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14/07/2018

Favourite Blogs and Channels Summer 2018

This is a quick post about camping blogs I am enjoying right now. They are all travel blogs or vlogs of one kind or another.

I'm particularly enjoying the long distance walking that the young Irish couple from Tough Soles are doing, although I'm no long distance walker myself! However I can live through them. Tough Soles

Alex and Bobs Scottish wanderings take my fancy, loads of posts over many years if you only start reading now you'll have plenty to digest. Blue Sky Scotland 

Also known as Tigermouse, Eunice is a Lancashire Lass who travels town, country and coast with dogs. Great photos of amazing places too. A Tent, A Caravan, 4 Wheels and Me

Gerry McVeigh is a Northern Irish Walker with an eye for videography, the shots of remote coasts and hills are stunning. He has a particular penchant for knee high shot angles, which really bring you down to clover level. Good music choices too. Gerry McVeigh Channel 

Tristan from the Mid West America takes us on a tour of his homeland by camping in the back of his car. Subscribe to him for multi day vlogging. SUV RVing

Ah the lovely Hiker in Estonia, this makes me want to go to Estonia, and apparently it's a little known, cheap holiday destination from the UK and everyone speaks English and people camp in little huts all over the place, and nobody sets fire to the huts (the lack of vandalism is shocking) forget visiting, I might just live there! Hiker in Estonia

25/06/2018

Waterfall Caves 2nd visit

It's June 2018 in Northern Ireland. And we are having a heat wave. 

We have had one hell of a May and now a whole of June, and a new week stretches ahead of us and there's warnings about leaving kids and dogs in cars (even with windows open) and a heat stroke warning out on the news and us poor pink Norn Irish people are struggling a bit with temperatures going on 30 degrees.

'Don't complain' people whisper, it's so rare that we get this kind of weather. 'It's a bit much for me' is a mumbled confession on a par with stealing sweets from the corner shop. Slap slap don't you dare complain.

Christmas seems like a decade ago.

So Friday afternoon, while at work, the notion takes me to throw the camping gear in the car and head off. I was keen to get back to Waterfall Caves as I had really enjoyed my previous trip there. 


An old favourite

I decided to take an old favourite tent which is the Quechua Base Seconds. This is a pop up tent (truly a pop up, with tensioned flexible poles folded into a circle) and the benefit of it is that it doesn't have plastic windows. The window apertures are a big half circle of mesh and all four sides can be opened giving a good flow of air. Two of the sides can be completely opened too, so you have shelter overhead but lots of cool air getting through.


The tent is just a good size for one person and a dog (Coco was camping too) and it has stand up height inside with straight walls so you can stand anywhere inside. I like the way it looks, a bit like a green egg. I have, somewhere, an inner for this tent but I could not find it and so I elected to take a groundsheet instead that was just about big enough to go under the bed. 

This is the first time I have ever camped without a groundsheet that covered the entire floor. It was actually quite strange, waking up to little dew drops on top of each blade of grass. I always thought having an inner would be a deal breaker for me, given my aversion to spiders etc. Maybe I'm getting more tolerant but I really did not care. Having no inner meant I did have some condensation overnight but it stayed on the tent and didn't affect me. The next day the tent dried quickly in the heat anyway.



I took a cheap supermarket airbed and two sleeping bags. Even with the heat during the day I was glad of the second sleeping bag opened out on top of the first sleeping bag in the middle of the night. As always I took my pillows from home and Coco had her crate which helps her settle at night and kept her off the grass too. 

I was completely alone on the campsite, although there were guests staying in the holiday accommodation which are on the other side of the hedge. Waterfall Caves is a fishing lakes business, with a campsite attached (brand new this year) and some holiday accommodation too. 


On Saturday morning after a good nights rest I went for a walk to Magillian Point. There is a military compound further around the coast so the walk is not that long, but you do have wonderful views over to Ireland and on this occasion there was a cruise ship docked in Greencastle. It is possible to take a ferry to Greencastle from Magilligan Point which I have never taken. It is a treat to be taken the next time perhaps. 



Martello Tower at Magilligan



The short walk comprised of seeing the Martello Tower, lots and lots of shells on the beach and what's left of a dead sheep which Coco was particularly interested in. I do not know why dogs like to roll in yucky things but for some reason Coco is attracted to dead animals and other animals poo. 

