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23/07/2013

Mannix Point 2013

How lucky were we to get a HEATWAVE on our second ever visit to Mannix Point! This was our annual holiday and we visited Woodlands Campsite it Tralee too but I'll deal with it on a separate review. The main thing is that I got back to my beloved Mannix Point and Woodlands just doesn't compare.

I was last there in 2011, and Mannix Point has lost none of its special atmosphere in the interim. There have been a few tweaks here and there but they are major improvements to the site. The main thing that attracts me and many others to the site is the setting. Honestly, this is a little piece of heaven. The best thing you can do is get up early to watch the sun rise and have the whole place to yourself. Get the kettle on and watch that whistle so you don't wake anyone else up. Then, steaming mug in hand, go and sit by the shore. Watch the birds and sigh. This is proper relaxation.

Killylan Mountain reflected on the water. Picture taken from the shore of the camping area at Mannix Point

Here's the link to my first review of Mannix Point, complete with some pictures. Go and read it and then come back to me here.


We got the same pitch we did the last time, Pitch No 6 in 'Highfield'. I'd specifically requested it as I really enjoyed being in this corner the last time. As you can see from the following picture, the tents are laid out on a grid pattern. You may be able to see the white markers places in the ground, each with a pitch number on it. The pitches are huge, I took an eight man tent (visible bottom left, blue) and it fitted easily with room to spare for a sitting out area.

'Highfield' camping area, you can see other pitches for motorhomes and caravans in the background.
The original cottage which has been converted into campsite amenities and now has a new veranda all along the front. Note the bicycle racks, the other side of that display board shows a handy map of the area.


Now, back to those improvements. Mortimer, owner and proprietor, is very proud and rightly so of his site. The campsite suffered with last years rain, it was a washout of a summer for the whole of Ireland. The main improvement, so useful in wet weather should it happen, is the addition of a veranda to the front of the old house that houses the campers sitting room, campers kitchen and dining area, the office and the loos. The veranda creates a shelter along the whole of the front of this building, and at one end Mortimer has created a seating area complete with swing seat. As the front of this area is already abundant with flowers, this is a lovely fragrant place to be. 


New barbecue area in the back garden of the cottage.
Garden to rear of cottage with clothes drying area in the background. 
Creperie open summer mornings
The campers dining room area, photo taken from the campers kitchen

Mannix Point - The experience



Right, some tent talk now. The first tent we'd used was a fairly ancient ridge tent  when we were in Tralee but we swapped that for a really big 8 man tent (an Easycamp Topeka 8) for our remaining ten days of the holiday. The tent is a borrowed one, my sister bought it a couple of years ago and has used it three or four times with her family. As my two are getting older, I wanted them to have the privacy of their own bedroom pod and you have to go to an 8 man size to get this. Now, if it had of been raining, we would have been delighted with our huge aircraft hanger of a tent! 



Although the separate bedroom issue still stands, the huge size of the living space in this tent meant that it took up a significant amount of our pitch and we couldn't be in the tent anyway during the day. It was like a sauna even though I had the doors zipped open at both ends, but there was hardly any breeze to push a through flow of air. The best tent, hindsight being a wonderful thing, would have been the canvas frame tent we took the last time. Real canvas stays cooler in hot weather, the fabric is much thicker. I discounted it because of the bulky pack size, but I should have made room for it anyway. 



In the end, we were really dependent on our tarp. I got this one from Field and Trek two years ago for a whole big £6.66 (with a discount code and free delivery) and it came with two poles. I already had two poles from another tent and so this is a really flexible shelter since I can change the configuration and move sides up and down depending on where the sun is. I've had a look and I don't think mine is available anymore, but an alternative would be the one you can get in Decathlon for £20. The one I have isn't square, it's more of a diamond with elongated sides. Hopefully the picture will reveal all. I certainly wasn't the only one to use a tarp on this heatwave! 




We quickly got into a routine, I would get up good an early because the heat built up inside my sleeping pod I had no choice. I'd get the kettle on and make a cuppa, then go and sit by the sea soaking up the beauty of the area. I'd be really disappointed if, for some reason, I wasn't the first up! I loved the stillness of the site, punctuated with the odd snore from a neighbouring tent. Then everyone else would start to stir, you could hear the zips going and the kettles whistling, the odd kid talking excitedly before a parent goes "shuuuushhhh". I'd work on getting my two up, which was actually quite difficult. Whilst doing this I would get in a few chapters of my 'whodunnit' book. Once wakefulness had been achieved, I would make more coffee and one or both kids dispatched to the local shop on foot to pick up the croissants. More coffee after and then it was time to decide on the day. On many days it was swimming, others it was just going into Caherciveen to get meat for that nights barbecue and salady stuff. Or one day we visited Ballycarbery Castle. 



One day it was a drive around the Skellig Ring, which is a penninsula off to the side of the main 'ring' of Kerry and it was there that we discovered the spooky hotel. 

