How to get the most out of a camping holiday, according to connoisseurs – The Irish Times

From practicing pitching your tent at home to battling the weather while swimming in the rain, there are ways to avoid the grim camping trips of our youngsters, Conor Pope learn from those who know

The scars of Irish camping holidays in the 1970s run deep. Every summer, the Pope’s children were crammed into a car, stuffed with our belongings – without even a single seatbelt between us – and driven by two chain-smoking parents to a place with an unpromising name, like Boyle or Kilmuckridge.

Once there, we watched miserably pitch a tent in the pouring rain. Then there would be two weeks spent under a cold canvas, listening to the rhythm of the rain falling at night and driving by day on the dark roads of Roscommon and Sligo and Waterford and Wexford, in search of something fun to TO DO.

Eventually, the tent would come down and the car would be revved up to a soundtrack of grunts and promises of “never again.” After a particularly brutal summer in the tent, the “never again” came true and the camping holidays came to an end.

But not everyone had such a miserable experience camping in Ireland, and listening to some of the defenders – and there are many – it’s clear the holidays weren’t the problem, the Popes were. . We trusted the weather gods too much and when they let us down – and we just knew they would – it all kind of fell apart. Smoking and endless car journeys were also a problem, to be honest.

Galway publican Malachy Duggan offers a vision of an alternate reality dangerously close to joy. He and his wife, Carrie Budd, were happy campers for donkey years and not only did it become a passion for him, but it also inspired him to write an award-winning camping cookbook.

“We would have done a lot of our dating at campsites,” says Duggan. “When I met her she was really into the outdoors, hiking, backpacking and camping, and when she asked me if I liked them too, I said ‘of course I do. likes”. Then I started doing it and I really started to like it.

The couple had a child and turned their tents into camper vans seven years ago. They bought the early 1990s Volkswagen from a friend and started hitting the motorways and back roads of Ireland.

“Camping facilities around Ireland are generally amazing,” he says enthusiastically. “It’s raining a bit I guess, but as that saying goes, there’s no bad weather, just bad clothes.

“And the trick is to go swimming or kayaking when it’s raining, so it doesn’t matter if you’re wet. If you waited for time, you would never do anything. And it’s so changeable you could drive out of Galway and it would be blistering but by the time you reach Leenane the sun might be splitting the rocks. The trick is not to focus on the weather.

He swears by the awning of his motorhome and the retractable gazebo that gives them more space. “I know when people think of camping in Ireland they think of that episode of Father Ted, but you actually have a lot more camping space than when you’re staying in a hotel.”

Besides weather and awnings, he also has other tips.

Topping the list are heated outdoor pools across the country, of which, he says, there are a surprisingly large number. “I thought there were none, but there are a lot. In Roscrea there is a 32m pool which is brilliant when it rains and there is a wonderful one in Drumshanbo – these are things we would never have found if we hadn’t been camping.

Then there is the price. In recent months, the cost of living crisis has affected almost all areas of our lives, without exception for the holidays. Prices for hotels and lodges have exploded, while availability has exploded.

It’s a very different story when camping, says Duggan.

“There’s a site we visit every year called Mountshannon on Lough Derg,” he says. “We always go away for at least a week and tinker the other weeks. At the end of June, the pitch was €28 per night and we extended our stay until July, which is the high season. They came to tell us that the price had gone up to €30 per night. They almost apologized when they told us the news. You wouldn’t get a hotel in Ireland for one night for what a week of camping costs.

He hopes to have more choices this year than last year. Because the pandemic kept many people at home, places at campsites were scarce. “You couldn’t get a place at some sites but in September there were all these €2500 tents on DoneDeal after some people bought them and decided ‘never again’.”

Not only is the family camp, but they have also written a cookbook called Camping Soul Food: Recipes & Playlists by the Buggans Family. “Buggans” combines the surnames of Duggan and Budd.

