CURSED LAKE – Slieve Gullion,

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Words by Maureen McCoy

Photography by Paul McCambridge

To dip in the legendary waters of a volcano crater, famed for a curse on the giant, Finn McCool, was too good an opportunity to pass by, so on a warm, sunny day we drove to Slieve Gullion Forest Park, Armagh. A track led us up the mountain and during the 45 minute walk to the summit we passed a stone shelter and read of ancient tombs and the legend of the lake itself.

Arriving at the trig point, to our left lay the small Lough, the sun was shining and with the Lough reflecting the blue sky, it looked like a scene from a Dali painting.

A grey haired man suddenly appeared from the other side of the hill, taking his daily walk, saw that we intended to swim and warned us of the curse…

…when the great, Finn McCool came to the Lough, he saw a beautiful woman there who enticed him into the waters, he bathed but, having entered the water as the strong giant of legend, he emerged reduced to a weak old man with all his hair turned to white!  The beautiful woman was a Witch who had cursed the Lough stealing the great Giants’ strength and power.

 

It took him years of searching but finally Finn found a good Witch who was able to restore his youth, strength and vitality, but his hair remained forever white.

Despite this warning we ventured in, and found, quite unnervingly, our skin took on a blood-red hue in the peaty water, this must keep the story of the Curse alive!

We lay on the water and sculled our way towards the centre, but the Lough is very shallow and floored with peaty silt, easily disturbed and quickly turning the water black, so not good for swimming, although a quick dip on a hot day is refreshing, you will spend more time wiping the silt from your body after!

Perhaps just to sit on a rock and cool ones feet, is enough.

Still, to dip in the blood-red waters of a volcano crater in Ireland was an experience!

Philips Street Atlas, Co Armagh, pg 140, E5

 

Slieve Gullion Forest park, Armagh, drive along the forest road and park at the side of the track. The walk took around 45 mins from the start of the track to the trig point.

 

https://mapsengine.google.com/map/edit?mid=zDJSgtJazNy8.k7CY5rJeUTiE

 

BLUE LOUGH – Mournes, Co Down

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Words by Maureen McCoy

Photography by Paul McCambridge

Nestled in the centre of the Mournes Annalong valley, the Blue Lough is well-known to hill walkers and provides a lovely, cool dip after a hard days walking. I have often waded into this pretty Lough on a hot day, a favourite after climbing Slieve Binnian, walking along the tors and then the fast descent getting hot, and ready for a breath-taking dip in the fresh water!

On a hot day in July I brought Michelle and Erin up to this spot and after around thirty minutes of walking we rounded the Percy Bysshe and they had their first glimpse of the lough, surrounded by purple heather and tufts of Bog Cotton, the dark peaty water reflected the blue sky and clouds above.

We quickly discarded our walking shoes, stripped to our swimsuits and picked our way through the stones at the edge to drop down into the cool water, refreshing our hot faces and cooling our limbs. The scene was peaceful and quiet as we explored the lough, gazing up at Lamagan slabs to one side and Slieve Binnian on the other. We spent a good few hours in this lazy mood, climbing out to dry off in the hot sun, followed by another dip in the lough each time we got too warm.

Although easy to get to and a suitable walk for most families, one gets the sense of being right in the centre of the mountains, miles from civilisation.

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Down time for Michelle

Blue Lough     Annalong Valley         Mournes          Co Down

Blue Lough is situated above the Annalong Valley, between Lamagan Slabs and the North Tor of Slieve Binnian.  The route to the Lough is an easy walk from Carrick Little car park.  Follow the path alongside Annalong Wood, soon you will cross the river and the path rises up, passing Percy Bysshe you will see the small Lough straight ahead. 

