Family camping in the garden

Are you and the kids bored of lockdown life?  Have a mini-Outdoor Adventure camping trip,  just a wee hop, skip and jump from your own back door.  

Camping in the back garden (or front garden, or balcony or under the stairs) can be a lot of fun and a great way to break up the monotony of home life at the moment.  We might not be able to go far, but we can still have a camping experience to rival the best of them!  When the weather is good and the skies are clear and bright, a night camping at home will give the whole family a taste of the things to come when movement restrictions end and we gain back the freedom we once enjoyed. You can think of it’s the ultimate staycation and a perfect way to check all your camping equipment for the wonderful outdoor adventures that lie ahead.

What you will need:

  • Tents
  • Sleeping Bags (or duvets)
  • Fire Pit
  • Goodies to roast, toast and munch on
  • Torches or head sets for the ghost stories and the stumblings in the dark
  • Buckets of enthusiasm and a determination to have the craic together!

The classic pop up tents are perfect for nights in the garden campsite and we have special offers on a whole range of tents in a variety of prices to suit all needs on our website.  But this may well be the time to splurge our on a deluxe tent like the Vango range.  These tents are super easy to erect, durable and comfortable and they could provide an extra outdoor room for the family, even when you are not all sleeping al fresco.  An investment tent such as these is a joy to behold.  They almost put themselves up and are so classy that you may never go back in the house again!

Lockdown ideas with kids

Sleeping bags are never wasted in a house full of kids.  Even when not snuggled up in the great wilderness of your urban garden, the comfy sleeping bag has been a mainstay of every Saturday morning chilling on the couch watching cartoons and eating cereal.  Buy a good brand that does both this luxury past time and then comes into its own when you and yours can finally get out to the big wide world, to camp once again. If you haven’t camped in a while (since your days of crazy music festivals and mad long hikes), then you should consider air mattresses or sleeping mats for your older and more fragile bones!

Fire Pits are fantastic for making the evening glow with the warmth of outdoor fun and the best place to toast marshmallows, squash them between biscuits and declare Smores to be the greatest outdoor food ever!   Again, the investment in a good fire pit is a great addition to outdoor living both for home and away that will pay back in the days and night ahead

Family camping in the garden

There isn’t a child in the world that doesn’t love a good torch or head torch. Rechargeable torches make good sense when little folk forget to turn them off or use them constantly for hiding under beds and finding insects in the hedges.  We stock a fantastic extensive range of torches for all uses.  Even when not camping  at home, a young child can spend daylight hours  exploring the world with a torch, and who knows you might even get a quick cup of undisturbed tea while they are distracted.

There are lots of reasons for taking the tent to the garden at the moment. We all agree that it might break the potential tedium of lockdown life.  It’s also a good way to check your equipment in advance of all those camping holidays that we will eventually enjoy again.  For the little people who have never camped before, the positives about introducing them to the ‘wilderness’ so close to home are multi-fold.  The magic of waking up in a tent, with the sun light filtering through and the sound of birdsong is the same whether you are a million miles away or just a few feet from your own shower, TV or fridge.  If you need something, the house is just a shout away!

The special experience of gathering around the lit fire pit to chat and watch the shooting stars is no less wonderful when you don’t have to drive miles to enjoy it. 

The Covid-19 pandemic might have put a stop to our gallop, but we have learnt to enjoy the small things.  Make some wonderful memories in your own home camp site and enjoy your outdoor adventures no matter how the world is turning!

Best Travel Books Picks for Covid-19 Lockdown.

As the global Covid-19 puts a halt to our gallivanting on adventures and has most of us adventurous types straining on our virtual leash past the invisible 2km exercise zone,  we can still dream and plan of outdoor adventures to come.   Life has been put in perspective for us all.  So there is no better time to armchair travel with some of the best travel books of all times.  Here is our pick of ripping travel reads to transport you while on lockdown.


Mad Bad and Dangerous to Know- Sir Ranulph Fiennes

An autobiography, written in his 75th year by one of the most macho heroes of travel, adventurism and exploration to the world’s most dangerous and inaccessible places.  From the top of Everest, from Pole to Pole, to finding ‘lost’ cities, the world’s greatest living explorer is not known for taking the easy route at any time.  He lost fingers and almost lost his life, but throughout his entire life has never lost the enthusiasm for thrilling adventure.  Fiennes has been an elite soldier, an athlete, a mountaineer, an explorer, a bestselling author who nearly replaced Sean Connery as James Bond, and indeed, his writing does read like a ‘Boys Own’ Spiffing adventure at times. Live through his ambitious expeditions, extreme adventures and inspiring resilience from the comfort of your backyard hammock and start making plans for your next great escape.


Couchsurfing in Iran – Stephan Orth

For fans of Couchsurfing (the more altruistic and friendlier forerunner of Airbnb) and unusual travel with social and political insight, this book captures all of the most wonderful things about staying on stranger’s couches in a destination that most westerners would never choose to visit. Couchsurfing is banned and yet over a hundred thousand Iranians are registered with the portal.    Orth is a generous storyteller, sharing sights, sounds and emotions to give a fascination and gripping picture of life in modern Iran.  Stephan is the guest of 22 different hosts, travels over 8,400 kilometres in 62 days to discover the hidden Iran.  A bed roll, a haversack and a lot more optimism than most, this is a tale of travel adventures to the max.  From border guards to taxi drivers, we learn more about Iranians and the similarities of people everywhere. The tone is light and breezy, and this is a road that is definitely ‘less travelled’ as the author dispels myths about Iran in a gripping and fascinating read. 


Buen Camino – Peter Murtagh

This book is not a travel or route guide to the wonderful Camino, but rather is a spell bounding recounting of Peter Murtagh’s own experiences on the pilgrimage trail. Peter and his daughter Natasha stepped out on the 900 kilometre walk through the Way of Saint James, over the French Pyrenees and into Northern Spain.  What began as a gruelling physical trek quickly becomes a spiritual journey and a bonding experience.   Despite the hardships, they run with bulls, parade in a fiesta and meet a fine range of other pilgrims on the way.  For anyone who’s Camino journey was cut short this year, this book will keep the fires of adventure lit until you too can walk the well-worn paths to the Santiago de Compostela.  A warm and loving story of friendship, family, camaraderie and wonderful scenery too!


