The Stay List: Ireland’s Green Scene

Ireland’s notoriously “soft” weather makes the fields gloriously golden, but it also makes the ground soggy for would-be campers seeking to experience nature in dramatic landscapes off the beaten path. Leave it to Irish ingenuity and hospitality to adapt the camping experience with refined yurts, pods, and safari tents outfitted with duvet-covered beds, antique furniture, and woodstoves.

Since the economic crash, savvy entrepreneurs have seen new demand for nature experiences away from the tourist trail. They’ve set boutique camping sites in secluded spots where permanent structures might be out of place, with access to outdoor adventures and on-site enticements like a wine bar, marina, or pub. Although you won’t get a hot Irish breakfast, there are plenty of rainbow sightings and other photo opportunities.

Shoreline Chic

No on knows posh indulgence like Dromquinna Manor owner John Brennan, also a partner in the five-star Park Hotel Kenmare with brother Francis. So it’s no surprise that the safari tents on the 40-acre property fronting Kenmare Bay have reading lamps, plush towels, a welcome basket of snacks, and custom “wilderness beds” crafted from fallen logs and topped with goose down comforters.

Guests enjoy horseback riding from Dromquinna Stables and cruising the bay to the seal colony aboard Seafari, which departs right at the pier. The food is upscale, too, with croissants and cappuccino in the shop for breakfast, wine and artisan cheese for afternoon noshing, and the Boathouse Wine Bar and Bistro offering tapas and grilled pizza along the waterfront. “There’s a massive appetite for something different,” says Brennan. “This type of camping attracts couples and families who want to be in nature but don’t want to slumber on the ground in a sleeping bag.” (From $165)

One of the yurts on offer at Boutique Camping. (Photograph courtesy Boutique Camping)

Sculpture Park

Situated in Ireland’s midlands north of Kilbeggan, Boutique Camping is part upscale camping site. The 100-acre property is the creation of owner Adrian Murphy, who transformed the rolling farmland by installing roads and walking trails, planting more than 200,000 trees with clearings for the yurts and shepherd’s huts, building two shared kitchens and an eating deck, and carefully placing works of art to encourage discovery.

A circle of standing stones carved with Celtic symbols tops a two-tiered mound; a group of totem poles overlooks the pond; druids and mythical figures emerge from massive tree trunks. Iron beds, woodstoves, and the dreamy effect of candles set the night scene. “I’ll never be done adding to the property,” says Murphy. “I wouldn’t have any fun then.” (From $128)

Glamping and Guinness

After a day of boating, fishing, or hiking, what could be more satisfying than a pint of ale in an atmospheric pub while listening to a traditional music session? At Battlebridge Caravan and Camping Park near Leitrim, 100 miles northwest of Dublin, the pub is right on site.

When Joe and Eilish Beirne took over the family’s Battlebridge Pub along the Shannon River, they developed a marina and campsites but soon realized people wanted even more conveniences and pampering. They added carnival-style tents with wooden beds, chandeliers, and linen service, plus four wooden pods that look like upside-down boat hulls and a deck overlooking the river. You can rent a boat for a day or book a weeklong camping-boating package. (From $230 for two nights)

Island Outpost

It takes 45 minutes on a small ferry to get to Cape Clear Island, one of Ireland’s most remote inhabited islands, off the south coast of West Cork. Guests walk over the hill to Chleire Haven, where eight canvas yurts (and tepees) cling to the edge of a 30-foot bluff overlooking South Harbor. They feature stunning Atlantic views, comfortable beds, gas stoves, cooking utensils, and solar-powered lighting.

Co-owners Dave Calvert and Sally Davies recommend weeklong stays to take in the nearby heritage museum and bird observatory, go kayaking or whale watching, and check out a 5,000-year-old burial chamber entered through a tunnel passage. Off-island adventures include a cruise to Fastnet Rock to explore a century-old granite lighthouse. (From $105)

This article, written by Kathleen M. Mangan, appeared in the February/March 2013 issue of National Geographic Traveler. There’s a lot you can’t get online: To see all we have to offer, subscribe to get the print edition for just $10 a year or download a digital copy to your iPad. 


