Caravanism – we’ve converted.

We are currently travelling home from our first ever caravan adventure and in spite of the miserable old weather, we absolutely loved it! In my eagerness to share this with you, I’m typing this on my phone as we trundle along the highways of Ireland. We have had our caravan since last October but this is the first time we’ve been able to take it anywhere. That’s not for want of trying, but a few necessary repairs, glandular fever and then a pandemic sort of put a spanner in the works.

We bought the caravan after returning from our camping holiday in Dorset last summer. Dorset is beautiful even in a howling gale. But sleeping, or rather, not sleeping for a week in a howling gale can leave one feeling only slightly crabby and in need of a holiday at the end of a holiday.

After many years of camping in damp tents with toddlers, and then magically shrinking tents with kids and teens, we finally admitted defeat and came to the realisation that we are not tent people anymore. We are officially ex-campers, we’ve finally seen the (intermittent sun)light and converted to caravanism.

And let me just tell you that the conversion experience has been throughly delightful. We are 100% committed now to our new way of life and there is no looking back to Egypt, no regret, no hankering after our past lives of tentism.

Look at us all set up on the first night and trying not to look too smug!

This has been helped in part by the weather, these past 10 days have been iffy, with showers most days for the second five days. Last night the weather rounded off the week with a thunderous applause on the caravan roof. I could hear a river running down the outside wall about 5 inches away from my right ear. But inside all was snug and dry, the roaring waterfall sounds helpfully drowning out the snores from my slumbering husband over on the other plush mattress.

We did have some sunny days, most of them were on the days we were driving.

We are learning as we go along. The first lesson was that caravans also have indicator and break lights which technically ought to work before you drive anywhere. If these are not working your trip could be cancelled.

We also learnt that the loo has a empty/full indicator which isn’t 100% reliable and that it takes shorter than you’d expect for a loo to overflow. We consequently learnt that caravan loos can be extremely smelly places indeed.

Then there was that day that we pulled in for a little break and discovered we had been driving with the door of the caravan wide open.

Towing the caravan has been another learning experience altogether. In the beginning any squeak or crack coming from behind kept us on the edge of our seats. Radio off, windows cranked open, we would anxiously glance in the rear view mirrors checking the caravan was still there and then when I catch a glimpse of it behind I’d get a jolt wondering why someone is following us so close.

Quick stop, that’s what we look like then!

As the navigator, I’ve learnt to ignore when Google maps suggests detours along lanes with green middles because we experienced a few of those on the way up and the sucked-through-teeth breathing over branch scratching sounds down the sides of the caravan! The Google man who plots the map suggestions is obviously a hotel type of fella in my opinion, he’s clearly never towed a caravan along an Irish lane or over a hump backed bridge on a bend. He’s definitely not done it along a road through peat boglands, which is like pulling an empty wheelbarrow at speed across a corrugated iron roof only on a much larger scale.

My admiration for my husband has increased tenfold this trip, not only because he volunteered to be the loo emptier but he also reverse parked the caravan into our parking bay on the first day and he towed the van across aforementioned peat boglands while ensuring the wine bottles inside remained intact.

Loved the views out over Nore Valley Park, Kilkenny.

Our caravan is a Swift Challenger 490LSE which means it’s quite old and it sleeps five to six people. It has a corner sofa in the back which converts into small double bed, there’s a tidy bunk bed suitable for a small adult or big child that pulls out above this bed. There are two long sofas in the front which convert into a large double bed which could fit 3 if necessary.

It has a small bathroom with shower, basin and toilet on the centre right. We haven’t used the shower but the toilet has been a real bonus on the wet nights and one of the biggest pros over not being in a tent. It’s also been absolutely necessary in one of the campsites as although the showers were open, the toilet blocks were closed due to ‘the Covid’.

The kitchen in the centre left with its fridge, gas cooker and sink has made camping life seem positively luxurious. We ate pizza one rainy night. We actually even packed in an electric kettle AND our coffee machine! Total yuppies now. Who said camping has to entail a level of suffering to be authentic though?

I cooked risotto for our last supper last night, so posh.

I don’t have any photos of the interior that are anyway respectable at the moment, once we get home and everything is packed back into its place or washed I’ll show you. I haven’t got to the point of putting a Hoover in yet.

We bought an awning which slots to approximately 3/4 along the top edge of the caravan and gives us an outside room which was handy as an extra sleeping place at night or a place to sit in the rain when the caravan felt too tight with all of us. Or when you need to escape a boardgame.

Still looks neat inside the awning because this is the first half hour.

The caravan has 2 tables, one slots into the floor at the back and the other is free standing so we brought that out into the awning as a dining table. The window dressings impressed me, apart from the dated plush curtains, they are kitted with fly screens – which were very handy for the bees – as well as insulation blinds. There are various roof vents and a very useful opening skylight in the font seating area which we were advised to look for as a feature. This really helps with temperature regulation as well as light in the main living space.

It is quite old, it will be 20 years old next year but it’s in great shape. We bought it from a caravan dealer in Enniscorthy just up the road from us and he saw to it that any faults we discovered in the 1st three months were fixed. From the original manuals in the caravan we can see it was brought over from Wales, the previous owners must have taken good care of the caravan.

So we have tried out three different campsites in Ireland, in Kilkenny, Roscrea and Roscommon. We have discovered how quick it can be to arrive and set up camp so that stopping for one night in a spot is feasible. If we could find places close to us where we can just go for a weekend we will definitely do more trips away over the next months.

One night stop over in a football pitch sized campsite in friendly Steamstown, Roscrea.

However, our ultimate goal is to take it to France via the ferry, hopefully travel abroad will be easier next year. Athol and I are already planning our retirement and extended holidays with just the two of us meandering across Europe in our caravan in only about 14 years time.

Main image above is from our last campsite at the lovely Lough Key Forest Park, each pitch had private 7ft hedges and were under trees.

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