Keem – Achill Island, County Mayo

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Words and Photos by Maureen McCoy

One of the most popular beaches on Achill Island although never over-crowded is the picturesque Keem. The first view of this strand set in a steep amphitheatre under the Benmore cliffs is from high above on the vertiginous road that winds up from Dooagh village. With the sun lighting up the deep water, the colours range from bright turquoise darkening to teal green against the vibrant bright green grass on the slopes of Benmore. Although a popular beach, Keem is never crowded and even at the height of tourist season you can find a quiet swim here.

It was from this strand that fishermen would launch their curraghs in search of Basking sharks, right up until the 1950’s. Swim around the rocks to the left of the beach where at low tide several secluded sandy coves are revealed. Family swimming.

Excerpt from Wild Swimming in Ireland 2016, ISBN 978-1-84889-280-4

Getting there; from Belfast take the M1 then A4 through Enniskillen and continue on to the N16 to Sligo. From Sligo take the N4 turning onto the N17 and heading towards Tobercurry and Charlestown. Just past Charlestown take the N5 to Castlebar, from here take the R311 to Newport then onto the N59. At Mulrany the R319 brings you over the bridge and onto Achill, follow this road right to the end and you arrive at Keem beach.

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Google maps; https://www.google.co.uk/maps/place/Keem+Beach/@53.967365,-10.1966858,16z/data=!3m1!4b1!4m5!3m4!1s0x485996667294571f:0x75ee86cee21e0970!8m2!3d53.9671631!4d-10.1928951

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Trá an Doilin – Co Galway

Trá an Doilin – Carraroe Co Galway

Tra an Doilin 2

 

Words by Maureen McCoy, photos by Paul McCambridge

At the mouth of Galway bay, between Casla Bay and Greatman’s Bay lies one of the most extraordinary beaches in Ireland; Tra an Doilin, or the Coral Beach. Made not of sand but of millions of pieces of what looks like coral in myriad colours. Scoop a handful of this coralline algae known as maerl and it gleams with the mother of pearl of minute shells, miniscule pieces of coral amongst tiny branches of delicate underwater plants, the colours ranging from purple, orange, yellow, fading out to pure bleached white.

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Swim in the clear water of any of the series of tiny coves between the rocky outcrops while the countless colours beneath catch the light – a must see on the west coast. Tread carefully as you explore the rocks pools and coves because maerl, while beautiful, is sharp on bare feet.

Excerpt from Wild Swimming in Ireland 2016, ISBN 978-1-84889-280-4

Getting there; from Galway city take the R336 cast road west past Connemara airport. At Casla, turn left onto the R343 and follow the signs for Carraroe. Drive through the village and look for the sign for Tra an Doilin which brings you to the car park and beach.

Lough Hyne – Co Cork

Lough Hyne, County Cork

©Paul McCambridge 2016 – MAC Visual Media Swimming in Lough Hyne, County Cork.

 

Words by Maureen McCoy, photos by Paul McCambridge

Sitting in a fold of hills 5km south of Skibbereen this marine lake is connected to the ocean by a narrow channel known as the Rapids, re-charged twice a day with the in flowing tide, it provides a playground for swimmers and kayakers who allow themselves to be swept along in the fast flowing waters. A little island out crop on the shore facing the grand house is the entry point for most swimmers and here you can wade in down a short slipway into the clear briny waters. Home to the Lough Hyne Lappers, a group of openwater swimmers who boast among their numbers the first man to complete Oceans Seven Stephen Redmond, the lake is not only for these hardly marathon swimmers and you are just as likely to meet grandparents introducing grandchildren to the water.

©Paul McCambridge 2016 – MAC Visual Media Swimming in Lough Hyne, County Cork.

Irelands first Marine Nature Reserve holds within it a wealth of marine life and walkers will enjoy the steep hike up through the woods to the summit of Knockomagh Hill for grandstand views of West Cork, the lough and the Atlantic Ocean.

©MAC Visual Media 2016 – MAC Visual Media Swimming in Lough Hyne, County Cork.

Excerpt from Wild Swimming in Ireland 2016, ISBN 978-1-84889-280-4

Getting there; from Skibbereen in west Cork take the R595 toward Baltimore and after a few kms, take a left turn signed to Lough Hyne, this leads down to parking at the edge of the lake, turn left and drive along the lake shore to the outcrop and slipway, parking and picnic tables here.