  1. David Eiseman
    Indianapolis Indiana
    July 13, 2013, 7:46 am

    Just returned from Ireland. There is so much to see in this beautiful country. The people of Ireland are truly wonderful people. I only wish I could have experienced the camping mentioned in this article. I will return for my third visit and put this on my adventure list of things to do there.

  2. Mike M
    May 15, 2013, 9:49 pm

    Sounds Awesome!

  3. Ireland Visitor
    March 29, 2013, 11:58 am

    First experienced this sort of “camping” in Central America. Last year stayed at two of the property’s in the story and the narratives description accurately captures the character of them– had great experiences at both. Glamping, or boutique camping, is a unique vacation lodging alternative in Ireland although not necessarily inexpensive. It’s also available in parts of the UK.

  4. Tom D
    Washington, DC
    March 28, 2013, 1:03 am

    Heck, it’s just fun saying “yurt”. Plus, kudos to Boutique Camping for planting 200,00 trees.

  5. Jack v
    March 15, 2013, 8:41 am

    Glamping and Guinness
    Thanks for the new and improved spin on camping.

  6. Mark Rogers
    Rosarito, Mexico
    March 14, 2013, 8:51 pm

    Love the idea of tramping through the mud and bedding down in a cozy yurt. Lots of good stuff.

  7. Virginia Burke
    March 14, 2013, 10:12 am

    It has long been a dream of mine to wonder throughout Ireland. So far I have only made it to Dublin. This camping idea sounds worth exploring.

  8. Kathryn A
    March 13, 2013, 11:47 pm

    Thank you for the excellent informative article sharing a novel way to experience beautiful Ireland !

  9. conal mcginley
    March 13, 2013, 8:40 pm

    sounds great , have got to try it this summer , great story

  10. Linda M.
    March 13, 2013, 6:33 pm

    Sounds like a glorious vacation! The writer’s vivid descriptions have me sold to take a vacation to Ireland.

  11. Diane Covington
    March 13, 2013, 5:53 pm

    Such vivid descriptions, can’t wait to sample some of the fun! Leave it to Irish ingenuity to come up with such interesting and cozy sounding ways to see the countryside.

  12. Nancy Burke
    March 13, 2013, 4:15 pm

    have never been to Ireland but this sounds like an enticing experience -what could be better? To be outdoors and comfy is the ultimate.

  13. Barry F
    March 13, 2013, 2:19 pm

    My next trip to Ireland was arranged before I knew about this option, but maybe for the trip after… (and there will be one).

  14. Margie Goldsmith
    March 13, 2013, 2:14 pm

    Am off to Ireland this May for a conferecn — now, thank to this article, I know exactly where to extend my trip. Great article and you’ve given me great ideas. Thank you!

  15. K Morgan
    Washington, DC
    March 2, 2013, 10:25 am

    What a fantastic way to experience the beauty of Ireland! I will definitely look into some of the boutique camping sites on my next visit.

  16. accommodation hervey bay
    February 28, 2013, 3:19 am

    Ireland will be one of my top destination list this year. Glad you had these list to stay there. Can’t wait to check out these beautiful places. Thank you for sharing!!

  17. P.J. Francis
    Illinois, USA
    February 27, 2013, 3:18 pm

    I have done a lot of traditional camping in Ireland and most of it was done in dry weather. There are wonderful campgrounds throughout the island. The Boutique Camping is a great concept particularly for those new to camping. Now that I live in the United States I have found the cost of accommodation is the big thing that prevents many people visiting Ireland.

  18. Barbara Wysocki
    February 27, 2013, 12:45 pm

    Makes me wish I was back in Ireland. Interesting new adventures indeed.

  19. Francis Hughes
    February 27, 2013, 9:34 am

    Great to see Boutique Camping included in this list. Our family spent a few days here last year and it is simply amazing. The Murphys have done an incredible job, and their warmth shines through in this creation. You will not be let down if you spend a few days there.

  20. Chail ReSort
    February 26, 2013, 7:34 am

    Amazingly listed out the adventurous tasks that has to be done in Europe…Light brown bed of Europe…