For some (ahem… me) getting to and from concerts as we have “matured” has become more of a concern. On my first trip to Slane Castle (1995: REM), I am not entirely sure how I got there or home, while my last trip (2011: Kings of Leon), was orchestrated with precision. Now while I can’t see myself at the next one (2023: Harry Styles), perhaps the one after that will see me back staying in Rock Farm again, a glamping site with an authentic festival feel.
Owners, Carina and Alex Mount Charles (Conyngham) founded Rock Farm Slane in 2010 (no concert) when they took over from Alex’s father Lord Henry Mount Charles at “The Rock”. Twelve years later, the farm is converted to organic, there is a myriad of sleeping options, a farmers market and a venue to get married or hold one hell of a party in.
The farm manager, Luciano Diez, grew up on a mixed livestock, dairy and pig farm near Madrid and came to work for the Conynghams for “a short experience to learn English” but never left. That was 11 years ago and while the concerts remain the “main thing”, Luciano details how the farm is now a key part of the offering.
The hay barn was the first building converted; to host weddings and parties and now a farmers market. And when Harry Styles takes to the stage next summer, 300 people will sleep in this same barn for the two nights.
All organic, it is a working farm with 48 head of Dexter cattle, chosen for their Irish heritage, small size and meat quality. Tamworth pigs range free in large stony paddocks with chickens and turkeys completing the menagerie.
Luciano took on the project from the beginning. He explains; “We started planting trees, built the Lime House and then added the glamping in 2013 [Bon Jovi and Eminem]. Our orchard is different in that the trees have 25 metres space between the lines. We can still sow cereals in the middle and use our harvester. Being organic we can’t use any pesticides so the idea is that caterpillars or greenflies in one line of trees will find it difficult to pass to the next line. This works, but the problem, we realised after, is with deer, hares and rabbits because they eat the trees and this [set-up] is very difficult to fence”.
Producing organic pigs, Luciano says is “difficult as people don’t want to pay the price. With cows, here in Ireland, organic and not organic, they are eating grass, it’s almost the same but the problem with pigs is the feed, it is very expensive. Only some people appreciate the difference. We make some money because we process and sell direct but it’s difficult”.
Luciano is concerned about the risk they have taken to grow turkeys again this year because the price of inputs he says is up 40% and they have no idea if they will be able to recoup that in the price.
During the pandemic, with events cancelled, the shed again changed use to a farmers market.
“We started with a small honesty box near the road but then we started to sell a lot of products. We thought ‘we need to do something better’ so after that we opened the farmers market. In COVID, there were a lot of people coming, some from as far as Dublin, as with all the space we could accommodate social distancing inside and outside,” Luciano says of the early days.
Sleeping 24, the lime house was opened in 2015 (Foo Fighters). The house is so named as in its grounds is a lime kiln. Limestone was brought from the neighbouring two fields, “Upper Lime” and “Lower Lime”, heated in the oven and used in the building of the estate and fertilization of the farm. It is self-catering and has its own BBQ area and pizza oven.
As you walk past the trees and the Dexters and into the open fields, not only do yurts and shepherd’s huts come into view but also Slane Castle itself. The whole area has a real festival groovy vibe; picture frames swing from low hanging tree branches, a perfect way to capture the wedding couple while children run around barefoot and carefree. The bales on which the guests sat at the previous day’s wedding are already stored away ready for the next event, under the sail marquee. The bride and groom, not willing to leave just yet, wait for the outdoor hot tub to heat up as we meander past on route to the bell tent village, our own accommodation for the night.
My girls and I stayed in the Dexter bell tent, which had a big double bed and two singles. While spacious and comfortable, it was a long time since I slept in a tent (2009: Oasis) so I was glad of my head torch and the slipper socks as we headed in the dark to the bonfire with our bag of marshmallows. For proper food, the farmers market provided a tempting variety of the aforementioned BBQ meats. Eggs are available from an honesty box at reception as well as a range of products from the producers of the Slane Food Circle.
Further accommodation is available in the river house and the swallow’s nest; the latter being a straw bale cabin near the natural swimming pool. It took practically no convincing for the kids to run headlong into the cool fresh water and for this reason I was grateful for the powerful hot showers back at the glamping.
After a stroll to the village and a reminiscing trip to the castle, now home to an impressive distillery, we completed our adventure kayaking with Boyne Voyage. Owner and guide David Buckley was as easy going as you will get. We were challenged to a bit of fast flowing water, then glided gently past the castle and into the village of Slane before bouncing back to the farm in the back of a trailer.
I missed Metallica (2019) but I hope that perhaps 2025, my 30 year anniversary will see me sitting on the Slane slope again.
Details & bookings
Bell tent €170, 2 nights/4 pax. Kayaking: adults €39, child €29 for 2 hours.