Van extraordinaire

Van extraordinaire

Pub music, Wexford

Off-season, a campervan tour in Ireland can be a crowd-free, magical journey packed with golden forests, roaring pub fires and some unexpectedly sunny days. JAMES RUDDY hits the road 


AS A warming sun burst through a steel grey autumn sky in the rainy Wicklow Hills overlooking Dublin, it seemed there really was some truth in that well-known saying: “Expect four seasons in a single day in Ireland.”

The previous morning’s landing at Terminal 1 had been met by a fierce gale that had caused a couple of unnerving wing wobbles and a wheel bounce on the runway before we settled, prompting relieved applause from my fellow passengers, some of whom had been praying discreetly.

As Dubliner Kevin, who paused for a chat in that glorious sunshine the next day at beautiful Glencree, observed with a knowing smile: “As they say, you don’t come to Ireland for the weather.”

Indeed, it’s the unique warmth of the people, the beauty of the changing landscape and the heartening refrains of the music that draws people to Ireland after the summer tourist crowds have finally made their getaways.

And so it was that my partner and photographer Sue Mountjoy and I headed back this autumn to the land that we treasure so much more than the countless places we have traversed worldwide.

Flying from East Midlands, our plan was for a fortnight road trip in a campervan, which we picked up after a short Number 16 bus ride from the airport, at the depot of hire specialists, Bunk Campers, who had us up and away in half an hour.

With so many journeys to choose from, we opted for a taste of the history, coast and inland landscapes, music, food and, most of all, that random craiq among the locals which is the lasting ‘Leprechaun treasure’ that most travellers take home with them.

Our near 1000-mile round-trip took us through every kind of weather except snow (which Ireland seldom sees), from that sparkling sunshine in the Wicklow Hills and Tipperary to the Atlantic gales that had the earth truly moving for us one night on Mayo’s exposed Erris Peninsula!

With so much information available, it’s hard not to have a great time even in the wettest and stormiest of weather, if you take the warmest and most rainproof of clothes and always have a Plan B when the clouds thicken and the barometer sinks like a stone.

Our Bunk van was a spacious four-berth with all the mod cons: two double beds, a 3-burner gas hob, fridge-freezer, sink, dining area, shower, toilet, electricity and a toasty heating system for those windy nights on the cliffsides or valleys.

Like many countries, Ireland still allows wild camping in many places but there are prohibition signs and barriers in many busy spots where the summertime influx or overnight vans causes chaos and piles of litter at times from the thoughtless.,

We opted to spend most nights in some of the many spotless and often picturesque campsites which remain open as late as December and, in some cases, all-year-round, catering for the festive and winter markets.

Our tour took us down from Dublin through Ireland’s ‘Ancient East’ along the south coast and up the Wild Atlantic Way through Galway, Connemara and to Mayo before returning to the capital.

Our first campsite night in Dublin had to include a real Guinness or two and the fine music and food at the Brazen Head, on Usher’s Quay. Sited at the original River Liffey crossing point where the great city was born, it is claimed to be Ireland’s oldest pub, founded in 1198 – a title contested by Sean’s Bar in Athlone which archaeologists have dated walls and coins from as far back as 900. A pub quiz debate if ever there was one!

Another fascinating slice of history followed at the Glencree Centre for Peace and Reconciliation, where an exhibition took us through the vital role the former 19th century British Army barracks played in hosting secret meetings that helped end the violence in Northern Ireland.

A short walk away is a sombre valley where the German War Cemetery lies and holds the remains of 134 military and civilians from both World Wars, among them Dr Hermann Görtz, an Nazi Abwehr spy who committed suicide in 1947 when he was informed he would be deported and feared he would be handed over to the Soviet Union.

Heading south through two of Ireland’s most beautiful valleys, Glendalough and the Sally Gap, we stopped for a sight of both before making for two nights on the council’s seafront campsite in Wexford, where we hadn’t reckoned with Ireland’s huge portion sizes and had a sumptuous and gigantic chicken wings, fish, seafood and brisket dinner at the nearby Riverbank House Hotel. What a revelation!

Wexford has an easy one-hour walking tour which includes mile-long Main Street, packed with quirky indie shops and ancient music pubs, at least one with the funeral parlour next door.

Another stopover based us in the Holy Glen of Aherlow, which is packed with saintly wells and ruined abbeys and a campsite which boasts one of the best early morning views in the world – the cloud-kissed peaks of the Galtee Mountains.

Here was so much to see and do, from the Rock of Cashel, where we were shown ‘Ireland’s first credit cards’ (special seals issued to the ancient choir members which were used to buy goodies that were later paid for by the archbishop) to Cahir, where we toured the marvellously quaint Swiss Cottage which the wealthy local earl, Richard Butler, is thought to have used as an illicit love nest in the 1800s.

After a gentle riverbank stroll to Cahir’s formidable castle, it was back to the Glen for a pint of Guinness at Moroney’s shop and pub, where the friendly landlady told us how the rural business faced the dilemma of so many in rural Ireland.

With no one in the family wanting to take it on, she feared this popular community hub would close and end 150 years of that essential Irish ingredient, the craic.

Rock of Cashel


Campervan hire

Bunk Campers are one of the UK and Ireland’s largest campervan hire companies with depots in Dublin, Belfast, Edinburgh and London Heathrow.  For enquiries visit, phone +44 (0)800 0590 905 (open Monday-Friday 9am-5pm) or email [email protected]

There are winter discounts as well as an early bird offer with 10 per cent off 2023 bookings (from March onwards) until December 31 2022. There are also long stay discounts, pet friendly rentals, or saver motorhome options. Find out more at


Dublin: Camac Valley campsite, www.camacvalley.comWexford: Ferrybank campsite, of Aherlow campsite,


Holiday Extras

For cut-price UK airport parking, hotels and lounges try Holiday Extras. At East Midlands Airport, for example, one night’s accommodation at the Hilton Hotel with 17 nights parking is available from £161. To book, visit or call 0800 316 5678.

Useful links

Tourism Ireland has lots of useful information here: specific road trips, try here too: Ireland's Ancient East | and here Wild Atlantic Way | For further planning, try: Road Trips Ireland book,