Ireland has a plethora of charming B&Bs, elegant hotels, delightful vacation cottages and chilled out youth hostels. But what if a tent is more your thing? Yes, Irish people do go camping. But no, it is not quite like camping in North America. If you really want to get in touch with your roots among the trees, camping in Ireland could be the answer. Just remember, it isn’t for fair weather campers because you can never count on fair weather in Ireland.
Camping in Ireland has some differences and similarities with camping in North America. And you can find exceptions to every generalization. But given that this is a small island that was once nearly totally deforested, it is nothing like camping in remote forests in North America. Irish campgrounds are usually fields, sometimes on working farms. Private, woodsy spots to pitch your tent are a rarity here. Wildlife comes in the form of smaller creatures. Instead of bears and elk, you might see a fox or a badger. Camping is a popular family activity, and many campgrounds here include playgrounds and modern bathroom and kitchen facilities. But the real magic is that you can camp a short hike from some amazing historic sites.
Touring Ireland with a tent is an unforgettable and adventurous way to see the country. You can combine it with stays in hotels or B&Bs so you can enjoy both city and countryside, and you can even find glamping options at some campsites. You definitely need a car to reach good campsites.
4 Magic Places to Camp in Ireland
Here are four spots where you can enjoy nature and Irish heritage together.
- Loughcrew Megalithic Centre, Co Meath: The field where you pitch your tent here is nothing to write home about, you can start your day with a steep hike up to the top of Loughcrew to visit a megalithic cairn and enjoy panoramic views of 18 different counties on a clear day. Visitors can enter the cairn and see the ancient carvings in the stone. This is one of the places our ancestors celebrated the Equinox. Like Newgrange, it was constructed so that light would illuminate the interior only on that day, twice a year. They have a yurt available for glamping here.
- Lough Key Forest Park, Co Roscomon: Located in the heart of the Irish midlands, this sprawling park is one of the places that really does offer long, wooded hikes. Ironically, it also includes a historic estate house that is open to visitors, so you can enjoy both natural and human heritage here. The playgrounds will delight children and the elevated forest walk is delightful for all ages.
- Riverside Camping, Doolin, Co Clare: Doolin is a tourist’s dream come true. Famed for its vibrant traditional music scene, this charming village is also in the Burren and less than 10 kilometres from the Cliffs of Moher. Spend your days hiking the surreal Burren landscape, then cap it off with an unforgettable trad session at one of the village pubs before retreating to your tent. Glamping is available here, and the campsite is on a farm.
- Nore Valley, Co Kilkenny: This family-friendly campground is between Kilkenny town, home of Kilkenny Castle, and the ruins of Jerpoint Abbey on the River Nore. The area offers plenty for everyone. Little adventure seekers will love the parks and play areas. The adults can explore the restored castle and shop for crafts, which Kilkenny is famous for producing. The campground itself features a petting farm, crazy golf and other activities for kids.