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 /

Grid ref:J 60722 43067

 

LECALE WAY INLET Ballyhornan

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From the beach car park at Ballyhornan, I followed the way-marked path, the Lecale Way, south. This section of the path follows Rocks Road along the shore to a gate and stile.  Here the path becomes a grassy track, not a route for flip-flops, I might add.

Each rocky outcrop revealed another small cove, waiting for families to come and paddle, dip, swim and explore.  Follow the path on and the shore becomes steeper and craggier.

After a good half hour walking, the path moves up high along the cliff, and as it takes a great sweep around, there is a spectacular inlet – deep and clear green waters with high rocks either side.  At first I thought it was only accessible by boat, but on closer inspection, I found that one could walk down the grassy bank then climb down the rocks to get close to the waters edge.

The sunlight shining on the deep green water, the pale barnacle covered rocks stretching down into those depths, beckoned me in.  Looking out across the Irish Sea, I could see the hazy outline of the Scottish coast as I quietly explored this emerald inlet, perfect for jumping and diving.

A spot that has all the excitement of a great wild swim, a good walk to reach it, followed by a rock climb – then the treasure found – the swim!

Words By Maureen McCoy

Photography By Paul McCambridge

A word of caution, first establish where to climb out again before you take the leap! 

Remember, the water level will change as the tide moves in and out, so keep an eye on your exit route.

From Ballyhornan carpark , follow the signs for the Coastal path, Lecale Way, enjoy the views as the path climbs higher over the rocky coastline.  On a calm day you will see the inlet, clear green from the path high above.

On a rough day, this inlet churns like a washing machine.

Always ensure you have a clear exit from the water

Philips Street Atlas          Co Armagh + Co Down   pg 110   C1        (Benboy Hill)