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Darragh and Conleth enjoying one of the hottest days in the summer of 2010

MAGHERY TO CONEY ISLAND Co Armagh

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Words By Maureen McCoy
Photography By Paul McCambridge
 
As I stand here in the warm sunlight on a sunny day in May, I look out across Maghery Bay to Coney Island. The sun glints on the waters’ surface as I slide in and catch my breath as the cold water folds around me, the warm sun belying the fact that the water has not yet warmed this early in May and I take a moment to acclimatize to the chill.  The soft peaty water of the lough takes me back to swimming as a child a little further along the shore, at my grand-parents farm in Co Tyrone. I am reminded of the adventures my brothers and I had, swimming, canoeing and camping out on our own small island, taking over the hide used for duck shooting in season, and imagining ourselves far away from the civilized world.
 
To the right of the slipway, two markers approximately 150 metres out warn boats of the shallow water, beyond these markers it quickly gets very deep.  The bay is sheltered out to Coney Island which sits 1 kilometre away as the crow flies and makes a pleasant swim for the strong and confident swimmer, however the far side of the island is exposed to the greater lough and is subject to the eddies and currents lough Neagh is renowned for.
 
Here at Maghery Country and Caravan Park – at which there are no longer any caravans and only the occasional wild camper – a slipway flanked by wooden boardwalks gives easy access.  A noticeboard maps the Blackwater canoe trail and the canal leading to the Blackwater river is to the right of the slipway.  A little further down the laneway one may take the footbridge across the Blackwater and step into County Tyrone.
 
Living year round on the Island, Peter the caretaker, has a wealth of knowledge of the rich history, flora and fauna. Peter gives guided tours by prior arrangement through Kinnego Marina.
 
Take a dry-bag with warm clothes and sandals for a great day out, swim to the island then take a walk around the paths leading you to the Anglo/Norman motte from 13C, the 16C O’Neills Tower and the stone at which St Patrick rested during his travels. Just leave yourself good time to swim back again. 
 
Be aware that at times jet skiers use this jetty too and make yourself clearly visible.

LOUGH ESKRAGH Dungannon

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A NOVICE EYE VIEW

Words by Maureen McCoy

Photography By Paul McCambridge

The scene was of a calm lake, a small slipway flanked by two wooden jetties and the evening sun dancing on the water’s surface. Off to the right, tall reeds stood to attention, directly ahead lay a large marker buoy.  This was the venue early that last day of May for both a double and single Ironman event and now a sprint triathlon, organised by the Trilimits Club. A growing group of triathletes were gathering.

Joanne and Julie, cyclists used to mountain and road biking, decided to take part in the sprint distance triathlon, the influence of an evening’s discussion over a bottle of wine possibly being a factor in their decision.  Having made the commitment, they went on the hunt each to borrow a wetsuit.  With some rudimentary advice on how to get out of the wetsuits and encouraged with the knowledge of the extra buoyancy the wetsuits would provide, the girls looked forward to the event. 

Neither of them label themselves swimmers. Julie’s last swim was two years ago in the Big Splash sprint triathlon and Joanne tried to remember her last swim – perhaps she was around 10 years old in the old Lisburn pool, which closed in 1999. The girls were facing their first open water challenge of the season with mixed feelings of excitement and trepidation.

Before the swim Julie said: “I think the fear of the open water will make me complete the swim, to do 750m in a pool, well I couldn’t, but this way I HAVE to finish. My main objective is to stay clear of the other swimmers and I will probably use every stroke, front crawl, back crawl and my own made-up strokes to get through it!”

Joanne, also looking forward to the event, said “I’m excited about this new challenge, I enjoy doing something different – THIS is something different for me!”

Before the event the nerves began to kick in, where to rack the bikes? Should they lay out a towel to dry their feet? And how to get into those wetsuits! Suffice to say in all the excitement Julie, having rushed to don her wetsuit, had to try again. This time the right way round. All fixed and ready to go, they followed the crowd into the water.  With a final few tips and words of encouragement, the whistle blew and the swim began.

