I think we’re going to have to call our 8 week trip to Ireland an initial recce. We’ve seen a lot, but there’s so much more that we’d like to see next time round. Hopefully this post will serve as a quick reminder when we start planning our return to the Emerald Isle….
We used DK Eyewitness guides for our first motorhome trip to Ireland as we find that they give us the main sights without bogging us down in too much detail. We supplemented these with four free small guidebooks and other information from tourist information centres.
The map of OPW sites in Ireland (which you can download online; we picked up a paper copy at the first site we visited) was great; see the “Savings” section below for how we put that to good use.
In terms of camping spots, we found that we mainly used SearchForSites and Motorhome Parking Ireland; we didn’t find CamperStop, Camper Contact or Park4Night as useful in Ireland.
Itinerary and Posts
We spent 57 days (8 weeks and a day) in Ireland, covering a total of 2,693 miles:
Dublin and Surrounds: Trim Castle, Camac Valley campsite, Dublin Castle, Kilmainham Jail, National Museum of Ireland, EPIC Irish Emigration Museum, Famine memorial, Molly Malone statue
Dublin to Hook: Castletown House, Wicklow Mountains, Glendalough, Ferns Castle
Hook to Cobh: Hook Lighthouse, Tintern Abbey, Ballyhack Castle, Jerpoint Abbey, Kilkenny Castle, Rock of Cashel, Cahir Castle and Swiss Cottage, Knockmealdown Mountains
Cobh to Killarney: Cobh (Queenstown): Titanic and Lusitania, Charles Fort, Drombeg Stone Circle, Mizen Head, Bantry, Beara Peninsula and Dursey Island Cable Car
Killarney to Tralee: Ring of Kerry, Skelligs and Star Wars, Ballinskelligs Abbey, Sneem, Dingle Peninsula, Gallarus Oratory, Fungi the Dingle Dolphin, South Pole Inn
Tralee to Connemara: Foynes Flying Boat Museum, Cliffs of Moher and Doolin, the Burren, Alcock and Brown monument
Connemara to Sligo: Kylemore Abbey, Cong, Ceide Fields, Carrowmore megalithic cemetery
Sligo to the Frictionless Border: IRA memorial, Strokestown House and Famine Museum, Clonmacnoise, Clonfert Cathedral, Kilmacduagh, Quin Abbey, Ennis Friary, Portumna Castle and Friary
Fermanagh and Donegal: Castle Coole, Castle Archdale, Grianan of Aileach, Malin Head
Northern Ireland’s North Coast: Dunluce Castle, Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge, Giant’s Causeway, Cushendun, Dark Hedges, Ballymoney – Joey and Robert Dunlop memorials and Joey’s Bar, Armoy Road Races
County Down and Belfast: Rowallane Garden, Castle Ward, Mount Stewart, Dundonald Touring Caravan Site, Titanic Belfast, Peace Wall and Murals (Falls and Shankill Roads), Ulster Museum
Belfast to Dublin: Ulster GP, The Argory, Fore Abbey, Loughcrew, Ireland’s only Inland Lighthouse, Hill of Tara, Monasterboice, Newgrange and Knowth, Battle of the Boyne
Practicalities of Life
We found Ireland to be very motorhome-friendly. Others do complain that there are a lot more “no overnight parking” signs and height barriers than there used to be, but we managed to work around any such obstacles to our plans quite easily.
As above, we found wild camping spots using SearchForSites and Motorhome Parking Ireland. We paid to stay on an aire-type facility every three days or so at a typical cost of around €10 so as to be able to fill up with fresh water and empty the waste water and loo. The only place that we were forced to use a camp site (due to the lack of aire-type facilities in the area) was in Connemara.
LPG posed no great problems either. In the Republic of Ireland, LPG was not as commonly available as in the UK and where there is LPG for sale, it’s not always on petrol station forecourts (our first top-up of LPG in Ireland, for example, came from a garden centre). We used the Motorhome Parking Ireland app and http://www.mylpg.eu/stations/ireland to identify places to refill along our route.
Laundry facilities are extremely easy to find in Ireland. It’s the exact same setup that you find in some Intermarche supermarket car parks in France. There’s an easy to use map of all of the locations at http://www.revolutionlaundry.ie
One thing you WON’T easily find in the Republic of Ireland is a bin! We had to resort to offloading small amounts of rubbish in the bins on petrol station forecourts as we went along…. Recycling was also limited; we managed to get rid of bottles and cans reasonably regularly, but I’m afraid plastics ended up going into the bin.
