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Glamping with fine food and friendly (alpaca) faces... check out Kilkenny's Mountain View

For an adventure in April, Daragh Keany took his family to an incredible new glamping site in Ballyhale

Carry on Camping: Chloe and Mia outside their bell tent in Kilkenny's Mountain View

Sarah, Chloe and Mia discovered why the Sunday market attracts hundreds of locals every week

Alpaca your bags for a memorable stay in Kilkenny's Mountain View

The 'Bell Tents' are far more spacious and comfortable than you expect

Happy hour: Cocktails and mocktails helped get the gang in the mood for the adventure

Daragh Keany

Within three minutes of landing into the unearthly surroundings of Mountain View in Ballyhale, Kilkenny, owner Bee is down on her honkers tying my youngest daughter’s shoelace, which she spotted was slightly loose looking.

Each member of Team Keany has been hugged at least twice and she has already (completely unnecessarily) apologised three times for her appearance.

The mid-length black lagging jacket she wears looks warm and cosy, and serves many purposes for the owner who has multiple tasks on any given day — dish washing, table setting and alpaca feeding just three we’re immediately aware of.

Throw into the mix that there is an 80th birthday party coming that night, they just hosted a naming ceremony, and the morning of our arrival also saw the infectiously-likeable team host a wedding showcase that saw loved-up couples getting a full low-down on what this location can offer.

The 'Bell Tents' are far more spacious and comfortable than you expect

In the middle of the whole thing now are all four members of Team Keany, who have just spent the afternoon in Kilkenny City, taking in the always-impressive castle and the remarkably-informative National Reptile Zoo.

As travel editor, you get invited on some incredible trips: Caribbean cruises, inaugural flights to new US destinations and theme park adventures to name a few. But discovering hidden gems right here in Ireland gives me much more of a thrill. Especially when I can do it with my family.

Ballyhale is famous for its hurling stock with Reids, Fennellys — and of course the Shefflins — all hailing from the village. But beyond the hurling talent, what else is it known for?

Mount Juliet is just a stone’s throw away and it was the home of Avonmore (which let’s face it, isn’t going to pull in the tourists) but there is now a little piece of heaven sitting on 128 acres overlooking the valley and rolling hills of Kilkenny that should be on everyone’s to-do list.

I describe this as a ‘hidden gem’ but based on the sheer number of events going on over the 20 hours that we were on site, it is clear that the locals have been keeping this secret to themselves. I completely get that. But I am here today to burst their bubble because the truth is, those 20 hours we spent with Bee, Eliza, Miriam, Ollie, Sean, Paul, Sophie, the rest of the staff, two rascal goats and a herd of adorable alpacas, felt like a three-day holiday and left us all gagging for more.

I haven’t even got to the best bit yet (although the lead image has probably given it away). This was a glamping holiday.

Happy hour: Cocktails and mocktails helped get the gang in the mood for the adventure

Myself, my wife Sarah and our two girls, Chloe and Mia, are not usually glamping people. Sure, we have dabbled in a few campervan holidays through the years with mixed results but give us four walls and a toilet any day of the week.

But this was different. We wanted an adventure to break up the monotony of April and we were willing to take a gamble on the Irish weather — fair to say we got unlucky on it. We arrived as it rained, and the light drizzle didn’t stop until 3am. At which point, temperatures had dropped to two degrees, according to the app. I’m telling you this because it didn’t affect our fun.

OK, so this spot would be even more heavenly in the summer, and we would definitely have been wearing less layers and woolly hats in our cosy beds in June, July or August. But we landed prepared for this eventuality, and the weather added to the fun and adventure.

That is because Bee and her team have now added 15 enormous ‘Bell Tents’ in close proximity to the already-established Greenhouse Restaurant. There are toilet and shower facilities, as well as two gorgeous ‘Hilly Huts’ for less adventurous lodgers.

We were offered these for our stay but feeling brave, we took on the tent — and we adored every second of it. Each one is equipped with a double bed and two to three single beds, which all come with comfy mattresses, duvets and pillows. For peace of mind, they can all be locked up too, with combination locks.

The short 30m path between the new mini tented village and the main building is lit up like a fairytale, and removes any sense of nervousness about getting lost in the middle of the night. It is the ideal connect between our lodgings and the central hub of Mountain View.

Alpaca your bags for a memorable stay in Kilkenny's Mountain View

Whether you are a wedding guest, hosting a birthday party, checking in for a night in a tent or simply stopping by for a delicious meal, all roads lead to the Greenhouse Restaurant — where the chef (formerly of Chapter One) has created a mouth-watering menu.

Ollie behind the bar only stops making fancy cocktails and mocktails, or pouring (very) generous glasses of wine, to show us pictures of the karting track up the road.

Miriam acts and dresses like the boss, and is effortlessly manoeuvering between our fussy-eating table of four and the several parties around the room — a gorgeously decorated space that wouldn’t look out of place appearing in Room to Improve, as Dermot Bannon tries to convince his clients of how quirky and cosy colour schemes can sit perfectly into a modern building, while one whole wall is glass to show off the spectacular views.

The dinner was delicious (I highly recommended the pork belly by the way) and the ‘Glampers Breakfast’ had pancake stacks for the kids and Eggs Benedict for the adults. We were in foodie heaven.

But before we packed up and headed home, there was the small issue of the Sunday market — another hidden gem Bee and her daughter Sophie have been working on for years — the sun came out, adding to the incredible vibe that oozes from every food stand and craft stall. And Chloe and Mia got to feed the alpacas on our way down to the path, which will forever be etched in their memory.

We counted well over 300 cars in the various carparks, meaning there were well over 500 people at the market. Throw in a few dozen dogs and you get a sense this is a market that not only offers an opportunity for small companies to get off the ground, but also acts as a meeting hub for locals.

Sarah, Chloe and Mia discovered why the Sunday market attracts hundreds of locals every week

There was live music after lunch and our only issue was that we had too much choice. Pizzas, vegan sausage rolls, coffees and fizzy drinks were devoured. Necklaces, kids’ slime, homemade cookies, gorgeous ornaments, soaps and an amazing painting of an alpaca were all purchased, before we said our goodbyes to Bee and her team.

In less than 24 hours, we made memories to last a lifetime and were warmly invited back when temperatures improve, which made all four Keanys smile even wider.

We’re not camping people but the well-equipped and spacious Bell Tents at Mountain View gave us an adventure even the weather couldn’t dampen, thanks to the food, the market, the alpacas and the staff.


MOUNTAIN VIEW GLAMPING, BALLYHALE See ■ Couples will enjoy the 5m bell tent (one double bed), which costs €130 per tent. ■ Three to five guests can sleep in the 6m family tent, which is €130 + €65 per guest thereafter or €30 per child (under 12). ■ Hilly Huts costs €180 per night for two. ■ The Farmers’ Market opens every Sunday from 10am to 4pm.

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