, slipways, piers, jetties, bathing areas, all ideal for swimming, sailing, kayaking, fishing and breath-taking views out across the bay  towards Dalkey Island, Killiney and beyond. On days like this, you could be in Sorrento, not Sorrento Road.

That’s Dalkey, that’s the neighbourhood, we’re lovin’ it, lobster rolls and all. We make sure not to park on the kerb. We don’t want to fall foul of a trigger-happy traffic warden, or Bono, Eddie Irvine, Neil Jordon, Van Morrison, Enya, Matt Damon, Chris de Burgh, Hugh Leonard, Maeve Binchy or whoever else might be parked up around here. That’s Dalkey. That’s the neighbourhood. Just make sure not to park on the kerb.

The Howth Roots & Blues Festival takes place from August 11th to 13th, 2023

The Dalkey Lobster Festival is on from August 25th to 27th, 2023

SEE ALSO:  A stealth 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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