Our yurt life turned into an eco glamping business in East Cork

In part four of our series on Glamping in Cork, RICHARD GORDON chats to the duo behind Inch Hideaway Eco Camping, in Whitegate in East Cork
Our yurt life turned into an eco glamping business in East Cork

 Inch Hideaway Eco Camping.

AROUND a fire pit in East Cork, a couple would dream out loud and muse about their land and what they could do with it.

Slowly, over the years, they transformed their little pocket of Ireland – through eco-friendly and sustainable methods – into a glampsite of unique variety.

Their communal kitchen was built by their own hands, and their yurts are filled with fabrics from all over the world. They also provide a range of therapies on their land, situated a short walk from Inch beach.

Here’s a snippet into the story of Colleen Phillips and Fabrizio Vitali, who run Inch Hideaway Eco Camping, Whitegate, Midleton, East Cork.

Inch Hideaway Eco Camping is run by Colleen Phillips and Fabrizio Vitali
Inch Hideaway Eco Camping is run by Colleen Phillips and Fabrizio Vitali

What was the initial inspiration behind the campsite and was converting the land difficult?

Doing something positive for the environment was the first reason for choosing the land. I wanted to build as naturally as possible, using earth building techniques. 

We bought an old fish farm that was commercial land then rattled around on it for a few years, trying to decide what to do next.

How long have you been running your campsite and what did you do before?

I was building a tiny house using a technique called cob building – essentially using mud to build walls – inspired from a building course I completed in 2005 at The Hollies Centre for Sustainability in Enniskeane, West Cork. The course was taught in a yurt and it was my first introduction to these incredible spaces. Not long after, I purchased a yurt and lived in it on the land here for two and a half years.

One of the yurts at Inch Hideaway Eco Camping.
One of the yurts at Inch Hideaway Eco Camping.

We had people coming and going who were interested in what we were up to, our yurt life, and building a tiny house. Then a neighbour said, “Why don’t you put up another yurt and do a glamping thing?” This made a lot of sense to me; people coming together and sharing ideas and dreams, the land here seems to hold that space for people.

So, mid-way through our tiny house build, we changed plans and turned it into a communal kitchen, purchased another yurt, and at that moment Inch Hideaway was born!

Inside one of the yurts.
Inside one of the yurts.

The design of your campsite is wonderfully rich, with different textures and materials. How do your ideas come into being?

At the end of the Celtic Tiger, we started collecting second hand building material. Everything and anything we could rescue; windows, doors, flooring, bricks, appliances, stoves, you name it, we’ve recycled it!

We then figured out what we could build with it and that’s how the communal kitchen, the toilets and other facilities on site were created. All the rest of the materials were sourced as locally and sustainably as possible.

When we designed the space, we intentionally landscaped the site so that each yurt would have its own privacy and gardens, with the communal space around the kitchen and campfire giving the option to people to meet and have gatherings.

The yurts at The Inch Hideaway Eco Camping site.
The yurts at The Inch Hideaway Eco Camping site.

When I landed in Cork, I started my first business running market stalls and a small shop selling fair trade, imported textiles from South America and Asia. I’ve always had a passion for fabrics which has turned into yurt interiors. I had quite a collection from my ten years of traveling and running a shop. It’s so nice to be able to share them with people through the deco in the yurts.

You offer a range of services, including a variety of therapies. How does your interest here fuse with your campsite?

Fabrizio is Italian and I’m Australian. We were both working as care workers for adults with autism prior to the campsite opening.

Fabrizio is a very experienced craniosacral therapist and still works two days a week in Cork city at the Natural Clinic. He also offers on site craniosacral therapy for adults and babies. On site, we also offer treatments in our dedicated therapy room as both of us are qualified holistic massage therapists.

What do you say to people who are interested in opening their own campsite?

As much as running a campsite seems super glamorous and people often say, “This is my dream!”, be prepared to get down and dirty!

We do everything – quite literally – the day is a juggle between fixing, cleaning, and making things.

Fabrizio has the patience of a saint and has worked out so many problems that have saved us so much time and money.

I’m blessed that my upbringing was a lesson every day. My parents have a lot to answer for as they would not fix things for me but show me how it was done. If I wanted something, I had to work for it.

In the early days of setting up the campsite, both our families spent so much time with us, helping in any way they could. They believed in us, or thought we were mad, but we’d already jumped into the water so it was time to swim. We are so incredibly grateful to them.

What is it about your campsite that brings you most joy?

We love our work and are so proud of what we have done together. 

Our season is booking out and the customers are returning with even bigger smiles than they had the year before, so we must be doing something right.

If you could describe the spirit of your campsite/land in one sentence, what would it be?

It is so amazing to see people coming together around the fire in the evening, making new friendships, sharing ideas and dreams. It makes me so happy to see things come full circle.

Find them on Facebook @inchhideaway.

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