Camping in Ireland

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Please note, this post is part of a series. Click here to read from the beginning.

First of all, I would like to apologise for this post not being as good as it could be. I spent about an hour writing a post about my experience of camping in Ireland, only for WordPress to delete it!

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When we disembarked the ferry at Rosslare, we casually drove towards the south coast, expecting there to be lots of camp sites to choose from along the way. We learnt the hard way that, although there are many campsites along the west coast of Ireland, there isn’t so much choice further south. After a few hours driving, and stopping as a coffee shop where a kind barista did his best to give us some encouraging words, I spotted a teeny, tiny sign for a campsite in the village of Leap. It was already gone 9pm, so I turned the car off the main road and followed the signs to The Meadow, Glandore. I  felt a bit rude turning up so late, but the owner didn’t bat an eyelid. The campsite was lovely, with good facilities and just a short walk from the village. Although very quiet, Glandore is a beautiful setting to sit with a drink in the evening.

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Purely by chance, we also happened to be camped about a mile from the Drombeg Stone Circle, which my friend had really, really wanted to visit.

We decided to camp in 2 different sites on our trip, and use them as bases to explore the area. Equally as lovely was our second campsite, Woodlands Park at Tralee. Virtually in the town centre, it’s really convenient for exploring both Tralee and the surrounding area. The campsite also has great facilities including Wi-Fi, a TV room and even a fully fitted campers kitchen and BBQ area (apologies to all my fellow campers who were trying to eat their dinner when I lit our BBQ and smoked you out).

Ireland seems to be a perfect mix of what you  would consider traditionally Irish and modern European. For example, you still have to pay cash in a lot of places as they don’t accept card, but that cash is euros. The campsites, though, feel very European. At least the ones I experienced did. They were all very clean, well thought-out with great facilities. I find it annoying in Wales that, unless you stay on a very basic site (ie a field with a toilet if you’re lucky), you are charged based on the size of your tent. Even though, whether I take my 2-man or 4-man tent, I’m still given the same size pitch. Rules, which there are a long list of, are often very strict on UK campsites. I’m sometimes not allowed in at all because I ‘look young and could make noise’. I was once questioned by a campsite owner when I was travelling on my own with my young godson, I wondered how much trouble they expected me to make with a 5 year old. In Ireland, all they asked was how many of us there were and if we wanted electric hook-up.

As we had to catch the ferry at 8am the next morning, on our last night in Ireland we decided to stay at a hotel in Rosslare.

Useful Info

Off-peak camping for 2 adults @ The Meadow, Glandore: €22 per night + €1 for shower

Off-peak camping for 2 adults @ Woodlands Park, Tralee €24 per night (showers included)

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Travel theme: Simplify

Ailsa’s travel theme this week is Simplify (click here to see more entries).

Simplifying life for me is going camping. No electricity, no gadgets, no hustle and bustle. Just me, the tent and in recent years my godchildren too. Here are a few of my favourite camping spots from previous trips.

 

Bank Holiday bliss in Brecon

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Last weeked was a Bank Holiday here in the UK, so most of us were lucky to get an extra day off work. I was incredibly lucky, as this is the scene that I woke up to.

I love camping, and usually go a few times in the summer. This year, however, it’s been difficult to fit it in. My godson and I usually take our first camping trip of the season at Easter, but the weather was so bad earlier on this year that there was no hope of us being able to sleep in a field. The weather evetually picked up in June, and was glorious for the whole month, but my friend’s wedding kept us all busy. So, when another good friend of mine suggested that we head to Brecon for the August Bank Holiday weekend, I jumped at the chance. As well as taking my godson with me, who is now eight years old, I also got to take my two year old goddaughter camping for her VERY FIRST TIME!!!! I was so excited. I’ve been waiting to take her for ages, but various obstacles have stopped us. I was also a little nervous, but I’m pleased to say that she loved it and took to camping as well as her brother did when I first took him three years ago.