Epic Hikes of the World – Lonely Planet

What an inspiring publication.  It won’t just set you dreaming, it will have you salivating and mentally packing the rucksack.  Lonely planet asked over 200 travel writers to tell them about their most memorable hikes.  Many spoke of personal challenges, both physical and mental. One common theme was the connection that you can find when you hike a certain destination.  The words ‘Life Changing’ were used a lot.   This book brings 50 of the most inspiring routes, stories and adventures for you to enjoy from your armchair.   We may be staying put at the moment, but this wonderful collection will have you planning for a brighter future while living vicariously through the retelling of others.  


Nala’s World- Dean Nicholson

A Scottish man on a bike ride around the world.  His plan. Visit as much of the world as he can. Learn as much as he can.  Retell it in a book and on social media.  Cue Nala, the rescue cat that he finds in the mountains between Montenegro and Bosnia. An unbreakable bond that ensures Dean Nicholson is an overnight Instagram sensation.  Well, it combines travel, cycling, Scottish accents and … a cute cat. Win Win.  Experiencing the kindness of strangers, visiting refugee camps, rescuing animals throughout Europe and Asia, Dean and Nala are a dynamic travelling duo. The book, Nala’s World is on its way to the book shelves and in the meantime you can follow their adventures online and add your view to the over 20 million views of how they met.

Travel Book Recommendations for Lockdown

7 Free and Essential Apps that you need for Traveling the World


Zoe off the Road!

Our Zoe Kinsella  headed off on her very own Outdoor Adventures! 

Unfortunately, that adventure was cut short by the Covid-19 Pandemic.  This is her last blog from the road and a list of all the Apps that we will need when we get back on the road again. For now, you have the  time to look at the wistfully and make plans for the future!

Welcome Back Zoe.


Going traveling? Download these free travel apps before you jet off!

With so many apps available out there for both Android and iPhones, how can we know which ones are worth the space they consume on our smartphones especially when every megabyte counts these days? Before I set off on my travels I had no idea of the array of travel apps that were available to me. Check out these 7 FREE travel apps that will have you wondering how you ever travelled before without them.

Essential Apps for Travelling the World

1. XE Currency Exchange

There are plenty of currency conversion apps out there, however, XE Currency is at the top of its league. Choose whatever currencies you’d like to convert between and the one you’d like to use right now. Select an amount and the equivalent will show in all of the other currencies you selected. You only need an internet connection initially to download rates when you first select a currency and after that, you can use offline. 


2. Google Translate

Probably one of the handiest apps you’ll download for your trip. Not all areas we travel to are used to tourists so they might not speak English.  Google translate is the perfect travel companion. You can download a language pack ahead of time and use it without needing to be connected to the internet. Simply type in what you are looking to say, choose your language and off you go. You can also take a photo, handwrite and voice record words or phrases to be translated. 


3. Google Maps

Where would we be without Google Maps? By far the best mobile navigation app available, you’ll find yourself using it daily, especially while you travel. Although you’ll need an internet connection to find new locations you can save maps for later use while offline. Google Maps allows you to star locations so while you’re out and about you can pull up your offline map using the GPS signal in your phone and see your starred locations. 


4. Trip Advisor

If you are like me and you love to read and also leave reviews of accommodations and attractions, then you just have to download the TripAdvisor app. The app is much more than a place to leave reviews. It provides all of the information available about accommodation, restaurants, activities, and flights. Its forums include information about worldwide destinations and different travel themes such as bargains, business, weddings, ecotourism and so much more. 

You can book through the app and also save what you like for later use.


5. Booking.com

Similar to TripAdvisor, Booking.com allows you to book accommodation at the lowest price. You receive further discounts and perks the more you use it too. Booking.com helps you make the most of your trip from finding great deals, renting cars, booking airport transfers, reading reviews and also supplying travel articles to help you make the most of your trip. 


6. Rome2Rio

Traveling can be daunting and no matter how much research you do you can often feel lost. Rome2Rio is one of the best apps I have learnt about while on the road.  Simply pop in your starting location and your intended destination, and it will pull up all of the different routes with times and pricing. The app highlights which routes they recommend. The fastest and the cheapest too! When traveling as a backpacker you can be in a different country every other week if you wanted so this app is a lifesaver in helping you get from place to place efficiently. 


7. Hopper

Who doesn’t love to bag a bargain when booking flights? That trip of a lifetime doesn’t have to cost a fortune and usually the most expensive thing is the flights. Here’s where Hopper comes in. Pop in where you are flying from and to, choose the number of passengers and Hopper will let you know what dates are the cheapest to fly on. You can also choose to watch a trip, so it will notify you when prices have gone up or down and will advise you on the best time to buy. 


Traveling the world and seeing new places is exciting but it can also be a bit scary and intimidating.  Help yourself out and download these apps so that nothing will stand between you and your perfect trip! 

The troubles with technology while traveling


Zoe on the Road

Our Zoe Kinsella has headed off on her very own Outdoor Adventures! 

Having assisted all kinds of travellers to access the very best in back-packing gear, she took to the trail herself.  Currently backpacking through South East Asia, Zoe shares her thoughts, musings and travel adventures with all of us poor folk left at home.  Thailand brought beautiful beaches & clear blue skies and fellow travellers with their noses stuck in phones.

Enjoy the sun Zoe!


As I walk the white sandy beaches of Koh Samui, Thailand soaking in every ray of the 34-degree heat I can’t help but feel lost in the moment. My head clear, my worries non-existent and my heart full. I can’t help but think of how lucky I am to be here. As my gaze is pulled from the clear blue ocean to the droves of people resting on the beach, it’s evident that while I seem to be one of few lost in the tranquillity of the island, others are lost in endless scrolling on smartphones.  Ignoring those next to them, their conversations stagnant and with the occasional tilt of a phone to show the other what they are looking at in order to show that they are acknowledging their existence and not out rightly ignoring them. 

