20 Cool Irish Campsites

24th May 2010
Pól Ó Conghaile

Wave Crest Caravan Park, Co. Kerry

If it’s a coastal camping experience you’re after, the sea doesn’t come closer than Wave Crest (pictured), the camping and caravan oasis near Caherdaniel. Facilities here include a play area and a deli selling everything from homemade cakes to barbecue-friendly burgers and steaks, but the big draw is the direct access to water. Views stretch over Kenmare Bay, dolphins and basking shark have been seen offshore, and a rib boat – Iolar na Mara – offers trips up the coastline and Sneem estuary from €25pp. John and Bríd O’Shea are the second generation to run the business.

Contact: 066 947-5188; wavecrestcamping.com; pitches range from €8.50 for a solo hiker or cyclist to €27 for a unit with two adults and two children.

Acton’s Beachside Camping Park, Co. Galway

The clue is in the name. Set on a private beach within walking distance of Omey Island, Acton’s is one of the few eco-campsites in Ireland, with low density plots set between grassy sand dunes and energy generated from wind (no shortage of that in Connemara). Wild camping requires the landowner’s permission in Ireland, so this is pretty much as close as you’ll get without trespassing – with all the safety and facilities of a modern camping park. Low light pollution leads to spectacular skyscapes at night, and coastal breezes help keep summer midges away.

Details: 095 44036; actonsbeachsidecamping.com; pitches range from €9 for solo cyclists or hikers to €26 for a unit plus two adults and two children.

The Apple Caravan & Camping Park, Co. Tipperary

You’ll see why this camping site stands out from the rest the moment you arrive, and are handed a free bottle of the owners’ award-winning apple juice. The family-run park is set on a fruit farm and 35-acre orchard, and visitors can stroll through the groves, make apple and strawberry juices, or pick through the plum jam, cider vinegar, mixed juices and apple jelly at the farm shop. They’ve even set the guests’ kitchen in a converted apple store. It’s like camping in a Bulmer’s ad.

Details: The Apple Caravan and Camping Park (052 744-1459; theapplefarm.com) has an all-in price of €6.50 per adult and €4.50 per child per night.

Hidden Valley, Co. Wicklow

If you like your irish campsites with a dose of adventure, Hidden Valley has the perfect pitch for you. Located in Rathdrum, the camping and caravan park has teamed up with Wicklow Adventures to offer guests cycling tours in the Sally Gap and kayaking on the Avonmore River. You can also hire kayaks, boats and bicycles to go at your own pace, or just kick back and do nothing on sites overlooking the water. Campfires are permitted along the river, and the valley is awash with wildlife.

Details: Hidden Valley Holiday Park (086 727-2872; irelandholidaypark.com) has a unit plus two adults and two children from €30 per night.

Chléire Haven, Co. Cork

Cape Clear is right at the entrance to Roaringwater Bay, a location that makes it one of the leading dolphin and whale sighting locations in Europe. Other exotic species to be spotted on the Gaeltacht island are yurts and tepees – several of which have been imported and erected along the shoreline at Chléire Haven by Dave Calvert and Sally Davies. The yurts come with log stoves, gas cookers, real beds, solar-heated showers and overhead windows that are perfect for night-time star-gazing. The tepees require sleeping bags, or you could of course bring your own tents.

Details: 028 39982; yurt-holidays-ireland.com. Prices start from €240 for two nights in a yurt (sleeping up to six). Tepees cost €20pp per night, and camping €10pp per night.

Morriscastle Strand Holiday Park, Co. Wexford

When it comes to the Blue Flag beach at Morriscastle, there’s always a spot for your towel. The 20km strand stretches as far as the eye can see, and spills over with soft, white sand. Morriscastle Strand Holiday Park is also something of a Wexford institution, with its playground, basketball court, Astro-turf pitch and summer kids’ camp being joined later this summer by a brand new restaurant. Don’t miss Lawler’s Shop, either, which sells everything from fresh pizza to wines and crepes a five-minute walk away. It’s a wonder the queue isn’t 20km long too.

Details: 053 913-0365; morriscastlestrand.com; pitches range from €8 for a solo hiker or cyclist to €26 for a unit with two adults and two children.

