Situated in an international Dark Sky Park, this glamping site makes the absolute most of its incredible night time views with bespoke stargazing pods.
Converting a disused quarry on his father’s land, Michael Quinn has created a star gazer’s heaven with unique pods designed by friend and architect, Chris Quinn. Visitors can walk from the Bronze Age Beaghmore Stone Circles, believed to be the first ever ‘observatory’, to the modern-day version at the OM Dark Sky Park. We talk to Michael.
What’s your back story – your life before glamping?
I lived in Australia for five years working in construction. While there I went glamping, something that wasn’t very popular in Ireland at the time. On returning home I decided I wanted to create a site of my own. I envisioned something unique which offered guests something that they couldn’t get anywhere else. We created Sperrin View Glamping on my father’s land and opened our doors in January 2020.
How did you research the business before entering it?
We did a lot of research by seeing what was out there and what was on offer across Ireland and the UK. We also got a lot of guidance – our local enterprise centre in Cookstown offers advice and guidance for start-up businesses.
Tell us about your location and site
Our glamping site is set in the heart of Mid Ulster on the foothills of the Sperrin Mountains. The area has recently gained international Dark Sky Status. It is located within one of two Dark Sky Parks in Ireland and is the 78th area in the world to be accredited as an International Dark Sky Park.
Each of our glamping pods has its own custom built viewing window which means you can lie in bed and star gaze. We are situated right beside the ancient Beaghmore Stone Circles and just a few miles away from the brand-new OM Dark Sky Park and Observatory in Davagh Forest, where astronomy meets archaeology.
While staying with us guests can also try out the new Solar Walk, which will be opening this summer. Visitors will be able to walk from what is believed to have been the first observatory at Beaghmore Stone Circles, to the modern-day observatory at OM.
The 3.4km Solar Walk will link the observed solar system in the sky with the astronomical solar and lunar alignments at Beaghmore.
How did you tackle planning?
The glamping site is built in a disused quarry. We didn’t encounter too many difficulties.
How did you finance the project?
The project was partly financed by the DAERA, but mainly by myself.
What glamping accommodation do you offer and why did you choose it?
We are open year round and offer four luxury glamping pods plus a communal hub building. The pods all have controlled gas central heating, a private shower and toilet, kitchenette and private outdoor area.
Designed by friend and architect Chris Quinn, each pod has a single triangular window that funnels the view towards the sky from the comfort of the bed. A second day bed makes use of the roof void.
The pods were prefabricated and clad in corrugated metal, each in a different tone to integrate with the surrounding heather. Siberian larch is used for the covered entrance to the rear. Each pod has its own private outdoor space with rocks and native plants. Although not complete, a wildflower meadow will be planted to help soften the surroundings and further integrate the site into the wider landscape.
What occupancy levels and price per night do you achieve?
Our prices start at £110 per night based on two people sharing. Last summer, and since reopening in May, we have achieved 100 per cent occupancy levels, seven nights a week. We are fully booked until October 2021 and have no weekend availability until November.
How did you work out your brand and how do you publicise yourself?
We had a vison of what we wanted our brand to be, however we got another friend, Michael from MJD Designs, on board and his input was extremely helpful. The website is built using WIX and our booking system is a plugin. We get the word out through social media and take 100 per cent of all the money from bookings. We tried Airbnb but we had a problem with the calendar synching.
How would you describe your ethos and unique selling point?
We are a family run business; we like people to feel at home in a relaxed environment which caters for all. We like to make ourselves available at all times should a guest have any questions or queries.
How did you choose your interior decoration?
All our décor and interiors were chosen by ourselves and our very creative family!
What challenges have you faced?
The main challenge has been Covid. We had only been open six weeks when Covid hit and we had to close the site. That was both disheartening and scary, we didn’t know what lay ahead. It has also been a big adjustment entering the hospitality industry as this is something we had never worked in before. However, we are really enjoying the experience and love meeting so many different people.
How have you coped through Covid?
Covid has been difficult, mainly due to the uncertainty it brings, especially within this industry. We were lucky in that our pods were built to be very self-contained and private, therefore families can remain within their own bubble very easily.
What are your plans for next season?
We are working on some new plans for the site and aim to keep building on what we already have. We have recently added hot tubs to two of the pods.
Describe your average day mid-season
Our days vary. We have a wonderful small team behind us who help us keep everything running smoothly. This includes my girlfriend Mairead Doyle.
Do you enjoy the business and why?
We love meeting new people and being able to enjoy a more varied work day than we would have previously.
What are you most proud of?
The uniqueness of our site and the area in which it is situated. It has so many amazing things to offer in such a small radius.
What other outdoor hospitality sectors do you operate in?
At the moment we only offer glamping. Some guests prefer to book out our whole site and use our communal hub as somewhere they can all get together under one roof (restrictions permitting).
What advice could you give to someone coming into the industry?
There is not a lot of down time. If you’re not at work ensuring everything is ready for your next guests, you are responding to emails and queries and preparing things for the next day. You have to be fully committed. At the beginning I certainly didn’t intend this would be my full-time job, however, upon opening in became apparent it had to be!
CQ Architecture www.cq-architects.com
HSJ Joinery www.facebook.com/hsjni
MJD Designs / WIX
Sperrin View Glamping
71 Blackrock Road
Northern Ireland BT80 9PA
028 867 51154