This had me thinking of my trip to Thailand 6 years previously when I used to call my Mam on Viber on my iPod Touch whenever I got to a place with half-decent Wi-Fi. There was no lying on the beach scrolling through social media. Mainly because you couldn’t connect to Wi-Fi and this was before you could get a sim with data on it for next to nothing. The sad reality today is that people seem uninterested in each other’s company until a phone is taken out for a picture or video to post on social media. And this, to make people feel as if they are missing out on the ‘fun’ or that their lives are inadequate. Feeling as if you’re missing out is far more prominent nowadays because of posting on social media. People have become so obsessed with getting that Instagram picture or video that will make others wish they were them. But, have we become so consumed with this façade? As I look around the beach groups of friends sit together scrolling through their social media pages, not acknowledging each other until one shouts “get in a video” and all of a sudden everyone is animated, laughing, singing, dancing, and looking like they’re having the time of their lives. Designed to spark envy. In reality, they are doing the exact same thing as those at home except they’ve spent a fortune to sit on a beach leeching off terrible Wi-Fi to do it.

When I envisioned traveling, I imagined people would be chatty, almost intrusive, but in a way that backpackers can traditionally be. Conversations without inhibitions or fear of rejection. Don’t get me wrong, these people still exist but it can be harder to approach others if their heads are buried in their phones. You cut yourself off from meeting new people and instead feel more connected to your phone. Think about it, when was the last time you went for a coffee or out for a meal by yourself and didn’t have your phone in your hand as an armour of some sort, and to make you look less sad for being alone? 

One thing that has stood out while traveling, is the extremes people will go to bring along their phones and cameras on excursions in order to document the whole thing. Waterproof cases, dry bags, and selfie sticks certainly have their uses in keeping these safe and dry till you absolutely need them. It seems as if nobody can live in the moment anymore, mentally capturing images instead of physically recording them. Visiting some of the world’s natural wonders and unbelievably beautiful sights can really reset your state of mind but instead of realizing how fortunate you are to be there, tourists queue up to take the same photo one after the other to boast about on social media. Put the camera down and enjoy the moment. 

Technology isn’t all bad.

Besides the aforementioned, it has many positives especially while traveling. From maps to Netflix, online banking to booking accommodation and of course being able to Face Time your loved ones or chat instantly on WhatsApp or social media, technology takes the distance out of traveling making it easier to spread your wings without the feeling of being homesick or not knowing if that postcard from home will arrive.

troubles with technology while travelling

According to new research published by the communications watchdog ComReg, Irish people spend 4 and a half hours on their smartphones daily and only 10% of that is spent talking. Balance would seem to be the key.  If you are a solo traveller or even if traveling in a group, why not set certain rules regarding phone time. Try to stick to set times where it’s okay to be on your phone guilt-free and others times where phones aren’t allowed.   Meal times, for example, although this means forgoing the ubiquitous pic of your meal!  The key to reducing the amount of phone time and increasing the amount of time you spend living in the moment, is to acknowledge how much time technology is spent second screening your experiences and how much is spent actually experiencing!   Why not make the facade a reality. Stop pretending to have fun and actually have it! Lose your inhibitions, leave your phone at home, make memories and capture each moment with your hearts.

As for me, I am about to leave this screen time and soak up the sun, the sights, the sounds and the wonders of traveling abroad.  Just don’t expect any selfies !!!

Now is the pitch-perfect timing for a camping staycation in Ireland!

The best places for family staycations camping in Ireland and the very best reasons why you should choose to holiday at home in 2020

The time has never been more right for a camping holiday in this beautiful country. An increasing number of families are now considering holidaying in Ireland.   A camping staycation. The desire to leave a smaller carbon footprint on the planet makes staying closer to home for your annual holiday, a very inviting prospect.  The high cost of fuel, both to our own pockets and to the environment, means that long journeys are increasingly unappealing.    A camping staycation in Ireland allows families to enjoy a wonderful break with the smug and self-satisfied knowledge that they are not contributing further to climate change, pollution or toxic emissions.  Of course, the fact that we have the most awesome scenery and incredibly beautiful places to pitch your tent, makes the sacrifice of staying home, a very easy one to make.

Best Campsites in Ireland

Foreign travel involves a lot more organisation than a home camping trip.  Packing for a staycation is a less tedious task.   Airports and ferries can be expensive and stressful and you may lose a few days traveling to your destination.  A staycation has a lot of positives to offer, particularly for camping families.   No queues or cancelled flights/ferry sailings.  Doggie people can enjoy the company of their best friend for the duration and no kennel fees when you choose dog friendly sites. It makes sense on many levels to vacation at home.  Often you can be one short-dated passport, or one unfilled prescription away from disaster when traveling abroad!

The money you save on international flights can be invested in a family tent and some great camping equipment. The Vango Airbeam tent is a hassle free, no poles, no arguments, comfortable and stress free camping dream for any family to spend starry nights dreaming in.  It has two bedrooms that are separated by a centre porch. Fits up to 8 people and only take 12 minutes to pitch. This is camping luxury that you will enjoy for years to come.    

Camping can be quite luxurious now and has come a long way from burning a tin of beans over a fire before sleeping on rocks with various insects for company.  See our blog on Glamourous camping.

Camping Ireland

Where to pitch up…

Here are some of Ireland’s unique and best camping sites for the family tent.

Pure Camping in Querrin Co Clare

On the Wild Atlantic Way and near the scenic village of Kilkee, Pure Camping is an eco-retreat that welcomes pitching tents and even has some pre-pitched, if that is your preference. A sauna, solar showers and rainwater harvesting add to the eco-friendly vibe.  Children love the donkeys and chickens, and the nearby woods for adventuring. A communal dome tent provides a place to make new friends. 
Visit www.purecamping.ie

Coomshanna Wild Camping in Co Kerry

The views over Dingle Bay are incredibly inspiring.  A stream runs by and other than this, there is a field devoid of rocks and bumps in which to pitch your tent.  Take your wee shovel when you want to use the toilet and no fire rule is enforced.  This is eco-friendly and   peaceful camping.  The starry skies are incredible.
 

