Glamping it up

 

IT’S THE QUIET ones you have to watch. Just as I thought I had stayed under just about all the coolest canvases in Ireland, a couple of Westmeath wunderkinds creep up from behind to throw a curveball into the “glamping” arena. During the past year, Adrian and Deirdre Murphy have been quietly creating one of the most extensive ecochic camps I have seen, not only in Ireland but in Europe.

Glamping has hit Europe like a rash, with some people putting up yurts and tepees without any thought for comfort or quality. Others are planning the sites sensitively and sustainably, as in the case of the Murphys, resulting in 100 acres of rural idyll, with yurts tucked behind copses, spread out along waterfronts, or snuck under pine canopies.

And when the 200,000 trees which they have planted come to maturity, this will be just like the eponymous Hundred Acre Wood, home to AA Milne’s Winnie-the-Pooh. Except this one is real, not fictional, tucked away behind the village of Castletown Geoghegan.

Underground rivers and lakes have been newly-exposed creating new ecosystems for wildlife. They have put a lot of planning into the landscape design, with pathways following the gentle undulations of this vast estate, sculptures of druids poised majestically to greet the sun on hilltops, wooden bridges crossing streams, and bikes available for guests’ use to explore not only them, but also the various routes of the nearby Mullingar Cycle Hub ( irishtrails.ie).

We stayed when winter was still very much in the air, making this one of the few yurt sites which is open year round. The wood-burning stoves and the generous amount of fuel left outside each yurt allowed us to enjoy a bit of winter camping in comfort.

The wind was fierce on the first night, with complete darkness giving us the perfect opportunity to see the clear skies through the window in the roof, while the canvas, shaken not stirred, provided just enough sympathetic background for us to scare the wits out of our kids with ghost stories.

A winter sun invited us out to play each morning, although we did take our time to emerge it has to be said, not just because of the yurt’s womb-like comfort, but because no one wanted to be the first to get up and put fuel on the stove. My only criticism is the lack of a kettle in the yurt, as it would be lovely to stick one on the stove to get your day off to an even cosier start.

“Where do you cook the breakfast?” a villager asked us in the local (and wonderfully welcoming) Claffey’s pub that night. They couldn’t quite believe that we had come to Castletown Geoghegan for our “holidays”. I explained that not only is there a beautifully-restored barn with communal cooking facilities, sofas, a vast wood-burning stove, and even a sauna, but he looked even more confused.

I also explained to my new drinking companion that having such large amounts of space for our city kids to run around in was a luxury for us. Combined with the fact that it was less than an hour’s drive from Dublin (or take the train to Mullingar and the Murphys will pick you up, if they can).

If you don’t fancy a yurt, you can rent their super-chic refurbished school master’s house, Kindalin.

The peace and quiet of this glorious yurt camp is replaced with rock’n’roll once a year. Boutique Camping launched a Green Village Music and Arts Festival last year ( greenvillage.ie). The hills will be coming alive with the sound of music again this year on September 29th.

Boutique Camping, Castletown Geoghegan, Co Westmeath, tel: 087-2054403, boutiquecamping.ie. Yurts from €80 per night for a midweek, two-night stay, otherwise €100 per night.

Catherine Mack is the author of a new app, Ireland Green Travel, available for iPhone, iPad and Android

Nothing like glamping it up it up

Kinsale Glamping has a luxury Mongolian yurt pitched a few metres above the sea on the Scilly side of the water, with wonderful views over the town. Very eco-friendly, it has a wood burning stove, which also heats the shower, and lights are run by solar energy. If you give notice, there’s an outdoor cob oven and the owners can provide you with all the ingredients you need for home-made pizza. Prices start at €150 for two nights, with extra nights from €60, including breakfast. kinsaleglamping.com

Due to open next month Dromquinna Manor, near Kenmare in Co Kerry, has tents specially designed by safari tent experts in India, so you can forget about irritating centre poles, low headroom and bumpy floors. With double skin roofs, you won’t even hear the rain. Each tent has its own decking and is furnished like a luxury hotel bedroom. Roll back the flaps and take in the beautiful bay views from your bed. A two-man tent in summer costs €150 per night, with a 20 per cent discount on stays of three nights or longer. Family tents, accommodating two children under 16, are available for an extra €15. dromquinnamanor.com

Teapot Lane is a pet-friendly luxury camp in north Leitrim, with hand-crafted yurts furnished with king-size beds, loads of scatter cushions and a wood-burning stove, all in the shadow of Ben Bulben. Your accommodation here is surrounded by five acres of woodland – complete with its own fairy fort – with an organic farm next door from which to get your fresh food. Prices from €200 to €250 for a two-night weekend. teapotlaneluxurycamp.com

Battlebridge caravan and camping park, also in Leitrim, is one of the country’s best known traditional campsites. These days it also offers the chance to glamp, on the banks of the Shannon, in spacious circular tents, with the added allure of Beirne’s pub right next door for a seisiún and hot meal. Glamping tents here sleep four and cost €160 for two nights or €300 for a week. battlebridgecaravancamping.ie

Those with kids might like to check out Tepee Valley Campsite in Co Armagh. As well as a range of traditional native American tepees – complete with totem pole – accommodation includes yurts, a geodesic dome and a Gypsy Rose Lee-style covered wagon. The tepees sleep six people, with three beds and other soft furnishings to lounge on. Outside there is seating around a fire pit for cooking. Prices start from £75 (€89) a night or £130 (€155) for a weekend. tepeevalleycampsite.co.uk

SANDRA O'CONNELL