Pure Camping, Co. Clare

Fancy kicking off your mornings with a yoga class, followed by a cuppa overlooking the Shannon Estuary? That’s the offer at Pure Camping, a new eco-campsite in the village of Querrin, on Clare’s Loop Head peninsula. Trea Heapes is a Satyananda Yoga teacher, and she and husband Kevin have embraced sustainable practises like rainwater harvesting at their campsite too. There’s no electric hook-up (in keeping with the eco-friendly theme), but there is a clay oven for making pizzas, wood is available for campfires, and you can stay in bell tents, bring your own unit, or take your tent down into the woods to get right back to nature.

Details: 065 905-7953; purecamping.ie; pitches range from €10 for a solo cyclist or hiker to €12 per unit, plus €2 per person, for couples, families or groups.

Westport House Camping Park, Co. Mayo

Got an active family? Here’s the camping park to keep them busy. The campsite itself is a basic, grassy bowl surrounded by mature trees, but the facilities are where Westport House really comes into its own. Tennis, table tennis, pitch n’ putt, fishing and a soft play area are free to residents during certain hours, and you can pay as you go in the Pirate Adventure Park, summer camps and laser combat, paddle-surfing and zip-lines at the Adventure Activity Centre too. Nearby options range from Blue Flag beaches to deep-sea fishing and pony trekking. Did someone say active?

Details: 098 27766; westporthouse.ie; pitches range from €9.50 for a solo hiker or cyclist to €34 for a unit with two adults and two children. Family specials are also available.

Mannix Point, Co. Kerry

Location, location, location. It’s a mantra normally associated with bricks and mortar, but pretty crucial when it comes to camping too. Mannix Point Camping Park fronts onto a half-kilometre of coastline near Cahirciveen and is surrounded by the mountains of the Iveragh Peninsula – meaning stellar views no matter which way you look. The campers’ kitchen is renowned for its impromptu music sessions, and it’s also the nearest camping park to the departure points for the Skelligs. A current offer has four nights for the price of three.

Details: 066 947-2806; campinginkerry.com; pitches range from €8.50 from a solo hiker or cyclist to €27 for a unit with two adults and two children.

Boutique Camping, Co. Westmeath

Is it a concept, or a campsite? A little bit of both. Adrian Murphy first stayed in a yurt on a trip to Mongolia in his early teens, and today, he and his wife Deirdre have turned his fascination into an alternative camping experience at Mount Druid. Ten authentic Mongolian yurts each sleep up to four people near the southern shores of Lough Ennell, and all are arranged around a converted barn with a wood-burning stove, comfy couches and a banqueting table. Boutique Camping also does shepherd’s huts, self-catering houses and as of late, weddings – you can tie the knot in a tin chapel, and dance the night away in the barn.

Details:  087 987-5277; boutiquecamping.ie; yurts from €100 per night (i.e. €25pp sleeping four), but the best value is in the three-night stay for €240.

Glengarriff Caravan & Camping Park, Co. Cork

Visiting musicians are always welcome at this West Cork camping park, where the on-site bar and lounge has a reputation for its regular live music shows. But don’t worry, if you’ve come to West Cork to tune out, you won’t be left wanting either. Situated beside Bantry Bay, the camping park is a good base for exploring the Mizen and Beara peninsulas, taking a boat trip to nearby Garnish Island, and there are some gorgeous trails through the forest park (including one to Lady Bantry’s Lookout). Sailing, boating, sea kayaking and angling are also available in the area.

Details: 027 63154; campingireland.ie; pitches range from €10 for a solo hiker or cyclist to €28 for a unit plus two adults and two children.

Lough Key, Co. Roscommon

Imagine Avatar, only at one-zillionth of the budget. Lough Key Forest & Activity Park not only offers camping and caravan facilities, but a tree canopy walk, a play kingdom, walking trails, an observation tower and a network of old servants’ tunnels to explore. Set on the grounds of the old Rockingham Estate outside Boyle, the 350-hectare park is a super-sized playground, and also home to Ireland’s only Boda Borg (a Swedish concept akin to the Crystal Maze). I defy you to get bored.

Details: Lough Key (071 966-2212; loughkey.ie) range from €12 for a small tent to €22 for a family tent or caravan per night.

