Claudia DowellSee other Blog articles filed in ‘Travel and touring’ written by Claudia Dowell
I love Ireland! So there was no hesitation when Practical Motorhome's Group Editor Alastair Clements invited me to bring a ’van across to Ireland for a short tour of Co Kerry. “When?” was my eager response.
My friend Diana didn’t need much persuading to join me for the tour, either!
My last Irish adventure had been a few years earlier. I took an Auto-Sleeper Kemerton XL on a tour which began near Enniskillen, then followed the Wild Atlantic Way into Northern Ireland. It was wonderful and I was keen to explore further south.
Starting at 8.40am from our base in west London was worth the early start to reach catch the ferry from Fishguard at 2.30pm. And, anyway, I then had four hours on the ferry to recharge my batteries! Still, I was grateful for the bottle of red wine thrust in my direction from Alastair when I arrived at Killarney Flesk Caravan & Camping Park around 11pm, and he kindly helped me pitch the ’van.
There’s a good reason for Ireland’s reputation as being the Emerald Isle, and that reason was filling the sky the next morning. Rain can stop play when it comes to photographing front covers, so instead, Diana and I visited Dingle.
Of course, the weather brightened almost as soon as we left Killarney! Driving out to Dingle, located on a finger poking out into the Atlantic Ocean, we began to understand why the Ring of Kerry is such a huge draw for visitors. The circle of mountains forms the most superb backdrop to already beautiful scenery.
The roads around these parts are fairly narrow, being mostly single carriageway, so we had to take care with the Bailey. But the roads are lined with fuchsias and monbresia, so are gorgeously coloured in reds, pinks and oranges – it's a fabulous drive.
We passed by Inch Strand, a long spit of sand stretching into Dingle Bay where cars and one or two motorhomes were parked, and thought we might return there the next day for photographs. There were tremendous views of the beach as we climbed the road that took us into Dingle, where we squeezed into a large but busy car park on the waterfront.
Dingle proclaims itself the food capital of southern Ireland and there was certainly plenty of choice for places to eat. We chose coffee and cake, rather than lunch, and sat on a bench outside a deli in Green Street, which serves great coffee, chatting to a friendly young Irish woman, while we ate and drank.
A little retail therapy was a must, and we perused beautiful scarfs and celtic jewellery before returning to the car park to retrieve the Bailey. Dingle was a delight, and unexpectedly busy, the surprise sunshine the icing on the cake.
I was excited about returning to Inch Strand the next day – and snapper Phil was just as positive about the photographic opportunities!
Taking the ’van along the beach was something I was a little more nervous about, but there were other equally large vehicles parked on the firm sand and Phil urged me along to capture the shot in his mind's eye. It would be alright ... wouldn't it?
Of course, the inevitable happened: we got stuck. Assuming that we weren't the first to do this, I went to find someone who could pull us out. Unsurprisingly, the local farmer was used to rescuing the unwary and was called by his accordion-playing nephew to come and tow us out.
While I waited for the farmer, Phil returned to the ’van to apply more thought to getting it out, and with a little pushing power from a couple of big lads, the motorhome was freed. I paid the world-weary farmer for his trouble, Phil got his shots and we skedaddled off that sand trap.
Back in Killarney, Diana and I spent some time exploring and then enjoying an early dinner at Quinlan’s Seafood Bar on the High Street. We were lucky to get a table. This place is clearly very popular, as long queues formed as we were eating – and it wasn't hard to see why. I tried the chowder and it was absolutely delicious!
We walked back to the campsite and finished the evening watching a film in the ’van. I was keen for an easy evening and a good night's sleep as our return journey began the next day.
The plan was a relaxed drive so we could enjoy the scenery while tootling along. We hit the road around 11am. By 1pm more coffee and cake were needed, so we stopped on the roadside in Kildorrery, Co Cork, on the N73, opposite what turned out to be a terrific little restaurant, the Thatch and Thyme, where all the cakes, as well as everything else, was home-made.
I'd highly recommend this place, whether you want breakfast, lunch or tea! It’s open from 8.30am to 5pm. We sat in the garden and had a lovely chat with the owner’s father. We found everyone is so friendly and easy-going in Ireland.
Diana was keen to visit the Waterford Crystal factory and it's well-signposted with a good-sized car park nearby where I was able to park the motorhome. There are no dedicated motorhome parking spaces, but I bought two tickets to cover the two spaces the Bailey occupied, before going off to be amazed by Waterford's sparkling crystal glassware.
Our destination that night was St Margaret's Beach Camping and Caravan Park on Lady's Island, Rosslare Harbour, Co Wexford. It's a good campsite to know about because it is just a 15-minute drive from the Rosslare ferry port. But be sure to book in advance!
We arrived at the site around 6pm and, despite the site being full, the welcome couldn’t have been friendlier. Did we want dinner? Yes, and soon – coffee and cake does not sustain a body for long!
The kind campsite staff booked us a cab and we went off to 'Meyler’s' a restaurant and bar called the Millhouse at Tacumshane. It's about four miles from the site and I enjoyed the most perfectly cooked hake. The owner, Teresa Meyler, was a delight, extremely friendly and, it turned out, willing to take the overspill of motorhomes from the St Margaret’s Bay site in her large car park. There is no hook-up and, if you use the restaurant and bar, she doesn’t charge for the overnight stay.
It was a wonderful end to our trip. Back on site we enjoyed another film in the trusty Bailey and were soon tucked up in our respective quarters for a sleep to prepare for the early start the next day.
Not only is this campsite the nearest to the ferry, you get a leaflet giving you directions to get there. We left the site at 7.15am, caught the 9am ferry, and enjoyed a chilled-out cruise across Irish Sea, ahead of our drive back from Fishguard to London.
Our trip was brief, but fun-filled. The Bailey was a super companion, and both Diana and I were both impressed by the beauty of Ireland and the friendliness of her people. I, for one, can’t wait to return.
So that's a quick behind-the-scenes look at our Irish tour – read the full story in a future issue of Practical Motorhome!