Words By Maureen McCoy
Photography By Paul McCambridge
The sun was high as we arrived mid-day at Larrybane Bay, Paul, his son Kealan and I. As we walked down the path and got our first view of the bay my breath was almost taken away. The white cliffs, reminiscent of Dover, then the rocky shoreline similar to a Croatian coast and the tall grass-topped and sheer cliff islands rising out of the sea, like something straight out of a movie shot in Thailand. Who would believe we had such a place in Ireland.
The bay curves around providing a great coastal scramble with caves breaking up the tall white cliffs and in places the most perfect white rounded pebbles you could ever hope to find. Wading out into the shallow bay though, the rocks give way to a clear sandy floor.
We struck out on the one kilometre swim straight across to Carrick-a-rede Island. Looking down through the emerald green water to the sand deep below unbroken by any sea-weed or rocks, I felt I could be in any exotic location in the world. The tide, still on its way out left shallow water under the bridge, so shallow that we could walk through. Occasionally dipping into deeper patches as we waded under, it felt like walking through a fair-ground fun house, up, then down, then up again. As the water got deeper again we swam on between the towering cliffs of the island and the shore, people high above us carefully picking their way across the rope bridge.
As I rounded the corner it seemed I was swimming into the “Lost World” with great Jurassic black cliffs soaring above. Exploring these rocks and the clear water below was a joy and we spent a long time breast-stroking and gazing up, almost expectant of a prehistoric creature to swoop down at any moment.
The tiny Fisherman’s cottage on the island had a fresh coat of white-wash and the steep steps leading down to the waters edge with the old winch broken and rusting, showed the remnants of the old Salmon Fishery here in times past. The sun was still strong as we made our way back under the bridge and out across Larry Bane Bay for that second kilometre swim back through those emerald waters.
A good two kilometre round trip for the strong and confident swimmer.
Follow the signs to Carrick-a-rede Rope Bridge, a National Trust site, which is worth a visit to cross the Bridge and get an impressive view of the coastal cliffs from the island.
From the car park, follow the road down to the overspill car park in the Quarry. Here you can park and follow the track on foot to the shore.
This is an advanced swim for the experienced open water swimmer. Although not difficult it requires knowledge of the swimmers limitations and of the local tides.
It is wise to avoid the bay on the Sheep Island side of Larry Bane as here the currents are much stronger and the eddies and tides can be powerful.