Google Maps; https://www.google.co.uk/maps/place/Lough+Hyne/@51.5008079,-9.3105661,15z/data=!3m1!4b1!4m5!3m4!1s0x4845a4c113be2969:0xeb9178cb198acc8a!8m2!3d51.5024127!4d-9.3030566

TORY ISLAND AND THE KING OF TORY – RÍ THORAÍ

 

 

 

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By Maureen McCoy and Paul McCambridge

 

 

Tory Island lies 9 miles off the coast North-west Donegal. 3 miles long and 0.6 of a mile wide, it is a rugged and exposed outpost of Irish island life. The small population of 154, at the time we visit, had recently been swollen by 3 new babies, Patsy Dan, the King of Tory, proudly tells us. His vision and hope that the island will begin to regenerate seeing a flicker of life with these happy tidings.

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In his Gaelic island lilt, Patsy Dan takes his duty as the King of Tory very seriously. All visitors are made welcome. Patsy, as far as his health will let him, comes down to the harbour to welcome the ferry each time it arrives. A striking figure, although not a large man, Patsy conjures an almost Pirate King image to me. A large gold ring in his ear, sailing cap on his head and sharply dressed in a dark double-breast pea coat with a gold “O” pin on his lapel he cuts a dapper stride. His silver car parked close by with the personalised plate; King of Tory.

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Patsy Dan Rogers, the King of Tory, passed away Friday, 19th October 2018, after a long-term illness aged 74.

Having only met him last year over a few days on the island, I was struck by his welcoming manner. On learning we were there to explore the islands interesting swimming spots and the music and art that the island is famous for. He immediately insisted that we pitch our tent close beside the Dixon Gallery where he, Anton and other local artists exhibit their work, to shelter from the stormy weather due to hit that evening.

 

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Patsy Dan described himself as a primitive artist and his paintings in the gallery hang alongside those of other family members. Although not born on the Island Patsy Dan was a great ambassador for the way of life there and it seems to me that they chose well on electing him King. The island has had a history of electing artists as their King. Born in Dublin he was adopted and came to the island around the age of four. A gifted musician and a natural storyteller he regaled us with stories both historical and recent of the island. Patsy Dan was also a great friend of the English artist Derek Hill who kept returning to Tory for close to 50 years. He described how Derek would spend days in his little studio/ ‘shack’ on the exposed northwest cliffs. He pressed the key into my hand and said “Go up and spend some time there when the weather clears, follow the track up from the road, just leave me the key back before you leave Tory!”

180817 - Tory Island 1st edit 18aAfter a wet and windy night, the day was settled as we cycled out towards the light house then turned right up the rough path to the shack. Between the natural rock and sparse grass were great slabs of concrete, most with heavy and rusted metal hoops embedded in them. I guess a hangover from the old telegraph station.

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Inside the shack is still as Derek had left it, a small table in the narrow entrance hall with a slate top, perhaps this is where Derek would place his camping stove to boil water as he worked. The one-roomed building has windows on 3 sides and a second table sits in front of the largest, looking inland. In the corner a cabinet houses a few collectables – an old soap flake package, Oxo tins, a kettle, tea pot and even his paint palette on a slate. Derek might have only just stepped out the door a moment ago.

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Looking across this craggy coastline with its cliffs and inlets, the rocks flayed with lines as though the sea, wind or both had whipped them repeatedly creating scars. I can see the draw for an artist to return year on year. How the light must change on the rock, sometimes grey, sometimes brown and even pink in the evening light.  The Atlantic, even on a calm day beats against the shore, whirlpools and sea-spray surging around the base of the cliffs and, as you follow the shoreline into one of numerous inlets the water is calm, the outer rocks taking the brunt of the ocean waves.

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A wooden bench painted bright red and tethered down to large rocks, a makeshift solution after the original bolts had sheared off, provides a perfect seat to watch the changing elements. Just below a curved metal barrier hangs over the edge of the inlet and from this a steep and narrow stone staircase leads down to the water. The sun lights up the sea-weed under the surface as it sways gently in the crystal clear sea – who could resist?

 

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This northern shore of Tory Island has the high cliffs, taking all the battery of the sea and not far from Derek’s shack is a small walled graveyard called ‘The Foreign or Commonwealth Graveyard’. Still tended by the islanders this is the resting place of British sailors who’s ship the HMS Wasp sank here in 1884, with only 6 survivors from their 56 crew. Their mission was to vacate the island as their landlord owed over ten thousand pounds to the British government and HMS Wasp was going to collect rent and rates or remove the residents off the Island. As word filtered to Tory that the ship had left Westport, Co Mayo, two islanders carried the ‘Cursing Stone’ to the extremities of the island, praying that it would put upon the ship a curse from the heavens. The Gun Boat sank 23rd September 1884.

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The island has had many years of battling to maintain its permanent residents, a fight Patsy Dan continued to struggle with as he tried to convince the government and others to invest in the islands infrastructure and improve access for tourism.

