Travel changes you. As you move through this life and this world you change things slightly, you leave marks behind, however small. And in return, life-and travel-leaves marks on you.
----Anthony Bourdain

Saturday, April 30, 2022

Beara Peninsula

After a day in Killarney, we drove through Killarney National Park to get to Hungry Hill Lodge and Campsite. The views along the way were spectacular although some of the roads were a little nerve-racking for Robert.

Turners Tunnels on the County Cork line
Ladies' View
We planned to take this day to rest and do laundry. When we arrived, Jamie came out to greet us. She checked us in and showed us around. At that point, she said there would be one other couple in the campground but a young brother & sister from Germany ended up spending the night as well. 

The campground is set against a mountain so it was perfect and made us feel at home.

There is a store within walking distance. It had what we needed for the night but we had to go into Castletownbere for "real" groceries. 

The campground has laundry facilities, free electricity, free Wi-Fi, and free showers. When we were there Daniel was in the process of fixing one of the sets of showers so there wasn't a separate shower/bathroom for each gender. There was a shower and toilet marked for guys and one for the ladies. The showers were hot and had plenty of pressure. Also on site is a kitchen. Let me just say that I love how every campground we went to had camp kitchens! I don't understand why we don't have them in the US. It just doesn't make sense.

Camp Kitchen

Unisex (for now) bathroom

The showers were a little narrow. Robert said he felt too cramped but I had no problem.
Laundry facility

Jamie and Daniel did everything to make us feel welcome and at home. Daniel's dog came out to meet us after we told him that we were dog lovers. He makes sure the dog is in the fence when campers come. 

I had a little trouble with the dryer while doing laundry: my clothes weren't getting dry. It turns out that it was on the wrong setting and I didn't know I could change it. Jamie was kind enough to give me some of my money back. 

Jamie also gave us a couple of recommendations on what to do during our day in the Beara Peninsula. We looked into taking a ferry over to Bere Island but then decided to just stay in Castletownbere. It appeared to be a really small town with not much to do, but after talking to Adrienne in MacCarthy's Pub, we found plenty to see. We drove out to Kilcatherine's Church to see a medieval church built on the ruins of a 7th-century monastery. The church itself is from the 11th or 12th century. The views were incredible.
Beautiful final resting place

View looking from Kilcatherine Church

Kilcatherine Church
We also found the ruins of Dunboy Castle, although we didn't know it at the time. It wasn't well-marked and we thought it was something else!
Dunboy Castle was destroyed in 1602 during the Seige of Dunboy

Ruins of Dunboy Castle

You can see the shape of a star of the fortress

When we were in town we came across a parking lot that had signs allowing campervans to stay there overnight. That would have been a perfect place to stay if we were looking for someplace like that. We were hoping to find someplace like that in Wexford but didn't. 

What's the verdict on staying at Hungry Hill again? You betcha. I loved the property it's on. There's also a lodge, tent camping areas, and "glamping" opportunities. Just about perfect!
Hungry Hill Lodge and Campsite

Saturday, April 23, 2022

Camping in Killarney, County Kerry Ireland

This is going to be a weird post because I have zero pictures from the campground where we stayed for 2 nights in Killarney. I chose Fossa Caravan and Camping Park because 1) it was open (we were there during the "low season" (off-season), and 2) it was close to Killarney. Right before we left for Ireland I found a campground on the Dingle Peninsula that was open. I could have canceled, but unless someone else reserved the site, we would have to pay for it. I decided not to chance it. 

We had a "grass pitch" site and it was a little wet. Not terribly wet, but slightly wet. Instead of each individual site having its own power outlet, there was a "communal" one with about 6-8 outlets. That meant it was necessary to have a long cord. The people across from us laid their cord across the road, and it wasn't one that could be driven over. (Not the best choice on his part) The place was packed, but it was really quiet. We only saw a handful of people the 2 nights we were there. On-site is a hostel and mobile homes (although we didn't see these). A pub/restaurant is close enough to walk. Our first impression was less than stellar. It just looked like a trailer park, actually, which is why I don't have any pictures. 

Those were the negatives. The positives:  The spot we had was level, and we were told we could just pull in horizontally instead of vertically like everyone else did. The facilities to empty the toilet cassette and gray water were very easy to get to and the 1 to empty the cassette was very clean. The showers were excellent, even though the 1 I was in the first day had a loose shower head and the next day I couldn't control the temperature in the other one I tried. They were extremely clean and they were free. (Always a plus!) There were 6 total showers in one building and on the other side of the area where we were there were 2 more that were handicap accessible. That building also had toilets. The side of the area where we were had toilets in the back of the office building, as well as a kitchen and laundry that could be used. Did I say how quiet it was, even though it was crowded? It almost felt like we had the whole place to ourselves.

