Ok, so legally, you can't. Or at least, you can't in most places.
In the Wicklow Mountains National Park, wild camping is allowed (with sensible restrictions), except in Glendalough. You can check information on this area Here.
A lot of folk camp on the beaches of Ireland, and some are more favourable than others. Fallmore near Belmullet in Mayo, Baginbun Beach near Feathard in Co. Wexford, and Wine Strand or Ventry Beach along the Dingle Peninsula in Co. Kerry are all recommended, though I've not camped on any of them personally.
Generally, you have to be aware of trespassing on private land. If there's a spot you'd really love to camp at, knock on the door of the nearest house and ask who owns it, then ask for permission. Offering a wee donation is always a good idea.
State owned land is technically public property, but the rangers and lifeguards and such obviously get first say in what you can and can't do there. For beaches, there's legal access to the foreshore - which means 'the bed and shore, below the line of high water of ordinary or medium tides, of the sea and of every tidal river and tidal estuary and of every channel, creek and bay of the sea or of any such river or estuary. The land above this can be privately owned so if you have to cross above the median High Water mark you may be trespassing.' (Further Info)
For his birthday last weekend, my son asked for a family camping trip, "away from people". His requirements were a river, and trees. And no people.
I hadn't done a wild camp in many years, so, cue frantic research scramble to see if the laws had changed. Not a lot, it turns out.
We were leaving from Dublin on Friday afternoon, and had to do the food shopping first... so somewhere within 2 hours drive of the capital was necessary, to ensure that we had time to find a place, park safely, hike (with all the gear) to a suitable spot away from the road, pitch the tent and set up camp before dark.
Wicklow Mountains camping was out for me, with the boy along. To be honest, I'm hearing there's a rash of break-ins to cars at popular parking spots - look for broken glass on the ground around any intended parking to check if there's been windows broken there recently. It's also a popular spot for a gang of lads to get cans and head out to of a Saturday night, for drunken fun and frolics.
None of that seemed like a recipe for a peaceful family trip, or an enjoyable birthday for him, so we went a little further afield.
I'm not going to say exactly where - the internet is full of horrible people after all, as well as all you lovely types - but what I did was choose a general location with national parkland (it was the Slieve Bloom Mountains for us this trip), and source a few potential parking spots around an area I liked the look of.
We headed out, drove about a bit and found a nice spot at the head of a trail. Parked up, did a recon mission and found a place where folk had camped before (slightly flattened land and the remains of a fire pit) in a river valley that was, admittedly, a horrible hike to and from the car - but is absolutely gorgeous.
Site chosen, we hiked back up to the car, loaded up the essentials for the camp set up and first night (it took two trips), and pitched the tent. We had to re-set the fire pit a little, and I double lined it to prevent scorched earth around it. I dug a small trench latrine or 'cathole' away from the tent site, and even further from the river, and we'd brought water for our drinking, washing and cooking in 5L containers.
We didn't light a fire that evening, and were absolutely eaten by midgies, and wrecked from travelling and set up, so it was an early night, with the sounds of the river burbling nearby, and wind through the treetops to lull us to sleep.
The Wild Camping Code
Officially, this is how it runs.
All campers should aspire to minimising their impact on the environment by conforming to the following code of conduct:
Catholes for disposal of human waste must be located at least 30m away from watercourses and 50m from walking routes. Human waste must be buried or carried out of the site. No evidence of latrine use should remain visible. All toilet paper and hygiene products must be carried out.
Campfires are not permitted in the National Parks. The issuing of permits for campfires is suspended pending review.
Failure to comply with this code will result in withdrawal of permission to camp. In such cases National Park Rangers will demand that the visitors break camp.
You can find more information on the Leave No Trace Ethos Here.
As with most things, it all boils down to common sense, and respect.
Just don't be a dick, ok?
To Explore the Ancient Sites of Ireland with Me
A brief history of Irish Author and Educator Lora O’Brien, for those who want to know...