©Paul McCambridge / MAC Visual Media Tory Island. Picture by Paul McCambridge

A place for bird watchers, artists and poets, walking or off-road biking along this cliff top brings one past a series of inlets and inspiring rock formations. Approximately halfway along the island is a very narrow and extremely steep inlet that has two little gems for swimmers. The very steep grassy sides mean you must zig-zag your way carefully down to the waterside rocks. From here it’s a fairly easy climb down into the water, a large dark cavern gapes in the opposite wall. Swimming out of the sunlight into the darkness my heart beats faster, that nervousness of the unknown. My eyes take a moment to adjust to the dim light and I cannot stop myself from imagining all sorts of great sea creatures lurking in the shadows – quickly coming back into the safety of the light I spy a large rock near where I got in and I see a narrow gap behind. I slip through this gap into a tall circular chamber; an almost enclosed little pool.

©Paul McCambridge / MAC Visual Media Tory Island. Picture by Paul McCambridge

Tory has many swim spots to discover; on the east of the island at Port an Duin, right at the end of the road, two beaches frame the narrow land bridge leading out to Balor’s Fort and The Lovers’ Flagstone. Lying back to back, depending on which direction the wind is from, one or other of these can often be sheltered enough to swim.

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Worth the trip and despite its small landmass, Tory has a lot to offer for a visit, music, art, swimming and bird watching.

©Paul McCambridge / MAC Visual Media Tory Island. Picture by Paul McCambridge

Thank you Patsy Dan, King of Tory for making us welcome.

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Graduates Go to the Beach…

 

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Words by Maureen McCoy, Photography by Paul McCambridge

Graduates Go to the Beach…

The blue waters of Lisburn pool may have seemed a little quiet last Thursday evening (14th June), the dwindling numbers were not due to a lack of enthusiasm though. No, a bunch of intrepid Graduates had in fact ventured outdoors.

Buoyed by the memory of previous such outings, a select few of us swapped the pool and instead headed to the beach at Ballyhornan.

After such a stormy Wednesday night and Thursday morning many feared the cancelation email would pop into their inbox. Do they not know their coach by now?

No wimping out!

Our little band of happy swimmers ready for their quest.

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Disclaimer: Had weather been truly bad, I assure you, I would have abandoned the swim in favour of the pub.

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Despite the inclement day, the evening brightened and the wind eased. When we met at the beach at 6pm there was even a return of the sunshine we have grown accustomed to.

Soon the motley mad intrepid crew tootled their way to the water’s edge…

 

The Sea was crisp and fresh. Squeals of delight as we entered! Yes really, it WAS delight, NO ONE said it was FREEZING.

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With a few acclimatisation practices we got underway – a short tester swim parallel to shore allowed us to settle our breathing and establish our beautifully relaxed and powerful strokes.

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As our little party elegantly cruised along the bay we saw Terns swoop down to lift Fry from the water a little further out before soaring back up into the blue(ish) skies.

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The briefest of squalls of rain allowed us to enjoy the magical experience and triggered a tuneful adaptation of a popular song: “We’re just Swimmin’ in the rain… what a Glor-ious feel-ing…”

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As the skies cleared we retired from the water to later re-group at the Cuan in Strangford for a well-earned meal. Already planning next year’s outing!

 

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Well done all with a special commendation to Adam and James, Waterpolo players who braved the elements sans wetsuit.

 

 

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Footnote: No Graduates were harmed during this adventure, all took part of their own volition. There was absolutely no intimidation, coercion or threats – coaches Mo and Paul deny any responsibility if anyone says otherwise.

Chunky Dunker’s New Years Swim 2018

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Photos by Paul McCambridge, words by Maureen McCoy

Arriving at Donaghadee at a few minutes after 10am on the 1st day of 2018 and the carpark at the slipway was almost full. As more and more joined the gathering throng calling out “Happy New Years!” the festive atmosphere was buzzing at the water’s edge.

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For several years Martin has been swimming regularly here, and the numbers of like-minded folk have swollen year on year. With flasks of tea, coffee or hot juice the regulars welcome all. We all pause rubbing our hands with a shiver in anticipation of the cold plunge to come.

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A group photo and then the “Dunk” was open, encouraged to only swim as far as comfortable, 77 of us made our way down the slipway Mark Brooks’ Pink Flamingo provided a marker to follow.

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Another swimmer towed a jolly Santa and the festive cheer was not dampened by the light skiff of rain that briefly flitted across the harbour.

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Marrissa, the youngest Dunker enjoying a pre-birthday dip – despite having lost a tooth only a few hours before! I hope the tooth Fairy is generous!

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Butterfly cap worthy of Hollywood’s great Esther Williams… real pearls??

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Sporting a mixture of headwear; bright and flowery swim caps, woolly hats, even a christmas pudding hat, the Dunkers have once again managed to raise a great amount for charity on this the 12th of their Christmas Swims.