We finished our walk with a pub meal in the 'Point Bar' right beside the beach. Luckily they have a outside seating area and I could sit with the dog out in the bright sunshine.

All other catering was done on the new Trangia which I got earlier this spring. I find it a really simple, clean and all in one no fuss cooking system. It is quick to boil water and on Saturday evening a heated up frozen curry and pre-cooked rice. On Sunday morning I fried a bit of potato bread that Paula from Waterfall Caves had kindly cooked the day before. 





I left on Sunday at around about noon, and travelled the hour and a quarter that would take me home. I had a great time and thanks to Paula and George for accommodating me and for sharing a wee glass of wine. I look forward to the next time I'm up however I do like to tour around and see other places too. I don't know where the next trip will be although wanted to go to Mannix Point in Kerry again and also Maddybenny, Craig Hall Farm and a new campsite in Cavan called 'Row' which is on the shores of a lake. 



22/06/2018

Olpro Pop Review 2018 after two years of use

The Olpro Pop is an umbrella style tent which is advertised as a two berth tent, not to be confused with a 'pop up' style tent that explodes once you remove the strap from a circle of fabric.  It has built in poles attached to the fabric which have 'elbows' incorporated into the design. These bend at the joint for packing away. 

Price as of June 2018 £69.00 (discounts frequently advertised, just ask)

Height (cm): 140cm

Length (cm): 210cm

Width (cm): 210cm

Packed dimensions (cm): 18cm x 18cm x 75cm

Weight (kg): 4.5kg

Hydrostatic Head: 3,000mm H/H

Material: 210 Oxford


I bought TWO

I have bought not one but two of the Olpro Pop since they were first released in Spring of 2016. The first one I bought as a weekend and touring tent as a replacement to a Vango Halo which I never got the hang of pitching easily. The main reason why I'd bought the Halo in the first place was because of the two doors and not because of it's technical capabilities. As I am by choice a weekend fair weather camper, where if it is due to rain I simply don't go, then the flip side is that in a Polyester Mix fabric tent you can get put out of it when the sun comes up in the morning with the heat and stuffiness. One simple way to get a bit more of a lie in is two partially open both doors so that the breeze can get through. The Olpro Pop also has a silver reflective inside which is supposed to help with keeping the sun and light out. I think it is quite effective in this regard.

The Vango Halo is a great piece of kit, but I found that I lacked the strength to get the third pole in. The Halo has a Geodesic shape and so the third pole makes it very windproof. Where it wins over the Olpro Pop is in pack size, it is a tiny bag and great for cyclists, hikers and bikers. The Olpro Pop is unwieldy in comparison, the pack size is about the same as a cheap camping chair although it is great for car camping. I don't think it would do as well in the wind as the Halo. 

The Vango Halo is a technical tent designed to withstand harsh conditions, and it is unfair to compare the two. The Olpro Pop has never claimed to be a 'mountain' tent or a 'lightweight' tent, or indeed is it's price point indicative of a technical tent - but as a car camping fair weather or festival tent it is excellent.

credit: Olpro


To make up for it's pack size, the stuff sack does come with two padded rucksack type straps. This makes it fantasic for carrying into a festival for example, and the fact that the pegs are in a zipped pocket on the side of the bag means you have everything you need in one package. 

Initially I bought a green one, however it does come in green, orange and blue. When I bought a second one I fancied Orange.

I brought it to the Lake District where my nearly grown up son used it as a pup tent. He lived in it for two weeks and had no problem with the heat due to it's silver reflective interior. It also has two mesh windows which further helps to cool it down. I donated the green one to him as the start of his own camping kit and bought myself another one in Orange.

The Olpro Pop is meant to be a two berth but I think you could squeeze three roll mats in and so three young people, slim people or kids could sleep in this tent. I found that a single airbed of around about 70cm wide took up less than one half of the tent.  

Two 70cm airbeds with room to crawl in the middle
The only real issue  I had with it was to do with the doors. Many small tents have the same problem, The door is a 'D' door which hinges along the bottom rather than the top or side. That means that unless you take the time to roll and tie up the door every time you want to go in or out, the door and the inner door (there is a fly mesh also) gets stepped on or pulled when crawling across it. This has led to some minor damage on the fly mesh, and is also a trip hazard when getting in and out of the tent. But then if the hinge point was along the top instead then you would lose the ability to partially open the door under the shelter of the rain fly. 