Nore Valley Camping and Caravan Park Co Kilkenny

Family friendly, child friendly and well… just really friendly. Nore Valley has a lovely vibe. Maybe the hay trailer rides, the crazy golf or the petting zoo have something to do with Nore Valley being one of the most popular family camping sites on the East Coast.  Get lost in the wooden maze.  Go for a trip on a pedal powered go-kart.  This camping site is close to Kilkenny city and is a great camping base to just chill with the ostriches (Gail and Ragsy) or to explore the East Coast treasures.

Hidden Valley Holiday Park Co Wicklow

Classic campsite in Rathdrum which boasts fantastic facilities for families.  Kayaking and swimming on and in the Avonmore River.  Fish too, if that is your jam! Riverside campfires, a kid’s adventure fun park and cinema nights with beanbags are all on offer in this beautiful campsite.  The Wicklow Mountains are on the doorstep for hiking, biking, sight-seeing and generally enjoying the wonders of the garden of Ireland.

Eagle Point Camping Co Cork

Eagle Point campsite is a 20-acre campsite, a few kilometres from Bantry in West Cork. A great family campsite which hugs the water, with pebble beaches and great views over the sea.  A kids TV room, football, basketball and the usual facilities make Ballylickey/Eagle Point an easy place to pitch for a gentle fun filled holiday.

Affordable Camping Gear

Perhaps in the rush to explore foreign climes, we have forgotten all that there is to offer here at home.
This is just a wee taste of the fantastic camping choices available around Ireland The Wild Atlantic Way has a trail of camping sites that will bring a new experience every day. Stay-cationing is fun and make sense. It contributes to saving the environment, by cutting down of fossil fuels and air miles.  It is good for local employment and the sustainability of rural communities.  But most of all its good for your own sanity, and isn’t that what a holiday is all about.

8 Top tips for being environmentally conscious while travelling in third world & developing countries


Zoe on the Road

Our Zoe Kinsella has headed off on her very own Outdoor Adventures! 

Having assisted all kinds of travellers to access the very best in back-packing gear, she took to the trail herself.  Currently backpacking through South East Asia, Zoe shares her thoughts, musings and travel adventures with all of us poor folk left at home.  Thailand brought beautiful beaches & clear blue skies but unfortunately the amount of wasted plastic is of huge concern!

Travel well Zoe!


Environmentally conscious travelling



8 Top Tips for being environmentally conscious while travelling in third world & developing countries:

As I sit here getting lost in the sounds of nightlife creatures overlooking a peaceful pond at my hostel in Pai, Thailand I am struck by the disparity in lifestyles all around the Globe. Let’s face it we are all guilty of having an ‘I’m on holidays’ attitude while we’re away. From the amount of calories we consume to the lack of exercise we do. Regardless of whether we eat too much or move too little, we aren’t harming anything other than our bank accounts and our waistlines. The huge influx of tourism in third world and developing countries means that although they are flourishing in areas such as accommodation, food and drink and retail it also means that the level of waste and pollution being produced is taking a toll on the ecosystems of these countries.

In Koh Phi Phi, Thailand, Maya Bay, made famous in the 2000 movie “The Beach” featuring Leonardo DiCaprio, has been closed since June 2018 and is set to remain closed for a further two more years due to tourists flooding the beach and destroying the ecosystem. The closure of Maya Bay is part of a rejuvenation program aimed at reviving the area’s decimated corals. 

If we are being honest we have become too accustomed to blaming developing countries as the prime cause of plastic pollution due to their non existent recycling programmes. In reality, wealthier countries send their recyclable waste to developing countries branding them the cause of plastic pollution. Although, as a single traveller we cannot fix the world’s recycling issues or rejuvenate beaches whose coral have been diminished we can make simple changes on a personal level to help reduce the amount of waste we accumulate while travelling.

My top tips:

  1. Reuse your towels. Conserve water and reduce electricity and gas costs by reusing your towels. 
  2. Bring a reusable shopping bag away with you. These bags can be flat packed or stuff sacked to take up literally no space and can have a huge positive effect on plastic waste. 
  3. Ask for no straw or bring a reusable one with you. Can we please think of the turtles?!
  4. Bring a water bottle with you. Many airports now have refill water stations where you can refill your bottle to save some money and also save you from buying a single use plastic bottle. Win, win!
  5. Bring a Knife, Fork, Spoon set away with you. Okay, let me clarify, if you are boarding a plane do not, I repeat do not pack the knife from said set in your carry on luggage. However, the fork and spoon are 100% acceptable on board a flight. Yay!
  6. Ladies, get yourselves a menstrual cup. According to Menstrual Health Alliance India, one sanitary pad could take 500 to 800 years to decompose as the plastic used is non-biodegradable and can lead to health and environmental hazards. Reusable menstrual cups are durable and can last anywhere between 6 months to 10 years with proper care. 
  7. Although, it is cheap and easy to hop in a taxi and you tell yourself it’s too hot to walk, if it is within walking distance then walk it! You’ll thank yourself in the long run and so will your waistline and wallet.
  8. Get yourself some shampoo bars and bars of soap. Not only will you reduce the amount of plastic being wasted on packaging but you also reduce the risk of spillage in your backpack that could potentially ruin your year long’s wardrobe! The other handy part of bars of soap is that they smell delicious so store them in your shoes or throughout your rucksack to keep it smelling fresh. Check out the Irish company Suds Johnson who specify in natural handmade soaps and zero waste products.
Environmentally conscious travelling

Trying to reduce your carbon footprint can be a daunting task at the best of times. If you try to take on too much you can feel overwhelmed and as a result you’ll more than likely just give up. So, take it at your own pace and start by doing what you can and encourage others to follow suit. As for me, I will be stepping lightly, very lightly on this planet as I navigate the road between South East Asia and Indonesia while contemplating the responsibility we all have to ensure not just the survival, but the celebration of this wonderful world.

Hiking Solo

Essential safety tips, some practical advice and the best Irish hiking routes for solo trekkers.

Humans are sociable creatures.  We like to hunt and play in packs.  We also like to hike in groups or in couples for the camaraderie and the craic. But sometimes you want to hike alone. Sometimes no one is free to join you but the urge to be outdoors is strong and dictates that going solo is the only option.  Then there are times when you want to feel the wind in your hair, the trail under your feet and the open road ahead of you totally alone.  Trekking solo is the marmite of the hiking community.  It is absolutely loved by some and completely loathed by others.  There are genuine (and imagined) fears which need to be considered by the lone hiker and there are also genuine (no imagined) pluses to journeying on the solitary trail. 

