"Nagles Campsite, Doolin"
For our second campsite on our Irish adventure we took the decision to head over to the west coast, travel some of the Wild Atlantic Way and stop off at Nagles campsite in Doolin. Nagles campsite was the only campsite I had managed to pre-book and pay for (hence securing a pitch) for our Irish adventure so I knew there would be a pitch ready for our arrival – which is always comforting.
Nagles campsite is different to Galey Bay campsite in every way. Nagles isn’t huge, but it is larger than Galey Bay and can accommodate far more motor homes, campervans, caravans and tents and going from being one of two units in Galey Bay to one of the best part of a hundred is a shock to the system as there were people everywhere. I was told the west coast of Ireland was popular, but I didn’t appreciate it was this popular, and this is supposed to be low season. High season must be absolutely horrible! At Galey bay campsite we were fortunate to get a ‘private’ pitch and I could look out of all sides of the van and see no other units. Here, I can see units (plural) out of every window – there is no privacy whatsoever.
Doolin is a popular place and full of day trippers, which given the day trips available (boat trips to the Aran Islands and Cliffs of Moher) is not that surprising. Consequently, the pier is full of people, cars, buses, motorbikes etc. as is the main street of small shops. Some would call Doolin alive and vibrant. I would call it overcrowded and cramped. The scenery around Doolin is stunning, and I can see why people flock here, just like we did.
The first afternoon was spent looking around, getting our bearings and sorting out a trip to Inis Oirr, one of the Aran Islands. We also spent a couple of hours walking around the cliff tops trying to find a suitable rock fishing spot, which was a fruitless exercise and a total waste of time. That said, it did give us something to do for a while. After getting nice and sweaty climbing around on the rocks a drink was called for so it was time to venture to the local shops, which is around a one kilometer walk.
Whilst in the shop I thought I would ask the teen boy behind the counter about sending a post card to the UK. I enquired about the local post office and was told it was five miles away however there was a post box just over the road, so “there was no need to travel all that way” When I asked to buy a stamp the teen boy said that I needed to go to the post office to buy one! This was of little help, but the comment did make me smile.
With the second day’s activity pre-booked we made our way to the pier to board the ferry to the Inis Oirr, the smallest (and closest) of the Aran Islands. I really wanted to take the good camera (the DSLR) and my wide angle lens and super zoom (for the bird life and the cliffs of Moher excursion at the end of the day) however the dull, overcast and misty weather put a stop to that. There was no point lugging around my good photography equipment (which is very heavy) when visibility was so poor, so I opted for the small compact camera instead and decided to take snaps, rather than the photographs I wanted. I was disappointed as I was hoping today was going to be the day I saw my first puffin in real life (on the Cliffs of Moher trip) and I wanted to get some good photos, but hey ho……
A trip to the Aran Islands is obviously very popular, and as we got to the pier we were greeted with crowds of tourists all waiting to board whatever boat they had booked. The whole thing was chaotic however it didn’t take too long to sort everyone out, get them on the respective boats and head out to sea. The sea was pretty calm, although there were a few ‘bumpy’ moments, but the thirty minute crossing was pretty uneventful. I was hoping to see the wild dolphin that the lady selling the tours said lived between Doolin and Inis Oirr, but that never happened. I was also hoping to see some bird life, but other than a group of three (does that count as a flock?) razorbills there were none of our feathered friends around either.
Once on Inis Oirr we were all herded of the boat and instantly came across locals selling horse and trap tours and bike hire, and I instantly thought this was going to be one of those days of being exploited down every street – however it didn’t turn out like this in the end…..
We decided, before going to Inis Oirr, we were going to walk it so the horse and trap tours and bike hire were of no interest. We had a map of sorts (it was a touristy one given to us when we booked the tour), we knew what points of interest were a “must see” so off we went. Inis Oirr is a strange place, and totally unlike anywhere else I have been before. I suppose I don’t really know what I was expecting but that’s all part of the adventure right?
If you like walking, like being out in the fresh air and like to look at some history Inis Oirr is the ideal place. If you are looking for excitement, an adrenaline rush or anything like that Inis Oirr is not the place for you at all. It is a small and quaint island, and the Lonely Planet guide was useful providing a little history – although how accurate it is I wouldn’t like to comment. There are roads and pathways all over the island, and tourists are pretty much free to roam wherever they want.
For an island that is meant to rely on tourism to generate income the locals don’t make the most of it. Once the touting for the horse trap tours and cycle hire is over and done with you don’t get touted for anything else and are left alone. I thought there would be plenty of mobile food/drink outlets dotted around the island, but other than a solitary van at the ship wreck there were none.
After several hours wondering around the Inis Oirr, taking photos of the must see sites etc. we stopped off at the hotel close to the pier (I forget is name) for a bite to eat. The food was very reasonably priced, and whilst it wasn’t super cheap it wasn’t overly expensive either. Food/drink is a prime opportunity to fleece the tourists, but the locals on Inis Oirr didn’t do. I didn’t think 14.5 Euros for a ham sandwich, a cheese and ham toasted sandwich, a large bowl of chips and two soft drinks was too bad at all.
