This camping and travel blog is written by a solo, camping obsessed lady camper hailing from the west of Northern Ireland.



First time GLAMPING (covid-19 edition 2020)

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.

view from 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


First time Caravanning

Yes siree I did the unthinkable, I stayed in a caravan. Not mine, my parents who went away in it for a fortnight but couldn't stay the weekend in between so I got the use of it. It was in a new site to us, called Causeway Coast and it is right beside Juniper Hill about halfway between Portrush and Portstewart on the North Coast of Northern Ireland. 

No photos of the caravan but I can say that it was a bit weird. I arrived about 8pm on Friday past, and I sat on my own in the caravan and thought 'what now?'. When I'm camping I have a tent to set up, water to fetch, bed to blow up, and a sleeping bag to fluff. So I got back in the car and went for a drive around Portstewart which was a big mistake because Portstewart has got crazy traffic.

The following day my good friend Violet came to stay and that kept us occupied, walking into Portrush, walking around the shops and going for a meal in an Indian Restaurant. Back at the caravan I introduced her to Scrabble, I find it hard to believe that there are people in this world who have never played scrabble. We do try and live the Rock 'n' roll life! I brought three bottles of beer and forgot to drink it. 

Late afternoon the next day I'd found my groove - I also found a good book and a comfy Moon Chair that I took into the harbour in Portstewart and did a combination of reading and people watching. At tea time Mum and Dad arrived to take over at the caravan and we all went out for a meal to Amicis which is in the old Golf Club in Portstewart. It was one of the best meals I've had in years, very tasty, fresh ingredients and really well presented. Not a bad quick weekend away and very civilized in a caravan and I could get spoilt with it.

Causeway Coast Caravan Park

A nice little park with a railway line running behind. I actually quite enjoyed the train going past, it was not noisy or invasive. It has views over the sea and is very handy to both Portrush and Portstewart. Into Portrush it is around about a two mile walk and it is all downhill. The problem is it's all uphill on the way back!

The touring park allows tents as well as caravans and motorhomes. There is quite a steep slope on the site and so if in a campervan or motorhome levellers are definitely required. The caravan stays have some adjustment but some wood was still needed to make the caravan level. At the bottom of the grass area in the middle of the looped road it would be flat enough to pitch a tent. 

The campsite toilets are spotless and the owners have put a little information table with local leaflets etc just inside the door of the ladies, and I'm guessing the same in the guys loos as well. The only negative is that there is no dishwashing area which is a real pity because that's where you meet other people. I didn't really get chatting to anyone and when Mum and Dad arrived we also got told off for having two cars at the caravan temporarily while we were swapping over residency. I'm guessing you don't mess with the lady who runs the site but then again there's probably never any issue with night time noise. 

I would go again though, it's a good base for the area.

Co Mayo Annual Hols

It was the main holiday, the 'big' trip which is a fortnight in mid-July when the camping planets align and I can take up to two weeks away. 

This year it was decided that it would be a family trip, that is myself in my Bell Tent and my parents in their touring Caravan. It was the first time I went on holiday with my parents since I was a teenager. 

Mum and Dad had always fancied going to Belleek Campsite in Ballina, Co Mayo, they had heard great things about the campsite and so about two weeks before hand we booked and paid a deposit. It turned out that the town festival was on and they needed a bigger deposit than they usually require, €25 each on a credit card, which was fine we didn't mind.

We arrived separately, I was working that day mopping up last minute jobs and so didn't get to leave home until lunchtime. They had already left their home first thing. I drove down Glencar Valley to Sligo then down the main road that would eventually take you to Galway. I missed a turn off and the sat nav brought me past Lough Talt which although probably wasn't as good a road, it was very scenic.

When I got to Ballina I was surprised at how big it is. It is a large town with a one way system and I had been primed in advance by parents not to go through it (they learnt the hard way). The best way to the campsite is when you get to a sign saying 'Belleek Castle and Woods' follow that, which will take you through a large stone arch and then go past the Castle entrance as the campsite is only half a mile or so onwards.

My first impression of the campsite as I drove in is that it is really well laid out, you drive through an avenue with a row of statics on the left, go straight on and then roads branch off disappearing behind mature trees and hedges. The campsite road is a loop with offshoots, and it gives the site a very non linear feel with lots of privacy between parts of the site. The pitches are generous, and there were units of all types mixed in with each other which I like to see. Nothing worse in my view than a row of regimented white boxes, I'd far rather see campervans mixed with caravans, tents and motorhomes.