“We always wrote each other little notes saying ‘do this or don’t do that’ just to make our lives easier for the next trip. When we started, we cooked pasta and pesto, burgers and sandwiches. Then Carrie said ‘we have to have something healthy’. Each recipe can be cooked on a single heat source without refrigeration. Then, when the world stopped spinning, we decided to write a book. We wrote it for our daughter, Easkey, to get something positive out of the craziest year. It’s crazy to think that last week we were in Sweden at the World Cookbook Awards. Egg on toast won us world book awards.

When asked for more tips for first-time campers, he doesn’t skip a beat.

“If you get a new tent, pitch it a few times in your garden before taking it on the road because a campsite is no place for a servant and no matter how experienced you are, having trouble pitching a tent will cause a fight at a campsite.

He also suggests that people should keep in mind that they are not Bear Grylls. “It’s Ireland, and you’ll be walking past a Centra, so you don’t have to leave the house with everything. It’s best to buy from local stores when you travel.

He camps on sites and in the wild, although he is a little dismissive of the term “wild camping”.

“It really is camping. And the only thing to remember is leave no trace, just leave it as you found it.

While Duggan is a hardened camper, Sarah Power is, she’s quick to admit, “relatively new” to the experience. But, despite being a first timer, she is very enthusiastic and has four trips booked to Ireland for the coming months.

“Almost every trip I take has rain,” she says. “We plan accordingly [and] doing lots of sea activities with wetsuits where the kids really don’t care. Surfing and all water sports are a huge hit.”

She says they travel with “buckets of microfiber towels, clothes, socks, socks, socks and rain gear. We go out in all weathers. We don’t let it stop us. We dry the clothes in dryers on site or in a Tesco if we cannot dry them at the campsite. We keep ourselves warm with hot water bottles, giant hoodies and cups of tea.

She says “the gain is worth it. De-stressed children and adults, no screen time during the day, seeing our beautiful country and being outdoors. We go with the flow and once or twice we ended up swimming at half past ten at night as it was hot and dry and of course why not?!”

Five campsites worth mentioning

Rock Farm, Slane, County Meath

This is a lovely glampy campsite in the Mountcharles family garden. There are fancy yurts with wood-burning stoves and raised beds and shepherd’s huts and bell tents for those who want to rough it, relatively speaking. Availability is limited for the summer months, but if you can find a free yurt that sleeps four, two nights cost just under €200.


Pure Camping, Kilkee, County Clare

This Loop Head site is a short walk from the sea and offers bell tents and eco-cabins or a ‘wild camping’ option in the site’s native forest. Pitches start at €14 per adult per night, while starting prices for unfurnished bell tents are €35 per night.


Lough Key Caravan and Camping Park, Boyle, Co Roscommon

It’s been a jewel in Ireland’s crown of camping for half a century and has come a long way since the 1970s when this writer first experienced its joys. There’s all sorts of stuff to keep kids and adults amused and when it comes to a low cost holiday £12 a night is hard to top. Tent pitches start at €12 a night, climbing to €40 for an eight-person tent. Motorhome and caravan pitches are from €22 per night. Showers cost €2, while electricity costs €3 per night.


Mannix Point Campground, Cahersiveen, County Kerry

This spectacular campsite encompasses 500m of rugged Atlantic coastline and the mountains of the Iveragh Peninsula. The facilities are good and you might stumble upon a trad session if you’re lucky. Pitches for two adults cost between €26 and €30 while prices for two adults and two children are between €30 and €34. A shower will cost one euro while electricity costs €4 per day.


Hidden Valley Camping Resort, Rathdrum, County Wicklow

It is a real gem and very aptly named because so few people know about it. Those who do are the lucky ones. It offers pods and lodges as well as pitches for tents and caravans at the price of a pitch from just €12 per night. There are also all sorts of awesome activities, including an inflatable water park, which is the best way to beat a rainy day.

086 7272 872,


Comments are closed.