The total cost for our 8 week trip was £2,554 (based on a £/€ rate of 1.12), equivalent to £1,363 pcm.
Fuel: £507 (includes diesel, LPG, and 10 litres of AdBlue). Fuel tended to be around 10% cheaper in the Republic of Ireland than in the UK.
Ferries, Tolls and Parking: £321. Our outbound crossing from Liverpool to Douglas then Douglas to Dublin with the Isle of Man SteamPacket cost £273; I included half of this against the Ireland trip. The return crossing from Dublin to Holyhead with StenaLine cost £117 (another great price via the Caravan and Motorhome Club website!) – so £253.50 in total for the main ferry crossings. Road tolls (we only came across a few of these – on motorways around Dublin and Limerick), the ferry crossing across Strangford Lough, and daytime parking charges were all pretty cheap..
Camp Sites: £256. £139 of this is accounted for by the 3 nights we spent on a camp site in Dublin (Camac Valley camp site) and 3 nights in Belfast (Dundonald Touring Caravan Park).
Food and Drink: £822 (£519 on food and £303 on alcohol… oops…). We found food prices a bit lower overall in the Republic of Ireland than in the UK. Having said that, the prices of individual items seem to be all over the place. We found this most noticeable on Tesco own brand products, where we really were buying the exact same product in the same packaging as in the UK. 500g of frozen sliced peppers are £1 in the UK but €0.65 (£0.58) in the Republic of Ireland, for example – a big difference. Not everything is cheaper in Ireland though: Tesco Chocolate & Crispie bars are £0.45 in the UK but €1.10 (£0.98) in the Republic of Ireland (so I didn’t buy any). There doesn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason to which products are cheaper in the UK and which in the Republic of Ireland. We gave up even trying to think about possible differences in transport costs etc depending where the products came from when Mark bought some chocolate muffins in Tesco for €0.99 (£0.88) then a couple of days later saw the exact same product a few miles across the border in Northern Ireland, where it’s priced at £1.50. Bizarre….
Tourism: £439. £285 was spent on motorbike racing (the Armoy Road Races and Ulster GP, including the cost of parking the van at those events); the remaining £154 is the cost of the few tourist attractions we visited (Titanic Belfast, EPIC Irish Emigration Museum in Dublin etc) that weren’t free with an English Heritage or National Trust membership card (see the “Savings” section below for these).
Other: £209. Includes £56 for laundry, a replacement vent cover for the van, books, bits of clothing etc.
Obviously, the above list just covers day to day living expenses; it doesn’t include the other costs of living in a van – depreciation, regular maintenance, insurance, road tax etc, or the costs of maintaining a home base.
We’re OK with the total of £1,363 pcm, though it wasn’t that long ago that we were living the exact same lifestyle in France / Spain / Portugal for under £1,000 pcm. I have a rough “if we spend less than that we should definitely be OK” figure of £1,750 pcm in my head. We do spend closer to that figure when we’re at home, particularly on short turnarounds. That’s simply a result of the flurry of internet orders we put in as soon as we get back to base for all manner of things that we haven’t been able to find / buy as we’ve gone along. And unfortunately, Brexit still has plenty of potential to push our ongoing costs significantly higher…… Keeping a note of our spending whilst we’re away is just my way of ticking the mental box that says “no, I don’t need to worry about this yet”.
As those who’ve been reading our posts for some time will know, Mark is a big fan of “Savings” and this is one admin. item that he is very happy to take full charge of. We did well for “Savings” in Ireland!
A very high proportion of the historic sites in the the Republic of Ireland are run by the Office of Public Works (OPW). You can buy a Heritage Card for €40 per person (i.e. £71 for a couple) which gives free access to all of the OPW sites for a year. For visitors from the UK, though, English Heritage membership is a much better deal; for £99 (or some Tesco Clubcard vouchers), an annual joint membership gives you not just free access to all the OPW sites in Ireland, but also all the English Heritage properties, Manx Heritage sites (Isle of Man), Heritage New Zealand sites, and half price access in your first year of membership (free access thereafter) to CADW sites (Wales) and also Historic Scotland sites.
Our OPW “savings” for this trip came to €268 (which equates to £239 at an exchange rate of £/€ 1.12). We’d already “saved” £411 in the UK and Isle of Man since joining English Heritage in December 2017, giving us a total for the year so far of £650.
We rejoined the National Trust on arrival in Northern Ireland. An annual joint membership currently costs £114 and so far we’ve “saved” £118. Not bad for our first month’s membership!
So there you have it – a summary of our route, some general thoughts, our expenditure and our “savings”….