She grew up in an Irish storytelling, rowdy folk song singing, heritage exploring, nature loving family of definitely not witches.
Nope, no ‘genuine family tradition’ of super authentic olde medieval grimoires round here… just lots of the actually important connection to community, flora and fauna, folk and fairy tales, ancient sites, songs and stories of Ireland.
A move to Co. Roscommon (the magical and spiritual heartland of Ireland) opened up a whole new branch of native Irish learning and practice, as well as the start of her journalism career, and her first book was published in 2005 - 'Irish Witchcraft from an Irish Witch' (Career Press, USA, ISBN 978-1564147592).
Lora then began her Irish heritage and native spirituality work in a professional capacity, first guiding tourists in County Roscommon, and moving on in 2007 to manage the Rathcroghan Heritage and Visitor Centre business; which gave her a fascinating insight and first-hand experience with Irish archaeology, geology, and anthropology, as well as the mythology, but effectively put a stop to her writing.
In 2011 she began to study Psychology, and the following year (Dec 2012) published her second book - 'A Practical Guide to Irish Spirituality' (Wolfpack Publishers, Ireland, ISBN 978-0957499409).
By 2014 she had ‘quit her day job’ to write and teach full time, incl. in USA and Italy, and of course, in Ireland. Talks began with American publisher Llewellyn for her next book, and contracts were signed for "A Practical Guide to Irish Magic" at the end of 2015.
I've been 'out of the broom closet', so to speak, living openly and learning consciously with my chosen path for more than 21 years now.
When I was younger, witchcraft was my label of choice (and I trained for many years in a Trad Wiccan coven), though these days I prefer to refer to my Native Irish Spirituality, and if I need a title, it's just Bean Draoí - which translates as 'female user of magic'.
I didn't go looking for the video or radio archives (though if anyone can find a clip of the Nationwide show where I ritually re-enacted as the Goddess Tailtiu, post it in the comments!), but the national paper of record, the Irish Times, has featured me 3 times that I can find and (mostly) remember.
While I am a CONSTANT let down to press photographers and videographers who ask, nay beg me for a swirling velvet cloak or a sparkly crystal ball and broomstick, I do like to be able to provide a wee down to earth voice of reason. No frills, no fucks given.
One self-described witch who'll be celebrating is Lora O'Brien, a 26-year-old Dublin-born mother of two who has just written Irish Witchcraft From An Irish Witch. "Samhain," she explains - using the Irish name for this most important of ancient festivals, which is often referred to as the pagan or witches' new year - "is the main 'time between times'. This means that it's especially a time for divination, magical activity and communing with spirits".
"Did she threaten to curse her?" asks Lora O'Brien, author of Irish Witchcraft From An Irish Witch, who hasn't actually seen Big Brother yet. "That's the kind of thing I'd be worried about. People fighting in a stressful situation is one thing, but I'd be afraid the witchcraft would be made an angle. That's not what it's about or what it's for, and I'd hate to think that your average Big Brother watcher is getting that impression.
It’s an unusual life choice, one which some people would find bizarre. But O’Brien says such scepticism is unjustified: “A lot of pagan people are involved in the caring professions or in community work, putting their spiritual ethos into their professions. There’s a lot of altruistic work going on out there under the radar.”
She adds that once people know more about paganism, it becomes less threatening. “In 2005 I published a book about my experiences and the publishers insisted on a headline-grabbing title. So it was called Irish Witchcraft from an Irish Witch. People reacted negatively to the title, and when my granny wanted to read it, members of my family tried to discourage her, they thought she’d be shocked. But granny said it was just like listening to stories that her own granny told her. And I think that’s true. Whatever label you put on it, it’s just the stuff that’s always been here in Ireland – things like cures for warts and so on. It’s actually very familiar.”