With the sites done, other than the Holy Well which was quite a trek (and I’d had enough of walking), full bellies and an hour and a half before the boat back we decided to sit on the beach. When we arrived on Inis Oirr I didn’t appreciate how pretty the beach was – it was dull, overcast and misty.
At this point in time it wasn’t exactly blazing sunshine (which was actually a good thing as there is very little shelter on the island and I would have burned to a crisp walking around it) and the skies were still grey, but it was a little brighter. Looking at the beach I realized what a stunning beach it is. The sea was turquoise and clear, the sand was golden and the surrounding area looked stunning. If I was the sort of person that liked to spend all day on the beach this would be the sort of beach I would make a bee line for. There were a few people on the beach, but the majority of them were like us simply killing time waiting for the ferry.
We sat on the top deck of the ferry (to get a good view of the Cliffs of Moher on the way back) and whilst waiting for the stragglers to arrive my wife pointed out something large near the surface of the water. The object ended up being the resident wild dolphin and whilst she didn’t show herself for very long she did treat us to a couple of jumps and dives. Seeing a wild dolphin has been on my wish list for many years, so to see one made the trip to Inis Oirr very special. I didn’t have time to turn my camera on or get the phone in camera mode so I couldn’t take any photos, but I saw her (I believe Sandy is just one of the names people have given her) and that was enough for me.
For some more photos of Inis Oirr take a look at the following slide show, courtesy of Youtube.
The trip over from Inis Oirr to the Cliffs of Moher was cold and breezy, the sea was choppy and visibility wasn’t very good either. The Cliffs of Moher are impressive, I can’t deny it, but we didn’t get very close to them and we couldn’t see the nesting birds either. My wife took some binoculars specifically for the trip and we couldn’t even see nesting birds through them! We did see birds flying overhead and around the boat, but these were seagulls, razorbills and guillemots – not the puffins I so desperately wanted to see.
We were told that puffins weren’t as brave as the other types of sea birds and tend to stay away from the boats, but “if you’re lucky you may just see one”. Hmmm……. To say I was not impressed by this statement was an understatement because the Cliffs of Moher tour was sold to us on the basis we would see puffins, and we would see them nesting to. The lady selling the trips was adamant we would see puffins and I (naively as it turned out) believed her. The luck of the Irish wasn’t with me, and I returned back to Doolin disappointed I didn’t see a puffin but excited I saw a wild dolphin – so it was a bit of a double edged sword.
Footage shot during our tour of the Cliffs of Moher showing how many birds we didn't see and how close to the cliffs we didn't get - what a waste of time and money!
The following day the weather deteriorated as the wind picked up and the rain set in. It was a shame because up until this point the weather had been great. Okay, the day we went to Inis Oirr was overcast and dull (but it was dry) and prior to that we had seen temperatures in the high twenties, blazing sunshine and bright blue skies. The change in the weather wasn’t so bad, we had made the most of it up until now and done a lot. Besides, my legs were absolutely trashed from walking around Inis Oirr so I welcomed a bit of a break.
Overnight the wind got stronger and, being stuck on an open site, the van took a bit of a battering. I don’t know how strong the wind was (we don’t travel with a radio and couldn’t get the TV tuned to any stations – so we didn’t have a weather forecast) but it was strong. Some of the tents looked a little worse for wear the following morning, and some of the occupants were busy replacing poles after spending the night in their car. I am so glad my days of “proper” camping are over.
Nagles Campsite is very exposed to the elements and when the wind blows off the Atlantic, it blows and hard too. A bit of wind doesn’t bother me, although the noise does make sleeping more difficult. The wind does affect the better half. Despite being safely tucked up in a motorhome with nothing that can be blown off and damaged she worries a lot – This is a throwback from our ‘proper’ camping days in tents and the folding camper, where strong winds damage things and makes for an unpleasant holiday.
On the last day I started to realize I had messed up and booked too many nights at Nagles Campsite as we had run out of things to do. There were other things, such as going on an organized walking tour of the Cliffs of Moher, but I am no walker (the day walking around Inis Oirr proved that) so this tour was of little interest. There were no other boat trips to do. I couldn’t find any (safe) rocks that were close enough to cast a line (although I am sure there are some spots out there – they just remained elusive to me). In hindsight three nights would have been sufficient, and if I didn’t take advantage of the ‘lazing around wet day’ two nights would have been enough. That said, before embarking on our Irish adventure we decided we weren’t going to spend the entire two weeks on the road and were going to spend more nights on fewer campsites so we could have some much needed downtime to chillax.
The last day and night on Nagles campsite was pretty uneventful, and it was now time to sort everything out and get ready for the 157mile trip to Wavecrest Campsite on the Ring of Kerry.
About the author
A total motor home newbie with a six year camping background in a folding camper. A keen blogger sharing my experience of researching, choosing, buying and owning a motor home. and every thing that goes with it.
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