I mentioned the restaurant/pub within walking distance. The night we arrived we walked over. Robert called ahead and was told that the kitchen was just about to close (like, within minutes of him calling) but that if we came right over we could order something. The walk was a little more than we thought it was going to be, but the food and Guinness were good. 

There is a restaurant on site that has an incredible breakfast for a very reasonable price. It isn't associated with the campground and it closes at 5:00 pm, but you won't want to miss the breakfast!

We wouldn't mind staying at this campground again, although it wouldn't be my first choice. I would prefer someplace a little more like a campground, but it was a good spot for being close to Killarney. There is a bus stop right across the street from the office, but we found it was faster to take a cab.  Derry, the owner, is another HUGE reason we'd stay there again. He went out of his way to call us cabs and to let us know what was in the area that we should see during the 1 day that we had there. Robert left his smartwatch in the shower stall and didn't realize it until the next day when we were 2 hours away. Derry sent it to our house in the USA and said it wasn't necessary to reimburse him (although Robert did). 

This was a weird post, not the usual kind I write. I regret that we don't have pictures. 

Follow along with more recaps and pictures on my personal blog: Life in a Small Town. (The link will take you to a list of the Ireland posts.)

Friday, April 15, 2022

Our Camping Experience on Ireland's Wild Atlantic Way

The one regret I have about this campsite is that we didn't have more than 1 night. Robert said he thought I was a little overly ambitious with our first few nights. Since we lost a day waiting to pick up the camper, it didn't start out that way. Instead of having a full day in Clifden, we only had hours. 

Our first campground was Clifden Eco Beach Camping and Carvanning Park in County Galway. The campground is literally right on the Atlantic Ocean. 

It is on private property with a gate requiring a code in order to enter the grounds, so it's very safe. Upon entry, Tatiyana checked us in and Kris showed us around. They require green tablets for the toilet. Fortunately, Mark at Bunk Campers found some and made sure we were set. Otherwise, we would have had to drive to a place to empty our toilet cassette and bought some from the campground. 

They have bathhouses and a camper's kitchen available. Wi-Fi is available in the common area. The bathhouses are not heated (none of the bathhouses at any of the campgrounds where we stayed were) and I never had hot water while washing my hands. We didn't shower there so I can't speak about the water pressure, but they charge €5 for a 5-minute shower. They don't have designated women's/men's bathrooms/showers, so that was a little awkward when I almost walked in the door and there was a man at the sink. 

Looking into the shower

Inside the shower. 


Camp Kitchen
Electricity is available but it's not "full power". It suited our needs; we just needed to be able to charge up our cell phones since we were only there 1 night. I'm not sure if any of the sites have water; ours did not. But we had some amazing views:

These aren't pictures of views from our site, but they were just around the corner, across from the bathhouse:

Kris drove us into town and brought us back for €15, which was cheaper than a one-way taxi ride from the Dublin Airport to the City Centre. He gave us a good tip on where to eat in town as well as a couple of pubs. Since it was St. Patrick's Day, he & Tatiyana suggested that we leave by 9:00 before things got too rowdy. 

This should go without saying, but it was very windy so be prepared. Of course, since it's right on the ocean you would expect it to be windy. You can tell in this video just how windy it was:

I need to backtrack a bit. On the flight to Dublin, a young woman from Galway sat next to me. I struck up a conversation with her and she told me that we had to stop in Oughterard. She said there is a shop that has fantastic coffee and wonderful pastries made from farm-fresh products. We had no trouble finding the shop. Once we found someplace to park we went in and picked up some of the most amazing pastries we've ever had and a latte (which was absolutely wonderful). "Galway Girl" (which is what we call her because I never asked her for her name but I know her boyfriend's name is Joe and he drives a lorry) was spot on with this recommendation. In fact, we liked it so much that we stopped again the next day when we left Clifden to go to Killarney! This is a "must stop": Sullivan's Country Grocer on Main Street in Oughterard. You have to go right by it to get to Clifden from Galway. Just don't stop on a Monday because they're closed.
Right on Main Street!

Stop #1. Notice the green icing on the cinnamon roll for St. Patrick's Day!

Stop #2 (minus the sandwiches we bought)
We left Oughterard the first time just as the St. Patrick's Day Parade was beginning so we had to take a detour. That took us down this road:
A bit exciting, but we didn't see any sheep, cows, or horses crossing the road. I don't remember if we met any cars on this road, either. 

The verdict: Would we stay at Clifden Eco Beach again? Absolutely. I would definitely put it on a list of "re-dos"! 

Follow along with more recaps and pictures on my personal blog: Life in a Small Town. (The link will take you to a list of the Ireland posts.)