We stayed at Bishops Meadow, a really nice family-orientated site. It’s one of the warmest welcomes that I have ever had at a British campsite. I quite often get looked down upon for being in my 30s, straight and single, even when I have my godson with me (do they really think I’m going to start a riot with a child in tow?). But the staff at Bishops Meadow were nothing but friendly and professional. They also have a really clear, good-value tariff system that makes booking a lot easier. My only criticism would be a mistake that a lot of campsites make. They put the toilets closest to the caravans. Most caravans have their own toilets, and those of us who are sleeping in tents have to walk the furthest. It can be tricky, especially travelling on your own with two children, one of whom is toilet training.

Although a little cloudy, the weather was generally really nice for the whole weekend, and the kids made good use of the outdoor swimming pool.

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Virtually on our doorstep, the Brecon Beacons are a stunningly beautiful part of Wales and a perfect destination to get away from the city for a while. Even where we stayed right at the northern edge of the Beacons, it still only took us just over an hour to get there (which I appreciated as the kids argued over a pillow for the whole journey!).

Top Tips for Camping

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1. Without wanting to sound like a girl guide or your mother – BE ORGANISED! Have a place for everything and make sure everything is put back in it’s place.

2. When packing your clothes, be prepared for any weather. Pack your bag, empty it and re-pack it at least twice. You’ll get rid of something you don’t need every time.

3. Things that can be compacted to a smaller size are best for camping. Try and save space in any way you can. Think travel towels rather than normal bath towels, sleeping bags with compression straps and foldable water carriers. My friends tell me everything I own comes in it’s own little bag.

4. If you’re travelling by car, it’s a good idea to have a camping box. Make sure the box fits comfortably in the back of your car, and fill it with all your camping pots, pans, crockery etc. That way, all you have to do is put the box in the car.

5. Keep a camping list in the top of your camping box, with everything that you need to go camping on it. That way you’re less likely to forget something.

6. Remember – not every camp site has toilet roll. Always keep a spare roll on you.

7. My brother always asks me ‘What is it with women and wet wipes?’. Wet wipes are handy to carry with you, and come in useful in so many situations, including camping.

8. If you’re camping with children, I highly recommend you buy some glow sticks to take with you. They’re only a couple of quid for two, and they’re great to give to kids when it starts to go dark. It saves on batteries for the torch/flashlight, and they can even hang them in the tent as a night light when they go to bed.

9. If you go into any outdoors store these days you could probably furnish a small house with all the items they have designed for camping. They have thought of everything to make camping accessible for even the biggest nature-phobe. I even saw a peg-puller in my local store, which was essentially another peg on a piece of string. If you’ve never been camping before, and you’re not sure if you’ll go again, all you basically need is a tent and something to sleep in. Obviously, how much you can take depends on how you’re travelling. My advice is to let common sense prevail. If you can pull the pegs out with one of the spare pegs you already have, you probably won’t need the peg-puller.

10. Check if there’s any local information you need to know about the area where you’re camping. I’ve camped in North America where I had to learn what to do if I came across a bear. That information isn’t much use to me here in the UK, but what I have learnt here is to be careful what you leave out overnight when there are animals like foxes around (I had a bad experience as a child when a fox stole my rainbow trout in the middle of the night).

Port Eynon and The Gower

Exploring new places is one of the things I love most about travelling. Seeing new landscapes, finding different subjects for photographs and discovering those little oddities that make places unique are all things that excite me. So when one of my best friends announced that she wanted to celebrate her 30th birthday camping in Port Eynon, somewhere I’ve never camped before, I jumped at the chance. I had briefly visited Port Eynon once before, but I hadn’t had the chance to explore much. During the winter, I’d offered to take my mum and dad on a drive around the Gower so they could see a bit more of Wales. The weather was pretty dire that day, so our experience of Port Eynon was nothing more than running from the car to the fish & chip shop for dinner and then back again. It was so grey that I didn’t even realise there was a camp site less than 100 metres away.

