As the world watched in dismay as the pandemic swept the globe one thing I knew for sure was I would not be doing any camping this year. Facebook camping groups were posting great photos about garden camps and expressing dismay about their favourite campsite not opening, limiting numbers or excluding certain types of units, such as tents. In the bigger scheme of things, the camping holiday is not that important. The camping holiday will be there for the future.
The holiday industry reeled from cancelled holidays abroad and the general population appeared to consider holidaying at home as flights were cancelled and holiday destinations deemed not safe. It would appear that the camping gear retailers have mopped up on a lot of extra trade as this is the year of the 'staycation'. I worry that this 'new breed' of camper will not have picked up on all the well known, unwritten guidance about noise, consideration, and thoughtfulness towards others and so that is another good reason to skip the camping this year. The new campers will be the ones to provide the campsites with a living and it would appear that many of the campsites have put their prices up to make up for the lost income earlier in the year. I appreciate they have faced many challenges this season.
Personally, I did not feel comfortable spending time in a campsite this year because of the shared amenities. I do not think it's possible or practical for staff to deeply sanitize a toilet between every single use and the showers are a problem as well. I decided therefore to go self catering, knowing that any respecting accommodation provider will deep clean before my arrival and I can clean door handles, toilets etc myself when I arrive. I also know it will be deep cleaned once I leave in anticipation of the next holiday makers who arrive.
The accommodation I went with was Seal Cabin which is approximately 1.5 miles south of Strangford village at Strangford lough. I spent 6 nights in mid july and although it was more expensive than camping, I felt it was worth it to get a break away from pressures at work. Seal Cabin is a log chalet in the grounds of a dwelling that is lived in by a young family. It is the only holiday accommodation on their grounds. It is quite separate, the holiday chalet has it's own parking space and there is a patio with table and chairs outside. The family have an extensive garden elsewhere in the grounds for playtime and I did not even see the children or their Mum once the whole time I was there.
The view from both the house and the chalet is over Strangford Lough and in particular, this part of the lough has islands only exposed at low tide. The seals from the Lough pull themselves up on to the islands for a bit of sunbathing and that is why the chalet has been named Seal Cabin.
The accommodation was all one room with a partitioned off corner to accommodate a bathroom. The narrow part of the space beside the bathroom has a fitted kitchenette and then the other end of the space is taken up with a double bed. In between the two 'zones' is a sofa, likely a sofa bed for extra sleeping arrangements if a family were staying. It was decorated in a coastal theme, with beautiful fabrics, decor and all the crockery in the kitchen matching their chosen theme.
I used the cabin in the same way I use a tent, it was a base to see whatever there was to see in the area. In this case I enjoyed seeing the abbeys of Grey Abbey and Inch Abbey, both very famous landmarks in their own right. I also spent a wonderful afternoon at Ballyhornan beach and although it never got warm enough for a dip in the sea I did go for some paddles.
I very much enjoyed socially distanced dining, I actually prefer the extra space in restaurants as some of the tables have been removed and also the privacy of having screens between tables. I was also able to dine outside in the sunshine depending on the weather at the time.
The Lobster Pot in Strangford has indoor and outdoor eating areas, and the indoor eating area had some of their tables removed so that there was more space between tables. The food was excellent and the price fairly standard for what you would expect. The Artisan Cafe is very good too, they have screens between tables and also less tables in the indoor area. They are particularly good for breakfasts with an extensive menu including granola, porridge, pancakes and a 'wee fry' and a 'big fry'. I stopped in a couple of late mornings in order to have brunch, which kept me going all day.
I visited the gardens of Mount Stewart on the Ards Penninsula. Due to the global pandemic, the house itself is closed. There is a new protocol in place for entry, it is not possible to just turn up at the moment. I had pre-booked the friday before and got a timed entry which was Wednesday at 2.30. The gardens were great but it will also be nice when all the restrictions are eased and we can do normal stuff again, whatever that will come to mean!
If you have an interest in staying in Seal Cabin visit either Seal Cabin Airbnb