Where to stay when travelling by Motorhome
There are several different options for staying overnight with your motorhome. As always it is recommended to do your research before you travel and have a plan or an itinerary for your journey including your overnight stays.
You generally have 3 options:
- Legal Stop Over
- Wild Camping
Its generally pretty easy to find a campsite near to where your going as there are many great campsites all throughout the island of Ireland. It is advisable to stay in a campsite at least every couple of days to allow you to discharge the waste and refill the fresh water tank.
There are pros and cons of using campsites on your trip:
- Campsites are a great option if this is your first motorhome holiday. Many offer additional facilities such as pools, play parks, shops/bars/restaurants etc.
- No need to find a landowner to ask permission to stay overnight – just book your campsite and rock up.
- Newbies to campervan and motorhome holidays can meet plenty of fellow travellers to ask for tips and advice.
- Lack of spontaneity – if you have a campsite booked, you can’t just stop anywhere you like for the night.
- You’ll miss out on the most truly remote spots.
- Campsites in popular areas can be crowded in high season – not ideal if you want a peaceful and romantic break. Plan ahead and book early.
Legal Stop Overs
Below we also look at types of legal stopovers there are for motorhomes and campervans.
Legal Stop Overs, often know as Aires De Service, are a network of stopping places for campervans and motorhomes. They tend to be on private land that the owner has allowed (within reason) or part of campsites or even a hotel/pub. They are usually small in size, only accepting 2 or 3 vans at a time. Some will have facilities and some will not. They are a great way to meet and get to know fellow campers.
Most of these are not formal campsites, they range from simple car parks and truck stops that have no regulations specifically prohibiting overnight stays. Many of these stops are hosted by local pubs, where you are able to spend the night in return for sampling their food and beverages that evening. These stops are usually just for one night. They should be viewed as short stay overnight parking at sensible rates and often cannot be booked in advance.
Many seasoned motorhomers prefer to use legal stopovers, as they prefer the peace and quiet as well as only being with those with similar past times.
As legal stop overs can be harder to locate we have compiled a short list of resources to allow you to plan your stay.
Total Motorhome Ireland
TMI started as a Facebook group to share stopovers. They have grown into a large group with over 1000 members. It is free to join, and when you enter the Facebook group, you get access to a host of knowledge from an active group. They also have a free web app with a host of resources including interactive maps of motorhome facilities all over Ireland.
Motorhome Parking Locations
Motorhome Parking Locations has an active Facebook Group and a great App which includes some really useful resources including overnight stops, LPG stations and campsites. It also shows the Game of Thrones filming locations in Northern Ireland.
Total Camping Ireland
Total Camping Ireland have compiled a list of legal stopovers which can be viewed in a map format.
Showerplus provide a list of shower facilities throughout Ireland, UK and Europe. Their maps also include viewpoints, photo locations, mountains, lakes, rivers, piers, forests and much more.
The CamperContact app is an online tool for finding beautiful places to stop in a motorhome. They currently have 238 stops here in Ireland, with over 1200 more in the UK. Check out their website for more details.
The PitchUp website includes a wide range of motorhome stops. From small farms to luxurious campsites. By setting the filters on motorhome or campervan pitch, you will find an overview of motorhome campsites. Not only do you find motorhome stops on PitchUp, but they also provide information about local bike and walking routes, pubs and events. To start searching for motorhome stops, you can visit the PitchUp website.
This is a free app that can be downloaded and shows all sorts of motorhome facilities including stops on an easy to use interactive map.
If you are looking for a website which only includes stopovers for motorhomes, the “Extensive list of motorhomes stopovers” selected by UK Motorhomes is the place to be. This list comprises officially recognised overnight campervan parking in the UK and Ireland.
In Northern Ireland there are a number of forest parks that are government owned and controlled and where it is possible to stay overnight. Visit the link below for further information.
Waterways Ireland operate marina facilities throughout Ireland . These often have toilet, waste disposal and fresh water facilities. It is possible to access these facilities with a Waterways Ireland Smart Card which can be purchased online.
Ireland generally is a motorhome friendly place and wild camping on the whole is tolerated. Many councils put up ‘No Overnight Parking’ signs and use height restriction barriers in some sensitive locations where this is not welcomed.
We will look into some general rules for wild camping with a motorhome on the Island of Ireland, giving you some useful tips to get the most out of your trip. We thoroughly recommend wild camping, but do be aware of the advantages and disadvantages:
The scenery in much of the country is stunning, making it an awesome place to wild camp.
There are heaps of rural areas, so you’re sure to find a quiet spot pretty easily; you can also find remote areas where there aren’t any campsites/other guests.
Most activities or sights are accessible without too long of a drive.
You can stay overnight legally but with a wild vibe at one of the several campsites run by the Northern Ireland Forestry Service.
You can only motorhome wild camp if you’ve asked permission from the landowner to park overnight.
Similarly, you can’t/shouldn’t linger in your camping spot the next morning – the wild camping principle is to arrive early and leave late.
Laws of Wild Camping
Wild camping isn’t permitted in Ireland/Northern Ireland unless you’ve obtained permission from the landowner. The exception is in some Northern Ireland Forestry Service sites.
Wild camping without permission is a civil offence, in other words, non-arrestable. However, not moving on when requested to (by a security officer, landowner or police) can be classed as trespass. Always pack up and move on if asked to, we don’t want to give motorhome lovers a bad name!
We are known for our hospitality here in Ireland/Northern Ireland, meaning there are many options when it comes to parking up for the night, the easiest is if you find a spot ask the landowner if you can stay for a night they are generally happy for a night or two.
In reality many people wild camp all over Ireland and rarely have a problem.
Overnight Parking vs Wild Camping
There is a difference between wild camping and overnight parking. Overnight parking is parking up for the night and moving on early in the morning. No awnings, furniture, BBQs, generators, washing lines or anything outside the vehicle. In many remote places if you arrive late in the evening and leave early in the morning there will generally be no issues unless there is a sign specifically banning this.
Wild Camping Etiquette
Arrive late and leave early – free camping isn’t the time for a long lie-in or a lengthy barbecue.
Park out of sight of main roads and houses; have your van as “hidden” as possible.
Respect the locals and if they ask you to leave, do so willingly.
Ask locals, police, wardens or attendants if its ok to park up overnight.
Don’t ignore ‘No Camping’ signs or similar
Don’t allow any waste to escape into the environment.
Follow the “leave no trace” principle: take away all your litter; be respectful of your environment and its wildlife; and don’t light a fire.
Ireland/Northern Ireland can get cold even in summer, especially at night, so bring at least one set of warm clothes (hoodie/fleece, leggings/thermals, long-sleeved top, hat and thick socks) on your trip. Bring as much warm bedding as your campervan space allows. It can rain a lot too, so bring waterproofs.
Ireland/Northern Ireland are generally safe countries, but do tell someone back home where you’re going to be every night. You can share your proposed location via what3words (don’t leave this until the last minute, as you may have to drive back towards civilisation for a phone signal).
Stock up on food, water and other drinks before arriving at your wild camping location – don’t rely on finding a local shop open late.
Have a look online to find the nearest campsite to your proposed free camping spot; it’s always worth having a backup.
Don’t unpack too much stuff for the night (outdoor table etc) in case you’re asked to move.
Contribute to the local economy if you can.
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