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'The peace, the quiet, the sound of the birds singing in the morning, the sound of a campfire crackling.'

Bluebell Lane Glamping set in the midst of the hills of South Armagh and in the shadow of Slieve Gullion is a truly special place to get away from the rat-race and occasional humdrum of every day life.

Based in the townland of Tullymacrieve (Mulcreevy's/Rice's Hill’) beside Mullaghbawn the new project is already injecting a steady stream of new visitors to the area.

Sharon Donnelly Carragher and husband Padraig Carragher at Bluebell Glamping. Photograph: Taylor Keiran
Sharon Donnelly Carragher and husband Padraig Carragher at Bluebell Glamping. Photograph: Taylor Keiran

Owned by husband and wife Padraig Carragher and Sharon Donnelly Carragher, the couple set out to develop their own destination for the culturally curious.

The 26 acres owned by Sharon's late father John Arthur Donnelly has been converted to a perfect retreat.

The couple took advantage of a forestry grant and planted over 23,000 native species of trees. As Padraig says "They are in about three years now. Some of them's rallying on up to 15 or 20 feet and you're getting a real sense of the woodland as they grow every year and it changes this area as they grow, it changes this ground for us. Before we done this we were looking out on grazed fields of cattle. Now you're looking round corners through the woodland and it's more a discovery"

Reflecting on why they started Bluebell Lane Padraig thinks of the area, which lends itself dramatically to a glamping site. "I had encouragement from other people who had seen similar sites in England and Wales and they were returning home saying, Padraig you want to look this up, you want to check this out. There's these pods ... and I investigated and toyed with the idea for a while until we finally made the decision that yes, this is the direction we want to go in. I think if I was anywhere else geographically, I wouldn't be doing it.

"I love the area, I think it's magical, I think it holds great energy and that in itself was inspiration for me to start up this Glamping site here in South Armagh."

The Facility

Speaking about the back to nature aspect Padraig says "On the site we have facilitated pitches for people who want to come wild camping and that's where we are here at the moment. It's not that I'm trying to cram in as many people as possible, it's about the experience, its about people coming into South Armagh for the first time and creating a good experience for these people. It's about disconnecting. It's about getting back into touch with nature and the world around us and I suppose in a sense it's about communication. Without the devices or without the necessity of iPhones and what-not we begin to talk to each other again and that's imperative when you come here because there is no wifi and there is no phone signal so yeah it's back to nature really when you come here."

Accommodation facilities at Bluebell Glamping include three Glamping Pods accommodating up to five people, a Shepherds Hut holding up to four, a cottage for six, A safari tent which also caters for up to six people and five camping pitches together with four caravan pitches.

On-site showers and cooking facilities are available for everyone on the site.

A favourite part of the facility is a wooden round house. As Padraig says "I'm disconnected completely, I come down here and you can meditate and contemplate, and sit and just listen to the noise of the fire and the sounds of nature around us."

The roundhouse is a perfect place to completely relax. Photograph: Taylor Keiran
The round house is a perfect place to completely relax. Photograph: Taylor Keiran

The Myths and Legends

Right in front you have Slieve Gullion, some say it was anglicised over the years from Slieve Cullain and Cullain would have been the blacksmith, a famous blacksmith up there at the time when he was making shields and arms to defend up Queen Meabh's army who were encroaching up to steal the great bull of Cooley and this is where we have the mythology of Setanta the young wannabe warrior, and he was invited up to Cullain's feast on the mountain and of course like all young people he was late and the doors of the forge had been closed and Cullain had his hounds out to protect the forge and Setanta came along and he was attacked by one of the hounds and he had no option but to kill it to defend himself against the hound by using a Sliotar and a Hurley. When Cullain came out and realised what had happened he said to Setanta who is going to guard my forge now and the young lad replied 'I Will' and he became known as the Hound of Cullain or as we all know Cú Chulainn the great legend and the defender of Ulster."

Slieve Gullion created the backdrop for many a tale as Padraig says "There's a neothilic tomb (locally the Calliagh Berra's house), it's one of the highest burial tombs in Ireland. It predates the Pyramids and on the Solstice the sun will line up and flood the chamber with sunlight which is an amazing experience to see."

It's there that we tell the story of Fionn mac Cumhaill. And Fionn was up one day and he seen this beautiful lady at the side of the lake which is known as a gullion, and that's perhaps maybe where Slieve Gullion comes from as well. It's known as brown muddy water, a Gullion. And she was crying saying, I've dropped my ring into the lake and he offered to go in and rescue the ring out of the water and when he did appear out of the water he was an old man. She had stolen his youth! His soldiers didn't recognise him and the only ones that recognised him was his own hound dogs from his smell. They got the Calliagh Berra and held her to ransom and made her restore Finn McCools youth and she did but he retained the Long silver hair that he's noted for."

Padraig turns a bowl. Photograph: Taylor Keiran
Padraig turns a bowl. Photograph: Taylor Keiran

Sharon Donnelly Carragher Art

Sharon is an accomplished artist painting scenes and creating ceramic pieces from her beloved South Armagh. A painting was presented to President Michael D Higgins on his recent visit to the area. With a love for the mountains and the homesteads amongst them, Sharon's signature is the red oxide roof's that were so common at a time on local houses and out-houses.

Padraig Carragher Woodturning

As part of your Glamping experience you can enrol in a Wood Turning course run by Padraig.

Explaining how it all began Padraig says "I started Wood turning as a hobby on the strength of a friend of mine landing over here one day with a piece of a wood turning project he'd made. He made a bowl and he presented me with this bowl and I can't fully explain it but for years I've always wanted to do a few things. One was to plant trees and another was to wood turn. Being inspired by my friends work, Philip McCann is his name and he's a great wood turner as well.I decided it was time to take it to the next stage and I invested in a small beginner lathe and had no training whatsoever, had a couple of crude tools and little bits of timber that was lying about and I decided I'd put it on the lathe and I was making shavings, things were flying off the lathe on me for the first couple of days until I started to seek advice."

Bluebell Lane Glamping.
Bluebell Lane Glamping.

What followed was several courses learning how to master the skill, how to use and sharpen the tools and then a wish to share his enthusiasm and knowledge with others.

"Unknownst to myself it would develop in to almost a full time job, where I now deliver classes, I take up to five at a time. They come here they are people that have never stood at a lathe before and they come here and they have a raw piece of material and at the end of the day they have a bowl that they have made by their own hand and it's very special for them because they'll always go home to their husband or wife and say 'Look what I made today' with great pride."

Looking ahead Bluebell hope to construct an Iron Age round house. There was evidence of a round house found over at the Dorsey Ramparts, close to Cullyhanna. Heritage have given them the opportunity to replicate it on Bluebell Lane and they plan to start work on it in September.

The couple agree that getting a positive response from people after all the energy they both have put into creating their vision at Bluebell Lane Glamping has made it all worthwhile.

 

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