Thursday, April 7, 2022

Camping in Ireland without Reservations

I'm a planner. I like to have things laid out so I know where I will be at night. For this trip, I made reservations at campgrounds (based on which ones were open during the off-season) except for the first night and the last 2 nights. I originally had a reservation for the first night but I thought we picked up the camper earlier in the day. With it being Robert's first day driving a strange vehicle on the wrong side of the road plus it being a manual (which he hasn't driven in a long time), we decided to cancel the first night at our first campground. As mentioned in the previous post, Mark was so helpful with finding us a place to park for our first night. 

We're told that in Ireland if you find a place to pull over on the side of any road, it's fair game for staying overnight. As long as there are no signs stating that there's no overnight parking, you're good. In fact, if you want to stay in a field, as long as you get the farmer's permission, you can. The problem I see with that is that the farmers aren't in sight. I suppose you could drive up to their house (if you can find it) and ask, but that seems a little weird to me.

Mark (at Bunk Campers) found a lodge/marina halfway between Dublin and Galway that was just off the motorway. We were given permission to park overnight (in fact, there was another camper in the parking lot) as long as we came in and bought a pint or two. When we arrived, I went inside to see if we could order something to eat. We arrived just after the kitchen closed, so we weren't able to order. But Sean, the barman, called us a cab so we could go into town. After an hour, we were still waiting. Sean called the cab driver and let him know he wasn't happy that he didn't show up. It turned out to be no big deal; the town was just a couple of miles down the road so we ordered something online and drove in to pick it up. We ate in the camper and then went inside for a couple of drinks and some conversation. We ended up getting some great tips on places to go from Joe (a tour bus driver) and another tour bus driver. Sean and Joe provided great entertainment by way of the stereotypical Irish banter back and forth. When the clock turned to 2:00 a.m., we walked back out to the camper and settled in for an excellent sleep. We woke up the next morning to the sight of boats on the river.

Our first night with the campervan was a success. We had a restful night (or rather, morning) and were ready to head to our campground reservation. (More on that in a future post.)

One word about the motorways: There are tolls. By the end of the trip, I learned to have €3.50 ready just in case we happened upon a toll. 

At the end of our trip, we felt comfortable enough to wing it. Glendalough was on my list of things to see so after we left the last campground we headed north back to Dublin. We wanted to stop in Wicklow and find a parking lot, that way we could walk around town and walk back to the van for the night. We found one but it was a distance from town and I didn't feel comfortable there. The parking lots right in town have height restriction bars so we weren't able to stay in town. I found a road that followed the coast and we hunted for someplace to pull over. We opted for a regional road as opposed to a national road. 
We were also looking for someplace to buy a few groceries so we could cook something besides buttered pasta for dinner. (We didn't plan ahead and buy groceries when we were near a grocery store.) As we entered Newcastle, we saw signs for a birdwatch nature reserve and thought that might be a place to stay. There was a gas station/convenience store, but then Robert spotted a pub.  We pulled in and Robert went inside to speak with the management to get permission to stay the night. Before he went in, he chatted with a couple who had a dog that looked very similar to his dog and who was just as sweet. We talked with them for a bit then went in for some amazing stew (and a couple of pints). The manager (I hate I didn't write down her name!) brought us half of a loaf of brown soda bread, butter, and jam for our breakfast the next day. The parking lot was quiet and I woke up to see some baby lambs with their mamas.

We had one more night with the campervan and we had some idea of where we were going. At least, we knew the area we wanted to go to. After leaving Glendalough we headed through the Wicklow Gap in the Wicklow Mountains, looking for a place to spend the night. Then we went back to Glendalough to empty the toilet cassette. We went into one of the 2 parking lots and thought €4 was worth it to be able to empty the cassette. But, when we parked, a lady told us that our vehicle was €15! Then she told us that we could stay the night in the lot, which would have been pretty neat, but we found a spot in the Gap for free. We told her we weren't staying longer than 15 minutes, so she said we would be okay without paying the €15. 
Turlough Car Park is open 24 hours. We were there mid-afternoon so we just hung out. Another couple was also there. I have to say that that night was the worst night's sleep I had the whole time. This parking lot turned out to be safe, but for some reason, I felt safer in the parking lots of pubs. But the views were so worth it:

I'm definitely not a "go with the flow" kind of person; Robert is more of one than I am. This was definitely an adventure for me. I would have loved to have camped right next to the sheep, but maybe next time. And I definitely need to come back to the Wicklow Mountains when the heather is blooming. 

Follow along with more recaps and pictures on my personal blog: Life in a Small Town. (The link will take you to a list of the Ireland posts.)
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