Our pitch (our caravan and tent were put together) was on the edge of a tent area that appeared to be used for family tents. I was on the outer edge of it beside Mum and Dads caravan which was on a hard standing. It was right beside the water supply which was handy for them as they could stretch the hose across every morning for a fill. It was also a 30 second dander though the trees to the amenity block. 

The loos were a bit dated but very clean, and three showers in the ladies and presumably in the mens too. I found two extra showers around the corner which had external doors and were unisex. I actually preferred them as there was a bit more room. The tokens for the showers are €1 from reception. In my time there (we stayed a week) I used the laundry and it cost €4 for a wash and I think it was another €2 for a certain length of drying. There was a choice of short amount of drying or long amount but I decided to use the shorter time and then put everything over the back of chairs at the tent. The amenity block has a washing line round the back too but no pegs are supplied so bring your own.

The campsite has a great campers kitchen with two sets of dining tables and chairs and two washing up sinks inside. Then just outside there are another two washing up sinks under a shelter. Beside this is some picnic tables under a large shelter and then a recycling zone enclosed inside a fenced off area. I found that this area was the best area to meet new people and find out about where people were from etc. I really enjoy the social side of camping and this is were the craic is - bonding over dishes. 

In our first few days there as previously mentioned the town festival was on. The first night we went for a walk in the town centre and it was really atmospheric with music on stage in the main street and lots of people watching to do. 

The second evening there was a fantastic fireworks over the river. One of the biggest employers in the area is the Coca Cola factory and I was told that they sponsored the fireworks. The certainly splashed the cash for the display. It was very late because being summer it gets truly dark quite late. So it was 11.30pm before they started but it was such a busy crowd that we got our spot on the bridge at 10pm and waited an hour and a half. It really was worth it.

We enjoyed going to Belleek Castle which was near the campsite and is a hotel. The castle has a lovely little lunch spot which is quite trendy with live edge wood tables, bean bags in the courtyard and a menu which is quite reasonable. A filling, thick vegetable soup with really good heavy brown bread, a bit like wheaten bread, was €5.90. 

Belleek Castle also has a tour of some of the rooms which are non accommodation rooms. This includes the areas where the weddings are held and also some rooms which collections of various objects like armour and fossils and furniture and maps. The castle was owned most recently by a great collector of things, and so the house which is warren of interesting things to look at. 

The other thing we spent our week doing was going to nearby Enniscrone which has a really good beach for swimming. It was very hot weather during our week away and so a dip was called for and very welcome. Mum and I went for a swim while Dad rested his eyes in the car. 

We also visited the nearby Rosserk Abbey and also the little fishing village of Killala. 

Enniscrone Beach with Nephin Mountain in the distance

Rosserk Abbey

Rosserk Abbey

Killala, Co Mayo

Killala village

At the end of the week Mum and Dad left for home and I went on to Cong which is south of Ballina. I stayed at 'The Quiet Man' campsite but ended up with a rowdy crowd in three large tents beside me. I explored the area on foot, walking to Cong and around the golf club area of Ashford Castle. I would have gone into the grounds of Ashford Castle but it was €15 per person and all I wanted to do was walk beside the river back to Cong in a circular route. I decided to go the long way instead. I did get a good picture of Ashford Castle across the river. 

Ashford Castle, Cong, Co Mayo

 I could have stayed away longer but between the neighbours and incoming bad weather I decided to go home, calling into Drumcliff to look at Yeats grave and the round tower, and having lunch at the nearby Yeats Country Inn. I spent the next week chilling out at home and enjoying having time to cook proper meals and sleep in and watch Homes under the Hammer before going back to work well rested and glad of a break.

Knockalla Campsite Fanad Donegal

A bit late posting my summer adventures, this camping trip was from June and the first of the 2019 season.

It was a  'chuck it in the car' thing and head off into the wild blue yonder with not a whole lot of forward planning. I wanted remote, time out, space, peace and so it was I headed to Fanad in Donegal. I haven't been in years plus I'm a sucker for a campsite with a view and since it was a bank holiday the previous weekend, I reckoned I'd have the place to myself. 

