Silver Strand + Malinbeg Harbour Donegal

©Paul McCambridge 2015 - MAC Visual MediaSilver Strand, Malin Beg, Co Done

©Paul McCambridge – Silver Strand, Malin Beg, Co Donegal

Words Maureen McCoy – Photography Paul McCambridge

On the far western shores of Donegal not far from the great cliffs of Slieve League sits the pretty curve of Silver Strand at Malin Beg, 400m of golden sand beside a small harbour favoured by divers.

Six kilometres from Glencolmcille is the pretty Silver Strand beach at Malin Beg. It is a steep climb down the steps from the car park to the enticing white sands of the horseshoe-shaped Silver Strand at Malin Beg but worth every bit of effort. At approximately 400 metres long and gently shelving waters, this beach provides excellent swimming and set as it is down such a flight of steps, the strand is never crowded. Nestled beneath the grassy headlands it is as close to a perfect beach as you may likely find. Count the steps going down and on the way back up to see if you can get the same number!

The nearby harbour at Malin Beg is rich in sea life, making it popular with divers and snorkelers. The harbour is set in a neat natural cove, making it extremely well sheltered.

Excerpt from Wild Swimming in Ireland – the Book

50 - Donegal - Silverstrand + Malinbeg Harbour 05a Wm

©Paul McCambridge – Silver Strand and Malin Beg Harbour, Co Donegal

 

YULETIDE SWIMS 2015

Newcastle Xmas 11b

CHRISTMAS EVE SWIM at King John’s Pier, Carlingford, Co Louth.

24th December; Register 11.30am, swim starts 12noon.

CHRISTMAS DAY SWIM at Newcastle Harbour, Co Down. Raising funds for Knockevin School Dundrum.

25th December, 11.30am

XMAS MORNING SWIM  at Myrtleville Beach, Cork, 11am.

DARE TO DIP for Cancer Focus NI at Crawfordsburn, Co Down.

Registration £10.

1st January 2016; 11am. http://www.communityni.org/event/dare-dip#.Vnmq0fmLTIU

NEW YEARS DAY DIP at Brown’s Bay, Co Antrim

1st January 2016; 1pm.  http://newyeardip.weebly.com/

NEW YEAR’S DAY SPLASH for mental Health Charity AWARE, Newcastle Beach, Co Down.

1st January 2016: 10.30am

Newcastle Beach near the beach gate entrance to the Slieve Donard Resort and Spa. Access is available from the beach or from the Slieve Donard Resort and Spa

The first 70 people registered will receive a free spa pass for two at the Slieve Donard Resort and Spa or Culloden Estate and Spa (valued at £60)! 

Registration is £10 and that includes an AWARE t-shirt.

www.aware-ni.org/newyearsplash

If you would like to know more about AWARE or about the event please don’t hesitate to contact kieran@aware-ni.org.

Newcastle Xmas 10b

Moville Lighthouse Swim – Co Donegal

Moville Lighthouse Swim (Dolphins included) – Co Donegal

 

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Written by Maureen McCoy

Photography by Paul McCambridge / MAC Visual Media

The sun was shining on lough Foyle as a small crowd gathered at the harbour. Keen long distance swimmers and some completely new to open water were there to brave the sea on the 3rd annual Moville Lighthouse swim – 1.2km out from the harbour, around the lighthouse sitting pretty on its stilts and back to the slipway.

As the 38 swimmers, mostly “skins” (normal swimming togs) with just a few in wet-suits, walked down the slipway to ready themselves for the start of the race, an audience of family and friends cheered them on. Kayaks sat a little way off waiting to guide the swimmers and out near the main channel rescue boats hovered. As the field began to spread a huge container ship sounded its horn as it slipped on down the Foyle.

