Thinking of trying camping for the first time? Find out some top tips on camping in Ireland, and some campsite recommendations from the converted camper, Eibhlin.
I had numerous requests for recommendations on camping in Ireland, but unfortunately I was unable to help. I have tried glamping on a few occasions and loved it, but I believe to experience ‘real’ camping, you need to pitch your own tent – something I have yet to do with the kids. I decided I needed help.
I asked on my Instagram stories if anyone with personal experience of camping in Ireland would like to write a post for me. I was absolutely delighted when I received a kind offer from Eibhlin, who has camped many times in Ireland with her family. These are Eibhlin’s top tips and recommendations for camping in Ireland with kids.
I’m Eibhlin and I live in Cavan with my husband and two daughters. By day, I’m a primary school teacher and by night I plan my future travels. I love reading travel books, blogs and posts, so I’m very excited about this opportunity to write a post for Sarah, whom I’ve followed for years.
When I started camping you could definitely call me a ‘reluctant camper’. My husband loved camping and had great memories from his times in tents at various festivals around the country – long before married life! I however, was more partial to a stay in a luxury hotel.
I ignored his hints at camping trips for years, with many valid reasons, but when the children were old enough I felt like I had ran out of excuses. So I decided to bite the bullet and give it a go. Maybe you could even call me ‘the converted camper’ now! I consider myself a novice still, definitely learning along the way with every new trip.
The main reason I decided to give camping a go was my two children. It was an experience I wanted them to have, and so far, they are really enjoying it, (they are aged 8 and 9). They love the freedom it gives them, and their camping highlight is running around in the dark with their torches. We have spent some time every summer for the last five years at various Irish campsites and I would like to share some hints and tips with anyone out there considering camping in Ireland for the first time.
Don’t get me wrong, I love travelling and I still fit in as many hotel trips and sun holidays as possible, but camping has now become another way to travel around Ireland and discover new places.
Camping is a very cost-effective way to holiday in Ireland. Most pitches for tents without electricity will vary between €25 – €45 per night. We usually stay for three nights and I feel this is the perfect length of stay for any novice campers. There is an element of hard work to camping, and it takes time to set up and pack away a tent. After all that effort, it’s nice to sit back and relax. I’m going to go mad this year and stay for four nights, but I’d say this will be my limit.
The most expensive camping trip will be your first trip, as you will need to purchase your tent and all your camping needs. It may be a good idea to borrow a tent for your first trip before you spend a lot of money on camping essentials – just in case it’s not you!
When you are camping in Ireland, you will see many groups of campers pitched up side by side, enjoying each other’s company. We usually take the opportunity for a family get-together on our camping trips. The children get to enjoy some wholesome outdoor fun with their cousins, and the adults get to enjoy a bottle of wine together at night.
All of the campsites I’ve visited have strict quiet-time policies at night, usually after 10 or 11pm, and for the most part this is adhered to. It is advisable to check TripAdvisor reviews before booking a campsite.
We usually split our time between the campsite and exploring the local area. We always cook breakfast at our tent, but we eat lunch/dinner out from time to time, to enjoy all the locality has to offer. I’m definitely a fan of combining a little bit of luxury into my camping trip!
After many years of ‘winging it’ and throwing things into the boot of the car, last year we decided to compile a list of all our camping needs. Every year, we add a little bit more to our camping collection – this year, hopefully we will add a fire-pit. Making a camping equipment list is one of my first top tips – see more below.
My top tips for camping holidays in Ireland:
1. Make sure you have all the supplies you need.
Bringing tents and cooking utensils might seem obvious, but my ultimate camping equipment checklist has many items that you should bring too. Dressing gowns to go to the bathroom at night, flipflops for the shower, clothes pegs for hanging wet clothes, and a dustpan and brush for sweeping up sand or grass that gathers inside the tent – these are just some of the things that I have learned are needed after five years of camping in Ireland.
2. Pack the car in advance.
I recommend packing the car as much as possible the day before you head off. You will be surprised how long it takes, and it will help everything run more smoothly on departure day!
3. Bring snacks and dinner for your first night
I usually cook a Bolognese at home before we leave and bring it with us for our first dinner at camp. I also make sandwiches and bring them – unpacking the car and putting up the tent is hard work, and it is nice to sit down and put on the kettle and have a decent snack at this stage.
4. Make your bed as comfortable as possible.
If you are a poor sleeper, it can be difficult to get a good night’s sleep camping. I bring my own pillows and bring an extra cosy throw/blanket to place on top of the airbed (like a mattress protector). If you find ear plugs and eye-masks useful, bring them too.
5. Think ahead – get your gear early
Buying camping gear in the winter is a good idea – there is plenty of availability and prices may be reduced. There are some deals to be had on camping gear on second-hand websites like Adverts and Done Deal. My brother-in-law bought a good quality new tent, never used, last week for almost half price. You can also pick up deals on portable barbecues, and travel accessories for the car on MicksGarage.com
6. Relax and enjoy it.
You will not always have a tidy tent or clean children when you are camping, so my advice is just to relax, enjoy and go with the flow!
My favourite campsites in Ireland
1. Hidden Valley, Rathdrum, Co. Wicklow
I have been to Hidden Valley a few times and I actually had my first camping trip here. However, Hidden Valley is an extremely busy campsite during the summer months, and it can be a bit overwhelming until you get settled and find your bearings.
There are lots of activities onsite like crazy golf, pedalos, movie nights and much more – note extra charges may apply. I found other campers very friendly here and really helpful to first time campers.
2. PureCamping, Querrin, Co. Clare
I know Sarah has spent time glamping here in this very special campsite, but they also take a small number of tents. This place is in complete contrast to Hidden Valley! It is in the middle of nowhere and all my children had to play with was a big tree and a small wooded area. But boy, did we all love it here!
I got the sense that people came to digitally detox from their busy lives. All the children gathered together and read books to each other at the tree, and played with their teddies – there was not a screen in sight!
Trea, the owner, runs weekly yoga classes, and there is a pizza oven and campfire at night which is great for meeting fellow campers. Looking out on the Atlantic Ocean, it is a pretty idyllic spot. Also. It was the perfect place to explore the Loop Head Peninsula.
3. Duncannon Holiday Park, Duncannon, Co. Wexford
This is a lovely quiet campsite across the road from the beach, and a perfect base to explore the Hook Head Peninsula. I think this campsite was the quietest at night that I’ve ever visited. The only downside is the walk to the toilets, showers and small children’s playground, is a little bit too far for my liking. You have to walk on a public road for a couple of metres and I had to accompany children on every trip for safety reasons.
4. Lough Key Forest Park
The campsite in Lough Key is my number one campsite! We visited in summer 2020 and it was one of the highlights of that tough year. I felt very safe in Lough Key as Covid guidelines were being strictly adhered to. The forest park itself is beautiful, and there is plenty to keep the children occupied such as, swimming in the lake, cycling the forest trails and Zipit high wires.
At the Visitor Centre, there was a coffee truck, ice-cream van and fresh pizza truck, which was a nice treat now and again. There are also places to visit close by – we spent a morning at the ‘Eagles Flying’ experience, which the children loved.
This year, we are booked into Nagles Campsite, Doolin, Co. Clare. We had to pay a deposit which is fully refundable in case any travel restrictions are in place. I have found them to be very friendly and helpful so far, and with great Tripadvisor reviews, maybe it might become my new number one spot.
Happy Camping Campers!
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