One of the view points from Knockalla Mountain

I headed to Knockalla Campsite, ringing ahead to make sure there were some tent spaces (there was) and stopping off for some cash on the way. I went via the coastal route which takes you over the top of Knockalla Mountain. I wouldn't go any other way and if you try this you'll see why.

The campsite was completely deserted, I was the only person there camping. I was solo this time and I brought a poly tent because it was easy to put up alone, I can stand up in it and the weather forecast could be described as 'iffy' and so therefore I wouldn't have too much trouble drying the thing again once I got home.

Add caption

looking back towards the rest of the campsite (must wash the car) 

the view from the tent

Once the tent was up, the airbed blown up, the chair put out front with a Knockalla Campsite brochure marking page 3 of a book,  I got the Trangia fired up for a well deserved cup of coffee.

I had brought a skandika sleeping bag which is rated to roughly +5 degrees but I woke about 2am with teeth chattering feeling very, very cold. A silk sleeping bag liner I found in my camping kit did the trick and I slept very well after that until the bloody birds woke me up before 6am.

The following day I found that the local eatery at the Pier in Portsalon did soup and a cheese toasty for €7.90 and that did for lunch. I drove up to Fanad Head where there is a lighthouse. Things are changed a bit since I was last there, I found a new car park with a ticket office selling tours of the light house but I had no interest in a tour, I wanted to walk part of the headland instead. So I parked my car at the layby in front of the lighthouse gates and hitched the leg over the fence as others were doing and hoped that nobody would shout at me for leaving the car there or going onto (presumably) private ground. There is a former barracks beside the layby and by heading towards shore you can see a concrete lookout. Once out there it is actually the best place to photograph the lighthouse across a deep ravine with the torrid sea far below.

There is a wall between the barracks compound and a different beach over to the left of the shore. There used to be a gap in the wall but it's blocked up now. I wanted to go to this beach because I knew that there were very colourful stones. I had a bowl of these beautiful stones in a previous house which I varnished and I don't know what happened them (lost them when moving house) but I still have one green one left. It was actually one of the reasons I went to Portsalon and it was very frustrating to be prevented from going on the beach.

I headed out for tea again and got a medium cooked steak and chips along with a weird desert made from moss which was a bit like a milky jelly only it was pale green.

In the evening I was truly knackered, I don't know if it was the bit of walking or the sea air but I was zonked and it was lights out at 9pm! Unfortunately my airbed decided to be an ex-airbed and I spent the night very uncomfortably and wishing I'd packed a spare.

I woke up to a glorious morning and all was forgiven. I knew that it was to rain, and in fact I could see the black clouds rolling towards me. There's nothing like an imminent rain cloud to make striking camp quick and efficient and it was literally half an hour between waking and getting into the car with the first fat raindrops hitting the windscreen as I exited the campsite. 

I went home a slightly different route through Kerrykeel. I could see a little restaurant called The Narrow Quarter was open and so I used the tenner from the key deposit to treat myself to an Irish Breakfast of a sausage, bacon, white pudding, soda bread, egg and a pot of tea. It was a great wee restaurant and I would think it would be lovely for an evening meal.

Knockalla Campsite  

Knockalla Campsite has somewhat changed since I was last there, the touring caravan and motorhome area is very smart with brand new tarmac and neatly mown grass. It looks quite polished and has great views. A couple of weeks after my visit my parents went in their touring caravan and really enjoyed their stay.

The campsite facilities are great, the amenities were very clean and you need a token for the shower costing €1.50 which is bought at reception. The staff member who dealt with me was very friendly and there is a lot going on at main reception I didn't take time to explore. It looks like there is a games room and maybe a takeaway too.

There are quite a few statics but I wasn't overlooked. In the screenshot below the camping symbol is more or less beside where I  pitched my tent. 

The camping area I used is on a headland with an amazing view over the beach at Ballymastocker Bay and it is about a 2 minute walk to the loo. There is a water supply right beside the camping area. There are no marked out pitches so even if there were other campers there I'm sure there's enough room for privacy. There is another camping area beside a large football pitch in a valley, I saw bigger tents so it is possibly reserved for larger units. It would not have the same great view but then it would likewise be more sheltered in bad weather.

I wouldn't hesitate to go back and I hope to do so soon.


Our first proper walk 'The Bluestacks Way' or part thereof

No camping this time, we stayed in a Guesthouse so that my son and I could undertake the last section of the Bluestacks Way.