My second trip to Port Eynon, I am happy to say, was much more successful. I wouldn’t recommend Carreglwyd camp site, though. They are very insistent (on their web site, on the booking form, face-to-face) that their camp site is for FAMILIES ONLY. NO GROUPS are allowed. If, for any reason, you do not understand this rule, they will kindly repeat it to you at every given opportunity. Our party was mainly my friend’s family, all age ranges included, and then a few more of us who booked in as pairs. So as not to disturb anyone, we camped at the very far end of the campsite (a 15 minute walk to the toilets, which were next to the electrical hook-ups – the only people on a campsite that don’t need a toilet?!). It turns out, however, that as long as you’re part of a ‘family’ (which apparently can include school groups and families where every member is about the same age), you can make as much noise and disturbance as you want. Members of our party were quizzed every time we walked through the site. Were we staying there? As the only other reason to be there was to walk the coastal path which runs through the site, I did point out that I’d be unlikely to be hiking wearing shorts, sandals and a vest top and carrying nothing but toilet roll in my hand. Members of my friend’s family were stopped from entering the site and we were generally made to feel very unwelcome. The only people in our party who weren’t treated this way were a gay couple. In the UK, it’s against the law to discriminate against someone because of their sexuality, and rightly so. You can, however, choose to make assumptions about and discriminate against people because of their age and who they choose to travel with. I think it’s time that businesses need to stop assuming that ‘groups’ are going to be disruptive and realise that anyone can make a disturbance if they put their mind to it, regardless of age, race, sexuality or how many of them there are. My tent-mate and I did make a trip to another local caravan park, as they are the proud owners of the only supermarket in Port Eynon. I have to say we were made to feel very welcome there, so rest assured there are nice places to stay in the area.

The accommodation issues did not dampen out weekend, though. Although we had the weirdest weather, bright sunshine interspersed with sudden, dramatic rain showers, once we’d pinned down all the tents in the strong winds we had a really nice, relaxing time. Port Eynon, like all of the Gower, is beautiful. Here are some photos that I managed to take between the rain showers.

The Rules of Camping

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As I’ve been talking about camping this week, I had to share this with you because it is sooooo cute. I first took my godson camping when he was 5 years old, and he wrote these ‘Rules of Camping’. If you’re having trouble reading it, here’s a translation:

No eating in the sleeping area.
No shoes in the sleeping area.
No leaning on the tent.
Don’t go near the fire or BBQ unless grown ups are with you.
No running off or around the tent.
No breaking the tent.
Don’t touch the sharp knives.
No hanging off the tent.
No climbing anywhere.
No eating when grown ups aren’t saying. (I’m not sure where this one came from, I’m honestly not that strict)
No going to the toilet on your own.
Don’t go to other people’s tents.
Don’t break other people’s tents.
Be careful of cars on the road.
Don’t break the glow sticks.
Don’t wake other people up.
Don’t break the sleeping bag or mat.

Whitesands

One of the things I love about being a godmother is that I get to introduce my godchildren to new experiences, things that they would otherwise maybe not have the opportunity to try. Even I was apprehensive, though, when I decided to take my five year old godson camping for the first time in summer 2010. As a child who’d spent his whole life in the city, I don’t think he had any concept of what camping was, and I wasn’t sure if he’d love it or want to come home after five minutes. So I decided to test the water by starting with just a one night pitch at somewhere far enough away from Cardiff to make it an adventure, but close enough that we could drive home if it all went wrong. I spoke to his other godmother, who suggested we meet her and her two nephews in Whitesands, Pembrokeshire. I’m embarrassed to say that, in all the time I’d been living in Wales, the furthest west I’d travelled was Swansea, so it was going to be an adventure for both of us.

A better spot for camping could not have been recommended for us. Whitesands, as with most of West Wales, is off the beaten track. You’re not going to trip over it by accident, so only people who know it’s there tend to visit. If it’s luxury camping and great facilities you’re after, then you’re probably better off staying in one of the bigger sites closer to Tenby. If, however, you’re happy to rough it a bit, then I’d definitely recommend the drive out to Whitesands.

