HAVE A FIELD DAY?Camping holidays are fun for all the family.
Family holiday? Pitch this
Summer might be half a year away, but talking about sun-filled days lazing on the beach is what gets us through the first couple of months and gives us the motivation to get in better shape, start saving and dream. For many the sun is the main attraction. Spain, Portugal and other sun drenched locations offer the ideal for most. However, there are other options right here, and my own preference is camping.
Yes, that’s right, a couple of weeks camping in Ireland is as good if not better than any sun holiday especially for a family.
For many, the thoughts of sitting in a tent with rain pelting against the canvas sounds like hell; for others its paradise. I have been fortunate over the years to experience camping in a variety of locations. I’ve slept under a Canadian canoe in the Gulf of Mexico, camped alone in Egypt’s Sinai Desert and spent many nights under the stars on the mountains of Ireland.
Now I’m a family man, and more often than not head for the relative comfort of a camping sight. Mayo has some of the best campsite locations in the country. From Achill to Westport, Castlebar to Louisburgh, Knock to Cong there are some fantastic spots. The season generally runs from May to September and rates are competitive.
So, what’s involved in a family camping trip?
Firstly, and most obviously, a tent. It must be big enough to accommodate all involved. Also – trust me – you should put your tent up in the garden before your first trip. There is nothing worse than arriving at the campsite, in the rain, to discover that you have not got the faintest idea how to construct your outdoor palace.
You will also need airbeds, sleeping bags, torches, cookers, basins, cutlery and a plethora of accessories, all of which seem essential if you read the reviews.
On the first night you will more than likely go for the easy option of a walk on the beach, a quick pint and a take-away if available, for fear of setting the campsite alight with the new cooking apparatus sitting in the boot of the car.
Day two begins very early. Everything in camping starts early. Almost everybody in the site is up, having breakfast, washing dishes and children. The mood is good. Some have been for the early morning swim and others are getting out the bikes, surfboards, kites, buggies and other toys for the day ahead.
There will also be the other tents: those that have not stirred. These are occupied by the couples that stayed on for a late one enjoying the music the night before. Their tents are the type that set themselves up simply by pulling them out of a bag and throwing them onto the ground. ‘Why didn’t I just get five of them?’ you ask yourself, ‘and let the children fend for themselves…’.
You head off for your first walk around the campsite. You instantly start looking at other tents, caravans and motorhomes. It’s strange, but it’s like you are drawn to shelters that may be superior to your own. You engage in conversation with other campers about space, water resistance and general camping topics. There is no escaping it now: You are one of them. You are in the gang, the caravan and campers gang.
The days fly past, surfing, swimming, and music, making friends in a mix of sunshine, rain and wind. No one seems to mind the weather. Everyone is having fun, even on the bad days. The kids do not stop all day, running, playing on the beach, swimming and laughing. Sleeping when it’s dark and rising when it’s bright. No times or schedules for a few weeks. It’s a simple life. At night a glass of wine, olive oil and bread under the stars and you could be anywhere.
So the two weeks come to an end. You start packing up the mountain of gear into the boot and feel sad. But why? You are going home to hot showers, central heating and normality. The kids bid farewell to their new friends, you wave to your fellow campers who have helped you take everything down (as they always will) and you hit the road. You are sad because you will miss the simple life, a life with no stress, no pressure and no structure.
The campsite is a community in itself, full of characters and stories, music and laughs. For me, camping will always be the best holiday. You and your family will remember everything from muddy days to sunny days.
Do your research and purchase good equipment. It’s a relatively small investment for years of memorable holidays. So this year get into the great outdoors by trying camping in Mayo with all the family.
For more information on camping in Mayo and around the country, visit www.camping-ireland.ie.
Mick Kane works for South West Mayo Development Company as Rural Recreation Officer. His job includes the development and promotion of water sports, adventure sports and walking and cycling trails throughout the county. He can be contacted at