first wild camp: lough altan

After a successful backyard test of my new Helm Compact 1 tent a couple of weeks ago the plan was to get out on an actual wild camp pretty quickly too. I’d decided Sunday 24th would be a good bet as I was able to book the Monday off work and it fitted in around some of the other stuff I wanted to do on other weekends.

The plan was to travel over late afternoon and take my time getting to the camping location. I would have loads of time to enjoy the location and cook dinner and also have plenty of time in the morning to cook breakfast before packing up and heading home.

Unfortunately the weather turned out terrible that weekend with heavy rain, thunderstorms and flooding in some areas including our main shop in Derry. I’d been keeping an eye on the forecast for a while and luckily it suited my boss for me to revert back to my usual Wednesday off and I decided to postpone until the Tuesday evening.

This meant a dash after work and less time to enjoy the evening. To make things easier I decided to stop in Letterkenny and grab a burger and chips so that I wouldn’t be under time pressure when setting up camp. That turned out to be a very smart move as I was invaded by midges and cooking would have been out of the question.

The spot I’d chosen was on the shores of Lough Altan, below Mount Errigal and on the edge of Glenveagh National Park. I parked at the Errigal car park before heading back along the road and taking the signed track for Altan Farm. I hadn’t been in this area for a very long time and the track turned out much wetter and harder walking than I expected and also longer. The bag that felt lighter than expected the night before somehow became 10 times heavier after crossing this boggy track.

Despite these slight difficulties the walk in was amazing. The impressive views of Errigal and Mackoght were soon replaced by those across to the Aghlas and Muckish in the distance. The setting sun was putting on an impressive show and the colours of the mountains were just stunning.

Treated to a stunning sunset I was soon down on the shores of the lough enjoying the waterfalls and being eyeballed by the suspicious sheep.

The sheep had the grass well grazed and I soon had a suitable camp site identified and my tent erected. During this time though the breeze dropped away and I was invaded by hordes of midges! I was forced to retreat to my tent and enjoy the views from behind the relative safety of my internal mesh fly. It wasn’t until almost 11pm when the temperature dropped with darkness and I was able to open up again to make a hot chocolate before bed and take the crucially important night photo of my tent.

Overnight I had a decent sleep. I was quite unsettled until 3.30am when I had to get up for a pee. At that stage I was convinced I would get no more sleep that night but next thing I knew it was 6.30am! I’d gone for a slightly thicker foil mat and that combined with my inflatable sleeping mat and summer sleeping bag kept me warm and comfortable all night. I was very pleased with the tent too. The fly worked great at keeping the midges out once I was zipped up and although it wasn’t easy I was able to get my gear sorted and change for bed without having to get out at all. The two porches were very handy for storing my gear and giving me a sheltered spot to use my cooker. A+ for the Helm Compact 1 ✅

When planning this camp I had a tentative plan at the back of my head that I’d be able to get a dip in the waterfall and maybe even a dip in the lake to get a really refreshing start to the morning before cooking a bacon bap for breakfast. However, the morning dawned grey and humid with barely a breath of wind, the midges were celebrating and I was the banquet! They were even worse than the night before and I was forced to pack up camp from inside the tent before dismantling the tent wearing a hat and buff over my face. Even at that they destroyed my eyes.

at home I was able to assess the battle scars

Breakfast was skipped as well as any romantic notions of wild swimming or exploring the waterfalls. Instead it was a quick inspection of the old house and off up the hill to try and find a breeze and some relief.

I was relatively untouched all the way back to the van but if I stopped for anything more than a few seconds I could feel the bites starting again so I kept plugging on all the way back. A quick change and into the van and on my way home again. I stopped on the way and treated myself to a lovely breakfast roll and all was right with the world again.

closing the barn door but now i’m prepared

Despite the midges I had a great time. I loved the post-work mini adventure type escape, the walk in was amazing and waking up with that view was just unreal. I’m pleased how my kit worked out and I’m looking forward to seeing where my next adventure will take me.

The YouTube link below will take you to the video I made of the experience.

7 thoughts on “first wild camp: lough altan

  1. unironedman

    Fab stuff. Shame the midges spoiled it a bit. Underwater might have been your only other refuge!
    Danish friends gave us some amazing repellent. Came in a little tin. Black stinking goo made from pine tar I think. Magic stuff though.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
    1. niall Post author

      The “Skin So Soft” is apparently superb too with the added benefit of moisturised skin. The pine tar sounds too close to being tarred and feathered!

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    1. niall Post author

      They looked worse than they felt but I had some serious bites on my back where my shirt rode up during my packing up. Had a bit of a reaction to those that lasted a few very itchy days.

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply
  2. threewheelsonmywaggon

    Loved this trip, beautiful scenery as for the midge, I have known people to be driven to distraction by the little blighters, me they do not trouble with at all, must be something in my Scottish blood. In the past when I lived on the borders of Scotland I would walk the border hills with my dog at the weekend – we would often simply sleep on the hillside and walk on the next day. There were many watersheds on the hilltops making it very bogie at times so in areas that were, particularly bogie I would go there in winter when they were frozen over, but sore on the ankles. Your wife must love your open-air lifestyle; getting you out from under her feet, sounds like a recipe for a happy marriage.

    Liked by 2 people

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    1. niall Post author

      She’s stuck me this long so something must be working 😆

      Apparently we exude a chemical from either our sweat or our breath that attracts the midges and not all of us have it or to the same extent. I think I have your share 🤔

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