Whether you’re an adventurer on a multi-day hike or a parent trying to keep the kids entertained, it’s hard to beat a camping trip. It’s cheaper than a night in a hotel, brings you closer to nature and makes for a much more memorable overnight experience. If you choose to wild camp, you can also escape the hustle and bustle of civilisation, while those who prefer their luxuries can go glamping in a fully-furnished bell tent.
Ireland lends itself particularly well to wild camping – the country is sparsely populated, safe and has no wildlife that can kill you. The one thing to bear in mind when pitching up in a non-designated camping spot are the rights to roam laws in Ireland – the majority of land is privately owned so camping is deemed trespassing. However, trespassing is considered a civil law issue in Ireland so if you leave when asked, you do not run the risk of a night in the local Garda station. Most locals are pretty friendly so asking for permission before setting up camp on their land is also an option. Camping on public land is usually strictly forbidden but again, if are discreet, considerate and leave no trace it is unlikely that you will be moved.
From paid-for pitches to wild camping ideas, here are eight of the best places to camp in Ireland.
Eagle Point Camping, Co. Cork
Anyone who enjoys kayaking, sailing and windsurfing will be a happy camper at Eagle Point Camping in Ballylickey, between Bantry and Glengarriff in County Cork. Located on Eagle Point peninsula, the campsite is surrounded by water and has boats available to hire for practicing your paddling on the calm water. The campsite stretches over a large area, where you can pitch tents or set up your campervan or motorhome, with beautiful views over Bantry Bay. Showers and internet are both free to use, and laundry facilities are also available.
Best for: Watersports
Ben Crom Reservoir, Co. Down
If you’re after adventure and you know one end of your tent from the other, then the Mourne Mountains are a great place to wild camp. And in the heard of this craggy range of peaks you’ll find the Shelter Stone at Ben Crom Reservoir, a set of slabs under which there is room for a small number of people to bivvy. It’s long been a popular spot for wild camping enthusiasts and for good reason – you get to wake up to breathtaking views of the reservoir and surrounding Mourne Mountains. If you prefer to pitch a tent, there are some nice spots at the head of the Ben Crom Reservoir too. Further details about wild camping spots in the Mourne Mountains is available on the Mourne Mountain website.
Best for: Mountain adventurers
Portsalon Luxury Camping, Co. Donegal
For those who prefer the finer things in life, Portsalon Luxury Camping has it in spades. First up, you’ll be sleeping in a fully-furnished yurt, complete with a king-size bed, wood-burning stove, carpets and wooden furniture. You also get a shower room and communal kitchen facilities, and the owners offer guests the organic produce they grow and free-range eggs. Then you have the spectacular sea and mountain view – the five yurts overlook Lough Swilly, Mulroy Bay, Knockalla mountain and the Inishowen Peninsula. Want more? Ballymastocker Bay at Lough Swilly – one of Ireland’s best beaches – is easily accessible from the site.
Best for: Glamping
Pure Camping, Co. Clare
Situated on the south side of the Loop Head Peninsula on the Wild Atlantic Way, Pure Camping is an eco-campsite where the rainwater is harvested and heated by solar energy, and toilets are naturally composting. There’s even a hand-built eco sauna where you can warm the cockles, guilt-free. The campsite – which offers everything from grassy tent pitches to furnished bell tents and wooden cabins – has scooped numerous awards including the Gold Standard Award from Ecotourism Ireland. Its location is fabulous, too – spectacular scenery and star-gazing at night, with activities on tap nearby, from walking and cycling to kayaking and coasteering.
Best for: Eco warriors
Nore Valley Park, Co. Kilkenny
For some good old-fashioned family fun, head to Nore Valley Park, located near the beautiful River Nore. Children will love feeding the animals at the on-site farm and petting the resident rabbits and goats. The family-run site features a playground and also offers activities from hay bounces and crazy golf to go-karting. Located near Bennettsbridge and Kilkenny, there’s plenty to keep you occupied nearby, too, including swimming in the river pool at Thomastown.
Best for: Families
Omey Island, Connemara
Fancy some wild camping with a difference? Then walk over to Omey Island, before watching the tide coming in, gradually making the separation between you and the hustle and bustle of the rest of the world. Located just off Claddaghduff in Connemara, Omey Island is tidal island that’s just a short walk from the mainland, and perfect for a night under canvas. You’ll be treated to incredible views of the Aughrus peninsula and the crashing Atlantic ocean that surrounds you as you pitch your tent. Be sure to bring all of your own supplies with you (there’s not much in the way of shops on the island) and check tide times before walking over.
Best for: An island escape
Brushers Adirondack Shelter, Co. Wicklow
The Wicklow Way can get busy in summer, but when it gets colder and darker, the crowds start to disperse. You may well have its beautiful mountains all to yourself if you decide to overnight here. A few Adirondack shelters have been built in remote areas by a group of environmental volunteers. Designed for long-distance hikers, these three-sided shelters offer a basic sleeping platform for five people. Pack your own bivvy bag and everything you need to stay comfortable. One of the most popular huts is at Brushers Gap, which is around a 90-minute hike from civilisation. It has a fire pit, water butt (water may need to be treated) and a picnic table. Two similar huts are located at Mucklagh and Mullacor.
Best for: A wilderness shelter
Baginbun Beach, Co. Wexford
Fancy a morning dip when you wake up? Then spend a night beneath the stars at Baginbun Beach, around a 15-minute drive from Hook Head in County Wexford. Accessed via a tiny road just outside Feathard, the beach has great shelter from the elements thanks to the grassy cliffs that enclose the small cove. You may well have this special spot all to yourselves so you can kick back, watch the sun go down and enjoy the rugged beauty of the Hook peninsula in blissful solitude. Baginbun is also a great swimming spot, although the sea can be a little unpredictable around the Hook peninsula so approach the water with caution and watch out for strong currents and rips.
Best for: Wild swimming