Carry on glamping
Published 28/04/2013 | 05:00
Forget leaky tents and shivering the night away, and try a luxurious way of sleeping under the stars in Co Kerry
Camping is one of those weird pursuits where loquacious enthusiasts harp on endlessly about the joys of the great outdoors and the beauty of sleeping under the stars, separated from the elements only by a thin veil of material.
The notion where seemingly normal folk leave perfectly comfortable homes to live in a wood or by a lake, with the inevitable consequence of getting no sleep and ending up wet, has always struck me as odd.
I've never really been one for al fresco holidaying, where one pitches one's tent, walks around for a little bit, makes an ultimately doomed attempt at lighting a campfire, before climbing inside and waiting for the inevitable attack from hooligans or thunder storms.
Purists will participate in things they would never think of doing at home, such as sticking marshmallows into fire, going to the toilet behind a bush and erecting a pole with a swingball dangling from the end of it.
For me, camping equals discomfort, a lack of all mod cons and a totally ridiculous way of unwinding from the stresses and strains of the world, and that's before you've retired for the night.
The night hours are usually spent waiting for the first thuds of rain, followed minutes later by the first plonks of water dripping on to your nose as you spend the rest of the night tossing and turning between puddles and packing up at first light.
The real pros will rise early and stand proudly outside their cloth empire, winking at passers-by to show that they are virtually Bear Grylls of the weekend.
No thank you. When I go camping, I want it to be what the Brennan Brothers have created at their beautiful Dromquinna retreat in Kenmare, Co Kerry.
This is 'glamping', darling, and the only common features with the Baden Powell variety is that you do sleep in the woods, but the tent in this case is a kind of luxury pod, complete with proper beds, electricity and a porch from where you can stare wistfully across the mesmeric Kenmare Bay.
Yes, technically you stay in a tent, but one with rooms, living space and protected with walls of thick reinforced and waterproofed material.
When I first told my wife we were going glamping, she gave the experienced, 'here we go again' look, but her scepticism soon evaporated into the fresh Kerry air.
The children, needless to say, were uncontrollable in their enthusiasm. You do need to be extra vigilant at Dromquinna, though: the water's edge and a considerable drop into Kenmare Bay are close to the tents, so mind the toddlers.
The novelty of this getaway is enough to make your little ones very happy campers indeed, but there are all manner of activities for more adventurous children.
Seafari Eco Tours call to the berth at Dromquinna Manor twice daily, whether you want a ride to Kenmare or to partake in an educational cruise.
There's also a stables next door, while Star Outdoors offers kayaking, water skiing, sailing, banana boats, hill walking and mountaineering.
We stayed in a family tent, which has a second bedroom with two single beds. The Brennan brothers sourced the custom-made tents from safari tent experts in India.
And they have decorated them with all the finer touches you would expect in a luxury hotel bedroom – even goosedown duvets.
So everything but the kitchen sink . . . and a bathroom, but there are suitably fancy washing facilities and toilets just a short distance away, along with a kitchen, laundry, shop and barbecue area.
And as if to reinforce the vision that glamping is not camping, there is a superb restaurant at the end of the site, by the pier.
This fine eatery and bar has been a popular spot for the folk of Kenmare for many years, and has recently been taken over by John and Francis Brennan to go with their beautiful property.
Unless, of course, you fancy tinned beans heated over a makeshift stove...
Glamping (for two people) at Dromquinna during May, June, July and August costs €150 per night. A limited number of family tents are also available, featuring a second bedroom with twin beds at a supplement of €15 per night to sleep two children under 16.