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Summer staycation Dunmore feast in a campervan

Staycations are the way to go these days, so Daragh Keany and family hit the road in their hired campervan to seek out the fantastic array of sights and activities that Dunmore East offers this summer

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The Keanys are ready for Dunmore Adventure

The Keanys are ready for Dunmore Adventure

Daragh and his kids enjoy a drink in Dunmore East.

Daragh and his kids enjoy a drink in Dunmore East.

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The Keanys are ready for Dunmore Adventure

Full confession… I am not a camping person. And neither is my wife. Nor are my children. The furthest we'd go is the back garden and we'd make sure we have a tent that was twice as big as we need with the option to abandon ship and head for our beds at any moment, if it was cold, if something went wrong, if we heard a strange unsettling sound or if we just wanted to give up.

But if any silver lining has come from the pandemic it is that we, as a unit, appreciate what we have and are far more willing to try new things. So, when the dust started to settle on intercounty travel a few months back we started toying with the idea of renting a campervan for a few nights. We stumbled on a website called Indie Campers which on researching was based in Portugal but operates all over the continent. Luckily for Team Keany, Ireland is one of their bases, so with a few clicks of the mouse and a few panicked phone calls to experience campervan friends we decided to take the plunge and head off.

Going back to my opening point - we definitely booked a campervan that was bigger than we actually needed. There a few other options that we could have squeezed into but over the course of the few days we certainly appreciated the extra space for chaotic times like cooking and worse… changing out of wetsuits.

We rented the grand daddy of all campervans (known on the Indie site as the Atlas) and we packed it full of all the necessities and a lot a of luxuries too.

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Daragh and his kids enjoy a drink in Dunmore East.

Daragh and his kids enjoy a drink in Dunmore East.

Daragh and his kids enjoy a drink in Dunmore East.

It came with bed linen, crockery, cutlery, a full gas cylinder, a giant tank of water for kitchen and bathroom requirements, a BBQ, a table and chairs, a shower, a toilet, two double beds and a ladder to help my diminutive wife climb into bed each night.

Plus it came with a very Covid-friendly guided tour at pick-up that meant we didn't pull away from the depot thinking we were complete idiots. Oh no, that didn't kick in until we got to the campsite and realised that having a gorgeous campervan didn't automatically turn you into Bear Grylls. But more of that later.

They might provide the wheels and beds for holidays but they don't tell you where to go. So, for the first ever Keany campervan holiday we took our advice and headed south to Dunmore East where we booked a 'pitch' for a few nights.

Driving it takes a bit of getting used to but once you are on the open road you can't help but embrace the lofty perch. In fact, the only time I struggled with it was when I was reversing into our pitch for the few days.

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Daragh’s impressive campervan.

Daragh’s impressive campervan.

Daragh’s impressive campervan.

Eilis and her family run the Dunmore East Holiday and Golf Resort and within seconds of us pulling up she knew we were camping virgins and did everything in her power to make things easy for us. She guided us on where was best for novices to park and gave us the remedial version of the campsite tour.

Communal kitchens, bathrooms, shower facilities and a giant playground are all at your disposal here but as soon as we got hooked up (it was late on a Monday evening) we decided we just wanted to head down town and get the girls a well-deserved ice cream and get us a well-deserved drink.

Dunmore East is one of the towns that Americans would think Dublin looks like. It is the perfect picture postcard town that combines a stunning coastline with brightly-painted thatched buildings. Like a lot of towns around the country, some businesses did not survive the pandemic but there are still enough shops, bars, restaurants, hotels and family-focused activities to keep the throngs of domestic tourists happy.

Luckily our penchant for planning meant that we had lots of things booked for our trip. Spontaneity does not get rewarded in a gorgeous seaside town in the summer at the end of a pandemic.

Our first full day started with a morning dip in the sea, but the highlight was definitely a visit to Busy Barn Mini Farm where Catherine and her sons run the show.

