Thursday, May 25, 2023

10 years of Rock Farm Slane. From Bon Jovi to Harry Styles and an Environmental Award from the Irish Food Writers Guild

10 years of Rock Farm Slane. From Bon Jovi to Harry Styles and an Environmental Award from the Irish Food Writers Guild 

Alex and Carina Conyngham

Ten years ago, on 15th June 2013 Rock Farm Slane opened the glamping doors just in time for the Bon Jovi concert at Slane Castle across the River Boyne. A decade on, superstar Harry Styles will take to the same stage, marking the date almost to the day. Rock Farm were true pioneers in the area of glamping and ecotourism; in 2013 just one other glamping site existed – Tea Pot Lane in Leitrim.


“I remember it all so clearly, I can’t believe how quickly the years have passed,” says Carina Conyngham, an eco-minded entrepreneur who established the ecotourism destination with her husband Alex, Earl of Mountcharles, “Alex and I were cooking breakfast for the glampers while the helicopters whirred overhead. Our visitors were so busy trying to spot Jon Bon Jovi in the sky, they wouldn’t leave to go over to the gig.”


Rock Farm initially opened with a modest offering of yurts and shepherd huts in a welcoming woodland glade, along with a small strawbale eco-lodge evocatively named Swallow’s Nest. In 2015, just in time for the Foo Fighters concert, they launched Lime House, the six-bedroom strawbale self-catering house sleeping 22 people, and a collection of bell tents. Lime House was built using their own barley straw and local clay for plaster. The result is a unique collection of glamping and self-catering options ideal for big parties with different requirements. Lime House is generously designed so large groups can share it without feeling hemmed in. The yurts and huts offer glamping with a luxurious edge and the bell tents suit the more adventurous looking for a genuine camping experience. The entire site can now accommodate around 80 people.


The team at Rock Farm don’t rest on their laurels and upgrades and constantly work to improve the experience for visitors. “Recently we’ve replaced the original bell tents with Lotus Belle tents,” Carina Conyngham said, “These are lovely tents with an innovative design so there’s lots of head space and living space inside.” More additions are planned for later this year.

Rock Farm is a working organic enterprise on 90 acres using permaculture principles with rare breed cattle, pigs and poultry as well as a thriving vegetable section. They operate an agro-forestry system combining trees and livestock in the same area. Rock Farm grows several varieties of barley which are used for the whiskey made at Slane Distillery – ensuring top quality grain and keeping food miles to a minimum. Farm tours run regularly throughout the summer.


The parkland surrounding the glamping is a designated Natural Heritage Area and Special Area of Conservation teaming with wildlife including kingfishers, herons, cormorants, egrets and otters as well as a thriving population of Irish hares. A natural pool and integrated constructed wetland complete the picture. In terms of a sustainable approach to water, waste and energy on-site, there’s a grey water management plan, natural sewage systems and extensive composting practices in place. Eco-friendly products are used throughout, as well as a commitment to “Leave No Trace.”  


“Currently we have 19 hectares in a National Parks and Wildlife Service Wilding plan,” explains Carina Conyngham, “We are lowering the stocking density of livestock (pigs and cows) and creating a Wilding area near the river, running alongside the glamping to create a habitat for ground nesting birds and other species. Our plan is to have glamping in the middle of the Wilding so visitors can have a totally immersive experience of nature, less than an hour from the city centre.”


Local community life is central to the Rock Farm Slane story and they are active in Boyne Valley Flavours and Slane Food Circle, as well as being members of Sustainable Travel Ireland and Organic Trust. Rock Farm received an Environmental Award from the Irish Food Writers Guild in 2022.

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