Camogie star Amy O’Connor was plagued by her boyfriend Danny Morrissey to buy a campervan, and one year on from their big purchase the pair haven’t looked back.
With a busy sporting season and pandemic restrictions in place for most of spring, the four-time O’Duffy Cup winner said that getting a campervan was the ideal solution for them.
Here, the Cork skipper reveals her do’s and don’ts, her favourite trips and how to stay warm in the chilly autumn evenings.
We bought our first campervan in June 2020. Since the day I met Danny he has been talking about getting one. Something that a lot of people don’t know is that in order to insure a campervan (not the conversion ones) in Ireland, you must be 25 years or older so we had to wait until Danny turned 25 to buy one. We love travelling around Ireland so a campervan was the perfect solution for us.
Playing so much sport also means that holidays, especially during the summer, are nonexistent. The campervan allows us to get away, even if it’s just for some short trips, and still be able to train and play matches.
I am also lucky that I work for Workvivo, a technology company that has opted for a “work from anywhere” approach so when I am away in the van, I can still work as normal. And Danny is studying to be a teacher so he is off all summer and for the last year has had remote college lectures which was ideal.
We had been talking about buying a campervan for a long time and had done so much research into it that we knew exactly what to expect. We also went camping a lot over the years so now we feel like we are in a five-star hotel in comparison to that!
The Dos and Don’ts
Before each trip, we fill our freshwater tank. This is the water you use to shower, wash your hands and clean the dishes. We wouldn’t drink this water, we use bottled water instead. We make sure we have enough gas – we always carry a spare bottle just in case. Gas runs the cooker, one of our heaters and our fridge for the majority of the time.
We also do some food shopping before every trip. This can be as expensive or as cheap as you’d like. We plan our meals for when we are away and buy the things we need. Living in Cork, we often get our meat in the English Market on the morning we are heading off. Having a fridge makes it much easier as you can pack it up for your few days and not necessarily need to go into another food shop.
Some campervans do not have a toilet, but this was a must for us, and lots of campsites have facilities to empty your toilet.
Thankfully, Danny does all the driving so I cannot say whether or not it is difficult to drive. Danny is a great driver. He says the key with driving a campervan is to take your time, keep looking in your mirrors and remember that in some vans, the back of the camper is wider than the front! We have also heard some horror stories about people driving vans and forgetting about barriers going into car parks or going under bridges so be mindful of the height of the van. We have the height of the van written in yellow on the dash as a constant reminder.
When packing up to head off to another destination or home, we have a checklist to ensure we do not forget anything. For example, the skylight in campervans can be difficult to replace and oftentimes people forget to close them before driving off and when they are driving they lose them or cause damage as a result. It’s important to ensure everything is put back in its place before taking off as things can move when driving and cause havoc. When packing things into the campervan, a tactical approach is advised, i.e. ensure that heavier items are lower down in the van, put tea towels in between plates, use shatterproof plates and glasses where possible.
We have been to loads of different places but my favourite spot is Ventry, Co. Kerry. I had a mobile home there when I was a child and I love heading back. The Dingle Peninsula as a whole is gorgeous and there is so much to do and see with lots of spots for wild camping. When I say wild camping, I mean that there is no electric hook-up. However, this doesn’t mean that you do not have power, as you can still power your lights, water pump etc, using your leisure battery. Depending on your battery, you could potentially wild camp for 3-4 days. When driving, your leisure battery charges itself.
We mostly wild camp as there are lots of beautiful spots around Ireland to do so and we prefer it, but we also head to some campsites and they are generally very cheap (less than €20 usually with an electric hook-up). We have an app called Camper Contact (it’s about €5 a year) and it shows you exactly where you can park your campervan overnight. There are lots of other apps too such as Park4night.
Other spots that we loved were Valentia Island, Barleycove, Sneem and Eyeries. Two of our favourite campsites are Goosey Island Motorhome Park and Eyeries Motorhome Park. Both had facilities to empty your toilet and fill up with more freshwater as well as an electric hook-up.
Lots of people think that you can just park anywhere with a campervan – that is not the case. Some places have signs saying “No overnight parking” and you have to be mindful and respectful of that. You also have to respect the area you are parking in and all of the locals.
This year we plan on heading up north a bit more! We’d love to visit Mayo, Sligo and Donegal, and then head over to the Giant’s Causeway in Co. Antrim. We have met loads of wonderful people along the way. The majority of them are much older than us, but we are seeing more and more younger people in vans now too.
In our camper, we have a toilet, shower and a “full” gas cooker with an oven, a grill and four rings. We have a handy sized fridge and a small freezer.
A full cooker is not as common as you would think in campervans and we love ours! We can cook whatever we want, as if we were at home. We love good food so it is perfect for us. We got a diesel heater installed too for the winter in addition to our gas heater in the van as we will probably use our van more in the winter than the summer as GAA will be over.
Do Your Research
There is so much rubbish for sale at the moment so be careful when buying. We viewed so many campers before finding “the one”. Campervans are really expensive so it’s important to do your research on what can go wrong with them and what to look out for when buying.
If viewing a van, my advice is to spend as much time as you want looking over it and bring somebody who knows what to watch out for. Test all of the appliances (fridge, cooker, water pump, etc) when viewing the van. Bring a moisture meter with you to check the van for dampness. This is quite a common problem with campervans and can be really expensive to repair.
So far we’re completely in love with our campervan and can’t wait to travel to lots more places in it. It offers us such freedom and allows us to completely switch off from life.