Growing up to my Grandads stories of his life in Ireland, the beautiful landscapes and cold but famous Irish sea, it had always been somewhere Jon and I had been desperate to go, trace my family history, and explore it's surf breaks, so we picked up Margo, a beautiful 1970's VW Westfalia Camper Van from the Up And Go offices in London, and travelled down to Pembroke in Wales, to catch our Ferry over to Rosslare, Ireland. 10 minutes into our drive, Margo broke down in the middle of Central London, on a busy dual carriage way...It was safe to say we were a little worried that Margo wouldn't even make the 240 mile drive down to the ferry, let alone across to Ireland! The thing about VW camper vans, even though they are beautiful, they are defiantly not the most reliable form of transport you could choose to take on a road trip, and we were told on many occasions "it's all part of the adventure" I mean you can't exspect to take a vintage car on a road trip and not have any car trouble haha! but it was safe to say by end of our trip we loved Margo, and for a Grandma she did pretty well!
After breaking down in London, it turned out Margo's battery was flat! So once we fixed that little issue we carried on down to Wales, to catch our ferry over to Ireland. We travelled with Irish Ferries, and being our first time travelling via water, rather than air, I have to say it was pretty amazing! You may have read perviously that I'm not the greatest of flyers, and travelling with your surfboard when your flying is not only expensive but the chances of your board getting damaged in transit is pretty high! So being able to travel with everything packed up in the van was awesome! We didn't have to worry about our luggage being over the weight limit or having to pay extra, and when you arrive the other side you don't need to worry about hiring a car as you have everything you need with you.
On the ferry we had our own cabin, with beds, shower, wifi and TV (we don't even have a TV at home haha so this felt like a little bit of a luxury) if you had your laptop with you and wanted to get on with some work you could, or even if you wanted to shower and sleep you had the option. They also had a cinema and selection of restaurants on board. I was really impressed with the food options, as normally when it comes to eating out, for me it can sometimes be a bit tricky, but the Irish Ferries menu catered for everyone. I would defiantly recommend the fresh vegetable stir fry and fruit bowl, they even had my favourite brand of Aleo vera juice on board!
Our Ferry ride was over pretty fast, and just like that we were in Ireland. By the time we docked it was already dark, so it was hard to believe we were actually there. We headed to a nearby hotel to get some sleep, ready for our 5 hour drive in the morning, across to Kilcatherine in South East Ireland. We woke up to a cold, but crisp day, and considering we were still in winter the landscape was beautiful rich and green and full of life! We packed up the van and set off to the coast and our little cabin we had booked on Air B&B on the edge of the Wild Atlantic Way. 3 hours into our drive, while going around a bend, the gear stick snapped clean off in Jon's hand haha! We can defiantly laugh about it now, but at the time we honestly thought we might be stranded in the middle of Ireland! With VW's being so old, part's can be hard to find, so we just had to pray that we could find a car garage on a Saturday that could help us put Margo back together and we could continue on route to Kilcatherine. Luckily we found a garage a few miles down the road, who stayed open late for us, and after some welding, Margo was patched up and we were back on our way.
By the time we finally made it to our cabin night had already set in, but we knew where ever we would be waking up was going to be beautiful from the silhouettes of mountains we passed as drove along the empty, winding roads. At the cabin we were greeted by our Air B&B host Stephen, along with a bowl of freshly made soup and local soda bread he had waiting for us. Our log burner was already lit and as we settled in for our first night in the cabin, accompanied by nothing but the sound of the ocean and the light of our fire, we were asleep as soon as our heads hit the pillows.
It took us 2 days, 1 ferry ride, 2 break downs, over 20 hours of driving and 597 miles to reach our cabin on the coast of The Wild Atlantic Way, and as we woke the next morning, seeing our surroundings for the first time, we knew it was all worth it. It felt like we had stumbled across our own secret Ireland, which we spent the next few days exploring, finding different routes, hidden paths and the most beautiful views we had ever seen. I found it hard to believe that a place so beautiful could be so uncrowded. It was quite overwhelming to fell like we had the whole of the Beara Peninsula to ourselves. We could park up and not see another soul for hours, it was just the landscape and us. It's honestly one of the most beautiful and peaceful place I've ever been. We'd spend the days covering as much land as we could in Margo, trying to see every inch of the Peninsula before returning to our little cabin when night would fall. We'd wrap ourselves in blankets by the fire, with a cup of tea and the Irish, folk music radio station playing in the background, before we were ready to fall asleep.
After a few days exploring the South East we packed up Margo, said goodbye to our little cabin and headed back North, getting ready for our journey back to the Ferry and to pay a quick visit to the cold water surf spots on the North Coast. We headed down to Tramore Stand, and with our van packed full of our winter wetsuits, hoods, boots, gloves and surfboards, we were ready to brave our first surf in the cold Irish Sea. Sadly for us, when we arrived the wave's weren't in our favour, and the surf was a total wash out, but Jon still managed to jump in, catch some wind chop before heading back in 5 minutes later from the lack of waves and freezing cold conditions haha. Afterwards we found a little cove and set up camp in the back of Margo, with the boot open, we wrapped ourselves up in my aztec beach blanket from sundripped and sat back to watch the beautiful view of Newton Cove. This was defiantly one of my favourite views from our week, and the perfect way to end our Irish Road trip. Afterwards we packed up Margo for one last time and headed back to the Ferry for our journey home.
If you have ever wanted to travel to Ireland, I couldn't recommend it enough! Only a 5 hour ferry ride away it couldn't be easier, and we can't wait to go back in the summer! I would defiantly recommend bringing your car or van with you, that way you can bring everything you need with you, and don't have to worry about hiring a car the other end, and trust me a car is pretty essential if you're planning travelling around Ireland when your there.
Ireland Travel Tips:
- If you travel via Irish Ferries all plug sockets on board are european (2 pin sockets) so make sure to bring an adapter or you can purchase one on board. Also they have the option of a fast or a slow ferry. We opted for the slow 4 hour one, or you can get the fast one that gets you there in 2 hours. The fast option is a lot rougher, and we heard lots of sea sickness stories, so bare that in mind!
- In Ireland everything is in Euros, so make sure to have some ready before you arrive, as there is a few toll bridges when you get into the city which we had no cash for.
- In Ireland they measure distances in KM instead of miles like we do in the UK, so bare that in mind when reading maps/distances.
- Make sure you bring a map, as not all Sat Navs will work in Ireland.
- Lastly if you are driving over, make sure your breakdown coverage covers you for Ireland as it is classed outside of the United Kingdom.
Check out our video diary from our Irish road trip below! I hope you've enjoyed our little trip photo diary, and if you have any questions about Ireland or where we went, free free to comment below! x
FAQ: All Photography & Video shot by Emilie Layla Lovaine and Jon James on a Canon 5d MK II