Waterside camping in Connemara with panoramic views of the Twelve BensThere’s something about Connemara that feels so wild and remote. Situated in the western extremities of County Galway, beyond the majestic Twelve Bens and Maumturk mountains, you enter an ancient and tranquil landscape of white-washed cottages, stone-walled fields, windswept bogs, wild ponies and enormous skies with moody, constantly-shifting clouds all bound in by the wild Atlantic ocean. Oscar Wilde loved the “savage beauty” of this “wild mountainous country, magnificent in every way”.
The coastline here is long and varied, a mess of jagged inlets, sandy coves and tiny islands surfacing and disappearing again with the changing tides, that has been slowly eaten away by the Atlantic over millennia. There are beaches literally everywhere, from the vast white swathes of flat sand around Renvyle to the undulating dunes of Gurteen Bay and the golden coral strands of Ballyconneelly.
Eco friendlyEco Camping Clifden is run by local man Kris and his German wife Tatiana. The place is completely low-key with serious green credentials. They have tapped in to a local spring to provide delicious fresh drinking water free on site with taps generously dotted around the place. They are passionate about recycling, water conservation and litter control. We brought along our little dog and he was welcomed but they have a strict policy in place to ensure they are kept on leash and cleaned up after. The whole site is a protected ecosystem – a sand-dune grassland – with a rich biodiversity. The ground is peaty underfoot, with a lovely spongey sensation when walking on it.
LocationEco Camping Clifden is situated 10 minutes outside the town on the Claddaghduff peninsula. Surrounded by water on three sides, it runs alongside the rocky estuary of Streamstown Bay. It has its own private beach to the west and looks back inland to the distant silhouette of the Twelve Bens.
Variety of private pitches
I kept thinking of Tellytubby land here. The site is dotted with little dolmen-shaped hillocks of rough grass littered with hardy wild flowers. There’s free camping, with no marked out areas. We pitched in the shade of one of the little hillocks, which provided privacy and meant the noise didn’t carry. Setting up I was struck by the silence – the only sound was the wind and the cawing of gulls overhead. You can also pitch in a more open area adjacent to the estuary or there’s a variety of choice spots facing the beach, some set right in the sand dunes. Electric hook-ups are available if required.
Beach lover’s heavenWhat I loved about this site was the stunning beach and its easy accessibility. The water was a beautiful turquoise blue, crystal clear and perfect for swimming and snorkelling. A little rocky outcrop in the middle of the beach held pools full of sea life – we spotted loads of crabs – and when the tide was in were ideal for jumping off. If you’re lucky you’ll spot some bottlenose dolphins off-shore.
FacilitiesToilet and shower blocks, campers kitchen with fridges, freezers, microwave, electric kettle, delph and cutlery, small seating area. No laundry facilities but they have a laundry service (expensive though). An “honesty shop” in the kitchen sells local jams and preserves. Campfires are allowed off-ground, fire pits and wood are available.
Suitable ForTents, campervans and caravans. Dogs allowed but must be on a lead. Families, couples and singles – yes. Stag and hen parties – no. Other groups should contact Kris or Tatiana to discuss requirements. This is a popular spot and booking is essential during peak season.
ShoppingFor supplies, Clifden is the main town in the area. Supervalu has everything you’ll need including fresh meat, fish, vegetables and bread or there’s the excellent Country shop in Letterfrack that stocks locally grown and artisan produce. There’s a mobile fish shop where we bought some delicious fresh whole trout and hake fillets. It’s parked in Tully Cross and Letterfrack on different days. Ask anyone locally for its schedule.
Eating outSweeney’s Bar is the nearest eatery, a mile from the campsite on the way to Omey Island – good for a bowl of soup and a creamy pint of Guinness. Clifden is the main hub for restaurants and has a wealth of options. Our favourite was Darcy Twelve for its cosy atmosphere and excellent fresh food with an Asian twist. There’s also the bustling Guy’s Bar, good for kids’ menus, Mitchells, excellent for fish, or for something really special, dinner at The Ardagh just outside the town was sublime and a great spot to enjoy the sunset.
ActivitiesAt the camp site: Swimming, snorkelling, crabbing, fishing. Kayaks and bikes can be booked from the campsite. Closeby: Hiking, sight-seeing, eating, pubbing, dolphin-spotting, chasing sunsets, exploring beaches, scuba-diving, pony trekking. For angling, horse-riding, kayaking and more check out Connemara Wild escapes
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All reviewers will be entered in a draw for a ‘Happy Campers’ personal camping kit (includes 2 ‘Happy Campers’ t-shirts, torches and pen knife) worth $75.