Thoughts on my first campervan trip!
My first campervan trip and with a six-year-old co-pilot I wasn’t sure what to expect! Having worked for Craicncampers for over a year, I had some experience driving the vans and I was confident with all the inner workings of the van in theory, however, I never had to put any of it into practise on a trip. My previous experience was camping in a tent on two separate occasions and at different ages, both times ending up with the tent full of water! To be fair when you buy a “waterproof” tent for a festival that costs €20 what else can you expect?!
If I was to be totally honest, before working at Craicncampers I didn’t really have much interest in going camping again or hiring out a campervan but hearing about all the places our customers had visited, sights they had seen and the excitement of planning a road trip around Ireland I couldn’t wait to go! Describing their adventures from exploring the Wild Atlantic Way and Ireland’s Ancient East down to the minor, but appealing, details of parking along the sea front or near the beach, eating your breakfast in the morning and drinking coffee with those kinds of views, it sounded idyllic!
As it was my first trip in a campervan I decided to just take it out for 3 nights and see how I got on. Particularly with driving it as this part made me a little hesitant to go. I was surprised at how comfortable I felt driving it even after only 20 minutes. I took out one of our 2016 6 berth Sunlight A68 campervans. I packed it up with a very excited six-year-old boy, Lorcan, who had to check the electronic steps were working every ten minutes!
We set off with Galway being the first port of call, Salthill to be exact which was nice and easy to get to. I called Salthill Caravan Park beforehand to check for availability and was able to turn up but to be there before nine! I got a nice spot at the back toward the seafront which was lovely, and the air was so fresh in the morning! This campsite is a tad pricey and has little competition in Galway, but it is well maintained, clean and apparently impossible to get a spot in the summer! I was chatting to a lovely lady from Dublin, a seasoned camper who stays regularly and advised how popular it is during peak season. An aspect of campervanning which was refreshing is how friendly everybody is, which was useful when I needed some help reversing the van into my space! Again, you could wild camp and not pay, but I was just more comfortable for my first night in a campervan to stay on a campsite.
We stayed in Galway for two nights as it was late in the evening on the Sunday when we got to Salthill and it was nice to adjust to the van and settle in a bit before rushing off. There is a convenient and beautiful coastal walk that takes you into the centre of Salthill with plenty to do in there. The campsite has a decent green area to play on so if you bring footballs, hurls etc there is plenty of room to kick a ball around! It took little to entertain Lorcan as the whole concept of being in a campervan was a novelty. From climbing into the bunks and choosing which bed to sleep in, to testing every button in the van down to just simply using the toilet! We weren’t exactly on the seafront, but the views were still great, and it was a totally different experience cooking and eating breakfast right by the sea, it lived up to my expectations!
We were on the move again headed for Westport which had a direct route to it. I was feeling a bit braver now in the campervan and decided to take the scenic route! Next stop Leenane! From the main roads that brought me to Galway now I was getting to grips with the countryside driving. Living in the country I’m accustomed to smaller roads in a car, navigating them in the Campervan is a whole other ballgame! Daunting at first but manageable once you take your time, make good use of the wing mirrors and get your co-pilot to help! *Tip: Watch out for wandering sheep on the roads!
It’s a beautiful drive with spectacular views in Leenane village. From Leenane we headed to Louisburgh on R335 and then continued onto Westport. The drive is simply breath taking and we drove on a somewhat dull day! We pulled in along the way to take it all in and get some pictures. Lorcan could sit down around the dinette for part of the journey where he could have a snack while admiring the scenery from the back-seat and. Along the route you have views of Croagh Patrick, Sheaffrey Hills, Mweelrea Mountains, Killary harbour and plenty of roads leading off the route that will bring you to some nice beaches along the way.
We arrived in Westport early Tuesday afternoon and headed straight for Westport House. A peaceful and quiet campsite in a beautiful location. We were disappointed at first to find out that the Pirate adventure park wasn’t open as it only opens from Wednesday to Sunday in June. I had phoned ahead for availability but only found out about the adventure park upon arriving. Something to note always double check regarding opening times, especially off season! The staff were lovely though and helpful, so we set up camp once more. The campsite is located away from the house in a relaxing environment. The weather was lovely when we arrived, and we set up the table and chairs outside and had some lunch. It was lovely to chill out by the campervan, we played some tennis and just enjoyed being outdoors.
The house itself is beautiful and interesting to walk around, it allows you to take a step back in time. The spacious grounds are fun to explore and what is great about the layout is that you can walk to the end of the driveway and access Westport town directly from the property. We had plenty to do even with the adventure centre not being open. I loved the house and Lorcan suggested we might even buy it because I liked it so much!!
Last day and we headed straight for the Pirate adventure park as soon as it was open. A couple of good rides in here including the Pirates Plunge flume ride which I chose to leave until the end as we got soaked! Thankfully we could quickly get changed in the campervan. When you purchase the park pass it gives you access to the house and a couple of extra activities such as the swan pedalo boats, the cannon ball run, go karts and the train. There is plenty of extra things to do including zip lining, archery, birds of prey and more. All of these are separate activities to the park though and cost extra, something to bear in mind when coming as it all adds up. The pass allows you entry for two days though which is a bonus and gives you plenty of time to spend here particularly when camping.
We headed off around lunchtime to return the campervan and we took a direct route back to Roscommon. My biggest challenge in driving the campervan was exiting Westport town, a one-way system with some steep hills thrown in for good measure, apologies to any cars I may have held up! Still I lived to tell the tale!
Would I go again?
Absolutely! We had a ball, it was such a great experience for Lorcan and a lot more fun than a hotel room. He didn’t want to give it back! It was so convenient when leaving Galway, we just had to drive off, we didn’t have to pack up our belongings and unpack at every stop. You can pull in along the drive and have lunch, there is a readily available toilet, which is great for kids! Regarding the toilet, it was not the dreaded experience I was expecting! The thought had crossed my mind to not use it all, therefore avoiding having to empty it. Realistically that was not going to happen with a six-year-old and while it’s not a job I looked forward to, it was fine!
You can plan a route for your trip or make it up as you go, there really is no better way to see Ireland. My only regret is not having it for longer, 3 nights is too short! I will plan a bigger trip the next time and maybe try out some wild camping!