Safety first

There are always safety concerns for the intrepid traveller heading out to hike the wilderness.   Falling down, becoming ill, being injured or attacked by wild beasts are possibilities that every hiker should prepare for before every outdoor adventure.  These concerns are heightened when facing the trails on your own.  Good preparation can lessen the likelihood of any or all of these mishaps and make certain that a plan is in place in the unlikely event that something untoward happens.

Backup   Tell someone where you are going. Sounds simple and that’s because it is.  Let a reliable person know what time you are starting the hike, the route which you plan to take and your estimated return time. Don’t forget to let them know when you are home again, otherwise you could face the embarrassment of sparking a rescue mission while you snore soundly, safe in your own bed. 

Getting Lost   Yup, this is a possibility, but one that you can avoid by choosing to travel on well-known and properly marked routes and then sticking to them. Don’t be tempted to go off the beaten path. This is no time to go all Bear Grylls and start exploring the unknown. If you have a bad sense of direction, pay extra attention to which itinerary that you choose.  A trail you have enjoyed previously might be the best option, but a well-worn path is certainly sensible.  Bring your phone and a power-pack but don’t rely on them totally.  A GPS positioning system is useful but you should pack a map and compass.  Know your physical limits and don’t attempt to do too much, as this could exhaust you and cause disorientation.  If you do get lost just STOP (stop, think, observe and plan).  The chances are you are not very far from civilization and some quiet reflection and a good look around will get you back on track in no time.

Animals

Thankfully in Ireland, the likelihood of an attack by wilder-beasts, tigers or bears is a very unlikely occurrence. However, you should be cautious and respectful of cows with calves, sheep with lambs and the default moody moods of rams and bulls.  Let cows and sheep know you are approaching (humming or singing will suffice) and try not to walk through a herd, but skirt around them calmly and without panic. Sheep generally run from you. In fairness, by sticking to the trail it is likely that the only wild critters you see are shy foxes, hares, rabbits and the beautiful birds that our Island is famed. You are far more scary than anything you will meet on the trail. Which leads nicely on to the next word of caution…

Humans

This is the one warning that other people will love to impart when you plan to trek solo. There are some weirdos in the world, for certain.  The closer to populated areas you hike, the more probable it is that you’ll encounter a weirdo. Be friendly but not outgoing to people you meet. Give the impression that your hiking partner should be along soon. Pepper spray might be something to take with you if you feel vulnerable with strangers.  In general, those of us who hike alone on a regular basis, have pleasant encounters with other people. Short, pleasant encounters.  If you fear that you being attacked on the trail is a possibility then you should choose the more well-trodden paths and weekend hikes, where there are more people around. If you are really worried and fearful, then solo hiking might not be for you. Join a walking group or a local hiking club and be certain of always having company on the road.

Be Prepared

Gear – It is important to be more prepared than unusual.  If you have forgotten something, there is no one else to borrow it from!  Ensure your phone is fully charged.  Bring a Power pack, The GPS and more than just this, bring a map, compass, whistle and a torch (head torches are best). Clothes suitable for the weather (raingear, base layer, sun hat etc.)   A change of socks. High protein snacksWater purification tablets and/or plenty of water.  A good first aid kit and chocolate. You will always need chocolate!   Check out our blog on what you will need for hiking

Know the route If you are trekking a route that is new to you, then check it out thoroughly first. If possible view it on Google and identify any problem areas (rivers to cross etc.). Read the reviews from other hikers. Then let someone sensible and reliable know where you will be and when. Decide on a sensible return time and let them know if you are going to be late. ht All Trails is a great app that shows the route, pictures, reviews and good info that could be useful for researching the route.

The solitude of the mindful walker

Walking as a form of mindfulness or as a meditative practice is increasingly popular.  Many enthusiasts are choosing to spend time trekking in nature as a contemplative and restorative thing to do.  They say that the solitude and the quiet recalibrates the system and brings the ‘headspace’ which a lot of people crave. Zen backpacking.   Walking at your own pace, in the best company possible. Your own! There is no unscheduled stopping at the behest of the group or one person in the group. Similarly you can take a break whenever you like without upsetting anyone. For those who like rambling on their own it is an amazingly rewarding experience. On the flip side of this joy, there are those who find it a thoroughly lonely experience.  For them, facing the trail alone is akin to abandonment and loss. Loneliness abounds.  Solo trekking is just not for everyone. One famous blogger bemoaned that there was no one to take her photograph and to converse about the views as she went. For those who need photographic evidence, a selfie stick will solve the first issue and there is really nothing wrong with talking to yourself in the wilderness and rapidly becoming one of the ‘weirdos’ other hikers fear.

Hiking solo can be rewarding, rejuvenating and a truly positive adventure as long as you know your own limits, prepare in advance and value the solitude that awaits.

A few of the best Routes in Ireland

The time of year, the weather forecast, your ability and fitness level and the time you have allotted for the expedition will all influence the choice of route for the sole hiker. Ireland has a wonderful variety of hikes, looped walks and marked trails for all hiking enthusiasts. Here are a few of the top one day hikes suitable for those who like to walk alone.

Crone Woods – Maulin Mountain Loop Wicklow

A Coillte route of some 6 kilometres, with a few tough parts, but fairly moderate skill needed.  Its proximity to Dublin is likely to mean that it is a fairly busy trail most weekends.  There are amazing views out to the coastline and over the Powerscourt waterfall. It’s a gravel trail all the way and has the added advantage of being a loop walk. 

Errigal Mountain Donegal

Standing 751 meters high, Errigal is one of Ireland’s most iconic and beautiful mountains. The tallest mountain in the Derryveagh range, it is situated in the Gaelteacht area of Gweedore and dominates the landscape.  The trail takes about three hours, including the walk from the car park and the climb itself.   Follow the well walked path alongside the stream, and up a clearly visible track rising through the white silvery scree on the lower slopes of the mountain. The summit has two peaks and while the first is the highest and the real summit, the beaten path will lead you to the second short crossing to the second peak and reward you with awesome views.  It is not easy to get lost on Errigal and it’s a popular climb so it is perfect for the solo trekker.

