Pitch perfect lesson in exploring what’s on our doorstep

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It’s good to remind ourselves that we live in one of the most treasured tourist destinations in the country and what a gift it is to have unlimited access to some of the finest natural landscape and coastline in Europe.

Why not go one step further, take the scenic route and behave like a tourist? Without having to go to the trouble or expense of travelling, we can see Connemara as our visitors might and experience some of the unique attractions that this part of the world has to offer.

It was thoughts such as these that led me and my family to Acton’s Eco camp site in Claddaghduff, just a 10-minute drive from Clifden.

Owners Chris and Tatjana Acton are proud to tell you that they are Ireland’s first ecologically natural campsite. The spacious eight hectare area of coastline is even more unusual because it is a ‘Machair’ habitat. This is a rare and highly complex sandy habitat, unique to the northwest coasts of Ireland and Scotland. It is formed where the prevailing winds are high and consistent enough to carry calcareous sand inland to form a flat or gently undulating plain.

Calcareous sand is formed by the shells of animals that lived and still live on the offshore platform. Low-lying marshland often occurs nearby, fed by water percolating through the sand.

It is one of the rarest wildlife habitats in Europe, combining both salt and freshwater species of plants and birds. It is perhaps best described as a mosaic of sand and grassland but it is also an exceptionally delicate ecosystem that requires sensitive management in order to thrive.

The site at Claddaghduff includes an idyllically secluded private beach and surrounding rolling grassland. On a practical level, this means that even when the campsite is full, there is a sense of privacy as each site has been carefully located in a natural pocket within the grass covered dunes or looking out to sea.

The ground is guaranteed never to become wet underfoot due to the particular drainage properties of the sand.

Chris and Tatjana Acton manage their campsite with enormous pride and sensitivity, taking care to advise campers on how best to enjoy their stay while respecting the environment. There is an unlimited supply of fresh spring water and you can hire a raised eco campfire for use on your own plot or on the beach.

The showers and toilets are spotlessly clean and discreetly housed in a block adjacent to the shoreline where campers may also avail of a kitchen and seating area to make tea and coffee.

We spent a night at the site with the whole family and our pet dog Snowy (Acton’s is pet friendly). It was enjoyable beyond what we anticipated and we spent some rare quality time together into the late hours of the evening in front of our campfire.

It is a special experience to go to sleep with the sound of the waves and we are already making plans for a return visit. You can book your own trip by contacting Chris and Tatjana through their website at www.actonsbeachsidecamping.com

  • Deborah Watkins works at the Lavelle Art Gallery, Clifden with husband, artist Gavin Lavelle. You can find out more about their work at www.lavelleartgallery.ie