Allowing the other swimmers to strike out first gave Julie and Joanne space to settle into their swim and, as they predicted, they used a variety of strokes throughout.  Joanne was probably not the most encouraging to her buddy by laughing when Julie’s occasional bouts of back crawl caused her to veer off course.  When she looked around, she was a little disorientated, had someone moved those pesky buoys?

Two laps of the course and both girls were still smiling as they exited the water. In their minds the hardest part of the race was done, now for the bike and run.

How did they feel after the event? Joanne said,

I enjoyed the swim – it seems like a long time ago now already. I was really struggling to breathe at the start, due to a cold I’ve had, so I just decided to take it easy, as not completing the swim (or the whole event) was not an option to me!

It was really nice to be out in the water with the sun starting to go down – the same kind of feeling you get when you walk in the mountains. I’m tempted to go somewhere for another wee swim before I return the wetsuit!

Julie is also planning to get some practice swims in before another event.

Lough Eskragh

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Near Dungannon with good parking facilities and easy access down a slipway.  A second car park is used often by fishermen.

Gently shelving, the lough is spring fed and the near side has a sandy bottom, further out is based on peat so the water is dark and underwater visibility is poor. 

Contact the local triathlon club at http://trilimits.wordpress.com/

CRAIGAVON BALANCING LAKES CO ARMAGH

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Words by Maureen McCoy

Photography By Paul McCambridge

Tuesday had been a wet day with only a few breaks in the heavy rain showers but come 7pm, the sun was venturing out and it promised to be a reasonably warm evening.  I arrived early at the North Lake and introduced myself to the other early birds.  With the air warm and muggy I was sure the water would be warm too.

The small band grew as more and more arrived and I was introduced as their ‘guest’ swimmer.  We stepped into the lake and soon got into an easy front crawl.

A kayaker went on ahead to negotiate us around the heaviest patches of weeds.  At times we almost had to crawl over this wiry, prickly stuff, pulling lumps of it out as it caught on wrists and watches.  A few short patches of this were the only thing that would mar a very pleasant swim.  With the evening sun breaking through the grey clouds, the tall reeds, their feathery heads stretching high above the waters edge, the scene had a dreamlike quality.

As we returned to the shore on our third lap, the rain started and quickly became a downpour.  I lifted my head and swam head up, fascinated by the drops hitting the surface so hard that they bounced back up forming thousands of what looked like pawns from a chess set – repeatedly formed and broken.  Finally the rain began to ease and we tried vainly to seek shelter as we dressed under a tree.  One swimmer said he’d been quite surprised to look back and see “a nudey person behind me!”  So used to the black arms of wetsuits, a bare arm was easily spotted.

 Tuna Triathlon Club now use the South lake on a Monday evening at 7.00pm from the sports centre.

 I swam as their guest but the club website does ask for all swimmers to be members, wear their wetsuit and have completed at least a 1500m continuous swim in the pool.

Check out www.tunatriathlon.org for club information.

Lurgan Masters Swim Club also use the lake on a Sunday evening at 6:30pm, with 200m/400m/750m/1km courses marked out. LMSC ask that swimmers have membership of either Swim Ireland/ILDSA/Triathlon Ireland for Insurance reasons

http://www.lurganmastersswimclub.com 

See map below for entry point. 

©PAUL MCCAMBRIDGE PHOTOGRAPHY Picture By Paul McCambridge Tel 07711167277

CAMLOUGH LAKE, Co Armagh

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Irish International Triathlete Aileen Reid(nee Morrison) training in Camlough

Camlough Lake

I did a lot of my channel training at ‘Crooked Lake’ Camlough. The lake is calm, sheltered, with easy access from a wide slipway, providing an ideal training ground.

I love the days when I do a long swim down the lake, seeing the sun stream down over Slieve Gullion. Aiming for the V formed by the two hills at the far end, swimming past an old pontoon on the right hand side, a favourite spot for herons to perch. As the winter deepened the local fishermen looked on in amazement as I stripped down to my cossie and waded into the cold water.  Deep breaths as the cold chilled my skin, I would count –1 – 2 – 3 – GO!  Off with a fast front crawl to generate some heat in my muscles on the 250m out to the first buoy, I would then settle into my stroke heading around the second buoy to complete a lap of 750m at the slipway.

