Dreams of life on the road fuels booming Irish camper van industry

It’s not where you expect to find a company so busy there’s a 3-year waiting list for customers.

But tucked away behind the hawthorns and wild roses, down the sleepiest of lanes in County Mayo, Ireland, is a two-man hive of industry.

There’s a workshop jumbled with tools and sawdust and in the middle is the kind of white van your plumber might drive. But slide back the door and it’s like entering Narnia.

Somehow, in a space no bigger than a pool table, is a tiny home.

Enda's van conversion business is booming. Credit: ITV

There’s a spectacularly comfy double bed, with a loo folded away beneath it, a handcrafted, tiled kitchen complete with hob, sink and fridge, phone chargers and sockets, skylights and reading lamps, even a vintage armchair.

It’s a production line of sorts, but each vehicle takes months to convert and no two are the same.

The man behind the vans is Enda. He’s a softly spoken millennial who used to have an IT job in Dublin but started the business after converting an old ambulance and falling in love with the process.

Van conversions are becoming increasingly popular Credit: ITV

As decisions go, it was a good one. Months of lockdown have fuelled people’s wanderlust and over just 12 months the number of camper vans in Ireland has reached record levels.

Winding our way past the stunning beaches and hidden lochs of County Mayo, we meet retirees, young families and professional spending all or some of their time on the road.

Everyone talks of the huge sense of freedom they feel and how little they need in their tiny travelling homes.

People are willing to sacrifice living space to be able to live wherever they want. Credit: ITV

But this seductively simple lifestyle isn’t without its complications.

So popular has vanlife become that its started to threaten some of the stunning wilderness it relies on.

Some campers take every care to leave no trace of their presence.

The influx of people living in vans has put strain on some of Ireland's ecosystems Credit: ITV

But on pristine beaches we see clusters of camper vans parked up on fragile dunes. We hear from environmentalists worried the basic facilities needed to protect the landscape from rubbish and human waste haven’t kept up with the boom. 

It’s a tricky equation. Who, after the months we spent trapped in our homes, would begrudge anyone the chance to wake up somewhere new every morning?

But who will ensure these ancient landscapes are protected for future generations too?

You can watch On Assignment on Tuesday September 28 at 10.45pm on ITV and afterwards on the ITV Hub.