The fly mesh is black and this means that if you want to zip up the fly mesh but not the door (when it is hot) there is still some privacy as long as you don't have the door open on the other side too.

I found a prefered way was to have the mesh closed on both sides but the outer door partially open at the top to let air through. The overhang of the outer part of the tent prevented rain from getting in through the top part of the door. 

The inner can be removed leaving the outer on it's own which could be used as a beach shelter for sun protection. The inner is attached with sturdy clips as is the separate ground sheet. The inner 'pod' has it's own sewn in groundsheet so there is essentially two layers underneath you. Being able to separate the tent can help dry it out quickly if you are in a hurry to pack up. On a particularly sunny morning in Langdale, in the Lake District, and after a rain soaked night, the Olpro Pop was separated and took about five minutes to dry so we could get on with packing up and leaving.  

On a holiday to Kinsale the year after going to the Lake District, I got caught in rain. Being away for a longer holiday where I had booked time off work and also considerably farther away from home, if it rained I was stuck with it. I found the tarp set up very useful for wetter weather and this also gave me somewhere to cook and read.

On this occasion I had my dog with me. She prefers to be in a crate when camping (it helps her settle at night). The tent successfully held my airbed, sleeping gear, the crate, my cooking gear and my chair folded up when my car broke down and I had to unpack my car completely to get the car to the garage.
 

All in all I would highly recommend this tent for car camping. I would recommend it for young people/children and couples and for solo travelers. It is very good for touring and changing camping spots frequently as it takes just two or three minutes to pitch and about five minutes to take down.

It is particularly suited to festival use. The orange colour in particular would stand out in a sea or green or blue tents at a festival.

Having two doors is a unique feature, and the only other tent that I have found that has this feature is the Vango Halo, which is a different league of tent altogether given that it is designed for adverse weather and lightweight travelling and has a price point a lot higher than the Olpro Pop. 

Pros

Very easy to pitch and take down
Surprisingly roomy inside
Great ventilation makes it a cool tent
Two doors opposite each other, can change which door you use as the 'main door' if the wind changes direction.
Two doors eliminates build up of heat.
Mesh inner door keeps the bugs out
The website is very good and makes the buying process very quick and easy

Cons

The bag could do with being a little bit bigger, it can be a challenge to get the tent back in the bag
The poles weakest point is the 'elbow' and looks like it could break - be careful!

17/06/2018

Camping in Scotland

Sometimes its nice to travel light. What do you really need for camping? 

1) A tent



2) A couple of airbeds



3) and a view


Camping, at it's simplest.

So it's pretty obvious that I didn't take the ferry to Scotland just to go camping for one night. I was actually in Carlisle to pick up my eldest son Elan who is at the end of his last term of Uni. As an Illustrator, he had an end of year show which is the culmination of his three years of work. 


It was a multi day event so I went from a Wednesday to the Sunday. I stayed in his Student house in a room that is right beside a busy junction on a main road. We also had extremely good weather, with the temperatures hitting 30 degrees on one day. 



The heat and the noise were a bit much for me, and coupled with the fact that my son has some of his own camping equipment that we had to take back to Northern Ireland anyway, it made sense to use it to get out of the city and closer to the ferry so that we would have a shorter journey to the ferry in Cairnryan.

I had a couple of days in Carlisle to hunt out the perfect campsite on the internet, since my son had lots of goodbyes to say to his friends and was busy most evenings and so I was on my own. The Galloway and Dumfries area has more campsites than you could shake a stick at, and most of them look fantastic. I would love a fortnight just to spend some quality time in this area.

I'm a sucker for a view though and so when I came across Castle Bay Holiday Park in Portpatrick my mind was immediately made up. It was only 25 minutes drive to the ferry at Cairnryan. 

Ruin One of the Day

On the Saturday morning we got all of Elans worldly possessions in the car, made sure the camping gear was on top and set off. On the way we stopped at a Cafe just outside Dumfries for a big breakfast to set us up for the day, and to buy supplies for dinner that night. Closer to our destination, we stopped off for a leg stretch at Glenluce Abbey which is not far off the main road on the way to Stranraer.