We had driven around most of the Skellig Ring, stopping at the viewpoints on the top of the mountain and at the Chocolate Factory and Shop and then at a 12th Century Abbey where the monks settled after life out on the Skellig Islands became too harsh. Off in the distance we could see something that looked like a prison. Curious, we set off in that direction and brought the car to the end of a lane and left it at a farm gate. Proceeding on foot, we were a bit dumbfounded at this strange looking building which seemed totally at odds with the stunning landscape all around. Entering the building, we found a small swimming pool with the roof caved in. We found the remainders of kitchens and a reception desk and concluded that it was a hotel. 






The residential 'wing' of the hotel was blocked off from what would have been the communal areas of the hotel. A quick scout around the side revealed an access to a staircase. The stairs were dusty and had old shoes and various bits of rubble all around it. There was graffiti everywhere but it didn't look as if this staircase was often used. The staircase was precast concrete. Structurally, it was sound enough. Still we proceeded with caution. 




We went up to the middle floor. We were presented with a long corridor and the film 'The Shining' immediately came to mind. Some of the rooms had bits of furniture in it, one bathroom had funky 70's style flowery tiles, and all wallpaper had slipped off damp walls long since. We proceeded along the corridor, chatting to each other about the weirdness of the place and how much we'd brick it if a face appeared at a door. I snapped a few photos, each room had an outlook to die for. Halfway down the corridor it became obvious that apart from the odd backless wardrobe there was nothing new to see. We discussed leaving it there, as all the rooms were identical anyway. But something drove me on even though the corridor was half blocked with a single sized bed with some of the springs still intact. 





I looked through the doorway to the very last room. Something different here! A 4 ft barricade erected a little inside the door, gaps in the barricade revealed a swept floor and two mattresses indicated occupancy. A half filled bottle of coke in the window which, unlike all the others, had been blocked of with a sheet of wood. 

Suddenly, from behind the partition, a crazy wild eyed man ran at us screaming and wielding a syringe filled with some sort of red fluid. We turned tail and ran like hell, past the bed that was nearly blocking our way, past the empty rooms, the whole length of the corridor, down the dusty steps with the discarded shoes, out into the sunshine and not once did we look back to see if we were being followed.....










Not really, that didn't happen. We still got slightly freaked out by the signs of occupation and decided that no would be a really good time to leave. And we left in a sharpish manner. 

22/07/2013

That bloody Satnav, going to Woodlands campsite Tralee, and the review and trip report

For reasons unfathomable now we made our journey through the night. We left home at 2.40am and drove through Dublin to Limerick, then on to Tralee. The Sat Nav helped and hindered in equal measure. The Sat Nav was bought four years ago, and in Ireland they've been road building like mad in that period of time. So when part of our route early in our journey was closed with road works and then the diversion signs we were following suddenly disappeared, we found ourselves on back roads, in fog, in Caledon in Tyrone of all places. I set the Sat Nav at that point and for daft Sat Nav reasons we ended up in Newry. I had a map in the car but checking the date it's even older than the Sat Nav. Had I known we'd be going to Newry we'd have just pootled down the motorway. Ah well. 

(In hindsight - wonderful thing hindsight - I should have headed down the west coast, as everyone on my holidays told me that there's a new road that is motorway all the way from Sligo to Killarny)

The Sat Nav display showed us driving across empty fields the most of the way to Limerick too. I turned it off after the umpteenth time it recalculated our journey. We had taken a break outside Dublin, got roadside coffee and paid our E-toll for the ring road around Dublin. Then we took another break later in Adare, just past Limerick. We got a stretch of our legs but it was 7.30 and nowhere was open for breakfast. By this time nothing less than a Full Irish Breakfast would do. 

At Rathkeale we found a hotel just off the carriageway. I made enquiries. €10 a head for the works, including fruit salad, cereal, unlimited coffee and pure orange juice as well as our Full Irish. Just the ticket. 

When we were practically there, bearing in mind I'm not familiar with Tralee, the Sat Nav redeemed itself and brought us straight to our site which was wonderful considering it was now 9.20am and we'd been driving for hours. 

I know drivers, van and lorry drivers, who could do this journey with out batting an eyelid. I know people who have driven that kind of journey and longer and it is absolutely no problem to them. I am not one of those people. I am full of admiration for people who drive for a living! 

Now, newly arrived at Woodlands I approached reception. This is where I was glad of that coffee. The thing about Woodlands is you need your wits about you. I had phoned beforehand and got a price. That was not the same price that I saw being written down on a form by 'HER'. I shall call her 'HER' because I did not find her particularly warm or charismatic. 'HIM' is much easier to deal with, and at least you don't get ripped off (obviously the resident husband and wife team). The price she wrote down was €9 more per night than I'd been quoted by 'HIM' over the phone. Michael is his name I believe, he's grand, friendly enough. Anyway I called her on the sudden price increase. There was a little bit of blustering from 'HER' and I paid the price I'd been quoted previously for the four nights and I left feeling a bit cross. 

Ok we could put this down to a genuine mistake, although the reason she gave me at the time doesn't stack up. But then the kids reported to me over coming days that things got a little more expensive in the shop when it was her serving in the campsite shop. A packet of sweets jumped 40 cents for example. Fizzy drinks also jumped in price. If Michael was serving things were a little cheaper again. Maybe it's just me, but I don't like the feeling of 'what can we do them for' rather than sticking to a genuine price. Maybe he was was undercharging! I don't know. Still it leaves a bad taste in my mouth. 