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Flocks of bloody crows, collectively known as a 'murder, you know, and for good reason. Noisy bastards they are. After a couple of weeks of constant cawing, tapping at the windows, landing on the car, and other assorted okay-for-a-once-off-but-weird-that-this-is-regular sort of behaviours, it started to penetrate my skull that perhaps there was a message of some sort going on here. (Maybe? Ya think?)
Thus started a relationship with a little old Irish goddess named Morrigan. She is well enough known to not need too much of an intro, but for those who haven't happened across her she is known as a battle goddess, the "Witch of the Tuatha Dé Danaan”, bitch of blood and battle. You will see her name translated as ‘Phantom Queen' or 'Great Queen’, the difference being whether or not there should have been a fada over the o - Mor or Mór Rioghain. For what it's worth, she's always used the Great Queen epithet in my experience with her.
Visits to Her Cave proved... interesting. The previously mentioned Gates of Hell: a slippery climb down into the darkness, envelopment in complete black. Divine mud below and a journey above. There were tattoos taken to my flesh: a trial, a commitment that stretched both ways. With careful record keeping (to spot patterns), in time and with patience, I came to understand what she wanted. It boiled down to two major demands:
- disseminate REAL information
- inspire the next generation.
Um, okay then. By that point, I was already involved in the Neopagan community; teaching, talking, training students. I also had two children, and was raising them in an open and (I hoped) encouraging environment. I figured I was already doing my bit for the cause. My response to Her was: if there is more required of me, cough up with the support system to enable it. When I said I started a relationship, I meant it - it goes both ways. I will not work in a vacuum!
As a day job, I was running my own body piercing business, but the location was wrong and it needed a change. I had given notice and sourced new premises, all set to move onwards and upwards, when I was contacted by a book publishers I'd been talking with. The book proposal I'd sent was not what they were looking for apparently, but they loved my writing and wanted to work with me. Was there something else I could let them look at, something that hadn't been seen before, perhaps? The book I'd always wanted to read but hadn't been written popped into my mind immediately. Irish witchcraft: looking at native folklore, gods, traditions, seasonal celebrations and historical information, as well as a wee bit on how my own path was developing, for reference and support. Although Ireland has a strong Neopagan and magical community, we're all so damn individualistic there's a lot of solo practitioners. I was offered a book contract immediately. With a very tight deadline, that forced me to quit the business expansion plans and focus just on the writing. It was the first time a book on Irish magical traditions, with actual academic research and experience, had been published by a real live Irish magical-type person.
Does that sound suspiciously like "disseminating real information" to anybody else?
Then came the somewhat inevitable process of breaking down in order to rebuild. Another child was born to me - very effectively stalling the writing career. Then a messy marriage break-up, and financial difficulty. A part-time job came up locally as a tour guide in the Rathcroghan heritage centre. Two months later, they asked me to take on the newly-vacated manager's position. I would be dealing with national heritage and tourism bodies, county administration and educational establishments, as well as living history events, school tours and visitors. But I had no child-minding facility, no local support system, and no clue as to how I could manage logistically or emotionally single parenting three young children, plus a demanding full-time job. It was not lost on me that this job would quite neatly fulfil both of the primary requirements my Goddess had laid out before me.
My response was: if you want me to do this job, you will need to move your arse and make it possible - nay, easy – for me to do it.
A series of fortunate events coincided around that very time to ensure that my children got the best schooling and care outside the home that they could possibly receive while I was working, including the inception, development and building of an advanced child-care facility in the village. The heritage management job was mine. There formed a small but perfectly formed network of local friends, as well as the wider friends and family who provide exceptional support, encouragement, and occasional sympathetic shoulders to cry on, plus regular sword and spear fights to let off steam.
