Teapot Lane Luxury Yurt Camp, Leitrim Ireland – so cute it’s camp

Teapot Lane - a great place for old friends and their kids to catch up Photo: Catherine Mack

While the rest of Europe has gone ‘glamping’ crazy,Ireland is still playing catch up.  In some ways this is a good thing, with the UK and France offering such a plethora of posh pitches now, it almost has me pining for my old four man Vango. But then I step inside the comforting cocoon of a yurt and, fickle and weak, I’m hooked again. And they don’t get much lovelier than Leitrim’s latest offering.

Although Teapot Lane Luxury Yurt Camp looks a bit ‘yummy mummy’ on its website, with its spotty wellies, teapots and pamper pages, don’t judge a book. This carefully thought out eco-venture, run by Derval McGovern, has managed to encapsulate so many aspects of a truly responsible tourism business, it can fly its green flag as high as its gobsmackingly gorgeous one. Thanks to Teapot Lane, Leitrim just got lovelier.

Teapot Lane has achieved in a year what other European glamp camps have only managed to pull off after ten. It’s more like a mini festival of green outdoor living, with plenty of indoor space to cater for Irish weather too. As well as three luxury yurts all equipped with wood burning stoves, cast iron beds with top of the range bed linen, fairy lights and lanterns, there is a thatched self-catering cottage, and a private bathroom with roll top bath in case you just can’t do compost loos and outdoor showers. When the self-catering cottage is vacant, this bathroom is available for yurt users too. The yurts’ showers are powered by gas, are tankless, need no electric supply and use a combination of mains and rainwater from the roof, and both showers and toilets are concealed in sensitively designed wooden huts alongside each yurt.

When we arrived at Teapot Lane, there was homemade vegetable soup and bread to welcome people after their journey, all laid out in the well equipped chalet kitchen with its two big tables, crockery, board games, books, cupboards full of ready made salad dressings, olive oils, spices, herbs and everything you might need to do the perfect camping cook-in.

There is never a big crowd cooking here either, as Derval has committed to keeping her remote woodland site restricted to small numbers.  It is ideal, therefore, for coming with a gang of friends or a few families taking over the whole camp, bagsying every tree swing, hammock, and campfire stool for a week of chilling in comfort. And at €100 per night for a yurt sleeping 4-6, this is fair and square sustainable tourism.

Nearby Mullaghmore Strand in Sligo. Photo: Catherine Mack

The location is ‘tri-licious’ too, sitting pretty on the borders of three counties. Donegal’s beaches of Bundoran and Tullan Strand are both under 13 kms from the camp, Sligo’s stunning Mullaghmore Strand a perfect cycle down quiet roads just 8kms away, and Leitrim’s famous hillwalks around the Dartry Mountains are within about 5kms. You can even bring your dog for some serious walking, as Teapot Lane welcomes responsible dog owners too.

Teapot Lane has good links with local activity providers, organising surfing or riding lessons, fishing or foraging trips and guided walks. Or follow the nearby North West Cycle Trail along endless, pretty backroads, hiring a bike from Hire and Sell in Bundoran, Tel: 071 98 41526.

Blessed with good weather, we took advantage of the excellent surfing instructors at the Donegal Adventure Centre in Bundoran and spent an exhilarating few hours on Tullan Strand. I followed this up with a heavenly hour of aromatherapy massage back at the camp in Derval’s treatment room, while the rest of the gang headed off to raid PJ O’Reilly’s fish van in Bundoran of its daily catch to throw on the barbecue.

But it’s at night that Teapot Lane really started to shine for me. This is the time of day when glamping turns back to camping, when the stars come out, the campfire comes to life, lanterns are lit, the yurts glow, wood burners smoke and children cuddle in hammocks among the silhouetted trees. When the rain kicks in, you can just head to your circle of canvas, warmed up in minutes by the wood burner, and just watch the rain from your king size bed. Sorry, Vango, you’ll just have to wait for next year.

www.teapotlaneluxurycamp.com   An edited version of this article was first published in The Irish Times in June 2011

Photo: Catherine Mack

Yurt campsite, Cape Clear Island, Ireland

Yurts at Cape Clear Credit: Chleire Haven

It is the beginning of April, and I’m sitting outside a small island cafe, sipping frothy coffee, overlooking a peacock blue harbour, before returning up the hill to a Mongolian yurt. For those who aren’t yet familiar with yurts, they are large round tents, built around a wooden trellis structure, with canvas stretched over the top, and a (covered) star-viewing hole in the roof. As we walk back towards our one, and admire its beauty from afar, located majestically on a clifftop, my younger son says that the view is “like one of those posters saying, Come To Portugal.” However, this is not Portugal, but Ireland’s own Cape Clear island, County Cork, and as close to paradise as I have been recently.

Chléire Haven, is a small campsite with yurts and tipis, set up by Sally Davies and Dave Calvert, and the only yurt campsite I have come across in Ireland. And boy, did they pick the right site. Yurts are camping heaven, ideal for those who dread the canvas experience but know that their kids would adore it.  They are set on a raised wooden floor, spacious, high, have real beds (a double and fold out sofa bed), a cooker, kitchen equipment and, joy of all joys, wood burning stoves. The stoves are not yet connected as we arrive on their first open weekend of the year, but nearly ready to go. We have no need for them anyway, as the weather’s idyllic and yurts have great natural insulation. Although the comfy duvets and blankets help.

Sally and Dave are very committed to ethical practices, with solar powered shower rooms, recycling, good advice on restricting water (a major island issue), and maintain the site in an ecologically sound way. You can’t get a much greener holiday than this anyway. There are no cars allowed on the ferry, 45 minutes’ crossing from Baltimore (cailinoir.com). So take the bus to Baltimore and leave the car at home altogether. You can get everything you need on the island. The island’s Bus Chléire meets the ferry and drops you and your bags wherever you want, for €2.

Credit: Cape Clear yurts

We walk everywhere and, despite the island being just under 6k long and 1.5k wide, there is plenty to see. The landscape is hilly and varied, with heritage highlights such as megalithic standing stones, a 5000 year old passage grave, a 12th Century church ruin and a 14th Century castle. There’s plenty of living culture too at the café/shop in the harbour, An Siopa Beag, where local people and tourists gather for cappuchinos, ice creams, great homemade food, or just to watch boats come and go . We sit there ‘til dusk, wolfing excellent pizzas, and then stroll all of fifty metres to the welcoming Cotters Pub, for a hot whisky before bed.

We stay for two nights, and wish we had come for a week. There is something so magical about sleeping in a yurt, with its cocoon like cosiness. One of the most striking things about Cléire, however, is the genuine openness of its people, everyone with a smile and a story to tell, and keen to hear ours.  Which is perhaps why Cléire’s International Storytelling Festival in September has become a world renowned event. But you can come and swap stories here anytime, and no better place to start than in a warm, felt-lined yurt, with the soundtrack of the Atlantic in the distance, and natural lighting from the moon and stars. Failte Ireland should look no further for its next photo shoot. This one’s a diamond in its emerald crown.