So have you ever tried Glamping? What is it? What about the idea of Glamping in your back garden?
A simple definition of glamping is “having all the benefits of camping combined with added layers of comfort”. More recently glamping seems to be firmly rooted in experiential tourism, whilst its origins were found in nature based, eco-tourism minimalistic experiences – many contemporary glamping sites have “all the mod cons” such as connected electricity and ensuite showers and toilets.
This has given rise to companies such as FurtherSpace who promote luxury glamping experiences throughout Ireland and Scotland through their glamping partnership programme.
Apart from a one-off experience about 30 years ago when my friend Kieran, my brother John & I camped in a farmer’s field on the outskirt or Bundoran, Co.Donegal (where we got soaked!!) I haven’t really camped a lot. So when it comes to glamping my memories are aligned to warmer climates in a mobile home with all the comfort and trimmings which some now would say is glamping! Yes, 16 campsites in 17 years to the Vendee, Biarritz, and Languedoc-Roussillon in France, Costa Dorada in Spain, Lake Garda & Tuscany in Italy, Dunreil in Wassenar in Holland and Zadar and Simuni in North Croatia. So, when the marketeers claim that glamping is not just a holiday – it’s an experience, I understand.
What about glamping in Ireland?
Here is a summary of some of the glampsites that have caught my eye:
I’ll start with Lets go Hydro which is on my doorstep in Carryduff. The company acquired Knockbracken Reservoir and have made a very significant investment in glamping with a variety of glamping
experiences on offer such as The Hedged Village 16 pods; The Open Meadow with 18 pods and the Tree Garden with six pods .
Staying in greater Belfast, last year the Standing Stones, Near Divis Mountain, Belfast Hills opened up four Glamping pods and how have facilities for 13 touring caravans/motorhomes and planning permission has been granted for 20 pods at Streamvale Open Farm in the Castlereagh Hills.
One of my favourite cycling spots is Slieve Croob and PineTreeHollow Glamping in Leitrim, Co. Down opened for business in 2019 comprising The BeeHive, the Wagon and The Yurt, and not far from here is Lackan Cottage near Banbridge offering a very quirky off-grid glamping experience where you stay in a converted Horse Truck.
Up the north coast in Co. Antrim and the Glenarm Castle Estate recently added five Glamping Pods whilst in the west of Northern Ireland, the Bubble Domes at Finn Lough, Co Fermanagh promote inspiring forest dome experiences. Jungle NI in the Sperrins recently added four glamping pods, each one accommodating up to eight people.
Two sites worth noting in Donegal are WildAtlanticCamp in Cresslough and Corcreggan Mill, Dunfanaghy where you stay in a former railway carriage or in a converted boat. If you haven’t been to the Aran Islands in Galway Bay there are now nine glamping pods to choose from on Inis Mor.
I also like the look of Glampingunderthestars in Cullenagh, near Abbeyleix in Co. Laois.
Is Glamping here to stay?
I think so, where “distancing” and “social distancing” are part of the new norm. Overseas tourism performance across the island of Ireland hit an all-time in 2019 with a 5% rise in visitor numbers and revenue with 11.2mn overseas visitors worth nearly 6bn euro but we are unlikely to see a return to this for another five years. There are no 2020 statistics out as yet but with the focus on #staycations across Ireland, the glamping and self-catering accommodation sectors have not been impacted to the same degree as the pubs, hotels and restaurant sectors.
Failte Ireland, Visit Wales, Visit England have all included specific categories for the grading of glamping accommodation. At present, in Northern Ireland glamping falls within self-catering or camping/caravan grading criteria. As the “glamping market” matures it is reasonable to assume that this activity will play a significant role in the realignment of the visitor economy in Ireland.
In summary, glamping is here to stay but as with other tourism experiences, consumer demand and expectations are fuelling its growth where “home comforts” are the prerequisite for the more discerning glamper who is looking for unique structures in unusual and picturesque locations.
In Episode 4 I talk to Padraig Carragher of BlueBell Lane Glamping, Michael and Mairead Quinn of Sperrin View Glamping and Mark Cumming of East Coast Adventure.
I have included a link here to 20 quirky glamping sites in the Republic of Ireland.
So, What about glamping at home?
In this Episode I talk to Martina McKee, who with her husband Trevor runs Explore 54, a company that provides a glamping at home service. Martina shares with us what the company does and plans for 2021. Explore 54 has 5 bell tents and is in the process of acquiring more including a large stretch tent for events. Essentially in 2020, the company had to flip their business model and focus on offering customers a fully serviced glamping at home experience.
Martina is optimistic about the growth of the business in both their glamping at home products and their events-based glamping offer. In 2021 she is keen to collaborate with partners around event, food, activities and the outdoor wedding market. We also discuss opportunities to create carefully managed pop-up glamping villages working with local famers and landowners. Final not of advice from Martina is don’t get into “analysis paralysis” just get out and try something different.