Unlike other holidays, a ‘road trip’ starts the moment you hear that familiar ‘clunk’ as you open your campervan door. Excitedly we climb aboard, I follow that familiar routine: Clutch in, one pump of the accelerator pedal, a twist of the key… Rita sparks into life… Here we go… Excited? MUCH!
The first leg of our journey sees us heading to the port of Holyhead, where we’ll meet our ferry over to Dublin. Google advises a 3 1/2 hour journey, travelling North West before crossing the border into Wales and then West along it’s Northern coast. I’ve allowed plenty of extra time, for both a leisurely drive and a little contingency in case of any incident. Rita behaves impeccably, so we arrive early, switch off the engine and wait at the docks.
I’ve never been on a ferry before, let alone booked a campervan onto one. Keep this in mind before you judge me!!!! I’m well aware Rita isn’t 6mtr in length or anywhere near 4mtr in height! I’m also aware I’ve probably paid well over the odds due to this massive overkill. But so what? I’m on a steep learning curve here, so issues as to vehicle size and is it or is it not a motorhome etc can wait for another trip and a more experienced me!
We travel with Stena Line. I’ve been a little worried about sea sickness but I needn’t have been as the crossing is calm.
Our time aboard (just over three hours) is spent both up on deck and in the ‘Stena lounge’ enjoying complimentary drinks and snacks.
Despite relaxing amongst Stena’s hospitality, by the time we reach the docks in Dublin, I’m itching to get Rita back on the road…
First night we’re booked in at Camac Valley Caravan and Camping Park in Corkagh Demesne, Clondalkin. With the clock already reading well past 5 o’clock, we decide to head straight to site. Almost immediately we reach the Dublin Tunnel. A two-lane dual carriageway connecting the port (east of central Dublin), and the M50 Motorway, close to Dublin Airport. The tunnels are 4.5 km in length and save us a battle through the city centre traffic. There is a toll to be paid (not cheap), so just 10 minutes after arriving in Ireland, I’m shelling out an unexpected 10 Euro! Following the Sat Nav, the journey toward Clondalkin takes us on yet another TOLL ROAD grrrrr, The M50. This time however there are no barriers or kiosks, no immediate payments to be made, just overhead signs and confusing information.
I have to admit I’m getting agitated. How many TOLLS are there? Is this the norm in Ireland? How much will this eat into my budget? This is pretty stressful! I’ve no idea where I’m going and the roads are too busy to pull over and take stock of the situation. I have little choice but to follow the commands of our navigation system. So we plough on, TOLL roads or not, we drive straight on through…
From what I can see payments for the roads are made online, and should be settled by 8pm tomorrow? I’ve no idea what the charge for Rita will be? Will I even have access to the internet? Paying for the use of roads is unexpected. My inexperience glaringly obvious.
Despite modern technology ensuring getting lost is a thing of the past, we some how manage it. I realise I’m driving up and down the same stretch of road, up a slip road to the main road, down the next slip road, only for the process to start over! The site must be around here somewhere. I’ve spotted a sign for Corkagh Park, this rings a bell somewhere in the recesses of my mind. I follow my hunch and sure enough Camac Valley Caravan Park sits beside it.
We pull into the rectangular car park in front of the main building and kill the engine. Relief. We’re here. Enjoying it? Hardly. I’m just relieved to climb out of my seat, and let some air get to my now sticky back. The reception is busy but the staff are friendly and efficient. I get us booked in, go through all the usual formalities and are then told I’m free to choose our own pitch. I head back through the glass doors to Rita and my girlfriend, Natalie. Our eyes meet and we smile. What a difference a few minutes can make. All the tension built up on the drive here is let go, gone. We’ve arrived, it’s time to enjoy it…
Rita fires up, we drive through the gates and pick a lovely pitch in a corner at the far end of the park. Pitches here are separate plots separated by well maintained hedges. They are level, with good sized hardstanding areas for your vehicle, surrounded by areas of mowed grass. I’m pleased with the size of our pitch, getting a corner spot, we have a little extra room.
I love this picture, it’s the one I’ve used for the homepage of this blog. I have pictures of Rita in far prettier locations, it’s not about the landscape she’s sat in. The thing I love, is despite all the doubts and worries, it’s taken in Dublin. I’m proud of her. We’re a long way from home, our 35 year old van has got us here.
We’ve arrived at tonight’s destination to glorious sunshine. We have a great pitch and with the hedgerows it feels relatively secluded. I can hear some road noise, which doesn’t bother me to be honest, after all we’re not far from the city, but worth noting if you’re sensitive to that sort of thing. We take a short walk around the caravan park to get our bearings and to discover what amenities the large building at its centre has to offer. There is a kitchen/common room at the one end of the block. Beyond that, showers run up one flank, toilets the other. These are adequately clean and plentiful. A large grass area runs up the middle of the segregated pitches, from where we’re stood up to the main gates. This houses a little tent village that has sprung up at it’s far end, with what looks like a school excursion and a children’s play park closer to this end. I remember back at the reception block there was a TV room, but I can’t confirm size or condition, we haven’t travelled all this way to watch the television.
Back at Rita, we get out the chairs and table. It’s been a really long day so we’re both shattered. We’ll be back in Dublin at the end of our trip, so plan to explore then. Tonight, we’re content to chill and chat in the evening sunshine. I get the BBQ going and pour us some cider. It’s not long before we enjoy a couple of burgers and retire to our bed.
Our adventure has begun.