Next stop Portpatrick and Castle Bay Holiday Park which I navigated to with the Sat Nav. Having booked in at reception and paid our £18 we set up the tent. A couple of years ago I had bought the Olpro Pop which is an umbrella style pop up three berth tent. I liked it a lot but donated it to my son for his own camping kit. The tent is available in three colours and the one I had bought and donated was green. I then bought myself an orange one to replace the one I had given away. I had one airbed with me, which was for Elan to sleep on when we were in Carlisle (I took over his bed) and I'd also brought my own bedding for staying in Carlisle. So all I needed to do was buy one cheap airbed from a supermarket on the way to the campsite and he had a sleeping bag he had as part of his camping kit. We had no chairs, no cooking gear, nothing other than the tent and the beds. And you know what? That's all you need.

Our campsite was at the end of a drive through the Holiday Park, overlooking the sea and also a spectacular ruin called Dunskey Castle. The weather was beautiful, warm but the sea breeze left the temperatures comfortable unlike Carlisle where is was too hot. 

Ruin Two of the Day
There is a public right of way to the castle and apparently it takes you past the castle right into the fishing village of Portpatrick.  We were not there long enough to go on that walk, but we did explore the ruins. It is possible to get right into the castle ruins, up a spiral staircase and into the upper floor. It was a second ruin of the day. 

zoomed in from the campsite









view from the castle


spiral staircase

Back at the campsite, I enjoyed a bit of rest time with a spectacular view overlooking the Irish Sea from which, according to David the warden, you can see Northern Ireland on a clear day.
 
Looking back at the campsite from Dunskey Castle ruin

Our dinner was simple - a french stick, a packet of ham and a couple of beef tomatoes and crisps. Dessert was a punnet of fresh cherries. This was one of the best dinners we had in the whole trip. We each had our own swiss army knife, you'd nearly think we'd done this camping thing before.

About 8pm the scottish midge made an appearance. They were malicious and the only thing we could do was pile into the car and get out of the campsite. Everyone else in the campsite did exactly the same thing. Except these people who turned up in a campervan.


Ruin Three of the Day 

We decided to explore the village of Portpatrick, which is a small fishing village with a couple of hotels on the sea front. We also happened to be in town at the same time as a group who were obviously having a meet and were all Moped enthusiasts. We had come across them camping on a sports pitch on the same road as our campsite, and it seemed they were all from Northern Ireland too.

just a few of the mopeds

We explored the village and came across another ruin in an ancient graveyard. The photo below shows the dovecote which is inside the old graveyard.




Old Portpatrick Church of St Andrews - Dovecote



The following day we packed up our tent and belongings and went back to Portpatrick in search of Sunday Lunch. We were a bit early and went for a walk along the seashore and visited a pottery and a couple of tourist type shops. We bought some locally made lemon and lime marmalade for bringing home. We saw the most enormous Jelly Fish along the shore. A woman was trying to take a closer look at it when her boyfriend tried to push her in!


Sunday Lunch at The Crown

The Marina at Portpatrick


RNLI lifeboat with Portpatrick in the background
This last photo shows the path and steps that goes eventually to Dunskey Castle and the campsite as well as beyond (I believe it's a coastal walk).


I would recommend Castle Bay Holiday Park because of it's spectacular views, the easy walks to both Dunskey Castle and along the shore to Portpatrick. The village had plenty to offer too with a few hotels, a couple of arts and ceramics shops and a lovely marina to explore. Portpatrick is very convenient to the ferry but there is so much more to explore in this area and the next time I'm in the area I hope to find out more about the place.


28/05/2018

Waterfall Caves new campsite near Benone - opening weekend

I had the honour of being invited to open a new campsite this Bank Holiday weekend, May 2018. Paula and George Canning from Ballykelly area near Benone had already got a busy fishing lakes business when they decided to open up a campsite beside the lakes. I had been asked to give some ideas and feedback and then coming up to the big weekend I was asked to cut the ribbon and say a few words. It was combined with a fund raiser for a young relative of theirs, a little boy called Caden Jack Moore who has recently had a bone marrow transplant The Adventures of Caden Jack Moore.

Caden Jack Moore

It was to be a weekend of catching up with old friends, as friends old and new came to help celebrate this big opening.  So it was a busy weekend in blistering hot weather and we all got very sunburned even with the factor 50.

