What always put me off with camping in Northern Ireland is reading the reviews beforehand as there always seems to be problems (at some point) with Irish travellers, joyriders, rowdiness and a lack of security and police presence. But even the slightest mention of parties, music, youths, noise, it just puts me right off. And this inevitably brought us to the Castle Ward Glamping Pods found on the Castle Ward Estate in County Down Northern Ireland. A more intimate, and a lot more secure glamping experience, owned and maintained by the National Trust of Northern Ireland. And while it is a mixed purpose campsite (Castle Ward Caravan Park) with plots and facilities for tents, and caravans, we were there for the stationary camping pods. Partly for comfort but also a new experience. So, in the end, we go with the Castle Ward Glamping Pods.
Castle Ward Camping Pods
The camping pods are located right next to the Castle Ward Caravan Park in shady woodlands on the perimeter of Castle Ward and on the banks of Strangford Lough. And the main feature of the camping at Castle Ward is the camping pods. And there are 2 options; the standard pod, or the family pod. And while both are fairly similar in design, the family pods are a fair bit bigger, and, as expected, more expensive. Otherwise each pod comes with their own private decking and seating out front as well as private picnic table, barbecue rack, and running water right next to them. Booking is with the National Trust.
Standard Pod vs Family Pod
We really only heard of the Castle Ward Glamping Pods during a visit to Castle Ward itself. And we decided at the time to call in to check out the pods. So there are a couple of deciding differences between the standard pod and family pod options, firstly is that the standard pods are closer to the main Castle Ward Caravan Park, while the family pods are set further into the forest. Size-wise, there are 2 small beds and a storage area in the back of the family pod, while the standard pod is otherwise basic with padded/heated flooring to sleep on. No bedding or washing facilities are included in either, so you’ll need to bring your own sleeping bags etc. and use the onsite showers and toilets etc. which are a stone’s throw away.
Glamping in Castle Ward
We didn’t pay a whole more for the family pod, and, weighing up value for money, we plumped for the perks of storage and not having to sleep on the floor. We booked it online (1-night £69, Premier Pod-6) and while we could probably have booked a hotel or guesthouse for similar nearby it was more about the Castle Ward Glamping Pod experience. Anyway, we arrived by car with all our necessary kit and equipment, like covers/sleeping bags and barbecues and we couldn’t have been more comfortable. And while the pods are somewhat basic rooms, they are well insulated, and soundproof, and heated from below, so it was a bit like a sauna when we cranked the heating up to high.
Castle Ward Caravan Park
We did skip past the on-site facilities on arrival to the Castle Ward Caravan Park, but the area really is small/compact and only one other caravan was there during our visit. There are tent plots as well but these were empty which is understandable given it was September in Northern Ireland. Castle Ward Glamping Pods are obviously the warmer option. Anyway, we did a tour at night on a shower run and poked around for info. And there is a reception hut with a small shop selling disposable barbecues etc. Next to this is the warden’s caravan (a French volunteer at the time). Then there’s the wash facilities and bathrooms, and showers, all 10x better than any we’ve used before. There is also a laundry room and kitchen, and bins and a sluice etc. Everything you need for camping really.
Castle Ward by National Trust
Castle Ward itself would be one of the more popular tourist attractions in County Down and it would be silly to stay over without making a visit. However entrance to Castle Ward is not included in the camping and we are fortunately National Trust Members (although it maybe possible to sneak past). So the Castle Ward Glamping Pods and do connect to Castle Ward itself following a woodland path along the coastline. Then the grounds are fairly massive with two main attraction in Castle Ward House, with sunken gardens, a stable yard cafe, and daily tours of the former stately home. Then there is the Old Castle Ward, aka as Winterfell.
Winterfell (Old Castle Ward)
This historic Georgian castle and farmyard has been renamed recently due massive fame as the setting of ‘Winterfell’ and it is the backdrop of many of the early seasons of the Game of Thrones franchise. So instead of the historical outhouses and …. the focus is now on the archery range, playing period dress-up, and the Game of Thrones Cycle Trail that links 20+ film settings and backdrops dotted around the estate. A route u can easily follow yourself (for free) including the Lough trail and woodlands and Audley’s Castle. This would also be the nearest entrance from Castle Ward Caravan Park and Castle Ward Glamping Pods by following the same banks of Strangford Lough past deer park until the old barn and entrance to ‘Winterfell’.