Dundonald Touring Caravan Park, Belfast

You want activities with your camping? Dundonald’s camping and caravan park sits right alongside the International Bowl. That places you right alongside an Olympic-sized ice rink, tenpin bowling centre, an adventure play-world and a chocolate making workshop. That’s not all – an eight-screen cinema and adventure golf course are both nearby, as is a choice of restaurants. The park has 22 spaces for caravans, 30 for tents, and is located just five miles outside Belfast.

Details: Dundonald Caravan Park (+44 (0) 28 9080-9101; theicebowl.com) charges from £14/€16.50 per night for tents and £22/€26 per night for caravans.

Woodlands, Tralee, Co. Kerry

Looking for an affordable holiday with adrenaline on the side? Woodlands Camping & Caravan Park is situated right next door to the Aquadome in Tralee – with all the water slides, kids’ pools and bubbling tubs that entails. The 100-pitch site itself is in a quiet parkland setting, roughly a ten minute walk to the town centre. The site is accessed over a bridge built by the owners, and also stands next door to Aqua Golf, an 18-hole themed mini-golf course.

Details: Woodlands Park (066 712-1235; kingdomcamping.com) has a unit plus two adults and two children from €24 per night. A 7-night deal, including camping for a family of six and unlimited access to the Aqua Dome and Aqua Golf, costs €390.

Knock Caravan & Camping Park, Co. Mayo

One of Knock’s lesser-known revelations is the fact that it hosts a caravan and camping park a short stroll from the famous Marian Shrine. One and a half million people visit Knock every year, and it figures that some will need an affordable place to stay (as well as tents and caravan pitches, the three-star park offers mobile home and bungalow rental). Fishing, golf and riding are all close to hand, and the site stays open through pilgrimage season to the end of October.

Details: Knock Camping & Caravan Park (094 938-8100; knock-shrine.ie) has a unit plus two adults and two children from €22 per night.

Glen of Aherlow Camping Park, Co. Tipperary

If it’s a walking holiday you’re after, there’s no better place to shore up for the weekend than the delicious Glen of Aherlow. Set between the Galtee Mountains and Slievenamuck, the Glen is braided with woodland walks, and this four-star facility is situated right next to the Nature Park itself. When you’re done conquering the corrie lakes, nip over to nearby Ballyhoura, where you can unleash your inner beast on a 98km network of mountain bike trails. The camping park at nearby Ballinacourty House is another gem.

Details: The Glen of Aherlow Caravan & Camping Park (062 56555; tipperarycamping.com) has units from €10 per night, with adults an additional €6, and children €5.

Bayview, Co. Waterford

Owned and managed by the Gold Coast Golf Club in Dungarvan, Bayview Caravan and Camping Park brings new meaning to the phrase ‘added value’. Guests can use the 18-hole golf course and the leisure centre in the Gold Coast Golf Hotel, as well as adjacent ten-pin bowling and children’s indoor activity centre – for a 50% discount. The 32-pitch park directly overlooks Dungarvan Bay.

Details: Bayview Caravan & Camping Park (058 45050; bayviewcaravancamping.com) has a unit plus two adults and two children from €26 per night.

Willowbrook, Co. Roscommon

Tai Chi by your tent? You can have this and more at Willowbrook, a secluded camping and caravan retreat in the Lung Valley near Ballaghaderreen. The park offers fishing, archery and Tai Chi at an extra cost to guests on site – activities which combine perfectly with the quiet, natural landscape to lift you right out of the rat race. Willowbrook is also a handy base for Carrowkeel, for walking in the Ox Mountains or for sightseeing around the Shannon, Sligo and Leitrim.

Details: Willowbrook Caravan & Camping Park (094 986-1307; willowbrookpark.com) has a unit plus two adults and two children from €24 per night.

Garrettstown House, Co. Cork

Visitors are normally turfed out of old country estates by 6pm, so it comes as a surprise to learn you can actually camp alongside Garrettstown House in Co. Cork. Not only that, but a children’s club and family disco are housed in the ancillary buildings around the cobbled yard (I love the sound of a reading room in the old Orangery). The 18th century pile itself lies in ruins, but a playground and crazy golf course have been added to the gardens, and Garrettstown beach is half a mile away.

Details: Garrettstown House (021 477-8156; garrettstownhouse.com) has a unit plus two adults and two children from €26 per night.


NB. All information correct going to press. Pitch prices are quoted per night, and do not include optional extras like electricity and showers. For more on camping in Ireland, see campingireland.ie or discovernorthernireland.ie/camping.