The Bluestacks Way is a two and a half day walk starting in Donegal and going past Lough Eske towards Cloghmeen Hill and on through the mountains to Glenties. We decided I'd do the last section, which was the half day river walk following the Owenroe River to Ardara which is about 12km. 

It is also a part of the international walk 'The Appalachian Trail' the 'IAT'.

"The a hiking trail which runs from the northern terminus of the Appalachian Trail at Mount Katahdin, Maine......after which it follows a ferry route to Newfoundland and Labrador. As of July 2015, there were IAT walking trails in Greenland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Scotland, Northern Ireland, Ireland, Isle of Man, Wales, England, France, Spain, Portugal and Morocco" from Wikipedia

First couple of km

Leaving Glenties the first couple of kilometers is on quiet country road, and very well marked with posts. Then you take a left into a field where a grassy path directs the walker over a bridge to the far side of the river. The grass was worn into a path  and easy to follow. The field divisions were over a stile and the first few were fine, but after the first two or three the big space between the steps, which are probably better suited to male legs, were getting tough for me. 


A low point came when we reached 'Numpties Corner'. This is a section of river with a bridge and is obviously accessible by road (from the other side of the bridge) and there was a lot of rubbish and a picnic bench had been vandalised. Elsewhere on the walk it had been pristine with no litter. 'Numpties Corner' is about halfway through the walk but after a short while we had got into proper wilderness again with no roads or houses in sight.We started to follow a railway line that is still intact but hasn't been in use for years. Then at last we left the river bank at a fishing spot which was a small car park, picnic bench and a locked up shed. 

Unfortunately once back on the road we had two tough hills to get up and it was with relief that we finally reached a shop halfway up a steep hill on the edge of town at Ardara.

A full sugar ultra cold soft drink was amazingly good at that moment and gave us enough energy to get to the top of the hill and down the other side to Nancys Bar, where we ordered food and took a welcome seat. The downside to stopping walking is that every muscle started to seize up and it was very gingerly that we vacated our seats and hobbled out to the front where it turned out we missed our bus back to Glenties because we didn't know that it stopped outside the hotel up the road. Luckily the Taxi was reasonably priced at €12 and so that's how we made it back to the Guesthouse in one piece.

Back at the Guesthouse our intention was to shower, change and go to the Highland Hotel bar for a wind down drink. What actually happened was we promptly fell asleep. So there we were, on our holidays, and sleeping fast by 8.30pm.

The following morning went back to Ardara in the car this time and drove out past the village to Maghery Beach. There is a short walk, about a half a km, between the car park and the beach itself. The legs were wobbly, but we made it to the end of the boardwalk we were happy to find there. We found a convenient sand dune to sit on and relaxed. We did not make it further down the beach to the caves, that was asking too much of our groaning joints and so we will have to go back again. We watched other people dander over that way and decided that it wasn't for us. We then drove the Glengesh Valley which is a glacial valley. Lastly we went back to Ardara and went for a Sunday Lunch to a place aptly called 'The Ramblers Inn'. From there we drove straight home, about an hour and a half through Donegal Town.


1) Fitness : this walk was beyond my current fitness level and I will need to work on that. 

2) Water :  would need double the amount of water as we took 1 litre each and we both ran out. 

3) Map :  I wish I'd printed off a bit of map to take with me as it would have been easier than using my phone which I couldn't see in the bright sunshine. 

4) Google Maps : just because it looks flat on Google maps, that doesn't mean it is. The hills at the end of the walk into Ardara completely took me by surprise. 


A nostalgic look back to a road trip to France Part 1

My first ever major road trip adventure was life as a newly single Mum with two kids, then aged 6 and 7, was when I packed the car with new camping gear and drove to France from Northern Ireland, via Rosslare on the overnight ferry. The year was 2005.

I faced a lot of criticism, people thought I was mad. But for me it was a declaration of strength, independence and reaping big rewards through rich life experiences, for the children and for myself. The planning and preparation was a big part of the excitement, as I went tent shopping for the first time, booked the ferry, figured out how to get hooked up to electricity on french campsites, and picking out destinations. The first destination was pretty easy, I wanted to revisit a much loved campsite in the grounds of a Chateau I had already been to when I was a child. Those brilliant memories was something I wanted to share with my boys and also for them to have their own cool memories too. 

