Benderg Bay, Lecale Way, Co Down

©Paul McCambridge 2015 - MAC Visual MediaBenderg Bay, Lecale Way, Co Down

Benderg Bay, Lecale Way, Co Down

Words by Maureen McCoy, photography by Paul McCambridge                                      

Walk through the grasslands of Killard Nature Reserve to the beautiful Benderg Beach, home to sand martins and seals. Perfect to spend a sunny day swimming, picnicking and investigating the rock pools.

This superb strand stretching just over half a kilometre from the rocks of Killard Point to the sand cliffs and farmland which separate Benderg from its more popular neighbour Ballyhornan Beach.

You may see seals lounging at Mill Quarter Bay, where the strength of Strangford Lough’s tidal run creates whirlpools. This is not the place to swim, leave it to the seals. A twenty-minute walk from here through the orchid-filled grasslands of the nature reserve leads to the Beach. Tucked out of the way of Strangford’s powerful tidal race here you can swim in crystal-clear shallow waters as sand martins swoop from the cliffs across the bay.

©Paul McCambridge 2015 - MAC Visual MediaBenderg Bay, Lecale Way, Co Down

©Paul McCambridge 2015 – MAC Visual Media Benderg Bay, Lecale Way, Co Down

Getting there: take the A2 Shore Road out of Strangford. At Kilclief veer left towards Mill Quarter Bay. Park at the roadside lay-by from where signs point to the track leading into Killard Nature Reserve. Follow the path past the mouth of Strangford Lough. The rough track cuts through the grassland to Benderg Bay Beach. Roadside parking, no facilities, twenty-minute walk to beach.

Excerpt from Wild Swimming in Ireland 2016

Scenic walk / family friendly / secluded / snorkelling / rock pools / adventure swim /

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Bloody Bridge River Rock Pools

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Words by Maureen McCoy

Photography by Paul McCambridge

“You don’t actually get in and swim, do you?” This is often the incredulous question we are asked when we inform others of our intentions to venture out for a winter swim. Quickly followed by exaggerated shivers and a look that relays considerable concern for our mental stability, you know that look. If you’re the swimmer, you’ve received it and if you’ve not yet tried a REALLY cold swim, then you’ve probably given it to someone who has. Check the mirror, it may be on your face now…
Still, if you’re reading this, you’re curious – Yes, it hurts. Yes, it takes ones’ breath away and yes, it IS amazing. Your skin tingles, the sharp intake of breath as you enter the water, the thoughts that you can’t do it and then the realization that you can and, what’s more, you are going to. Okay, so it’s pride that takes over, someone else has gone first, you can’t turn back now and lose face, so you grit your teeth, clench and unclench your hands take a deep breath and… wait… just another moments’ preparation, delay, before the inevitable.
Shocking cold wraps your neck, pain cuts across your cheeks and every muscle in your back tightens. But as you try a few fast, uneven strokes you find that you can cope, those tight muscles may protest but they don’t tear, when you lift your face out of the water the pain in your sinuses eases and you feel the first flush of euphoria.
You tell yourself, “Next time I’ll get straight in, none of this faffing and going slowly, it doesn’t make it any warmer!”
I tell myself this every time, yet every time I go through the same routine! Still, I love it!

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