Camping around Ireland in summertime has made up some of the most special memories of my adult life. In our family we didn’t camp as kids and It only became part of my holiday routine a few years ago when we attempted 50km of hiking in Wicklow National Park with friends over a long weekend. Although myself and my partner crave the solitude experienced from wild camping in forests and on beaches, those adventures are few and far between since wild camping is not allowed in many areas in Ireland. As environmentalists we have an acute respect for the land and always follow a rule of leave no trace, however too often we have happened upon evidence of overnight camping in the environment so it’s not surprising that you cannot camp wild without a permit in Ireland. Following a summer of lots of amazing camping trips I’ve pulled together a list of tips and benefits to Eco-camping, comprised a pack list of essentials and embed a map of some of our favourite places to camp in Ireland. Camping wild can be achieved of course if you have a permit or get permission from the land owner. Coilte forests also have five designated sites where you can wild camp.
After New Years my partner felt inspired that come July, we could leave the car behind and cycle the Wild Atlantic Way, camping along Ireland’s rugged West Coast. Romantic and dreamy as that sounded, as the weeks closed in around our trip the realist within me pulled the plug on that idea. I had met a few solo camping cyclists during my June camping trip (they were super fit and barely carrying any kit) and I knew there was no way the two of us could camp comfortably and sustainably for two weeks without all of the camping gear and accessories. We love to prepare food, hike, surf and let’s face it; have a tent with space enough to swing a cat when it’s two weeks on the road together. Picking a suitable spot is important for an enjoyable experience; maybe you are a solo camper in need of some quiet time, a wandering hiker or a bustling family on holiday. Below is a map of some of my favourite spots visited in the last year (Clifden Eco-camping is next on my list!)
The top 4
For Eco / nature / retreat – Pure Camping, Co. Clare
For surf and ‘locals only’ pub – Aughris Head Beach Bar, Co. Sligo
For families – Wave Crest, Co. Kerry
For solitude – Rossnowlagh Beach, Co. Donegal (basic/budget campsites but a perfect location for exploring)
Check out a campsite before you set up to see if it respects the local environment. Most places have their environmental policy available online or in the camp reception. See what the waste and recycling facilities are like, if the energy is renewable, if they have rainwater harvesting, is the lighting excessive, do they use chemical toilets? Generally we look for a site that doesn’t pack too many campers within the grounds and makes good use of renewables. I am always prepared and willing to take my recyclables back with me if the waste system in place is not being separated properly.
It took some time to build up all of our kit but the list below will help you reduce single waste. We are always keen to borrow and share equipment so it doesn’t sit idle gathering dust in the family attic.
- Mini pots and pans with clip fasten lids.
- USB chargeables (we have a lighter, bike lights and a lamp which are all rechargeable via a USB cord).
- Bucket BBQ – no need for wasteful disposable BBQs.
- Picnic basket. Ours is a very romantic one with wine glasses and the lot!
- Tupperware – you can never have enough when camping, and they are invaluable in reducing food waste.
- Flasks for keeping liquids and food warm, I find the Stanley range an invaluable purchase and they are guaranteed for life.
- Cool box with non-toxic ice packs.
- Refillable gas cylinder and pocket stove.
- Silicone tub for dishes (helps conserve water).
- Eco-washing-up liquid and laundry soap, we use Lilies Eco Clean.
For fuel we tried out a few packets of Eco smokeless briquettes and we were totally impressed! They are environmentally friendly high density wood briquettes made with 100% chemical free wood waste. Once the winter months role in I hope to be able to make a switch to these more sustainable briquettes.
We were well stocked with our own DIY cosmetics (recipes in the DIY section) as well as natural shampoo bars and Pitty Putty deodorant. We were not too worried with small amounts of these naturally based products running off into the land or water system. Some outdoor shower stalls request that you to use natural products (See Inch Hideaway Co. Cork for their innovative rainwater harvesting showers and composting toilet system). Many campsites suffer with too many people using their drainage system and we were sure to ‘Think Before you Flush’ and carried reusable cloths, mooncups and flannels.
Don’t stock up the car with every subsidiary you might need for the trip. Of course we bring specialty foods or drinks, which we might not be able to source rurally, but where possible support the local grocery store or farmers market.
The Great Outdoors
It’s not often we can spend the full day immersed in nature. I really experience a huge shift in my own wellbeing when I can remove myself from my duties and the digital world. Apart from the usual outdoor activities like swimming and hiking, camping holidays are a great opportunity to practice foraging for edible plants or getting out on the water to catch your own fish. We even happened upon natural clay on Inch Beach and made our own pottery bowls and face masks.
Leave no trace
No doubt you are all aware of the leave no trace etiquette when it comes camping or picnicking but that literally means leave zero physical evidence you were ever there. That includes moving your tent onto new grass if you are staying for more than a few days, using a concrete slab under your BBQ, not leaving any kinds of compostables such as apple cores, tissues etc. Why not practice a #2minutebeachclean to help restore natural areas which are gaining increased tourism? If you’re staying put for a little while and want to get the kids involved in community action, why not checkout the below map to see if there is an active Clean Coasts volunteer group in the area?
Rather than an exiting note I will leave you with some imagery of some of the most breathtaking pockets of Irish coastline.
Rebecca : )