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190714-Moville swim 168b

190714-Moville swim 164b

The organiser Peadar’s comment before the swim, “Those of you not racing for a fast time, when you get to the lighthouse just take a moment…look back at the scenery” was ringing in my ears as we watched the swimmers finishing and a pod of Dolphins appeared, jumping and riding the wakes of the safety boats.

A spectacular show followed and I was jealous of the lucky devils out there in boats and kayaks with those magnificent creatures showing off around them.

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My apologies now to the swimmers, you did great but the Dolphins stole the show!

Certainly this event will continue to grow in numbers, it’s a beautiful swim, well organised and I am keen to sign up for next year, especially if there is a chance that the dolphins might return and I will be taking a camera with me!

 

Swimmer and spectator quotes

   “Moville Lighthouse Swim completed today. Can’t believe a few months
ago I started swimming. If you had said to me I would have done a
triathlon and an open water event, I would have laughed out loud. To top
off the swim today I was literally swimming with dolphins. Happy Happy
Happy.”

 “Congratulations , another superb event . We are getting bigger and
better each year , the dolphins were a master touch!”

   “…a great swim today.  I had the added bonus of swimming with the
dolphins for part of it. I look forward to next years’ swim.”
 

“Mammy, when will I be old enough to swim around the Lighthouse like them?”  – Comment by 5 year old boy to parent

19th July 2014

 

Christmas Day Dip 2013, Newcastle Co. Down

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Words by Maureen McCoy

Photographs by Paul McCambridge

Cries of “Happy Christmas!” mixed with “I’m cold already and I haven’t even got in yet!” greeted me as I arrived at Newcastle harbour where the crowd in various stages of undress milled about in anticipation.

11.30am Christmas morning, in Santa hats, Christmas dresses and bright swim-suits and all in festive spirit, giggling nervously and rubbing hands, we made our way down the slipway and huddled together for a group photo. The RNLI crew shouted their support from a rib sitting just outside the harbour as around 30 people braved the sea.  Swimming and wading, holding hands and trying to keep hats from falling into the brine, laughs and grimaces against the cold and the age-old calls echoed around the harbour-

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“I can’t feel my hands!”

“My toes hurt!”

And; “Don’t you feel so – ALIVE!” –

Does that feeling of vitality and newness ever wear off?  Seeing the mix of generations, teenagers, parents and grandparents makes me think, no, it mustn’t. It’s why pockets of people all around the country do this daily, weekly, year after year.

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I joined Kathleen and her granddaughters, Rachel and Emma, holding hands as we picked our way over the rocks trying not to stub our toes. When we reached the sand, Emma lifted each foot and pulled off her flip flops, turned and threw them back to the shore. As she did, Rachel leaned forward and started a swift head-up front crawl out towards the buoy, Emma quickly followed. We each swam out around the buoy and back, then met again in the shallows and joined hands to make our way safely out.

Dressed and some hugging hot-water bottles, we squeezed into the RNLI station for tea, coffee and mince pies, a chance to catch up and for organizer Kathleen to thank everyone for raising funds for this years’ charity in aid of Motor Neuron Disease. Soon we parted, with cheeks glowing, to head home for the rest of the days’ festivities. A lovely start to Christmas Day!

