FOR Cork woman Catriona Hanley, childhood memories were sculpted on Bere Island, and later she turned those memories into an idyllic haven perched on the coast of the island.
With a beautifully sleek aesthetic inspired by the history of the island, her glamping site sits pristinely into the terrain, with the hum of lapping water against the rocky shore providing a peaceful soundtrack.
If it’s days spent outdoors exploring the saltwater and then evenings spent serenely under the summer sky, then Wild Atlantic Glamping will be of interest to you.
We caught up with owner Catriona as she heads into her first full season of operations.
What inspired you to open a campsite at such a daring location?
The concept for the project grew out of my love of the island; my father is from Bere Island and all my childhood holidays were spent in the family home there.
These holidays gave me a passion for sailing, swimming, kayaking and all things outdoors, making this my dream business.
A holiday on Bere Island is all about making memories – exploring rock pools, jumping off the pier, eating freshly caught fish, toasting marshmallows over the campfire, discovering hidden coves on a kayak, and enjoying the freedom of being on an island.
Are there added difficulties that come with island life?
There are some extra considerations when running a business on an island, such as the additional building costs and planning trips to the mainland around ferry times, but the advantages far outweigh any disadvantages.
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 Harrington’s (the local hardware shop) and they will put whatever I need on the next ferry.
You opted for a very clean and fresh aesthetic when designing your campsite. What drew you in that direction?
How the site looked, especially from the sea, was very important to me, I wanted it to look like it belonged there. The building and site layout was designed by my cousin, architect Alan Macilwraith from JCA Architects. As he also has a strong family connection to the area, it was particularly important to him that this project was designed to have minimal impact on this unspoilt area of natural beauty. He took design inspiration from existing agricultural and military structures on Bere Island, designing an attractive building that functions well and responds to the topography of the site.
How long have you been running your campsite and what did you do before? How has the transition been so far?
My first guests arrived in June last year, so 2022 will be my first full season! Since 2008, I have worked as a project manager and designer at MK Illumination, which is a professional Christmas lighting company. We design, supply, and install Christmas lighting displays to shopping centres, public spaces and commercial properties throughout Ireland.
I am in a very fortunate position that the two businesses are seasonally opposite, and having the continued security of this job allowed me the opportunity to set up Wild Atlantic Glamping.
Bere Island is quite the adventure haven. Are you an adventurist yourself?
I am not sure that I would consider myself an adventurist, but I absolutely love all things outdoors!
I enjoy everything from swimming to hiking to kayaking and sailing – I am no expert at any of these, but I am at my happiest when I am near, on, or in the sea!
What is it about your campsite that brings you most joy?
I absolutely love watching guests’ reactions when they walk through the building to the terrace and see the full expanse of the view – over Lawrence Cove and down Bantry Bay with Hungry Hill as the backdrop.
It makes me so happy to see people switch off and enjoy the simple things that I love most about Bere Island – swimming in the sea, eating freshly caught fish and chips after a hike to the lighthouse, the post parkrun scones with homemade blackberry jam, going to sleep listening to the sounds of the sea, and then zipping open your tent in the morning to watch the sun rise up over Bantry Bay from your cosy bed.
If you could describe the spirit of your campsite/land in one sentence, what would it be?
Wild Atlantic Glamping is a place where you can disconnect from the stresses of everyday life and immerse yourself in nature.