Campsites, kayaks and crabs. Journeys around Ireland
As the return of school once again beckons for pupils, parents and teachers I was sore tempted to call this article "What I did on my holidays" as per the traditional essay requirement throughout my own schooldays. Hopefully though the reader will find this a bit more interesting than my regular juvenile product which consisted usually of something along the lines of: "Played football, hung around with my mates, went for some walks up the hill and stuff". Oddly enough, pedagogic praise was rare indeed for this oft-regurgitated masterwork.
Over the course of the year our family trio have taken a few days away in which we managed to cover a few miles, stay in some lovely places and find several enjoyable ways to pass the leisure time bestowed upon us by the Department of Education and our employers. What follows is in no particular order and is certainly not an exhaustive list of all the available options. It probably doesn't even stand scrutiny as a list of the best options. Mostly we just stumbled around, found places to stay and sorted out some things to do. All of the organisation was done by my wife, all of the finding things by accident and doing what I was told was down to me.
Keel was the quietest campsite we stayed at because it was very early in the season and it hadn't yet opened properly. Don't come here if you are looking for lots of organised on-site activities and great shopping. Do however come here if you want to experience a quiet, rural part of the country with a rugged beauty and plenty of peace. Dooagh beach by the campsite offers excellent surfing and other adrenaline fuelled watersports but if your tastes run to more placid waters then Keem Bay has an utterly gorgeous beach which boasts crystal clear water and more shelter from the Atlantic than it's near neighbour. Keem is super for swimming and snorkelling.
Storms on the West coast can sometimes be quite fierce early in the year and on more than one occasion over the years I have woken up here to find that my tent is the only one left upright. Other accomodation is available for those not thrilled by the "under canvas" option.
Not Cork you understand but West Cork. Although small in comparison to somewhere like Minnesota, Cork is the largest county in Ireland and anywhere to the West of the River Lee is generally regarded as West Cork. We stayed at the Hideaway Camping & Caravan Park just outside the town of Skibbereen and it was lovely. The site was quiet, with enough to keep our seven year old happy of an evening and close to a whole pile of things to keep us occupied during the hours of daylight.
Apart from lots of seashore walks and a pony trekking session we took advantage of the benign waters of Roscarbery lagoon to go kayaking and tied this in with a visit to Smugglers cove. A family oriented adventure golf centre which also features two mazes for kids and parents to get lost in. One is a deceptively simple wooden structure and the other a seasonal puzzle cut into a cornfield. A maize maze if you will. The watersports centre also offers SUP boarding and pedalos and Smugglers cove was way more fun than this grumpy father expected.
Around the area there are lots of nice restaurants especially of the seafood variety and absolutely loads to do. Check out Clonakilty's model railway, Inchydoney beach, Sherkin Island or whale watching. Online info from the local tourist service left me a little underwhelmed but this hotel list is a pretty good place to start
The people in the tourist offices however were lovely and very helpful.
From the Southwest to the Southeast in one fell swoop. There are so many campsites around this corner of Ireland that you may pick and choose at whatever level of services or seclusion suits your needs. Wexford town and harbour is a pleasant place to wander around on a summer's evening and there are lots of places to go in or close to the town including the long sandy beach at Curraghcloe.
For my daughter's seventh birthday we booked a family session with Archery for All just a little way out of Wexford town and she had an absolute ball learning how to fire arrows into targets and balloons. https://www.facebook.com/archeryforallireland/
As the worst archer in the family by a long way that is all I'll say about the morning bar that it was fun.
Further information https://www.visitwexford.ie/
We stayed in the Giles Quay campsite just south of Carlingford itself. It mainly caters to mobile home owners but has a small touring park. There is a chip shop, bar and small shop on site and a pleasant beach is just a two minute stroll away. In Carlingford there is an outdoor centre and visitors can book all manner of outdoor and watersports activities.
We wandered through the forest and up the hill behind the town to take in the view of Carlingford Lough and work up an appetite. After lunch my wife introduced my daughter and I to the joys of crab fishing from the end of the pier. This consisted of dangling a line of wool baited with bacon into the water. Crabs grab hold of the bacon and, assuming some gentleness, can be brought up to land. Due to excitement and shaky hands our total catch amounted to a mere two specimens (Crabby and Shelley) who were both returned to the water PDQ.
Nore Valley, Kilkenny.
We had been to the Nore Valley campsite prior to this visit. It is in Bennetsbridge close to my wife's hometown of Kilkenny city. It is a great place for kids and there is absolutely loads to do on site. Petting zoo, playpark, hay loft, karting, maze, blah, blah, blah. We invited a couple of young nephews to join us for the night for their first camping experience and the kids all had an absolute ball.
As well as feeding the animals which was a bit unnerving for the two city lads we did all the traditional things that you are supposed to whilst camping:
Toasted marshmallows? Check.
Jumped into haybales? Check.
Saw a newborn deer? Check.
Barbecued stuff? check.
Stayed up (very) late? Check, check, check. And so on.
You never saw a happier bunch of rugrats in your life.
The site can be very busy at peak times but seems to cope with the numbers pretty well.
From here we spent a family day in Kilkenny city and slightly further afield visited Mayfield Birds of Prey in Kilmacthomas, Waterford for an exciting afternoon with Owls and Falcons. After all that it was home for a rest.
http://falconryinireland.com/ Hawk walks, Owl encounters and all things raptor.
https://www.norevalleypark.com/ Family camping and pet farm.
http://visitkilkenny.ie/ Tourist info about Kilkenny county and the medieval city.
And that's us all done. Ireland really is a great country for exploring. The distances involved in travelling from place to place are never all that large and the scenery can change massively in a very short time. Our camping gear is old but robust and we should both have a few years left in us for further adventures.
Hopefully we can grab a few more days away as opportunities arise. The joy of camping is that we can take advantage of nice days at short notice as we are fairly flexible but even if we don't this has already been a very memorable year for fun trips.
I hope yours are every bit as enjoyable and every bit as memorable.
Thanks for reading.