Escape to the island

A childhood spent under the twinkling stars of a Beara night sky inevitably drew Crosshaven native Caitríona Hanley back to her roots on Bere island. It’s the place where her father grew up but also the place that nurtured Catriona’s fierce love of the outdoors. “I have always loved the island and its hold over me has just grown stronger over the years.” So it made sense, she tells West Cork People, to set up a business that would complement the spirit of the island, working in collaboration with the beautiful environment and local community. Caitríona pursued her decade-long dream and Wild Atlantic Glamping was born in the summer of 2021, offering comfortable and affordable accommodation for those interested in experiencing all that island life has to offer.

With the events side of the business taking off, over the past two years Wild Atlantic Glamping has hosted everything from yoga and wellness retreats to weddings, running camps, concerts – this year singer Brian Kennedy even got a performance in on the island – photography, writing workshops, pop-up restaurants and festivals. The inaugural Bere Island Arts Festival was a huge success and plans are already taking shape for next year’s festival, which will run from September 19-22.

There are lots more exciting projects in the pipeline for 2024 with yoga and wellness weekends, runners retreats hosted by ‘Forget The Gym, the annual ‘Ukes go Bere’ ukulele festival on the June Bank Holiday weekend, which will include even more events this year and the annual Wild Atlantic Glamping end-of-summer gig on August 24. “I can’t wait until I can share more about this,” says Caitríona.

Wild Atlantic Glamping currently offers 10 luxurious bell tents for hire, each named after an area on the island. Eight of the tents sleep up to four people with two larger tents housing a double and three single beds in each. Each tent has its own private terrace with chairs where visitors can relax and enjoy the spectacular sea views while breathing in the salty sea air.

A communal building close to the accommodation offers a fully-equipped campers kitchen, dining area with large windows, again taking advantage of the views, showers with hot water available 24/7, BBQ area and a large all-weather covered terrace with a firepit and picnic tables.

There is a large, warm, bright room available to rent for workshops, retreats, training, private parties, family get togethers and events and the site has direct access to the sea, perfect for swimming, diving, kayaking and sailing. 

There is never a dull moment on Bere Island with much to do and see: Favourites include a hike to the Ardnakinna Lighthouse or one of the Martello Towers, the weekly 5km Park Run, a guided tour of Lonehort Battery, a visit to the heritage centre, night kayaking around Lawrence Cove or a sunrise swim from the glamping site. Ultimately however, a holiday on Bere Island shares Caitríona “is all about creating memories and enjoying the simple things – exploring rock pools, jumping off the pier, eating freshly caught fish, toasting marshmallows over the campfire, and enjoying the freedom of being on an island.”

While this all sounds idyllic, running a business on an island does present challenges such as having to factor in additional building costs and planning trips to the mainland around ferry times. But the advantages far outweigh any disadvantages emphasises Caitríona. “Island people by their nature are very resourceful and skilled and Bere Island has such a strong, vibrant, and supportive community there is always someone I can call on if I need help with anything, from giving advice to a guest on the best spots to catch mackerel to helping round up sheep that have wandered into the site. Getting supplies in is not an issue either as the businesses in Castletownbere are very accommodating – I can do my grocery shopping online with SuperValu or phone Harringtons (the local hardware shop) and they will put whatever I need on the next ferry.”

Three seasons in and the challenges have not slowed the success of Wild Atlantic Glamping, which Caitríona says would never have happened without the support of her family. “This is not something that I could even have dreamt have doing without their support. The entire extended family got behind this from the very beginning. I really appreciate how fortunate I am to have a family with a diverse range of skills – from designing the building to hanging gates, pitching tents and making beds – that are all so generous with their time.”

Caitríona’s longterm vision is to turn Wild Atlantic Glamping into a year-round business, offering accommodation in the winter months. “I think the island is an idyllic winter destination for retreats, a romantic weekend away or someone simply looking for some solitude, peace, and relaxation. I have a stunning facilities building and it is a shame to see it closed up for the winter.”

For her there is no greater pleasure than being wrapped up snug watching the waves and listening to the sounds of the wind and the rain on Bere Island with a glass of wine or cup of tea in hand. It’s a scenario she hopes others looking to enjoy a slower pace of life will experience in the future.

WCP Staff

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