Rambling Rovers head into the West... with all the comforts of home

IT may seem a little contradictory but there is a way to step outside your comfort zone while enjoying the height of comfort.

That little anomaly came to pass last month with the welcome opportunity to travel over to the west of Ireland on board a luxury motor home.

Our four-wheeled accommodation came courtesy of the Slane-based Rambling Rover which supplies custom-built, high end motor homes for the domestic and international market.

Rambling Rover has more than doubled its fleet in the last year such is demand for the sumptuously kitted out four and six berth vehicles, the booking sheet for 2023 and beyond rapidly filling up.

It's becoming an increasingly sought after option for holiday-makers (and festival goers) as an alternative to conventional and pricey hotel accommodation.

The campers come finished to the highest spec, something manager Paul Dunne was keen to show off when I picked up our Autoquest 150 at Rambling Rover's Rathdrinagh base - conveniently sited minutes from Newgrange, Tara and the Hill of Slane.

The fit out inside was amazing and included full gas fired hob, sink, cupboards and drawers with kitchen delph and utensils, a cleverly designed shower and toilet space, 95L fridge freezer with removable freezer unit and a TV with directional aerial. Every inch of the van and space is utilised to make the passengers as comfortable as possible.

A spacious double bed to the rear lifts to reveal even more storage space, while the passenger lounge could be quickly and easily transformed to make another comfortable double bed, while curtains and blinds ensure occupants' privacy.

Simple too was how it hooked up to electricity at the camping site, how to empty the waste (much simpler and sanitary than you'd imagine) but there’s help at hand if the need arises, the camping community is nothing if not especially friendly and able to spot a rookie at a hundred paces.

As for the driving, you soon get over the fact (and fear) that you're driving a luxury apartment on wheels and settle in for the ride. One simple tip Paul Dunne imparted about driving the motor home was 'if it looks tight, don't chance it'. Great advice. Our only scare came while passing through a traffic-jammed Galway when Google Maps, not realising we were not in a conventional car, steered us down the Dyke Road towards a 2.8m high bridge that would have given our 3.1m high campervan a very crude sunroof. Mercifully, we were flashed down by some alert locals before we reached the point of no return.

Our destination was the Cong Caravan and Glamping Park run by the Collins family with Lisa and parents Gerry and Margaret who also operate the beautiful Michaeleens's B&B where myself and better half would reside while our girls stayed across the road in the motor home. (Yes, we cheated a little bit but there's no campervan big enough to accommodate two adults and two older teenagers 24/7!)

The site is beautiful, nestled beside forest trails and the beautiful grounds of Ashford Castle on the shore of Lough Corrib. The site also boasts Lakeland House, self catering accommodation with private en-suite rooms and shared communal kitchen facilities, ideal for family members of campers and caravanners.

There are hard stands for the campervans with electric points and bins with lush green areas for tents and while quite busy in mid-April during our visit, Lisa says the place really comes alive in Summer with the camp becoming a bustling village of its own as generations of camping and touring families return along with plenty of first-timers.

"We see families coming back year after year and families growing in size," says Lisa. "There is a lovely community sense to the place and great atmosphere."

The camping site is nearly 40 years old, founded when dad, Gerry, working as a bread van driver delivered to camping sites in Doolin Co Clare. Gerry saw the opportunity to develop a camping park back home in his beloved Cong with its perfect position to soak in all that Mayo, Galway and the Wild Atlantic Way has to offer.

If visiting Cong, you won't be able to escape its proud association with ‘The Quiet Man’, the 1951 classic starring John Wayne and the stunning Maureen O'Hara. The references to the iconic movie are everywhere including each room at Michaeleen’s where there’s a DVD for you to relive the magic!

As well as operating the camping site and B&B, Gerry and Lisa also provide customised Quiet Man tours visiting the locations used in the film starting in the remarkably unchanged Cong village including Pat Cohan's Bar which features heavily in the movie and where John Ford directed his Hollywood icons around the fictional Inisfree over 70 years ago.

It's a heritage the village and its community is immensely proud off as illustrated by Gerry, who, while serving up the beautiful full Irish breakfast cooked by Margaret, points to photos on the wall of his grandfather, who played a willing extra in the movie.

Our trip West coincided with a certain other VIP visit in the form of US President Joe Biden so we decided not to risk road closures, crowds and motorcades in Ballina and Knock and so enjoyed our own daily excursions in our own 'Beast' where the only gripe was we didn't have enough time to take it all in, we’d need another term in office.

To finish, as we started, with a contradiction. Some wise old sage once wrote; it's not about the destination, but the journey... Our very enjoyable trek out west proved it can most definitely be both.