By Nicole Harney
The popularity of camping in Ireland has grown massively in recent years. And why wouldn’t it? We live in a beautiful country with so much to see and do, and camping is a relatively inexpensive way to do it (after the initial set up costs of tent, sleeping bags and other equipment). The average cost for a family of four without electric hook-up is about €30.00 per night. Most campsites offer electric hook-up (EHU) even for tents but we don’t avail of it. The primary purpose of EHU is to run heaters for colder nights but I’ve heard of people bringing a range of kitchen equipment such as coffee machines, toasters and microwaves. We prefer to use our camping weekends to go back to basics with very little technology and gadgets.
There are a huge range of facilities in different campsites with activities for children of all ages such as playgrounds, pet farms, mini golf, kayaking, rock walls and some even have indoor soft play or movie rooms for when the weather is bad. We prefer to stick to quiet campsites with very little in the way of organised activities. Our kids are only four and one so perhaps they will demand activities and more action in a few years, but for now we enjoy pottering around the beautiful coastline of this country. Although we are partial to bringing the kids to the odd music festival also! We are feeling very lucky to have tickets to two family friendly festivals this year – Kaleidoscope and All Together Now. We really enjoyed the very first All Together Now festival last summer. There was a perfect mix of great music, great food and child friendly activities.
We are relaxed campers and require fairly basic amenities such as toilets, showers and a campers’ kitchen with a fridge as we usually bring most of our own food. We have a child with food intolerances to cater for so it’s just easier to bring homemade meals frozen at home. We also like to cook on site for dinner. We tend to cook breakfast on a small gas stove and BBQ for dinner. We eat lunch out and about, wherever the day takes us exploring the local area, whether that’s a picnic in Glendalough or a local cafe in Roundwood.
The key to enjoying camping is to make sure you are warm enough at night so we invested in excellent sleeping bags (3 seasons) for the three of us. Eleanor has a ‘junior’ bag that is tied at the end of her feet to ensure she doesn’t slip down into it and it will do her for years. She sleeps on an inflatable bed with sides from Aldi. Oscar was still in a Grobag in his travel cot last year. This year he will be using a Grobag on a ready bed. Putting a foil backed mat under the travel cot and air mattress also helps deflect the cold. I was initially a little apprehensive about camping with a young baby as Oscar was only nine months last summer on our first trip. He was breastfed so I didn’t have to worry about trying to wash bottles, but most places we’ve been to have microwaves so sterilising using a microwave steriliser would be possible. Although breastfeeding at night in a cold tent was an experience!
We try to travel light but rarely manage it with two kids and a dog. We keep all of our camping gear on a particular couple of shelves so when we decide to go camping, we can just empty those shelves and have everything we need except clothes and food. It means less mental energy trying to prepare everything. I also wrote a packing list at the start of the season which I go through before we leave on a trip to make sure I have everything. The one issue I have with camping in Ireland is needing to be prepared for all eventualities and having to bring the sun cream and sandals plus a raincoat and wellies. A couple of other tips for making life easier is having a box of shoes inside the door of the tent for quick access during night time rushes to the toilet, and bring a potty for younger kids.
My kids don’t need much entertaining so far. A couple of small toys, colouring books, storybooks, a frisbee and a bucket and spade mostly covers it. We spend our days exploring the local area and playing on the beach when the weather is good enough. It’s all about slowing down and connecting with nature as a family. One of my best memories in 2018 is at a campsite in the wilds of Connemara watching the sunset and listening to the sea with no other noise to be heard. I must admit to enjoying the noise of rain hitting the tent when I am curled up in my sleeping bag. We are so excited to kick off the 2019 season. I must admit to being a decent weather camper, only going between late May and September. I’m not hardcore enough to start at Easter but plenty are camping already by this time of year.
Roscommon native Nicole Harney, husband Ronan and two kids Eleanor, aged four, and Oscar, 18 months, enjoy camping as a family in Ireland. We look forward to hearing more about their adventures in the future.
Nicole’s Top 5 Campsites Recommendations
- Acton’s Eco-Camping in Clifden
- Rosses Point Caravan Park- Sligo
- Lough Key Forest Park- Roscommon
- Hidden Valley Holiday Park- Wicklow
- Parson’s Green campsite- Tipperary