L-R, David, Karen, Stephen, John and me


The site itself is small in scale and is flat and dry with hardstandings for Motorhomes, Campervans and in the future, Caravans. At the moment there is no electricity so the site, although open, is still in development. There are a couple of fire pits sitting around and loads of picnic tables built by the local Mens Shed. There is one toilet and one shower for everyone in the rear of the main cabin with only a short one minute walk from the campsite along a pretty wooded path. 

Access to the site is along the Duncrun Road. The turn in to the site from the main road is an acute angle, and because of this it is advisable for people towing caravans to approach from the East. The Sat Nav co-ordinates are 55°07'50.3"N 6°55'55.9"W. The access road is steep enough but quite wide and there are 10mph speed restrictions signs along it's length. Roadside signage is not in place for the campsite as of May 2018 however there are signs for Duncrun Fishing Lakes at the road side. The nearest village is Ballykelly and there are two shops. One of the shops will deliver for 50p with a minimum order of £30 and you just put in your order at the campsite (there are two times a day to do this). Just past Ballykelly is the turn off to Magilligan Point with the Point Bar that does food, a beach and the ferry to Donegal. Another couple of miles along the road is Benone Strand with caravan parks, the Tourist Complex and a cafe called 'Waves' who do a 'golfers fry' for £5.95 and open on a Saturday and Sunday morning from 9am. Incidentally a Restaurant called 'Coast' does a free pick up and drop off for campers at Waterfall Caves.


short path to the cabin from the campsite


The facilities for campers are mostly based in the cabin which already serves as an office and small snack shop for the fishing business. The new campers facilities are a kitchen dining area to the rear of the building with an open to the outside porch with seating. Directly behind the cabin is a play area with climbing frame, a see saw and soft surface.

campers kitchen

campers kitchen with porch
playpark

There are fishing lakes which are very pretty and there are rod hire and tickets are available in the office. Campers can walk around them but there are no dogs allowed and they must be quiet when fishing is in progress. There is a little bit of a Canadian flavour to the lower lakes landscape, and the upper lake is a turquoise pool with a backdrop of the famous cliff face of Benevenagh Mountain. The upper lake is also overlooked by the other type of accommodation available at this site, four 'caves' which are subterranean rooms with glass frontage. 




Upper Lake

Lower Lake

There is another walk which is more dog friendly (because no dogs are allowed around the fishing areas). It is the 10 minute Viewpoint Walk which takes you on a circular route around the owners land, with a spectacular viewpoint stop off for photos and actually enough room to park about four motorhomes so it may even be a future motorhome park. Off this walk is another walking route which is the 'Game of Thrones' walk which takes a line up the hill side to the cliffs, taking in the areas that were used as filming locations for the TV series.


view from part of the Viewpoint Walk

Game of Thrones route

On Saturday the main party and fundraiser took place. There was a barbecue, a bouncy castle and loads and loads of people turned up. They were a mixture of fishing people, friends and family of the Canning Family who were supporting the new business venture, family of young Caden who the day was in aid of, neighbours and people who just called in to support the event. To date the day raised £1400 with more due. Young Cadens father, Brian, provided the a Tepee for everyone to enjoy as a communal space and explained that he had to give up a job which he loved because of the care that Caden requires. His prior job was using the big Tepee as a classroom for teaching outdoor activities to children.


On the day of the big opening 'do' I had the honour of cutting the ribbon and a few words were appropriate. I started with a brief description of who I am and what I do, which is that I am a blogger and camping enthusiast. I then touched on the fundraising element of the fun day and then led everyone on a round of applause for the Canning Family who worked so hard on the site. There was quite a crowd and afterwards we all went through to look at the campsite and John and I hosted some tent and awning tours. In the meantime back in the cabin the barbecue and wine was in full flow.

big speech

some of the crowd going for a campsite tour

Campsite tour


On Sunday it was pack up day. We started the day the only way we knew how. Bacon and coffee.


Then it was time for John to do his Yoga moves as he struggled to get the air out of the tent. He is available for weddings, parties and bar mitzvas anywhere in Northern Ireland. All in all a fantastic weekend and a rough idea has come together for a future meet up with many of the friends I met on this camping trip.



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