Portsalon Luxury Camping
Europe Ireland Ulster Donegal
From airport to bus stop, tourists to the Emerald Isle are bombarded with the oh-so-ubiquitous posters for the Wild Atlantic Way (hey – if you've got it, flaunt it). Arguably, nowhere encapsulates this picture postcard image of Ireland more than Donegal. A favourite holiday destination for the Irish themselves (always a testament to the enduring appeal of a place), County Donegal has some of the most awe-inspiring natural wonders in the entire country – it's a photographer's dream. See that rugged coastline with epic edge-of-the-world views? That's Malin Head, Ireland's most northernly tip in County Donegal. Or how about that death-defyingly narrow tightrope of a mountain precipice? That's One Man's Path on Slieve League on Donegal's western Atlantic coast. Or perhaps the art department opted for the golden sandy sweep yielding to tranquil azure waters, the whole scene hugged by the sheep-dotted, serpentine coastal road. Yep, you guessed it – north Donegal's very own Ballymastocker Bay at Lough Swilly. This was voted by those well-travelled people from The Observer as the second best beach on the entire planet, pipped to the post by some spot in the Seychelles. Well, as stunning as that Indian Ocean paradise undoubtedly is, there's a glampsite overlooking the lough that would make us think twice about where we'd rather spend our summer hols...
It's hard to believe that Portsalon Luxury Camping has only been up and running since Easter 2014. So slick is the experience of staying at this über-luxe Cashelpreaghan retreat, you'd think charming owners Helen and Sean were old hands at the glamping game. This 18 acre site on the Fanad Peninsula enjoys spectacular views of Lough Swilly, Mulroy Bay, Knockalla mountain and the Inishowen Peninsula to the east. The five yurts are perfectly positioned for the uninterrupted coastal vistas this selcuded site affords. All are immaculately presented, complete with wood-burning stove, king-sized beds and double futons sleeping up to six people. Each have their own firepit for both chillin' and grillin' – Helen and Sean kindly offers guests some of the lovely organic produce they grow, and free-range eggs are available daily... providing the girls feel like laying, of course – the pace of life here is pretty lazy after all.
Facilities put most hotels to shame with hot, wet-room showers, and flushing toilets housed in a separate building. There's a fully-equipped communal kitchen and dining area – more upscale B&B than the al fresco camping kitchens of most glampsites. The adjoining lounge and cosy reception area comes well-stocked with a selection of books and local info to flick through by the fireplace. It's a good job the sofas here are the big comfy kind you can sink into because deciding where to visit first may take some time.
Donegal's 1,235km coastline boasts 13 Blue Flag beaches – more than any other Irish county. The famous Ballymastocker is just a short stroll from the site. It's flat and vast and never feels overcrowded – brave the hairpin bends of the Knockalla coast road for a perspective of the neighbouring peninsulas. In contrast to this contemplative stretch of coastline, seven miles north takes you to Fanad Head, its lighthouse bearing the brunt of the Atlantic elements – a truly dramatic setting. Head inland and you'll continue to be wowed by Glenveagh National Park, Ireland's second largest.
Portsalon Golf Course is just a putt away if you fancy giving Rory McIlroy a run for his money. For a taste of Ireland's other national obsession, head to MacCumhail Park in Ballybofey to see Donegal's GAA football team in action. In case the green and gold flags adorning even the remotest of rural lamposts didn't give it away, GAA is serious business here. There are fewer atmospheres that can match this place in an All Ireland cup game. And whether or not the Tir Conaill Men walk away with the Sam Mcguire cup, we know one Donegal glampsite worthy of a trophy or two.
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