‘The Towel Run’ – Sandycove Island Swim 2019

 

©Paul McCambridge / MAC Visual Media 28th Sept 2019, Sandycove Swim

Words Maureen McCoy, Photography Paul McCambridge

 

Ned, as is his usual want to goad me whenever he sees me, for not having swum Sandycove Island. This July at the Lough Erne 17k he “upped the anti” by brandishing a large white towel with a list of names adorning it – English Channel Swimmers who’ve done a lap of Sandycove…

“You have to do your lap to get your name on this.”

 

So here I am, almost two months later, signed on the dotted line for the Sandycove Island Swim, along with 200 plus other swimmers – the draw of the towel proved too strong!

©Paul McCambridge / MAC Visual Media28th Sept 2019, Sandycove Swim

©Paul McCambridge / MAC Visual Media 28th Sept 2019, Sandycove Island Swim

The forecast was not promising for the day with rain and wind due to drive in in the afternoon, around the time the race was scheduled to start.

Arriving in Kinsale with half an hour to spare for registration I collected my cap and time-chip from the organisers stationed at Hamlets and then caught up with some of the swimmers from the 7 Lakes challenge the previous weekend.

©Paul McCambridge / MAC Visual Media28th Sept 2019, Sandycove Swim

©Paul McCambridge / MAC Visual Media 28th Sept 2019, Sandycove Island Swim

4pm and the rain was lashing down! Umbrellas up as sodden swimmers gathered at the bottom of the road. Two Myrtleville Turtles vainly tried to stay warm zipped together into one dry-robe…

©Paul McCambridge / MAC Visual Media28th Sept 2019, Sandycove Swim

©Paul McCambridge / MAC Visual Media 28th Sept 2019, Sandycove Island Swim

During the briefing Ned announced that the course would be brought inside the island – with the wind making it “quite lumpy” and a fog rolling in it would be unsuitable for many swimmers to do ‘The Lap’.

©Paul McCambridge / MAC Visual Media28th Sept 2019, Sandycove Swim

©Paul McCambridge / MAC Visual Media 28th Sept 2019, Sandycove Island Swim

My fears of a mad crash of swimmers all vying for space were alleviated when it was clear that we’d set off in waves of 30 – fastest swimmers first. “So if your number is 185, you will be waiting around for ten minutes or so. Stay as warm as you can…Ha!”

©Paul McCambridge / MAC Visual Media28th Sept 2019, Sandycove Swim

©Paul McCambridge / MAC Visual Media 28th Sept 2019, Sandycove Island Swim

4.30pm and numbers 1 – 30 were called to line up and ticked off the list as they ran onto the slipway. The horn sounded and they were off as the next 30 lined up. The starts were quick, smooth and well executed.

The course; out towards the island, rounding the first large yellow buoy and then along the lee of the island, turn at the farthest buoy and return to the unmissable bright orange FINISH line.

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©Paul McCambridge / MAC Visual Media 28th Sept 2019, Sandycove Island Swim

After standing about in the pelting rain the sea was welcomingly warm, a short tussle on the way to the first buoy and then, after the turn, the field opened up and I could relax into my stroke across the bay.

©Paul McCambridge / MAC Visual Media28th Sept 2019, Sandycove Swim

©Paul McCambridge / Sandycove Island Swim

On rounding the far buoy my latent competitive urges piqued as I was flanked by two swimmers – one “skins” and the other wetsuit. I tried not to drop too far behind as the three of us raced our way in.

©Paul McCambridge / MAC Visual Media28th Sept 2019, Sandycove Swim, Mo

©Paul McCambridge / Sandycove Island Swim.

The rain was still pelting down as we hit the time check and climbed up the slipway, no hanging about – we each grabbed our gear and ran back to cars or vans for shelter.

©Paul McCambridge / MAC Visual Media28th Sept 2019, Sandycove Swim

©Paul McCambridge /  Sandycove Island Swim

Waiting for the traffic to clear we watched as the last of the organisers and boat crew were leaving and one lone swimmer came past on her bicycle. Through the pouring rain, water streaming down the road under her wheels, her black dry-robe flapping in the wind like something out of Harry Potter, she disappeared over the brow of the hill.

