Pól Ó Conghaile: Why camping could be the best value holiday of all
Sleep beneath the stars
With a grand aul' stretch in the evenings and the mercury slowly but surely on the rise (touch wood), Ireland's 2015 camping season is sparking into life.
Of course, there are hardy souls who pitch hi-tech tents in all sorts of inclement weather, but for most of us, May to September is the optimum window in which to pack the boot and head off on one of the most inexpensive, and under-rated, family holidays available.
Camping is growing more popular in Ireland - there's little doubt about that. Last year, six out of ten campsites (58pc) reported an increase in visitors, according to a Fáilte Ireland Tourism Barometer survey. This year, more are available to book online, on their own sites and on sites like Pitchup.com and Campsited.com.
Glamping continues to grow, too. At first considered a novelty (and still ridiculed by purists), this creative combo of 'glamour' and 'camping' has found a real foothold, especially among holidaymakers put off by the idea of pitching their own tents, sleeping on the ground, sharing loos and other such shocks to the system. An increasing number of Irish camping and caravan sites are adding bell tents, eco-cabins, yurts and more - catering to customers who want the camping vibe without sacrificing their creature comforts.
Where to start? We've got an exclusive guide to the 2015 season right here - check it out for a comprehensive mix of expert and reader tips... and of course, feel free to add your own!
Camping arguably offers the best value holiday of all, with a pitch for two adults and two children starting from as little as €23 (provided you have your own tent, of course) in some Irish sites. Further savings can be had by investing in a Camping Key Europe Card (€16), which entitles the bearer to discounts such as 10pc off Stena Line ferry crossings or nightly pitch rates, for example. For more info and special offers, see the Irish Caravan and Camping Council's new website (camping-ireland.com) or app.
Camping doesn't have to involve sleeping bags and smoky stoves, you know. John Brennan (of At Your Service) has pioneered ultra-luxury glamping in Ireland at Dromquinna Manor, where a dozen or so bespoke canvas tents from India overlook Kenmare Bay. Rates in the tents, which feature hand-crafted beds and private verandas, start from €150 based on two sharing (dromquinnamanor.com). Pushing the boat out even further, a 'Sun Moon Stars' package combines a night's glamping with two nights at the Park Hotel Kenmare from €695pp.
NB: Prices subject to change.