Carrickreagh Jetty Fermanagh

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Words by Maureen McCoy

Photography by Paul McCambridge

Carrickreagh Jetty sits close to Ely Lodge Forest and, surrounded by trees makes a picturesque start to a swim. An early morning dip before the touring boats began to come in was the order of the day. I dived in to the dark water, surprisingly warm, and rose into sun glinting off the surface.  Tiny fish, silver flashes as they streaked away from me, suddenly to stop and hang in the water, nose down tail up, as if dying, only to sprint away again when I approached. Entranced, I watched as groups of three to five “spricks” would do this repeatedly. Then below I spied some slightly larger fish – perhaps this was a game of hunting and survival I was witness to. How many levels of bigger fish would I encounter? Glad of my choice to wear a bright swimsuit, still I kept my toes high in the water, just in case.

The fish parted as I swam from the jetty, following the depth markers I kept to the edge of the main channel, exploring safely away from any boat traffic, but in the early morning there was no interruption to my swim. I returned through the still quiet morning to climb the ladder and dry in the strengthening sun. 

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KINBANE CASTLE NORTH ANTRIM COAST

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Words by Maureen McCoy

Photography by Paul McCambridge

Pulling into the small car park on the cliff at Kinbane I looked across to the clearest view of Rathlin Island I have ever seen.  The island is approximately seven miles from Ballycastle but looks so close today.  Behind the island the hazy shore of the Mull of Kintyre with calm deep blue water in between.  One thinks it would be easy to swim, but this is some of the coldest water around our shores and it would take many hours.

Following the steps which snake down the cliff led to a small cove with the remains of the old castles watch tower on a rugged outcrop.  Along the shore a roofless cottage with the rusting remains of a winch and then we could see the cave under the castle ruins that was to be todays swim.

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Clambering over rocks and forests of kelp we used a variation of dog-paddle and crawling, pulling ourselves through the weed until it was deep enough to swim. We made our way deep into the cave and seeing a glimpse of sky, ventured on through the arch carved by sea, under the ruins to emerge on the sea-ward side of the island.  Here the draw of the waves was powerful and sea birds above whistled and called. As we returned we were pushed forward on each wave then suspended, waiting for the next rush, as if on a swing we were drawn back and forth by the sea.

Cave at Kinbane

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An advanced swim due to the strength of tides here, a good knowledge of the tides and currents essential.

Beautiful spot to picnic and explore

Car park with toilets.

Long climb down steps to get to the cove.

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

World’s First Lady, Seven Oceans Swim – Anna-Carin Nordin, Sweden

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Words by Maureen McCoy

Photography by Paul McCambridge

On the 8th July 2013 at 7.11pm, after 14 hours and 21 minutes swimming from Portpatrick in Scotland to Blackhead Bay, Northern Ireland, Anna-Carin Nordin made history as the first woman to complete the Seven Oceans Open Water swimming challenge.

Meeting up with Anna the day after her achievement, she looked fresh and was happy to talk about her journey from the English Channel in 2010, around the world in swims and back. After such a long day before she was still keen to get back in the water for a “cushy” swim and I had the honour of a relaxing dip with this history-maker on another sunny day at Ballyholme.

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North Channel swim…

Brian Meharg, pilot of Anna’s support boat and Anna took the controversial decision to attempt the swim on a spring tide as the race was on with Anna one of  three ladies hoping to complete the North Channel this year and scoop the Seven Oceans 1st Lady title.

“Tide and time wait for no man or woman.” Said Brian, “The weather is good you should go now.” So at 4.50am Anna was in the water at Portpatrick with her hand against the rock face and the swim began. In the first few hours she encountered the swimmers dreaded jellyfish, Anna said “They were below me and spread out so I played a little ‘tricksie’ and was able to swim around them. I was lucky, I didn’t get stung.” She weaved her hand as she spoke showing how she’d avoided the jellies. “At the start of a swim you don’t want to be stung, at the end you are too tired to avoid them.”

Seal of approval…

The highlight of the swim for Anna was mid channel when a large male seal appeared and continued to swim with her for an hour.  “It’s so nice to see something different in the water with you – not jellyfish!” With the water temperature ranging from 11.3’C to 13.8’C, Anna got colder as the day went on, “But I came here to finish the swim, not to fail.”  So she continued on her way into the history books. The petite blond 41 year old from Sweden had just completed the Seven Oceans Swim Challenge with a smile on her face.  Her blue eyes glinting, she told me “My swimming rivals will have to fight for second place now.”

Finishing at 7.11pm on Monday 8th July 2013, Anna was greeted by ILDSA President Billy Wallace at Bangor Marina and Stephen Redmond, the first man to achieve the Seven Oceans, ‘phoned the first lady with his congratulations. Anna will go home to Jattendal, Sweden to a hero’s welcome.

Well done Anna and thank you for the swim and the chat.

2010: English Channel in 12:00:59

October 2011: Molokai Channel in over 18 hours

1 May 2012: Strait of Gibraltar

3 July 2012: Catalina Channel in 12 hours 40 minutes

September 2012: Tsugaru Channel in 19 hours 11 minutes

8 April 2013: Cook Strait in 8 hours 17 minutes

8 July 2013: North Channel in 14 hours 21 minutes

Anna-Carin comparing tan lines with Maureen and Rachel Smith

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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.

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)