Londonderry’s Elaghvale Camping Park has a unique selling point - it’s the only campsite in the city and attracting motor home owners, caravanners and campers from across the world.
Paul Heaney and his wife Fidelma, avid motor home enthusiasts themselves, set up the tourist facility at Upper Galliagh Road in 2007 after spotting a niche in the market on their own doorstep.
Elaghvale is located on a working farm four miles from the city centre so visitors have the best of both worlds – a tranquil setting with the bright lights within easy reach.
It’s perfectly positioned for tourists to discover Londonderry’s rural hinterland in the scenic Faughan Valley with everything from adrenaline-fuelled outdoor activities to horse-riding, fishing, golf and country house tours.
Tourists from New Zealand, Australia, France, Italy, Germany, Sweden, the Netherlands and the UK have all stayed at the fully serviced site, often on their first trip to Ireland.
Paul said: “We have a motor home ourselves and as we travelled the continent we discovered there were no facilities here in Derry so we embarked on it ourselves on a pretty small scale to test the market. We discovered a small market there so we are endeavouring to facilitate it. Most of our visitors are from the continent.
“We can cater for upwards of 20 motor homes, caravans or tents. We have full facilities - electricity, water, toilets, showers with family room being added shortly, kitchen with washing machine, a common room with book exchange service - and free wi-fi.”
Elaghvale has the added attraction of being open all year round. “We get a lot of people travelling from New Zealand and Australia on tours for several months or years at a time and we get enquiries all year round,” said Paul.
“People are fascinated by how close we are to the border; the hedge on the campsite is actually the border and people are fascinated by that. We had two guys from Liverpool staying in a tent who were asking if they needed a passport to travel into the Republic!
“People are always very surprised at how panoramic and tranquil the whole place is because they have read so much about the past and have discovered how good it is to come and see this part of the world.
“They are totally fascinated by how normal the city is and how much it has to offer. They have to actually ask where was the border, what was it like and how much has it changed? People are genuinely interested in the stories we have to tell.
“Ninety-five per cent of our trade is people staying for one to two days; in our experience, more people pass through the city than stop and that is a culture we need to change - getting people to extend their stay.
“For some people it is the uncertainty of whether they think it is safe to stay if they have been reading about the history of the city, but it is very easy for them to make a decision to stay. The deciding factor is that there is somewhere to stay they feel confident about and is value for money. We are in a secure site four miles outside the city yet in a very rural setting which is very appealing.”
As well as all the tourist attractions on offer in the city and its rural hinterland in the scenic Faughan Valley, 100 yards from Elaghvale Camping Park lies the ruins of an original O’Doherty Fort, with its turret still visible.
Paul said: “The site was excavated by archaeologists this year and they reckon there could be artefacts there dating as far back as the 1600s and the Spanish Armada. We own the ground above and it would be great to provide a walking trail from the campsite.”
The owners of Elaghvale Camping Park are geared up for a busy tourist season and are already banking on a great summer next year when the Clipper Round The World Yacht Race docks in Derry for the third time, attracting thousands of visitors to the maritime festival hosted by Derry City and Strabane District Council.
“We have just had a group of ten motor homes from France on tour and we have a group of 12 Italians booked for July. The fact that the North Coast and the Donegal coast are all on our doorstep, and it is quite central even for the west of Ireland, is an added bonus,” said Paul.
Elaghvale Camping Park is one of 52 rural tourism providers supported by Derry City and Strabane District Council’s Discover Faughan Valley project as part of its Rural Tourism Development Programme, part funded by Invest Northern Ireland and the European Regional Development Fund under the Sustainable Competitiveness Programme for Northern Ireland.
For further details about Elaghvale Camping Park, Tel: 07801 731815 or visit www.ukcampsite.co.uk and find out about the many visitor attractions in the Faughan Valley at www.discoverfaughanvalley.com