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No matter how busy the traffic gets in the summer, and don’t underestimate how popular the beaches of West Wales are, the roads down to the coast will never be more than a single track. So be prepared for a slow journey once you leave the main road, and watch out for pedestrians, cyclists, kids racing on scooters and everyone else who uses the roads. The directions I was given to find the campsite were ‘drive west until you can’t go any further, and when you see the two white houses, the campsite is on your right’. Believe it or not, I found it first time. If you like more precise directions, though, from St Davids follow the Whitesands signs on the A487, and then turn left onto the B4583. If you can’t be parted from your sat-nav, the postcode is SA62 6PS.

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If you do experience any road rage from battling with all the other road users on the drive down to Whitesands, it will soon disappear when you catch the first glimpse of the beach in front of you. As the campsite is situated virtually on the beach as well, everyone has a room with a view. And it’s probably the cheapest sea-view in the world, as the owner only charges £5 per adult and £2.50 per child. In typical West Walian style, the campsite is run in a very relaxed manner. Pitch your tent wherever you want, and the owner will either come and find you, or you can pay at the parking booth. This is where you can also buy shower tokens and ask any questions you may have about the area.
I’d recommend Whitesands campsite for any laid-back campers looking for a beautiful setting in which to relax and take in the beauty of West Wales. It’s so quaint that it made it into the ‘Cool Camping Wales’ book.

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Just in case you’re wondering, my godson thankfully took to camping like a duck to water. Before I go, I wanted to leave you with this anecdote. It helps to remind me that when you’re with children, you need to think about things from their point of view:

When we first arrived at the campsite, there was some confusion over the difference between the tent and a sleeping bag. When I told him we sleep inside the sleeping bags which would be inside the tent, he looked at me like I was crazy. It’s only when I stopped and thought about it that I realised, when they’re packed up in the car, the tent and the sleeping bags are both actually the same size.

My godson and I have been on lots of camping trips together since, and I hope they will continue until he’s too old and embarrassed to hang around with his aunty.

Summer has arrived!

It’s a bit later than usual, but the sun has finally shown its face here in Wales. Summer for me means, among other things, one of my favourite times of the year – camping season!

There are no definite camping trips planned for this year yet, but I have the tent, sleeping bags and camping gear all ready to go at a moments notice. To celebrate this great British past-time, I thought I’d share with you some posts about my camping experiences in recent years.

What I love most about camping is the peace. When you’re away from all the gadgets and distractions of the modern world, you pay attention to things that you wouldn’t normally notice, like the waves crashing over the rocks or the exact moment that the sun drops behind the horizon and your world turns a little bit cooler. The peace clears my mind. I find it’s a great time to write. All I need is my picnic blanket and a pen and paper. I usually keep my juggling equipment close to hand for when I have writer’s block. I find juggling a great way to relax both physically and mentally. My camera is always nearby too, ready to capture those fantastic landscapes that the weather allows you to see for a few fleeting seconds. Here are some of my shots from past camping trips in the UK.

Sunset at White Sands beach

Port Eynon beach

The Salt House at Port Eynon

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Ramblings from rainy Wales

Four days on and my ribs are still really sore! Other than work, all I feel like I’ve done this week is sit on the sofa with a hot water bottle held to my side. Which is where I am now, although it is a little difficult holding the hot water bottle where it needs to be and typing at the same time. I apologise for any typos as a result. The hot water bottle is also helping to generally keep me warm, as the weather here in Wales has definitely switched over to winter. The temperature took a marked drop last week, and it has rained, and rained, and rained …

Contrary to popular belief, we do have nice weather occasionally here, it’s just been a bit sporadic this year. Every month we’ve been told ‘next month will be much nicer’, but they just seem to have got worse! Here are a few of my favourite photos from my summer to prove that we did have some sun, and also to cheer me up whilst I’m stuck on the sofa hugging my hot water bottle.

The Salt House at Port Eynon
The Salt House at Port Eynon – we camped right behind this building

The beach at Port Eynon
The view from our campsite at Port Eynon. I quickly got my camera out and took this picture between rain showers!

Sunset at White Sands beach
To me there is nothing more serene than the sunset at White Sands.