Hi, just literally returned from an overnight camping trip to Drum Manor which turned out to be a complete nightmare. My kids - daughter 8 and son 4 had been begging to go camping for months, so we bought a nice new tent, all the equipment and let them have a look at campsites in Northern Ireland online. Everyone agreed that, at an hour or so drive away, Drum Manor looked good.
We got to the campsite on Saturday at around 3PM to find that there were no staff on site and after asking a few other campers and caravanners were told the forest ranger would normally call round later and could be paid then and were given directions to the Tent area.
When we got there it was basically a field but had a couple of other families with children there and as such thought OK. We did have to spend a little time clearing the area of where we intended to pitch, as there were the remnants of broken bottles about, but put this down to previous careless campers - also noticeable were several scorched areas were campfires had been lit but thought this was maybe relatively normal and campfires were allowed (in a forest?)
Everything was fine until around 7PM when a couple of car loads of girls in their early 20's arrived but again they seemed reasonably quiet and said hello etc. any time we passed. By around 1030 several other cars had arrived but again no real problems reasonably quiet with people enjoying a quiet drink on a warm evening.
However by midnight things had started to get noisy with more and more cars of youths arriving and by 1 in the morning, we were being treated to fireworks, screaming at least 3 campfires and what appeared to be a competition between at least 4 cars to see who had the loudest speaker system - at this point, there had to be at least 15-20 males aged approx 15-25, drunk out of their minds and shouting, screaming all over the site - not just the tent area but all around the entire site.
This continued until around 6AM when some cars left and a few stayed behind and slept in their cars or a couple of pop-up tents.
By 930am Sunday they had left - we were later informed that they had brought chains and padlocks and after having someone who was staying "legitimately" on the site open the gates, they then chained and padlocked them with their own locks - presumably to prevent the police gaining quick access - so it would appear than more than alcohol was being used. Apart from the obvious concerns this raises with regard to any medical emergency requiring fire/ paramedics, it also shows the site is 100% unmanned overnight without even a passing police visit.
We were told this morning that this is not an uncommon occurrence with gangs of youths from the local Cookstown area arriving at this site and using it as a party venue, knowing full well that they will not be approached by campers due to their numbers and the fact the site is unmanned with NO Security or CCTV and that campers are left to do what they want.
They arrive late and leave early thus avoiding paying and by padlocking gates make sure that even the forest ranger has difficulty accessing the site.
I think this site is a complete disgrace and that both the local authorities and Forestry commission should be ashamed to promote this as any sort of location for families to stay. Incidentally the "well equipped Toilet & Shower facilities" were reminiscent of what you would expect in an inner city unmanned public toilet with a heavy smell of urine and excrement with toilet rolls pulled of walls and lying in puddles of urine on the floor (probaly due to the youths but with no staff on site from lunchtime Saturday to Sunday morning, who knows?).
Avoid this place at all costs if traveling with children or if you just fancy a relaxing camping or caravanning trip - whilst I am sure there have been many people lucky enough to have not experienced the behavior we did - we were not the first and were told we would not be the last as the forestry commission and local authorities do not seem to want to address the problem and there are no plans to make this a managed, manned site or to introduce any form of security or safety for anyone staying there.
Caravan / Campsite name (if applicable) .......... Drum Manor Forest Park Caravan Site