https://mapsengine.google.com/map/edit?mid=zDJSgtJazNy8.k0eHJBPSQHO8

North Channel Record Broken – Time 9:34:39

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North Channel Record and Oceans 7 Success for Michelle Macy – 15th July 2013
Words by Maureen McCoy
Photography by Paul McCambridge
Michelle Macy, the second female to conclude the Oceans Seven series of open water swims, did so in great style by finishing her final swim, the North Channel, in the record time of 9 hours 34 minutes and 39 seconds.
Just one week after first lady, Anna-Carin Nordin of Sweden, swam into the history books, Minnesota born Michelle was hot on her heels and finished the series also breaking Alison Streeter’s North Channel record, unbeaten for 25 years.
At 4.30 am on Monday 15th July 2013, Michelle and her crew met at Donaghadee harbour ready to load onto the ‘Guy and Clare Hunter’, a refurbished lifeboat piloted by Quinton Nelson. Via radio the Coastguard wished “Best of luck to the swimmer” as we motored round to Robby’s Point. In the grey-blue light just before the sun rose Michelle climbed onto the rocks, raised her arm signalling she was ready and at 5.00am, just as the red orb of the sun crept over the horizon, began to swim towards Scotland. With her toe-nails painted in a new green varnish – “Resolution” Michelle was off. In the first 40 minutes speedy Michelle had covered 2.3 miles and after an hour took her first feed, a warm energy drink, from here on she would stop every 30 minutes.
At 5 miles out, a seal popped his head up, he returned often during the swim, earning himself the nick name of ‘Curious George’, intrigued but keeping a cautious distance. Accompanied by kayaker, Conleth McCambridge to help guide her course in the chilly 13C water, Michelle soon encountered the North Channels renowned moon and lions-mane jellyfish. By 6.30 am Michelle had a lot of Lions-mane stings but, “My skin’s so cold I can’t feel them.” The hours went by with Michelle’s consistent stroke a steady metronome as each hand entered the water.
Nike endorsement??
3 ½ hours into the swim and bizarrely a lone Nike football drifted past “How random!” said Nike employee Michelle as the ball was rescued by the kayaker, a good luck charm perhaps? At each feed Erin, friend and training partner, would don various silly hats and wigs to keep Michelle’s spirits up Large laminated photos of friends back home were held out to remind her how much she was being supported. 4 hours 42 minutes into the swim and we had crossed the half-way point, now officially in Scottish fishing waters, “That’s the easy half done.” said pilot Quinton, “the push into Scotland is the hardest part of the swim”.  Michelle was getting colder and suffering more jellyfish stings but holding her pace and in the calm conditions with just a gentle swell, making good progress. By 12 noon, Quinton had the record in his sights and said, “If she can pick it up for 2 hours, we could have this swim finished.” Earlier quips about lunch in Portpatrick suddenly seemed within grasp. Michelle was asked to pick up her pace, “I’m doing the best I can! I’m not sure if it’s the cold or the stings but I can’t feel much.” By 1 o’clock tension was mounting, Michelle was looking strong but all were aware of how difficult the last couple of miles at the Scottish coast can be and with the tide bearing us south we held our hopes that she would get the record time. When asked for another hours push Michelle said “An hour is all I have.” We’ll have it then please.
At 1.22pm Michelle swam face first into a jellyfish, stopping abruptly she let out an angry shout and slapped the water with two hands – on the support boat we weren’t sure if it was jellies or frustration but, “If she’s got the energy to shout and slap she’s got the energy to get this finished fast!” was Erin’s comment. At 2 o’clock we gave Michelle the news that the record was in her grasp – this would her last feed – it was time to get this done.
After 9 hours 34 minutes and 39 seconds, Michelle climbed out of the sea at the cliffs just south of Portpatrick and finished the North Channel and her Oceans 7 quest.
150713-Swimmer Michelle Macy 11c
We motored into Portpatrick harbour and Michelle was able to get a hot shower, when asked was she doing okay, she called, “I’m going to stay in here for 9 hours and 34 minutes!”
ILDSA President and Vice President Billy Wallace and Sheena Paterson arrived at Donaghadee as we unloaded the boat to congratulate North Channel record breaker and Oceans 7 swimmer, Michelle.
Well done Michelle, it was a pleasure to be observer for you on a super swim and I look forward to Alaska!
Maureen
Read about Michelle’s paddle in Blue Lough
ILDSA President Billy Wallace, ILDSA Observer Maureen McCoy, Michelle Macy and Vice President Sheena Paterson
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THE “SLOUGH” – DUNSEVERICK – NORTH ANTRIM COAST

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Words by Maureen McCoy

Photography By Paul McCambridge

Early evening and nearing the end of a super day exploring the North Coast, the weather was glorious, the warmest day we’d had in weeks.  The evening sun lit up the grassy field as we parked the car on the roadside behind many other cars and climbed over the stile to follow the path down to the Slough.

