It was with much anticipation that we went camping to Claddagh Glen, it was good to get going again but I was a little nervous after our previous bad experience at Castlewellan Forest Park.
Kat, a forum member and a friend of the family, had very generously invited us along to her scout camp so that my boys could be introduced to the whole camping experience again in a more positive way. My boys failed to really join in though, it wasn't until the next day and at Kats own house that they started chattering, like a pair of wee birds who finally found their voice.
When we arrived we found quite a narrow glen, with a river running down one side and a flat bit on the other, what used to be called a holme, or a Strath as it's known on this island. There was a band of mature trees on the river bank separating the river from the flat camping field, with spaces and gaps amongst the trees well run over by generations of scouts. That means there is little undergrowth just tracks of bare earth. In the largest clearing there is a communal firepit, a ring of stones with a couple of felled trees for seats. Everything you could possibly want really!
The flat area was long and narrow, with fairly long grass - and behind that was a steep bank covered in strong smelling wild garlic known as Cramph and mature trees, fallen over trees and lots of bluebells. A really wild wood - great for the scouts who were like little rabbits running all over the place! One girl lost her footing right at the top of the slope. She laughed all the way down but had she come into contact with a tree she would likely have broken a few bones! As it was she hit a mud patch at the bottom and escaped with a few impressive scrapes along her arms and legs.
Anyway the arrangement was that Kat's scout group had booked the use of Claddagh Glen, but there was a double booking with another scouting group from Belfast. That group weren't all that pleased about the double booking and chose to deny some of our party the use of the toilet facilities, but in reality we all used them anyway, and just put up with the snotty looks from their scout leaders. The following day they had to backtrack somewhat, they had been concerned that 'our' scout group would be very noisy and not let them sleep but then admitted that their fears were unfounded.
Shortly after I arrived, a guy came along and pitched a tent I thought I'd never see in my lifetime. It's a Tentipi Safari 9, a tepee tent made of good quality cotton canvas and with a price tag of nearly £1400. It is a really nice tent, it oozes quality and I love the pully system which adjusts the 'witches' hat at the top for ventilation.
There is a walk along the river, which goes up and up through a crevice in the earth. At one point a walker will pass a set of cascades that join the river below. As you go further uphill the river gets deeper and the rocks in it get bigger. At a certain point the river turns through 90 degrees and disappears into a cave. This is the Marble Arch system, a Geopark area which boasts an underground set of caves with many wonders all beautifully backlit with coloured lights. I'm sure it's about four or five years since I did 'the tour'. I remember it being quite expensive though!