One of the upshots of the Covid pandemic was that, with more of us holidaying at home, so many people discovered how nice a place Ireland can really be. There’s fantastic scenery and loads to do, especially for those who love history, spending time outdoors and who can deal with the odd spell of bad weather. What puts a lot of people off Ireland though is the sheer cost of accommodation — it can be awfully expensive to go on holidays here — though for those who are willing to go back to basics and avoid hotels, a camping or campervan holiday can be a really rewarding and relatively inexpensive way to experience Ireland.
Facilities at campsites generally have improved massively over the last few years, though here are a few particularly good examples.
Top of the Rock Drimoleague, Co. Cork
A great base for exploring West Cork, Top of the Rock in Drimoleague is a scenic family-friendly campsite on a farm owned by the Ross family. Kids will enjoy this one particularly as there’s the chance to get up close and personal with the farm animals, helping out around the yard and having the opportunity to feed the calves, lambs, goats and ducks. Top of the Rock has space for tents and a few campervans, though for something a little more luxurious, visitors can choose the luxury and family-sized pods shaped like the monastic beehive huts of old.
Brandon Hill Camping Graiguenamanagh, Co. Kilkenny
Located on the slopes of Brandon Hill near Graiguenamanagh, Co. Kilkenny, Brandon Hill Camping is a welcoming site with accommodation for tents, campervans and with a number of pods and cabins for hire. It’s the setting though that’s particularly appealing with loads to see and do in and around Graiguenamanagh, particularly for walkers and those into water-based activities. Looped walks run past the site up and over Brandon Hill, with the Barrow towpath down below offering a gentler ramble. A number of firms (Go With the Flow river adventures in particular) run canoeing expeditions up and down the river too and they’re one of the best ways to see the Barrow Valley.
Lough Key Forest Park Boyle, Co. Roscommon
Roscommon is a beautiful and often overlooked place, and Lough Key is the county at its best. The campsite itself is reasonably well equipped, but it’s the location that really makes Lough Key Forest Park a standout place for campers. The campsite is a short 500m walk from the lakefront through winding forest paths and, unless you’re staying for a week or more, you probably won’t manage to get around to all the fun activities on offer — walking and cycling trails, Segway adventures, zip-lining, woodland safaris, boat trips on the lake — and that’s before you get to the wider area around Boyle, Carrick-on-Shannon and Lough Allen, which is jam-packed full of things to do.
Clifden Eco Beach Clifden, Co. Galway
Clifden Eco Beach is Ireland’s first climate-neutral eco-friendly campsite and is just ten minutes outside Clifden on the Atlantic coast with the Twelve Bens as a backdrop. Pitch your tent or park your camper among the dunes and enjoy unfettered access to the white sandy beach for swimming, kite surfing, angling, boating or walking. This is about getting away from it all and enjoying the outdoors, so you won’t find games rooms or the like to keep the kids entertained. A shuttle bus runs between the multi award-winning campsite and Clifden, which means that you can head into town for dinner and a few drinks and not worry about driving back.
The Apple Farm Cahir, Co. Tipperary
Owned by well-known apple-grower Con Traas and his family, The Apple Farm, between Clonmel and Cahir in Co. Tipperary, is, as its name suggests, located among the fruit trees of Traas’ large orchards. Camping at The Apple Farm is inexpensive at just €9 per night per adult (€6 for kids) and plenty of space for tents, campervans and caravans. Hot, solar-heated showers are free as is access to the tennis court, and visitors receive a bottle of the farm’s apple juice on arrival. There’s loads to do in the area too as the site isn’t far from Cahir Castle, the Swiss Cottage, the Rock of Cashel or the Glen of Aherlow.
Wave Crest Caherdaniel, Co. Kerry
Gorgeous as the Ring of Kerry is, it often conjures up an image of being mobbed by coaches full of tourists. It’s a pleasant surprise then to find that Wave Crest near Caherdaniel, despite being in one of the most scenic parts of the Ring, never feels mobbed. It’s not as rustic as some of the sites on our list, and it’s a well-equipped modern campsite with a TV room, games room and play area to keep the kids amused as well as an on-site deli and takeaway pizza van. Despite the modernity, Wave Crest is only a stone’s throw from the Blue Flag beach at Derrynane, which has the whitest sand this side of the Caribbean, and is perfect for exploring the Ring of Kerry.
Knockalla Caravan and Camping Park Portsalon, Co. Donegal
Another modern campsite along the Wild Atlantic Way, Knockalla near Portsalon, Co. Donegal lies on the banks of Lough Swilly making it a great access point for a particularly nice part of Donegal not far from Fanad Head. There’s plenty of space here for everything from tents to full-sized motorhomes and the café on site serves up full breakfasts, home baking and other tasty grub. There’s tons to do at the park for kids with facilities including pool tables, tennis courts, a playground and even an indoor swimming pool for when the weather turns drizzly.
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