On the far side of the inlet, nestled on the small patches of sand between large rocks were a couple of extended family groups, with children ranging in ages from a very vocal two year old to teenage.  With wind-breaks pegged into the sand and folding chairs set up, they had been there for the whole day.  Another family picked their way across the rocks, barefoot and in wetsuits to jump from the lower ledges, gaining confidence to later try the high rocks on the opposite side.

As we got closer and the whole of the Slough came into view, a bright pink li-lo starkly contrasted with the teal-green deep water.  Drifting on this was young man, long hair tied back calling instructions to his friends on the rocks.  Another then threw down a large rubber ring and took a great leap from on high to land in the centre.  We all laughed and clapped at his display.

Kealan and I headed to these high rocks.  Kealan jumped first and as I stepped forward I felt a twinge of nerves.  My cautious nature made me hesitate and assess the depth, judge the distance I would need to jump out to clear the rock walls and my heart beat faster as I realised there was no turning back.  3-2-1- jump!  I think I might have squealed a little!  My feet hit the water and I pulled my arms in close to my body, as soon as I was underwater I opened my arms and used a breast stroke kick to stop myself from hitting the bottom.  I needn’t have bothered, wearing my wetsuit I was so buoyant that I popped up again like a cork and bobbed about in the gentle ebb and flow of the inlet.  Barefoot I climbed back up the rocks for a second go.  Then it was time to lose the wetsuit.  The black rocks were warm with the sun beating on them all day and after a few more jumps, and Kealan somersaulting a couple of times, I felt a dive was in order.  Nothing spectacular, just a clean straight dive, start low and work up to one of the higher rocks.

I tested myself on a low rock, ever cautious of the depth, and executed a passable straight dive, next step, a little higher.  The higher I went the more respect I felt for cliff divers, I would never be brave enough for that.  A couple more dives and then I thought I should quit while I was ahead and embarrassment free, maybe with some diving practice I’ll return brave enough to resurrect my somersault, I don’t promise anything though.

I warmed myself on the black rocks as the groups of people began to disperse and we agreed that a long days swimming and exploring now warranted a good feed, the evening sun still strong as we dressed.

Slough at Dunseverick

A lovely inlet with varying levels to plunge from which should satisfy most age ranges.

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PORTMUCK Island Magee Co Antrim

©Paul McCambridge - Portmuck 14b

 

Words by Maureen McCoy

Photography by Paul McCambridge

When an acquaintance told me of her “mad Aunt” who swims in the sea every day I simply had to meet this like-minded soul.  A phone-call later and I met Maureen the following week.

Mo lives in Jordanstown and swims daily throughout the year, her summer months she spends on Island Magee in a beautiful cottage looking down onto Portmuck harbour.  The view is stunning with the small, old-fashioned harbour built into a natural cove, cliffs protecting it on each side.  Seeing this rugged shoreline with the harbour wall curving out into the sheltered cove, my heart rose.

Mo was waiting for us in the car park, a retired teacher, she oozed life and vitality.

It seems many of the people who own holiday cottages here have spent their summers since childhood at Island Magee so there is a great family atmosphere.  Mo’s son and a friend had, on the previous weekend, raised over ten thousand pounds for Cancer Research, jumping from the harbour wall every hour on the hour, in fancy dress.

We stripped to our swimsuits and walked down the slipway into the cold water.  Swimming a gentle breast-stroke out past the wall where two fishermen wished us good morning – I felt transported back in time to the 30’s, a more simple life were the daily constitutional would have been a pleasant swim like this.

We swam across the bay towards the White Cliffs, an un-concerned Oystercatcher and some Cormorants bobbed along, ignoring us.

