Camping in Ireland is getting easier for foreign travelers thanks to places like Top of the Rock Pod Pairc & Walking Centre. In the heart of West Cork, Top of the Rock is perfectly situated for outdoor family adventures- from hill walking and cycling to kayaking and whale watching.
Camping in Ireland at Top of the Rock
Top of the Rock is well signposted as you approach the village of Drimoleague. Smaller vehicles are invited to take a single-lane turn in the center of the town, the street transforming to a narrow lane as it writhes its way up the hillside. Larger vehicles & campers follow signs at the edge of town – a wider, but no less enjoyable, route.
Top of the Rock sits at the pinnacle, overlooking the Castledonovan hills and valleys. The walking centre on this third-generation working farm is a new venture for David and Elizabeth Ross, who saw the need for specialized accommodation as the area became known as the ‘Walkers Junction of West Cork'.
Our Stay in a Luxury Pod
Entering the pod pairc the first thing that struck me was the beauty. The wooden pods golden against Ireland's 40 shades of green, colorful flowers blooming around their base. After a quick check-in at the Walking Centre we were opening the door to the Celtic Pod, our home for the next three nights.
Built to resemble the Gallarus Oratory on the Dingle Peninsula, the pods are designed to utilize every bit of space. Our Luxury Pod had a double bed tucked into a back corner, specially made to lift from its base to provide storage underneath, a futon for sitting or sleeping, mini kitchen (microwave, fridge & sink), dining table, and a small restroom with toilet and sink. Though it was compact the pod felt quite spacious and very comfortable.
The girls deserted me as soon as their bags were unloaded to visit the pen of friendly farm animals just steps from our front door. A few steps in the opposite direction took the girls to a small play area near the community campfire where families gathered each evening to toast smores and share stories.
A full kitchen is located in the walking centre. Pots, pans, and cooking utensils are available for all, and each pod has its own cabinet with plates, cups, and silverware. As in a hostel, you share the facilities and clean up after yourself, making this a terrific place to chat with other campers.
I recommend you treat yourself to breakfast (available for a small cost) as Elizabeth's fresh baked scones with homemade jam and local Glenilen yougurt are a fabulous start to the day.
Other amenities in the walking centre
Game room : pool and ping pong, as well as board games
Showers and full bath (showers are coin operated and very, very nice)
Laundry & drying room (coin operated)
Walking at Top of the Rock
You will find local tourism information available in the walking centre and David and Elizabeth are happy to offer their expertise on where to go and what to see during your stay.
Follow a bit of St. Finnbar's Way, from the campground down to the river. Peaceful sounds, twittering birds and rushing water, fill your ears as you descend into the valley. Cross the old stone bridge, or skip across the stones in the river before strolling a bit of the Sheep's Head Way along the river.
Alpaca Waterfall Walk, part of the Drimoleague Heritage Walkways, can be reached on foot if you like a long walk, or by car. Contact Emma (email) to arrange an alpaca walk, as well as meet her friendly menagerie of other pets. The walk itself is a peaceful escape filled with natural surprises – kids will love it!
The ruins of Castle Donovan, a 16th century tower house, are only a bit farther.
Walks to do farther afield
Mizen Head, the most southwesterly spot in Ireland. Paved seaside pathways, some steep steps, and a Maritime Museum.
Sheep’s Head Peninsula, where tour buses can't reach. Unspoiled Ireland. The Sheep's Head Way is 150km walk filled with history. For a stunning short hike, drive to Bernie's An Cupan Tae and walk to the signal tower. It 2km ‘as the crow flies', but farther as you meander up and down craggy hills. Bring water and maybe a light snack for the hike, then treat yourself to and ice cream or tea & scone when you return to the cafe.
The Beara Peninsula has long been a spot for those who who love outdoor activities. Walking, cycling, fishing, and birding are popular activities in this haven of natural Ireland.
If your family enjoys nature and outdoor adventure, Top of the Rock Pod Pairc is the perfect spot to try camping in Ireland.