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

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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