Itty Bitty Living Space (Camping in Ireland)
It’s no coincidence that when we travel we love the lack of firm itineraries. The decision to book our flights to Ireland was easy, what came next is always the harder part.
Figuring out which direction to travel, where to stay, and what to see can be difficult to mesh. It will never be perfect and that’s the point of traveling. Nothing ever goes exactly as planned, as you may have read from some of our previous blogs. Regardless, to give ourselves the most freedom Cyd and I decided that we were going to camp. It was not an easy sell from my end but she finally relented and agreed that it would give us the most freedom to wander around Ireland.
We had been talking about purchasing a new tent and this was the perfect excuse. I believe my last tent and sleeping bag are somewhere in New Zealand right now, after lending it to a buddy that decided never to return home. So yeah, we needed a new one.
Some might think that traveling to only sleep in a tent isn’t much of a vacation. Some prefer luxuries throughout the entirety of a trip and that’s ok. Some think it’s perfectly normal and that is ok too. We think it’s practical and allows us to travel independently of strict itineraries, which we think leads to the greatest amount of adventures.
After our first day of driving south towards Cork and visiting the Jameson Distillery, we finally decided it was time to search for our first location to take our slumber. Thankfully, Cyd had phone service and was able to locate one somewhere not too far away in the town of Blarney, near the Blarney Castle.
We stumbled into a grocery store (slightly buzzed) to pick up a couple provisions for our nightly snack and morning breakfast.
Eggs, butter, mushrooms, red wine, Jameson, aaaaaand….Pringles. Done!
The single-lane, windy farm road took us to an immaculate campground. For 20 euro’s we had clean showers, laundry facility, kitchen, and only a handful of other guests. Before sundown, roughly 10 pm, we set up the tent and hunkered down for the night. It’s only a 2-person tent but man is it cozy. A little bit of red wine, Pringles and we were out like a light.
No rain the first night. Sweet. Cook some eggs over our small gas burner and we will be on our way towards the Blarney Castle.
The Blarney Castle was very pretty but we weren’t keen on waiting in the queue for almost 2 hours to kiss the stone. The Ring of Kerry was calling our names and we would also be much closer towards our boat trip to Skellig Michael the next morning.
Not having hotel reservations makes it easy to follow the advice of your horse-buggy driver, yup, you heard that right. In the Gap of Dunloe, on the Ring of Kerry, we decided to hire a horse to take us deep into one of the most beautiful canyons we’ve ever seen. He recommended seeing the Valentia Island. So we did. Easy decision. After all, half of our travels revolve around taking recommendations from the locals. Much easier to do without being locked down to an itinerary!
So we hoofed it to a little area on Valentia Island called Knight’s Town. It’s a one-pub, one restaurant type of town to give you a visual.
We were stoked we decided to follow his advice because we ended up visiting one of the coolest castles. Only 3-4 other people had found their way to this gem and we had the whole place to ourselves for a little while. No lines, no tickets…total freedom. This place completely validated why we decided to camp in the first place.
Justified dropping a little extra cash on a good camera as well!
Now, remember how things don’t always go as planned? Well, morale was high and I think we neglected the fact that we now have decided to camp on the western coast of a country notorious for rain and winds. You see where this is going. That second night we were pissed on from heavy rains and nonstop winds. I believe we got about 2-3 hours of sleep.
Angry, damp, and exhausted, but we had just visited one of the coolest castles and at the time we didn’t realize that we just had the best meal of our entire trip at the only restaurant in Knight’s Town. At the time it’s easy to think the whole camping idea was a bad one but the sweet ain’t so sweet without the sour!
Before our trip, we had one excursion booked in advance because only a handful of people can participate each day. We were booked to take a small boat an hour away to the island of Skellig Michael. For those Star Wars fans, this is the island that’s featured in the upcoming episode. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site and has a tiny Gaelic Christian monastery at the peak, which was built somewhere between the 6th and 8th century. I was totally psyched and even had the theme song to Star Wars downloaded for the moment the boat approached the island. Cheesy, but needed to be done.
Well, wouldn’t ya know it? The rain and wind made the seas and island too dangerous to visit! The one thing we had planned! If that’s not the definition of irony then I don’t know what is.
The good news is, at least we didn’t have a hotel reservation nearby because we said “fuck it” and bombed up north to possibly see the Cliffs of Moher a day earlier than anticipated. We are happy we did!
Long story short, we got to the famous Cliffs of Moher in the evening after visiting the incredible Burren National Park all day. The ticket agent at the Cliffs of Moher immediately told us that our tickets would be honored for tomorrow since the fog was so bad. Of course, more shit in our cereal. Now we won’t be able to see them because of the fog!
The day began horribly but ended with perfect views of the “cliffs”. The fog had scared everyone away and the sun was setting on the west-facing cliffs, which made for some epic photos and views. We almost had the whole place to ourselves, again!
Unfortunately, our tent was still splayed out in the trunk…..soaked. So we decided that we would treat ourselves to a real bed at a B&B nearby. We drove to the town of Doolin, another one pub/one restaurant type of town, and ended up having the best night of our whole trip.
That night deserves its own blog post.
Moral of the story though, things are never going to go exactly as anticipated but at least we always have some wiggle room by not overbooking our itineraries ahead of time. Sure we could have just booked a hotel room each night but where’s the peace of mind if you are in the middle of nowhere? Summertime in Ireland is packed full of tourists and most hotels are sold out or overpriced. The tent offers smaller sleeping quarters but can allow for exponentially bigger adventures!