Overall, then and now, there is a practical, give-and-take, working relationship with a deity best known for her darkness and general badassery. She helps me to Work for her. Because of my work there are people all over the world who know that 'Witta' and 'Druidism' are not the only available options if you feel drawn towards Irish magical traditions – though of course there has been much more wonderful writing on the topic since. Because of my work, one of the best preserved and most important archaeological and mythological 'Celtic' sites in the world is finally receiving the recognition and respectful development that it so richly deserves, including nomination to the list for UNESCO World Heritage Status. I have refused to formally dedicate my children to Her (really, was She thinking that I would?!), but because of my work there is an ever-increasing youth population who are more informed and occasionally even excited about Irish history and heritage. They are the landowners, politicians and decision-makers of the future. Her sovereignty and prophecy/guidance aspects are not to be ignored.
My work is sufficient for myself, my goddess, and what I've been given. I have to wonder now though, is there a bigger picture to this work? Who else has received a similar or common directive? I’m coming across more and more folk who seem to have been called in very similar ways to very similar Work.
Comments here or messages directly to me would be an intriguing way to compile a pattern, don’t you think?
It's not that the High Priestess or High Priest doesn't get ridden - anybody who's witnessed a proper Drawing Down the Moon (or Sun) can attest to the strength and power that is tapped through the ritual. The invocation can be oracular or full-on possession, and even evocations have a particularly flavoured energy that is undeniably common across all circles and all covens. Of course Wiccans individually will have their own relationships with their gods, but as far as the group work of the tradition goes, I'd experienced powerful but mostly genteel interaction with the gods, in a structured, formal setting. I was somewhat prepared, in that I knew what Deity felt like, inside or outside of myself. I could recognise energy patterns and flavours, what smelled right and what didn't, and I had a good grounding in protection and, well, grounding.
The Deity I found out here though, was very new to me.
During our first exploration of Rathcroghan, I brought my family and we stopped at one of the sites. I entered respectfully, introduced us all, and basically said hi to the natives. When we later took the guided tour at the local heritage centre, I was a little disappointed to learn that this visually impressive ring fort was not a major ceremonial site; simply a medieval domestic settlement. Recent geophysical research has shown that there is actually an older, larger site underneath, but whatever the original function, it was an appropriate enough first port of call.
That tour taught me a whole lot I hadn't found out through my own research, and we were fortunate to get a guide who seemed as excited about the mythology as I was. Rathcroghan's main mound is at least as old as Newgrange, older than Tara or any of the other well known 'Celtic’ sites, and the whole complex is the best preserved royal site in Europe. The layers fascinated me - whole eras of our history represented, the landscape being added to but never taken from, sacred sites recycled countless times: but always the theme of kingship and the major burials for an entire province, stretching for thousands of years, contained in this relatively tiny geographical area.
What is it about Cruachan that made this place important enough to keep the big knobs from every tribe in every age ceremonially and practically anchored to this spot? What is it that continues to draw tuned-in people from all over the world - literally - to visit, and even live in this place? I'm still not sure of the answer, or if there even can be a definitive answer. My own path has led me here, and I'm still trying to figure out the specifics of how to achieve the work that's been put before me.
The Work: that's the key, isn't it? If we can figure out what our work is, what it is that we're supposed to be doing on this spin around the merry-go-round, we're doing well.
Thelema names it your "True Will'; every man and every woman is a star, and if we're all traversing on our proper orbit there'll be no collisions and the universe all runs along smoothly. Neopaganism generally alludes to the idea of finding your path, walking along, doing whatever that it's right for you to be doing. Wicca presents the idea "An it harm none, do what you will" - based loosely on lines from Liber al vel Legis, granted, but develops this Rede into a much debated and often wide-ranging philosophy that nonetheless consistently focuses on doing your own thing. Not just what you, like, want to be doing dude… but what you actually know to be the right thing.
Those of us who take the leadership and priesthood/shamanic responsibility seriously know that all of this means one thing. Work. It means we have stuff to do (sometimes lots of stuff to do), and usually not enough hours in the day in which to do it. But how do we know WHAT to do? I was about to find out.
Most commonly referred to as 'That O'Brien One', Lora lives and works in County Roscommon, Ireland, and feels somewhat qualified by now to write down all sorts of weird and wonderful stuff about this fair green Isle.