Amazingly, adults go free to this because Catherine knows that it is child-focused. A lot of Dublin-based kids' activities should take note of this. The indoor play centre may still be closed but there was still enough fun and entertainment from the rabbits, chickens, pigs, Shetland ponies and another giant playground to lose yourself for a few hours.

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And while no one ever goes to a petting farm to eat amazing food, the cafe itself was amazing. We tucked into delicious sambos, the kids ate chicken nuggets and chips and all four of us couldn't avoid the freshly-made cakes. We rolled out of there hours later stuffed and yearning for a pet rabbit or pig.

The following day was all about Dunmore Adventure. Nestled in past the marina is a giant water park that offers kayaking, stand-up paddle boarding, a state-of-the-art climbing wall, archery and the main event… the Wibit Waterpark.

The inflatable assault course is a family-sized slice of heaven in the middle of all the boats, beaches and dramatic cliffs. For a whole hour all four of us were complete kids as we traversed, leapt, bounced, swung, raced, laughed and plunged into the refreshing water.

We then tried our hand at a gigantic SUP board before the amazing Lauren brought us for a paddle in some two-person kayaks to see the kittiwakes snuggled into the rocks on Stoney Cove. We worked up such an appetite that we were only fit to eat when we got back on shore so we made a beeline for The Haven Hotel (prebooked obviously, we're not completely bonkers) and sat out listening to live music, drinking wine, watching the world go by tucking into a delicious last supper before the kids turned the garden into their playground.

Ultimately, though, this holiday was not just about the fab location. It was about the journey. And the accommodation. And the adventure. And its uniqueness.

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Daragh jumps into the bay at the Aquapark in
Dunmore Adventure.

Daragh jumps into the bay at the Aquapark in Dunmore Adventure.

Eating roasted marshmallows in the campervan at night.

Eating roasted marshmallows in the campervan at night.

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Daragh jumps into the bay at the Aquapark in Dunmore Adventure.

The freedom of movement that comes with having a campervan at your disposal is not to be ignored. You might surprise yourself with how much you'd enjoy it.

We love our luxuries - but for a few days we tried something completely different and it was a gamble that paid off in spades.

 

 

Late deals

Fancy a break around Belfast, Derry and Donegal and not have to lift a finger while doing it?

Travel Department has an amazing holiday planned for small groups who want to relax and unwind while having an adventure at the same time.

Leaving Dublin on either July 25 or August 11, the four-night trip will be divided between two nights in Belfast and two nights in Letterkenny.

You will enjoy the highlights of Belfast on a panoramic coach tour, experience the spectacular Antrim coast on a full day guided excursion, including a visit to Giant’s Causeway and explore Derry with a guided walking tour along its historic city walls.

You’ll also discover beautiful Donegal and from your base in Letterkenny, see the best of the county such as the Rathmullan and Sheephaven Bay on the Wild Atlantic Way and visit Glenveagh Castle, Gardens and National Park. Included in the €639 pp price is travel, hotels, breakfast each morning, two evening meals and expert guides throughout.

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Despite being named by the Lonely Planet Guide 2019 as one of the top 10 child-friendly castle estates in the world for families interested in nature, discovery and adventure, Birr Castle Demesne still remains a hidden gem.

The much-loved Birr Castle Family Quest will take young, and maybe not so young, explorers on a journey through time, from great engineering feats to wildlife discoveries, and many more highlights in between.

The gardens of Birr Castle demesne are home to the Great Telescope built in 1845 which remained the largest in the world for over 70 years.

 

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Daragh and his kids enjoy a drink in Dunmore East.

Daragh and his kids enjoy a drink in Dunmore East.

Chloe and Mia pet the bunnies at Busy Barn Mini Farm.

Chloe and Mia pet the bunnies at Busy Barn Mini Farm.

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Daragh and his kids enjoy a drink in Dunmore East.

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