I decided to go in mid August and booked an overnight ferry with cabin. This in itself was a big adventure as we undertook a long drive down to Rosslare in the Republic of Ireland and boarded a big boat. The cabin was a two berth, there were three of us so the kids shared the lower bunk and I took the top. It wasn't the most comfortable journey as the cabin was dusty and my elder son is asthmatic. I didn't particularly enjoy trying to sleep on rolling seas either. 

Once in France we started the 6 hour drive to the Vendee. Our destination was a place called 'Domaine de la Foret' which is now a 'Yelloh!' site. It wasn't then, although it did appear to have a tie up with Eurocamp who used to provide fully furnished tents. The previous time we visited, in 1988 when I was 14 years old, it was a fully independent site. 

The experience of driving into the Chateaus courtyard, with its beautiful L shaped series of buildings housing the bar, games room, bakery and shop, was very strange. It had been such an a mythical place of my early teenager hood. To drive in and see nothing changed in the courtyard was bizarre. At the time I drove a french car and the first three letters on the registration place were OUI, which caused a chuckle with the staff  (why do you have yes written on your number plate) and also the steering wheel was, as they regarded it, on the wrong side. 

The car had been giving me some trouble on the way to the campsite, it later turned out that a fill of fuel in Ireland was probably illegal diesel, and it damaged the filter causing the car to do into economy mode and then it would barely go. It was a pretty major disaster and this issue dogged the whole of our two and a half week trip. 

The funny thing was that the pitch we were directed to was right beside the pitch I'd camped on when I was younger, and it was a short walk through the trees to the courtyard and also the two swimming pools, one in front of the Chateau and one behind. The first thing I did was put the electric in and turn on the slow cooker. I used to have a slow cooker by Tefal that I got for a wedding present. It had a separate hot plate and then a non stick pot on top. The idea is that you can brown your meat and veg on the ordinary hob before putting it on the hot plate and leaving it all day. I loved it, but unfortunately the non stick coating of the pot broke down and although I got many years out of it, I no longer have it. I had brought a pork and green bean cassoulet I'd made from home which I'd frozen into a block and let it defrost in a cool box throughout our journey. I put it into the slow cooker on the ground and let it heat through while I carried out the next step, setting up camp. 

After a short while the tent was up and we were eating french bread torn up and dipped into the sauce of the stew. The boys set about meeting all the other children at the campsite and in a very short time a new crew was formed.

Further exploring around the site and found not a whole lot had changed since my 1988 visit. The only difference were fences were put up around the two swimming pools which spoiled the look a bit. Looking at the current photos on their website, this pool now has an overhead canopy. I remember what it was like to have just a pool sunk into the earth with only a tiled surround and no hedge between that and the Chateau. 

Some more pictures from around the campsite

We settled into daily camp life. It was very important to me that the boys get the experience of buying fresh croissants from the campsite bakery every morning so that they could learn about money and a bit of independence and it was with great excitement that they carried out this task every morning. We explored the region every day too. One day we went on a boat trip around the nearest bay, another we went to a very exciting beach that had an island off shore where there was a secret underwater path that led out to it. 

A real highlight and one of the best experiences was going to a french theme park called Puy du Fou. It's very hard to describe what Puy du Fou is, there are various different zones with periods of history represented. There was a viking section, where you watched a show of a scene with actors, carried out completely in french. There is clearly a bit of a love story going on, but the Cheiftan clearly does not approve of his daughters choice of lover. So a battle ensues and a viking ship pops up out of the water, with actors already on board. The battle concludes with the good guys winning and everybody lives happily ever after. 

Next was a Roman Colusseum complete with Christians being threatened with Lions, Chariot Races and a parade showing all the animals the Romans would have boasted about having.

Puy du Fou Medieval Section

We also visited a nearby castle which used to be occupied by Richard the Lionheart

One of the great joys of taking a road trip is trying local restaurants, buying food from a supermarket, and finding a filling station with my sons name on it. We even found an Irish Pub! 

We stayed in the Vendee for about a week and then moved on to another two sites, the first of which we didn't like so we only stayed one night. The car continued to give trouble and I could only drive it a short time before I had to stop at the side of the road. I decided to go further north so that we would be closer to the ferry home. In the end the car was transported all the way home on a low loader. I will reveal all in Part 2.
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