A co-incidental meeting in Dover the week prior to my channel swim caused me to bump into a group of fellow Camlough ‘training ground’ swimmers returning from their successful stag do relay swim.  Since then, this group of Camlough and Newry locals have been organising superb events at the lake.

This previously hidden gem in South Armagh hit the world stage when more than three hundred swimmers from all over Ireland and beyond joined the local community to continuously swim for nine days.  On the 9th of the 9th 2009 the Guinness World Record for the longest ever relay swim was smashed.

Following on from that success Camlough Lake has grown in popularity and 2010 saw the inaugural Camlough Water Festival, a weekend of kayaking, water-polo, short swims, 5k and 10k swimming races.

Go down to the lake in the summer and you will find something of a carnival atmosphere with children paddling, swimmers and triathletes enjoying the water, you are likely to be welcomed by some hardy folk, including Bridgeen, Micky or Milo, who have been swimming there since the mid 80’s.

More on Camlough Water Festival http://www.clwf.eu

Words By Maureen McCoy

Photography By Paul McCambridge

Enter from the slipway on the Crossmaglen road, where you will see marker buoys forming a 750m loop from the slipway – further buoys have been added creating a variety of circuits, detailed on the map below.  Newry Triathlon club have set up a container here providing a changing facility and storage for safety equipment.  They run events through the year, triathlons and occasional night swims.

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Above Open Water Swimmer Colleen Mallon 

Course Map and Safety Information Below

 

Camlough Lake 2020 courses

 

LOUGH MONEY, CO DOWN

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On a cold and “mizzling” Sunday, we headed off to visit a new Lough.  Lough Money is on the Ballyculter Road out of Downpatrick.  This Lough is owned by the Fisheries and is well signposted.  There is a carpark, open from 8am to 10pm and a path around the near end of the lough.

There is good access for Wheelchair users, with designated parking spaces and boardwalk areas to fish from.

The Lough is picturesque with water lilies, just beginning to bloom when we arrive.  It stretches north, approximately 1 km long and fairly narrow.

We entered at the short slipway (aptly named as it turned out,) the boys managed to slide their way into the water – not very elegantly, may I add!  I chose the marginaly safer option of stepping to the side and braving the rocks.  Here the water gradually gets to a depth for swimming and as it’s very clear, you feel quite confident wading in.  The temperature was very pleasant, as soon as I glided off into the Lough it felt beautiful, a temperature where I knew I could take my time, stop for a chat and enjoy the view!

Choosing a line down the centre of the Lough, giving the lillies, reeds and any fishermen a wide berth, (I feel it’s common courtesy to give them their space and not scare the fish, plus I have no desire to be hooked myself!)

We set off, spotting tall evergreen trees on the island that marks the halfway point on the Lough, giving the lough the look of a French scene.  As we got close to this halfway point, we swam past an old metal structure.  At first we thought it was a support for a waterski ramp, then we noticed pipework, so perhaps it was an old pump.

We checked the boys in the kayaks were feeling ok.  It was only Davids’ second time out in a boat, happy enough, we swam on to the far end of the lough.

The rain began in earnest.

It’s a lovely thing to swim in the rain, the surface of the water softened, broken by the raindrops, seeing the tiny splashes each time you turn and breathe, feeling  the cool  rain on your arms as you take each stroke.

As we struck out, on our way back down the lough, a swan moved in front of us.  Each time I lifted my head to check my course, there he was, about 10 metres ahead.  Not concerned, perhaps curious, he led us all the way back down the lake until he decided that was enough, and I heard the “wap wap wap” of his wing tips beating the surface.  I watched with awe as he half flew, half ran across the water, past me and back towards his mate.

Words by Maureen McCoy

Photography by Paul McCambridge