The water felt silky as it glided over my skin, the shock of cold had worn off.  I felt connected to the landscape, submerged in it, listening to the sensations of my body, the air and the water touching my skin, the slight movement of the sea hinting the strength in the tide that the calm surface belied.

The sun glinted on the surface as we retraced our course back into the harbour, the shallower water was a little warmer.  We dressed and went back to Mo’s cottage where we sipped tea and nibbled buttered Barmbrack in front of a log fire.

I finally had to leave this idyll and made my way toward home with the promise to return, very soon.

Portmuck Harbour is well sheltered and provides a beautiful swimming area but be aware of strong tides outside the harbour and around Pig Island where it is not recommended to swim.

Millisle Sea Pool, Co Down

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Arriving at the beach car park, I followed the drive on round to the sea pool.  A lovely, old-style open pool with a low wall snaking around, separating the bathing area from the open sea.   Along this wall, I met some children fishing for crabs, keen to show me their bounty and explain their successful fishing technique.  Red Belly crabs they informed me, and looking closely at the patterns on their shells, I saw how intricate and pretty they could be.

From the sea wall behind, two older boys were jumping into the clear waters, although with the tide on its way out, play was soon halted.  The boys then joined the group at the pool and I was given the task of judging their dives. 

Then it was my turn to brave the water, a little warmer than the open sea, with clear water and a sandy floor.  The climb out onto the wall for diving was not my most elegant moment with the steep sides slippery, and no little concern for whether the local crabs would take a fancy to my toes!  Clearly not, as I had no more encounters with the creatures until the boys were finished fishing and threw the whole bucketful back into the pool! 

The pool has a clean sandy beach area and shelves very gently, giving a large, safe bathing area, ideal for families.  At the seaward, right corner, the pool is at its deepest, and when the tide is in, deep enough to dive.  The pool stretches approximately 100m along this wall, allowing swimmers ample room to stretch out and enjoy.

Well used by locals and holidaymakers alike, small children playing in the shallows, running in and out, older youths exploring the deeper areas, floating in inflatable dingies and playing on body boards, and the first group I met catching crabs and even the odd small dogfish, showing the life in the pool is abundant.

Houses behind the pool area enjoy the double benefits of easy access from their back gardens and a fabulous view over the swimming area and then on out to sea.

Millisle, in 2010, was awarded the Seaside Award for bathing quality and facilities and as well as this great pool area, there is a long strand with good bathing off the beach itself.

NEWCASTLE HARBOUR, CO DOWN

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Drive through Newcastle and out to the harbour any weekend, and around high tide you are sure to find swimmers and divers enjoying themselves.  There seems to be a dedicated group who swim here through the summer months and a few who swim all year round.

The slipway at the side of the harbour wall is the preferred entry point, and it is a short swim out to the marker buoy and back.  Feeling we would like a longer swim, Paula and I headed on out, past the harbour mouth and swam down the coast.

Looking up at the steep sides of Slieve Donard, Paula pointed out the row of small cottages known as “Widows Row”.  These were built for the widows of fishermen who died at sea.  Instead of these women being thrown out of their homes after such a tragedy, they would be able to live out their days in one of the cottages looking out to sea.

We swam on a little past the far marker buoy then retraced our course back towards the harbour where the kids, and some adults, were having a great time jumping and diving from the harbour wall.

It was lovely to see that there are many people around the country still swimming in the sea for pure pleasure and entertainment, bringing their children along too so that the future generations continue the trend.

Each year, around mid-August, the Harbour Charity Swim is run.  On a Monday evening, swimmers will start at the Rock Pool and swim to the Harbour wall and back.  This is a popular local event, and added to this, the Rock Pool opens during the summer months, with an evening swim on Thursdays.

It felt nice to back at the open-air pool, where I first trained as a Swimming Teacher.

Words By Maureen McCoy

Photography By Paul McCambridge