The pitch we selected was lovely though. It was the start of our amazing heatwave, and we were pitched under two Ash trees which gave a lovely bit of shelter from the full sun all day. The site has got lots of planting all around, so the flowers were in full bloom and it made the place look very pretty. 

overview of campsite from the web


Used a Lichfield Challenger 5 tent


The amenites are all in one block, a two story building with what I take to be living accommodation upstairs. The ground floor housed a reception (with aforementioned shop selling sweets, drinks, milk, and I think it sold gas cannisters and the like too), a games room with two pool tables, both male and female showers and loos, dishwashing and laundry areas, and a 'sitting' room which had all the comfort of a prison cell. The campers kitchen was functional and had some dishes and pots available for people travelling light. 





It is hard not to compare Woodlands to Mannix Point, but Woodlands just isn't in the same league as Mannix Point. The campers sitting room in Tralee is ok, 'functional' but at Mannix Point it's full of musical instruments and old photos on the walls and comfy seating. The campers kitchen in Tralee was 'functional' too. The prettiest part of Woodlands is probably the barbecue area outside the campers kitchen. The area has been created with a couple of picnic tables, and a built in barbecue which is just the right size to hold a disposable barbecue. On the other side of the barbecue is a few pots of herbs, with a sign saying help yourself to the herbs for your barbecue which I thought was a nice touch. I saw this area being well used by backpackers, cyclists and bikers, basically anyone travelling light who didn't bring a chair. 

Barbecue Area, pic taken on a misty morning


Can't comment on the guys toilet facilities, but I found the ladies to be regularly cleaned and there was a hairdryer on a hook on the wall which was useful. The room was split in two, with a row of showers along one wall and on the room divider there was a row of sinks opposite the showers. On the other side of the divider was a row of toilet cubicles. Maybe 10 or 12 in all. Towards the front door of the room was a cubby with a further two sinks, mirrors and the hairdryer. I think there was a fold down baby changing station in this area too (didn't really absorb it all as it's a long time since I had to change a nappy). The only down side to having the showers in the same space as the toilets is that everywhere (walls, doors and toilets) is dripping in condensation from the shower steam. I've been to plenty of other sites where the showers and the toilets share the same space and there's enough ventilation to wick the steam away. Not here though.

There's an enclosed play area with slides and swings beside the entrance, and a barrier with a key fob with a refundable deposit. The access is from a main road, over a bridge which crosses a river and the road is plenty wide enough for two vehicles to pass without having to pull in, even the bridge. I would still recommend, whatever the site, for caravanners to use Google Street View to have a look at the access. 



The good thing about Woodlands is it is very close to a large town (is Tralee a city?) and that brings with it a cinema (€9 a head), a swimming pool with lazy river, sauna etc (€43.20 for family ticket €12 for child ticket but there is no time restriction on this - I thought it was too dear, my kids went on their own and reported it's not as good as Lisburn Swimming Pool), all the restaurants and coffee shops you could shake a stick at. It was also closer to Killarney from this site than it was from Mannix Point and Dingle Penninsula is on the doorstep. So as base to explore other areas from Woodlands is good for that. 



The area is adjacent to a wetlands area - the sign to the Wetlands centre, slightly downstream from the river that you cross to access the site, should give that away. So watch out for beasties. Midges, mosquitoes and Clegs/Horseflies (damn they hurt) are abundant and deet didn't seem to make a pick of difference. In fairness there was midges at Mannix Point too, we were pitched close to a boundary hedge, but the sea breeze helped to blow them away. I would recommend a variety of insect repellents, a anti-histamine tablet if you re-act badly and Anthisan cream or your favourite bug bite cream. 

The 'tent' section to the north of the Amenity block is worst affected with midges, there's a tall flood bank to one side of it (I wish I'd spotted that before pitching the tent). The other parts of the site seem to be much less affected by the local wildlife according to those people I got into conversation with. It seems I picked the worst pitch regarding beasties. There are no marked out pitches, just pitch where you like. 

tent pitch area, there were hard standings elsewhere on the site. 


There is a lovely campsite dog (I believe the site welcomes dogs, we had left our dogs at the Kennels at home), he's a black labrador and he's called Finn. He is very sedate and is generally kept on a long tether outside reception, unless he is going for his walk when his custom is to go through down a little hill and through a flower bed. Unfortunately I went and pitched my tent right on his little route and so I was saying hello to Finn twice a day. The first time he stopped dead and looked at me, as if to say 'why did you put that stupid tent in my way'. 

He is also an alleged cake stealer. I had a tea cake wrapped up in tin foil which was home made and pretty substantial and would have fed us for a week as it was quite big. One day I turned my back for literally one second and when I turned back there was only tin foil, wafting across the grass. Luckily we got about half of it eaten. I was tempted to phone Miss Marple. Not once did I see the dog or the cake again that day. I think the fact he was keeping a low profile speaks volumes. 


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