 Hares Gap. Co Down

Where the mountains of Mourne sweep down to the sea.  Stunning trail across the mountains. Well sign posted and not too far away from the maddening crowd.  This is a four to Five hour trek, just two miles out and back with some steep terrain.

Bantry Coorycommane Loop.  Cork

A beautiful hike that offers a range of terrain. Forestry, bog road, country roads over straight and hilly ground. It can be quite steep in parts and will take a good two hours to complete.  Fantastic views over the Coomhoola Borin Vally, Bantry Bay and Whiddy Island and right down to the Beara Peninsular.  Way marked and looped, this hike offers an off the beaten track experience without actually being too far from civilisation.

Find a  mountaineering group   near you 

https://www.mountaineering.ie/localclub/ or https://www.mountaineering.ie/membersandclubs/registration/ if you  join as a member. They offer accredited mountain training skills workshops and courses that are very useful for solo hikers.

We are Glamping- Not Camping!

Transform your camping adventures into more glamorous events with the addition of a few boutique ideas and options

Camping doesn’t have to be a grim or spartan experience.   Change your opinion of camping from awful to opulent with just a little preparation and a sprinkle of ingenious arty hacks and ideas. Glamour camping, or Glamping, has become an increasingly popular foray for Ireland’s hesitant campers. Luxury with just a hint of the rigours of the more usual outdoor adventure.  Mainly, glamping means spending the night in a more upmarket tent, a yurt, a cabin or a Nissen hut that has been up-scaled with clever use of chintzy fabrics, good lighting and some country style décor.  Plump cushions and a fire-pit are also a major feature of the glamping experience. But, there is no reason why you cannot mimic the wonders of glamour camping for your own usual weekend under canvas.

A few steps to instant luxury

There isn’t a tent in the world that won’t look instantly more captivating with the addition of solar or battery powered fairy lights and a wee bit of hippy style bunting.  Overstuffed cushions and a few chintzy curtains will complete the boutique camping image. The fairy lights will add visual warmth, while the fabrics will soften the look of the camping environment.  A few Director’s chairs and warm travel rugs will be a welcome addition in the cool evening air and if you are feeling truly opulent, the Thermarest trekker chair is the most comfortable and convenient fold up chair imaginable. Pop a throw rug on it, sit by the fire and its quite likely that you will not want to go to bed.

And so… to sleep

Without a doubt, a good night sleep epitomises the difference between a brutal and a bijou camping trip.  All the scatter cushions in the forest will not ensure a peaceful night’s slumber if the hard ground is keeping you awake. That one rock that is missed when pitching the tent, has ruined many a night’s repose.  A good sleeping mat under a great sleeping bag is the simple answer to enjoying a cosy and restful night in that glamorous revamped tent. Many seasoned campers suggest using a double high inflatable mattress, but a reputable sleeping mat will do the same job, take up less space in the packing and is not likely to deflate during the night.   A camp bed that takes you off the floor might just be the thing to elevate your sleeping   experience.   At Outdoor Adventures Store, we have the Dormir traditional camp bed that is particularly beloved of taller campers, and will enhance any glamping experience.  Bring a wee side table for your lamp and sure you are home from home. See Dormir Campbed XL

Fire Pit Dining

Portable fire pits are essential for the glamping experience.  Campfire cooking may need to be aided by the use of a good quality butane stove and popped on the fire for a charring before being served.   Check out our blog on campfire recipes for delicious and inviting campfire cooking.
At the risk of being accused of bringing everything including the kitchen sink, you can bring the oven.  The Dynasty oven is portable, large and could be a great asset for long glamour camping trips with the family.  Pizza on the trail? Sunday roast by the river anyone?

Introduce  The Vango brand  also produce some really good bamboo plate sets and glasses to add a touch of class to your dining event.   Just sit back and enjoy al-fresco feasting under the stars.

Luxury with intent

Of course, it is a little bit more difficult to ‘pimp’ that pop up tent for a more fancy camping trip. A good tent definitely helps.  We cannot all have a full size palatial Yurt complete with roll cushions, palm trees and long brocade curtains.  The best inflatable tent of 2019, the Tahiti 800Xl is a pretty good alternative for some ritzy posh camping. 

Camping Magazine rightly gave the accolade to this brightly coloured family tent. Spacious Bedrooms, a conservatory that lends itself to getting a glamping make-over.  To add to the ease of your grand glamping camping trip, these inflatable tents have no physical poles.  Hook them up to the pump and they inflate in a few minutes.  Nothing says glamping like avoiding the fight over tent poles and pegs, and the arguments as you attempt to put your canvas/ neoprene home together.   If you are thinking of investing in a tent this year, the award winning Tahiti should be top of the wish list. 

Added Luxury

No matter which tent you have, roughing it in style will be chic, elegant and swanky with just a few little bits of added luxury.  Scented candles.   Choose citronella, as it has the added bonus of bonus of being an effective insect repellent. Twinkly Lights.   We just cannot stress it enough. The immediate and inexpensive effect of adding those twinkly lights is a no-brainer for glampy campy types. Rug.  A floor rug for warmth on your bare feet in the morning and cosying up the appearance in general.  A Mirror. Hang a mirror in your tent.  This gives the illusion of space and lets you check just how fabulous you look in the glow of the fire and the twinkly lights. 

Boutique camping will alter your outdoor adventures and change your whole perspective of roughing it in the wild.  Once you get the real hang of this ‘do it yourself glamping’, you may never want to go home again.  Happy Camping Folks.

Star Gazers

The uninterrupted panoramic skies of Ireland’s Dark Sky Reserves are the perfect spot for star gazing.

Star gazing is increasingly popular all around the world.  Not stargazing on Instagram or the latest gossip blog type, but genuine staring into the sky Star gazing.  Sleeping out under the skies full of wonder. Perhaps as the world becomes a seemingly more troubled place, the calm and infinite beauty of the universe above us is more and more enticing and enchanting.

