Inspirational Ireland

Lee Davey and family explore the Republic of Ireland for the first time – and make a vow to return…

Wooden spiral tower and walkway at Beyond the Trees ©Beyond the Trees

This was my first visit to the Republic of Ireland, so understandably I was keen to pack in as much as possible while holidaying with my family. In just nine days we enjoyed lunch with strangers we had just met in a market, saw ghostly apparitions running at us through a crowded city, became temporarily imprisoned in a County Cork cell, and learned that golf isn’t a game to be trifled with.

Our journey began at River Valley Holiday Park in Redcross, County Wicklow, which is 90 minutes’ drive north of the ferry port at Rosslare and an hour south of Dublin. (The Republic of Ireland is served by ferry routes operated by Stena and Irish Ferries and members receive a 10% discount on public fares when booking through the Club. Check out

River Valley is large and divided into sections, one of which is adult-only. During the August holiday season, the site is a magnet for families, thanks partly to the extensive array of activities that keep kids entertained. The on-site football golf was a huge hit with my son, Charlie, for example, and we spent most evenings hoofing balls over 18 holes before retiring, exhausted. Sustenance could be found at Mickey Finn’s Pub near the site entrance.

Dublin is an obvious draw for visitors, and River Valley is a great base from which to explore its vibrant and historic streets. If you’re a literature enthusiast, visiting during the Dublin Writers’ Festival is a must, offering the opportunity to attend readings, book launches and panel discussions.

A short drive from site, Avondale House came highly recommended, and it was easy to see why. In the 18th century, keen naturalist Samuel Hayes inherited the large estate and decided to counter the disappearance of Irish woodland by creating a forest park on his land. 

Today, the specimens he planted can be admired from above thanks to the Beyond the Trees attraction, a fully accessible wooden spiral that towers above the landscape. For those looking for a less demanding way down, an optional slide sends visitors back to earth in double-quick time. We also took a tour of the house itself, learning about the earliest history of the building and grounds, and the continuing work with the surrounding forest.

Cork talk

Titanic Experience, Cobh ©Titanic Experience Exhibition Room

Heading south-west, our next stop was Blarney Caravan and Camping Park, just north-west of Cork. This site is favoured by leisure vehicle owners as a gateway to the Wild Atlantic Way – Ireland’s longest coastal route – which begins nearby at the Old Head of Kinsale. 

The site is incredibly well looked after and wonderfully peaceful. It’s also an easy journey from here to local highlight Blarney Castle, as well as central Cork and Cobh.

After getting a taste of life at Cork City Gaol, we joined the Cork Ghost Tour one evening. Both give an eery glimpse into the city’s past, and only a few moments were needed in one of the prison cells to gain an understanding of the hardship a decade-long sentence would bring. A great ghost tour host brought the streets to life, aided by an extra who jumped into the crowd at unsuspecting moments. And Cobh’s Titanic Experience is a must-see; Cobh, or Queenstown as it was once known, was the famous passenger liner’s last port of call before it continued its ill-fated journey towards America.

No trip to Blarney would be complete without exploring its famous castle. A lunchtime visit during peak season was unsurprisingly busy, with people lining up to kiss the Blarney Stone, which is said to endow you with the gift of the gab. 

Even during the summer holidays the Blarney campsite was a tranquil location, though, and it was clear that many visitors were recharging their batteries. Keen golfers may be interested in the adjoining 18-hole pitch and putt course, which is run by the site (an additional fee applies) – it served to remind me of my inability to accurately hit a ball with any bat, club or stick.

Top tip

Glen of Aherlow viewpoint

Our final stop was Glen of Aherlow Caravan & Camping Park, a peaceful spot just 10 minutes’ drive south of Tipperary. Our neighbour had just returned from two weeks in France, and even though he lived less than two hours from Aherlow, the campsite was his “chill-out spot” before home beckoned. The Galtee Mountains provide an impressive backdrop, tempting some to go hiking, while others are happy to admire the views from the comfort of a camping chair or leisure vehicle lounge. 

As we were into our second week, we were ready to relax and limit our exploration to Tipperary, Limerick and Cashel. Many folks recommended the nearby Glen of Aherlow viewpoint, which is easily identifiable thanks to an enormous statue of Christ looking out across the stunning countryside. Parking is free and plentiful and, after you have enjoyed the view and eaten a picnic, the road continues into nearby Tipperary. Like many towns in the Republic of Ireland, it is gloriously free from the influence of large chain shops. 

The Rock of Cashel in County Tipperary is not to be missed. This majestic peak overlooks the town and is home to a collection of medieval buildings, including a cathedral, a round tower and a chapel. Intricate carvings tell stories relating to the site, such as the tale of St Patrick converting the King of Munster to Christianity.

Wherever we went and to whomever we spoke, recommendations came thick and fast for the west coast and the 2,500km-long Wild Atlantic Way. Unfortunately, we just didn’t have time on this visit, but our wish list for the future has grown. There’s just too much to see and do! From ancient castles and rugged cliffs to vibrant cities and warm hospitality, Ireland offers a tapestry of experiences that will ignite your senses, and inspire you to return again and again.

Inspired by Lee and his family? 

His 10-night trip price cost £1,031 (exclusive to Club members)

Details: Return ferry crossing between Fishguard and Rosslare in July/August 2023; three nights at River Valley, three nights at Blarney Caravan and Camping Park and four nights at Glen of Aherlow. Price quoted is for three adults and a child in a car and caravan (7.5m long and 2.7m high).

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