Make your pitch


GO IRELAND:A new ‘natural’ style of campsite attracts visitors who want the full experience of being outdoors, writes SANDRA O’CONNELL

YOU MIGHT THINK camping is by its nature pretty eco-friendly, but some campsites have gone further down the green road than others.

Pure Camping is a new campsite, on a south-facing bank of the Shannon estuary in Co Clare, that has at its heart a 10-acre native woodland in which you can pick a spot and pitch your tent. Owned by Trea and Kevin Heapes, it’s an idea they brought back from their own camping trips in Australia and New Zealand.

“Pure Camping is all about providing space for families to have a bit of time together, away from technology,” explains Trea, a yoga teacher. “We had come across natural campsites on our travels but couldn’t find anything like it in Ireland, somewhere you really get the full experience of being out in nature and listening to the birds.”

Committed environmentalists, the couple is on hand to provide information about the wildlife in the area to visiting families.

“We give out fire baskets so guests can have campfires, and the kids love going and finding bits of wood for them. We had a single mum with three kids stay recently and while I wondered if it was hard camping on her own, she said it was easy because there was nobody fighting over the TV or the computer. They all had a great time.”

At Pure Camping, rainwater is harvested for toilets, while solid fuel and solar panels are used to heat communal areas. There’s an open-ended kitchen with a clay oven for making pizza, while a geodesic dome provides space for guests to mix or play board games.

If you don’t have your own tent you can rent one of their bell tents, some of which come with futons and stoves. A five-metre one costs €80 for the first night and €60 a night thereafter.

But if you do bring your own tent, a family of four can camp in the woods for just €20 a night.

“We’re in a beautiful spot, on the Loop Head Peninsula. The woodland slopes down to the river, so the views are gorgeous,” Trea says.

For another eco camping alternative, Actons Beachside Camping Eco Park in Clifden, Co Galway is well worth checking out. In operation as a traditional caravan and camping park since the early 1960s, in the last four years it has devoted itself to becoming as environmentally friendly as possible.

“It’s all about sustainability,” says Chris Acton, who also runs the organic farm next door, using green electricity, organic water (of the chemical-free, potable kind) and creating special machair-grass habitat sites on the dunes.

You can pitch your tent right on Acton’s private beach, amid the grass planted sand dunes, with wonderful privacy and idyllic sea views.

Book ahead, mind you, it gets very busy in summer and places are limited.

“We have a very strict policy on numbers so that everybody gets a natural camping experience,” Acton says.

The vast majority of his visitors are from overseas, with 75 per cent coming from the UK alone, where private camping is a growing trend.

The beach-dune pitches have their own fire pits, so here too you can while away the dark hours around a campfire.

For two adults with their own tent, it costs €20 a night, plus €3 for every child.

If you’re heading up north, Teresa O’Hare’s Orchard Acre Farm in Co Fermanagh offers another eco-friendly camping option. This one, however, is even more secluded – there’s only one tent. In fact, it’s a tepee. “We only have one because what we are offering is a private camping experience, where one family at a time can come and enjoy a camping experience but in a scenario where we are on-hand to help, and to provide breakfast hampers for you in the morning.” A great option for families with kids, visitors here get to help out with the animals on O’Hare’s small holding.

A family weekend stay at Orchard Acre Farm, which has won a number of sustainability awards, costs £240 (€298).

“It’s a private family camping experience, it is not a campsite,” she explains. “It is our family hosting yours.”

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