The prolific and widespread use of artificial light at night has meant that millions of children world-wide have never seen a sky full of stars.  They have never experienced the simple and magical joy of   constellations, planets, meteorites and space stations.  Never tried to point out the ‘Plough’, the Milky-way or the ‘Seven Sisters’.   Light pollution from cities and towns makes it so difficult to experience the full beauty of a starry sky. It is a rare and wonderful thing for many.  In Ireland, it is always wonderful, but not so rare. Ireland is one of the best places for star gazing and boasts two dark sky reserves, dedicated to seeing the sky in all its glory, without interference. Clouds are the only issue in viewing the sky at night.

Ireland has the honour of being the only country in the Northern Hemisphere that can boast two Gold Tier dark sky reserves.  A dark sky reserve is essentially an area designated to avoiding light pollution and keeping an unspoilt environment. The Kerry Dark Sky Reserve is 700 sq. kilometres of amazing protected land and skies hugging the Atlantic Ocean, while Mayo’s Dark Sky Park, and is nestled near Nephin Mountain and an area of awesome natural beauty.  This makes Ireland one of the most appealing and rewarding destinations for dedicated star gazers.    There are over 4,500 twinkling stars visible to the naked eye.  There are the identifiable planets in our solar system, The Milky Way and even meteor showers to enjoy with the naked eye. A growing number of people are choosing to sleep below the stars and enjoy this unique experience.  In many cases, our wilderness already has a great many places where the night skies are viewed unimpaired by any distraction from below.  Donegal coastline has been a perfect place to view Northern Lights over the past few years. Parts of Sligo, Clare and Antrim also offer vast clear sky views across the Atlantic Ocean guaranteed to reconnect us with the natural beauty of the night, inspiring creativity. But the designated Dark Sky Reserves are protected for the future.

Since 1988, the International Dark-sky Association, a non-profit organisation based in the USA have been promoting ways to preserve and protect dark sky regions.  There are designated reserves in Namibia, New Zealand, Snowdonia in Wales and Quebec in Canada, among others.  The preservation of night time environments is not just about assisting humans to see the wonders that are above. It is also about human health, preserving wildlife and the environment.   Plants and animals depend on the daily cycle of light and dark, the earthly rhythms to govern life-sustaining behaviours such as reproduction, nourishment, sleep and protection from predators. Artificial light disrupts their nocturnal activities and it is thought to have an adverse effect on breeding and the fore contributes to reducing populations of creatures, such as toads and frogs, alongside mammals, insects, birds and even plants.  Predators also use the man made light to hunt animals that traditionally hid in the darkness of the night.  Scientific evidence also suggests that artificial light at night has negative and deadly effects on bird migrating. Confusing birds into migrating too early or too late.

Research also suggests that false man made light at night has a negative effect on humans.   Similar to most life on Earth, humans are linked to a circadian rhythms or a biological clock. The sleep-wake pattern governed by the day-night cycle may be severely disrupted by artificial light and so, has been linked to obesity, depression, sleep disorders, diabetes and other scary illnesses.  Of course, there is also the links to wasting energy, which in turn, has a detrimental effect on the environment. It is estimated that over an average year in the U.S. outdoor lighting uses about 120 terawatt-hours of energy, mostly to illuminate streets and car parks. That’s enough energy to meet New York City’s total electricity needs for two years!  Turn it off folks and let’s step into the dark.   If that doesn’t have you rushing to turn off the outside lights, then nothing will.   But reach for the tent and sleeping bag too, and plan a trip that includes this wonderful, free and awe-inspiring beauty that is on our doorsteps in Ireland.  The Irish Dark Sky reserves are rated as Gold Tier, in international ranking.  This makes us the only country in the Northern Hemispheres with two Top rated reserves.

There are only good and worthy reasons why we should be out in our sleeping bags, having outdoor adventures under a blanket of stars.  It is better for the environment, for the bats, the owls, the mice and the toads.  It is better for the climate.  Ultimately, though, it is better for us too. So, consider an expedition to one of Ireland’s best kept dark skies secrets and add star gazing to your list of adventures this year. For added ‘oomph’, plan to coincide with a meteor shower.  Meteor showers generally occur from November to March and timing and projected weather conditions can be checked on the Astronomy Ireland website in advance.  Of course, warm clothes, decent camping gear and an intrepid spirit is needed.  The rewards are immeasurable and are waiting… just above your head.

References:

https://www.independent.ie/editorial/StoryPlus/be-captivated-by-kerrys-dark-sky-reserve/

http://www.mayodarkskypark.ie/

http://www.astronomy.ie/

Seven of Ireland’s Lesser- known treasures and trails for the Outdoor Enthusiast to Explore

Just when you think you have seen all that Ireland has to offer.  There have been those unforgettable times when you’ve been awestruck by incredible cliff walks, astounded by rocky mountain trails and chilled into a peaceful space beside secluded lakes.  And yet, Ireland still offers more. There are always those hidden treasures to explore. Those just off the beaten track areas of unfrequented beauty.  Sometimes these are places known only to locals and those ‘in the know’. Sometimes they are overlooked, as the more famous tourist attractions take the focus.  Here is our list of seven hidden treasures that are worthy of inclusion in your Outdoor Adventures.

St. Catherine’s Demesne.  Dublin and Kildare

A totally under-rated nature reserve, which features some of the oldest woodland in Co Dublin and is so accessible to the Capital city, that the calm solitary vibe of the trails and secluded pathways are always a mystery and a joy.  You might imagine that this vast impressive amenity would be packed at all times, but you can pretty much have the paths all to yourself. The River Liffey is at its finest in these 200 acres of woodland and grassland.  Cows graze, herons’ fish and while there is a playground, a dog run, a running track and football pitches, there is still a vast amount of unexplored habitat for the very best of Ireland’s wildlife to live undisturbed and untroubled.    The playground is impressively big, with a maze, zip lines and swings etc. but, it is in the wilder side of St Catherine’s that its true beauty is revealed.   The primeval landscape of St Catherine survives and welcomes season’s changes under a canopy of ash, beech and elderly oak trees.  Explore the woodland trails by the River Liffey weirs and leave the nearby city behind as curious squirrels and foxes peep from the undergrowth.  The OPW bought this estate, which had many previous owners, in 1996 and it remains one of Ireland’s most wonderful hidden treasures. It can be accessed by three Counties, Fingal, Co Dublin and Kildare, with adequate parking and is a perfect place to stroll, picnic and rejuvenate the tired spirit.
 

