There’s scarcely a tourist spot in the country that John Whelan doesn’t know about.
As camper van owner and enthusiast as well as a travel writer and blogger and the man behind the Vanhalla.ie website
he has been hitting the roads in Ireland and Europe for the past number of years and has amassed a considerable amount of experience on his travels.
And with a good summer still ahead of us and holidaying in Ireland the only real option, he has plenty of advice, much of which holds true whether it’s camping or not.
“On a trip, you can never do enough research and homework,” he said on a recent LaoisToday Podcast.
“Camping Ireland are the official body that registers the registered campsites. There are hundreds of others that aren’t registered for different reasons – they don’t want to be involved in registration process.
“But they have a free resource – Camping Ireland, Caravan Camping & Motor Home Guide, quality approved tourist sites. There is over 100 places in the country listed in that. You can pick that up from any tourist free of charge or any camp site.”
He also says that Lonely Planet have a publication that is well worth checking out.
“They always have a good standard,” he adds. “And they have a good book, Ireland’s Best Road Trips – 34 amazing road trips.
“Again it’s always great to know where to head, what to look out for, what are the places to look out for.
“I’m a big fan of maps and Ordinance Survey Ireland do great maps, road maps.
“The Sat Nav or Google Maps are fine but they can often lead you up the garden path. If you’re in a motor home or camper van and you head up a steep hill in Donegal and all the signage is in Irish and there’s no room for two vehicles to pass you’re in serious trouble.
“I much prefer the maps than the Google search. There is a fantastic new map published by Three Rock Books and it includes the Greenways, the mountains, hiking routes, rivers and trails, the pilgrim paths, the forest parks, the beeches, surfing and the cycle hubs. I think that is a really useful map.”
And Whelan also recommends a book by Martin Dorey, who had his own travel programme on the BBC.
“Take the Slow Road Ireland – Inspirational journeys around Ireland in a camper van and motor home. That is a treasure trove of information and insights which means the experience you have is more informed and that you’re not finding out the hard way the dos and don’ts.”
But for anyone thinking of buying a camper van, Whelan reckons that patience this year will pay off. And that renting – there are about 15-20 hire companies – in off season is recommended.
“This is not the year to go and buy,” he says. “It’s a seller’s market out there. I think some will come back on the market.
“Not everyone has to go in July and August. Go off season. This season is going to run well in to September and October, take it midweek or a long weekend. It’s fantastic.”
For campsite recommendations, roadtrip reviews, campervan conversion tips and all things camping go to www.vanhalla.ie.