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Happy New Year 2018!

Keep Swimming

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UPDATED – “HO HO HO it’s CHRISSSMAS” – 2017 Festive Swims + Dips

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Christmas Swims 2017

It’s time to dust off those Santa hats, shake up the Mistletoe and don the Festive Swim Suits as all over Ireland folks will be getting In the Swim to raise money for worthy causes… There’s bound to be a dip near you!

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Co Antrim

Portrush Santa Splash – 17th December 2017 – Arcadia Portrush
1.30pm

UPDATE – Photos of 2017 Santa Splash Below

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Co Down

Donaghadee – Chunky Dunkers – 12 swims of Christmas

A fun bunch who meet for daily dips

https://www.facebook.com/groups/319941478354115/permalink/486344695047125/

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Crawfordsburn Beach – Dare to Dip for Cancer Focus N.I. – New Year’s Day 11am
Every dipper will receive a free Cancer Focus NI t-shirt and hot drink after their swim.Fancy dress is encouraged- there will be a prize for the best outfit!

For more information call 028 9068 0788 or email challenge@cancerfocusni.org https://www.facebook.com/events/1677339799008125/

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Co Cork

Turkey Swims

https://myrtlevilleswimmers.com/category/events/

Sunday 26th November Sandycove 10am

Saturday 2nd December Sandycove 3pm

Sunday 10th December Sandycove 11am

Saturday 16th December Myrtleville 11am

Saturday 23rd December Fountainstown 10.30am

How the ‘Turkey Swims’ work:

** Swimmers Sign In and pay €2 on the day of Swim. (someone will have a money box and sign-in sheet – probably Carol, Angela or Eoin).

** Money Collected goes towards Prizes drawn on 23rd Dec at Fountainstown.

This is open to everyone who swims regularly in the Sea, no matter where they normally swim.  This is not exclusive to any club or group of swimmers

Info

Remember this is open to everyone who swims regularly in the Sea, no matter where they normally swim.  This is not exclusive to any club or group of swimmers, If you want to swim on a date, come along, find a swim buddy and join in, no matter where the swim is on! The Sandycove times are based on tides and at Myrtleville we can swim on any tide so there is a mix of Morning/afternoon times to try and suit all people over both days of the weekend.  Wetsuit, Skins, Fins, all welcome!

How the ‘Turkey Swims’ work:

** Swimmers Sign In and pay €2 on the day of Swim. (someone will have a money box and sign-in sheet – probably Carol, Angela or Eoin).

** Money Collected goes towards Prizes drawn on 23rd Dec at Fountainstown,

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Co Wexford

Carne Beach, Wexford – St.Stephen’s Day Swim – 26th December 12pm

In aid of Our Ladies Island N.S – Donations welcome on the day & sponsorship cards available from the school Tel: (053) 913 1113

Funds raised will go towards new playground equipment and painting the school.

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Polar Bear Plunge – Ireland and N. Ireland Venues

Special Olympics Ireland is a sports organisation for people with an intellectual disability, but we also provide our athletes with far more than the physical benefits of sport.

By taking part in a fundraising event like the Polar Plunge, you are changing lives.

Polar Plunge is one of our biggest fundraising events of the year thanks to the hundreds of plungers who take to the water across the country.

Registration fee is €20 and we ask that you fundraise an extra €50 to help support the programme and our athletes.

By fundraising for Special Olympics Ireland you are helping to change the lives of thousands of athletes all over Ireland.

 

 

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Co Monaghan

Hollywood Lake – Near Scotstown – 24th December 2017

Mucking Triathlon Club

Christmas Eve Charity Swim in Aid of – Kevin Bell Repatriation Trust

https://www.facebook.com/MucknoTriathlonClub/

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Photographs of Santa Splash 2017 in Aid of Aware NI – Portrush.

 

©Paul McCambridge/MAC Visual Media
Santa Splash 2017, Portrush.

Santa Splash in Aid of Aware NI

©Paul McCambridge/MAC Visual Media
Santa Splash 2017, Portrush.

The Wilson Family enjoying the festive splash

©Paul McCambridge/MAC Visual Media
Santa Splash 2017, Portrush.

The maestro of Santa Splash Stephen McConnell

©Paul McCambridge/MAC Visual Media
Santa Splash 2017, Portrush.

©Paul McCambridge/MAC Visual Media
Santa Splash 2017, Portrush.

©Paul McCambridge/MAC Visual Media
Santa Splash 2017, Portrush.

©Paul McCambridge/MAC Visual Media
Santa Splash 2017, Portrush.

©Paul McCambridge/MAC Visual Media
Santa Splash 2017, Portrush.

©Paul McCambridge/MAC Visual Media
Santa Splash 2017, Portrush.