Dursey Island

Dursey Island lies of the tip of the Beara Peninsula in West Cork. It is as off the beaten track as you are likely to find.  Dursey has no shops, no pubs and no restaurants.  It does, however, have a cable car.  Irelands only cable car. Opened in 1969, it is the only one in Europe that traverses open seawater and is one of the great attractions of the island.   

On the island itself, there is a 4 hour loop walk from the cable car exit point and the village of Ballynacallagh. The loop affords unrivalled scenery and fantastic views.  Taking the hardy traveller past the ruin of an ancient church, ascending to the remains of the Signal Tower, where the spectacular views of Bull and Cow Island and the beautiful coastline of West Cork will take the breath away! Dursey Island offers quirky and novel transport and a fantastic days hiking in the best that this country has to offer.  Bring your sandwiches and enjoy on one of the Ireland hidden treasures.

Benwee Head Mayo

The North Coast of Mayo is one of Ireland’s closely guarded secrets.  Of course, it’s on the Wild Atlantic Way, but the outlying villages around Blacksod Bay are often bypassed as adventurers head to other more famous places on the route.   This is part of its charm. The cliffs, the sea stacks and arches in the Atlantic swells near the small Irish-speaking village of Carrowteige are every bit as impressive as the Cliffs of Moher or Slieve League. The fact that you may enjoy them practically to yourself only adds to their appeal.  Carrowteige village is the base and the trail head for four signposted walks, of which the Children of Lir walk  is the most rewarding.   A rugged and breezy 10km coastal route through a wild landscape of bog and windswept mountainside. It follows surfaced roads, grassy tracks and paths and brings you past the Children of Lir sculpture, a sweeping and striking art work overlooking the outstanding beauty of Benwee Head.  This loop walk is a little known gem and one of Ireland’s great lesser travelled routes.

Caves of Kesh. Sligo

Just twenty minutes south of Sligo town, nestled in the rolling hills near the town of Ballymote, the Caves of Keash are a natural wonder.  Accessible and exciting, these caves can be easily climbed to by family groups and day trippers.  The effort of the clamber up the trail is rewarded with incredible views. The lush valley and Lakelands stretching to the Ox Mountains are inspiring. On a good day, the iconic Mayo Mountains of Croagh Patrick and Nephin, can be seen to the South, while Sligo’s Ben Bulben peeps into view to the North. The caves are situated on the west side of Keshcorran Hill and are part of the Brieklieve Mountain range.  Sixteen caves, some interconnecting, are magical, dark, dank spaces that spark the imagination of children and peak the interest of naturists. There are a few stalagmites and stalactites. Excavations carried out in the early 20th century, showed evidence of significant animal remains. Among these, there were the bones of brown bear, arctic lemming, Irish elk, and grey wolf. These days you may disturb a few bats, but the bears will be confined to imagination. Mythology and legend link the caves to Fionn Mac Cumhaill and other Celtic mythology.  

The Arigna Miner’s Way

Walk in the footsteps of the Leitrim coal miners.  The 112km route from Arigna to Dowra in Co. Leitrim takes the lonely traveller through bog lands and pathways traced by the men of this region who spent their days underground. Smaller sections can be traversed, such as the 8km route from the mine itself (now a visitors centre near Ballinamore) across the panoramic Iron mountains to the opulent splendour of Kilronan Castle.  Not just a scenic walk, but a history lesson too, as you walk the miner’s way and end up at ‘the big house’!  Coal mining was a back breaking part of life around Arigna for over 400 years.  As you hike the hills above Lough Allen, and trek down to the villages of Keadue and Lough Meelagh on this network of beaten tracks, through heather and ferns, you can contemplate on the lives of those men. To spend life working underground when all of this amazing vista was denied to them above ground seems extremely harsh.  The Miner’s Way preserves the heritage of this area and is a testament to these men, but also brings us luckier souls on an amazingly beautiful journey through one of Ireland’s most incredible areas of natural beauty.

The Coumlara Loop trail in Waterford

 A wilderness walk for those who like to have the trail to themselves.  It is also a dog friendly trek. This is a looped hike of over six and a half kilometres which climbs to 350 meters on track and trail, roadway and mountain terrain heading towards the lower slopes of the Comeragh Mountains.  Waterford is just an hour away and a whole world away. The trail crosses the Nire River, which is usually little more than a stream flowing from Coumlara . The Comeragh Mountains are a remarkably varied range, stretching from the coast near Dungarvan inland as far as Clonmel, and this loop walk is particularly beautiful and remote with scenic views and has the added attraction that most day trippers are off at the incredible Mahon Falls, leaving you to relish your outdoor adventure on less travelled paths and revealing unexplored beauty of Ireland.

Blessington Greenway and Russborough House.

Blessington was once a quiet Wicklow town but is now firmly on the Dublin commuter belt. This does not mean it has been spoilt or that access to nature and quiet walks are not still close by.  The Blessington Greenway is a short enough trek that will keep all the family happy on a Sunday afternoon.  There is the added bonus of the grandeur of Russborough House as an end-of -trail prize! Blessington Greenway starts in the town itself and winds around the south shores of the famous lakes, and traverses through forest and woodland.  It passes an ancient ring fort and is a wonderful place for flora and fauna of every variety.  Sneak previews of the stately home can be seen as you walk the trail. The house can be accessed for an admission fee and offers all the graciousness and beauty of one of Ireland’s finest stately homes.  The gardens are a’maze’ ing!  Yes, they have a maze. There is a 2000 metre beech hedge maze and it is its most fascinating feature.   A statue of Cupid stands proudly on a column at the centre of the maze, as a beacon to help you find your way. Very popular with children, it is open every day of the week March-November.   The Blessington Greenway is 6km long and is a moderate to easy trek which has the added advantage of being just 30 mins from the capital city, yet still reveals to you another of the lesser outdoor adventures of Ireland. 

Photo Credit: Best of Sligo