Our fifth wedding anniversary was approaching and, really wanting to go on an adventure, we planned a wild camping trip along the Wild Atlantic Way — a marked route that spans the entire western coast of Ireland. However, seeing as we wouldn’t get a decent night’s sleep for quite some time, we started our trip with a bit of luxury in the grand-daddy of all nomadic shelters — the Mongolian yurt…
In the little-known village of Ballymacoda, Co. Cork, lives Michael Downing (better known as Mickey to his friends) who is the owner of this traditional Mongolian yurt situated in the yard behind his charming country cottage.
With some helpful directions from Mickey (don’t rely on the sat nav — it sent us into someone’s back garden), we arrived at his home in the late afternoon after a long journey from Newport, South Wales. He welcomed us into his home with a glass of wine, a cold beer and a selection of cheese and crackers to replenish us after many hours of driving. So far so good…
With Mickey came the other man of the house — Biggie, Mickey’s aptly named Bernese Mountain Dog — who was a proper gent and helped Mickey show us around the property. Tucked away behind outhouses, another cottage for guests and a smallholding for chickens and ducks was our accommodation for the evening. The yurt itself is a genuine Mongolian yurt — not a tent that’s made to look like a yurt, but an actual Mongolian yurt, like the ones you’ve seen in documentaries!
From the brightly painted doors to the hand-stitched fabric of the outer walls, everything about this yurt screamed authenticity. Mickey explained he didn’t want just another mock-up, he wanted the real deal! Upon closer inspection, you can see how the patterns along the door are all original works of art, filled with subtle imperfections which make the whole place seem so much richer.
In the centre of the yurt was a wood burning stove, and above it, a wooden framed window, giving us a perfect view of the starry night sky. A comfortable settee was set in front of the cosy fire, perfect for relaxing with a good book. On either side of the stove were two large double beds, decked with plenty of colourful cushions, blankets and throws. It took everything within me to resist the beckoning comfort of those multi-coloured pillows.
Scattered throughout the yurt were various works of art which Mickey had collected himself during his travels across the world. Each one was handmade and came with a story of its own, further adding to the magical quality of the place.
There are electrical hook ups hidden away for all your essentials, but you’re probably not going to want to use any tech while staying in this nomadic paradise. Showers, toilets and kitchen were all located in the guest cottage where Mickey had provided everything you’d need for a decent breakfast, including fresh eggs from his own chickens. He’d truly thought of everything.
But Mickey wasn’t finished. He’d saved the best surprise for last. After we’d relaxed and played with Biggie and his two kittens, Flash and Fierce, Mickey took us to the far unseen corner of his property. Hidden under the overhanging branches of an old conker tree was a secret hideout, complete with wood stove, swing, fairy lights and all sorts of beautiful decorations, creating a magical night-time getaway.
We sat there with Mickey for hours, chatting about everything and nothing until the stars began to twinkle between the fire-lit branches above us. He was a fantastic host and exceptional company, making the stay all the more enjoyable and the real reason we dearly wish to stay with him again.
If you’re ever passing through Cork, please stop at Mickey’s. For just £55 a night on Airbnb, you’re not only getting a luxurious stay in an authentic Mongolian yurt, you’re also getting the pleasure of Mickey’s company — a true Irish gent who’s all about the craic.
Words by: Luke Meates
All photography provided by LJM Photography