It was at that moment I realised – I still hadn’t done a lap of the island – I wouldn’t get my towel!

Link to results… Cork Masters Results

Neddie Irwin… 1st swimmer home

©Paul McCambridge / MAC Visual Media28th Sept 2019, Sandycove Swim

©Paul McCambridge / Neddie Irwin –  Sandycove Island Swim

That evening the celebrations took us from Hamlets to dinner at Cru restaurant and then onto a local bar with live music and dancing!

Waking on Sunday morning to bright sunshine streaming through the windows, I was glad to see a complete turn-around of the weather having arranged to meet Ned for my lap of the island.

As we walked down the beach the tide was fast on its way out and Ned asked; “Have you ever swum around the island?”

“Yes.” I replied, “But you didn’t believe me and said it had to be witnessed!”

“Sounds like something I’d say.” he laughed.

“We need to go now though – soon there won’t be any water to swim!” Adding, “Whatever you do don’t walk on the rocks – your feet will be cut to pieces”

As we paddled in it seemed this would be more walk than swim and soon we were using a mix of crawl, sculling and good old crocodile crawling.

At one stage Ned managed to get completely stuck in the shallows – 6foot 6 of legs and arms “turtled” as he rolled about trying to find some water! As I giggled at the sight, I promptly ran aground myself and had to wiggle my own way across trying to avoid scrapes!

Finally outside the island we made it to deep water and a lively swim to the far corner. Here the breaking waves allowed us to surf in before returning to the slipway – my official lap done!

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©Paul McCambridge / Ned at Sandycove with bloodied knees – thanks for the guided swim and lunch!

Back at Ned’s we enjoyed the craic and a tasty lunch of steak and mushrooms all served up on Syrian bread and washed down with creamy hot chocolate – lovely, thank you Ned.

©Paul McCambridge / MAC Visual Media 28th Sept 2019, Sandycove Swim,

Thanks also to all the hard working and drenched organisers and volunteers for a super event.

Links to Sandycove Swimmers + Cork Masters

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Dunkers & Dippers

 

©Paul McCambridge - www.wildswim.wordpress.comWords by Maureen McCoy, Photography by Paul McCambridge

Cold water swimmers each have their differing reasons for hitting the water on a regular basis, some wish to prepare for challenges such as the Ice Swimming distances or an event where the ability to deal with the cold for a long period is paramount. Others are aiming to reap the benefits purported to be induced; it is said it can boost the immune system, help relieve symptoms of anxiety and depression.

Whatever our reasons, it certainly gives one a zing and zest for life and the camaraderie found in swimming groups is infectious.

We are now well into April and the recent good weather heralds the coming of spring. Lengthening daylight and the promise of warm summer to come has set many swimmers thoughts to returning outdoors. However, plenty of hardy souls have been enjoying the invigorating sensations of dipping and dunking all through the cold, short days of winter.

As lifetime advocates of year-round swimming ourselves, we took the opportunity to meet up with several of these newly formed groups…

©Paul McCambridge - www.wildswim.wordpress.com

Ballyhornan Bay Swimmers

Approximately half-way between Strangford town and Ardglass, along the Killard Road, lies Ballyhornan Bay and its close neighbour, Benderg.

A soggy morning in mid-February was the time we chose to visit the swim group that formed here over the winter. Running a little late, I arrived to see one other straggler just ahead of me making her way to the waters’ edge. I hastily stripped down to my cossie, crammed my cap on my head and fished goggles from the depth of my bag, fearing the others would leave the water just as I arrived.

No need to worry as I waded in calling out the one name in the group I knew; “Roisin?” one wetsuit clad lady said “She’s over there…” pointing to a tow-float anchored not far out where a little party of swimmers were doing repeated laps between this and a second rescue buoy.

When I joined them they were on lap 6. In the lee of Guns Island we did several more laps, swimming a mix of Breaststroke and Front Crawl, with a bit of chatting in between.

Finally, we were drawn to try out some body surfing in the small rollers breaking in the shallows, with a lot of squealing and trying not to lose our goggles in the foam we managed to return intact.

As we left the water the rain got heavier, it wasn’t the weather for hanging around, so everyone quickly retreated towards home with calls of; “See you next week!” and “…really enjoyed that!” leaving the beach with a happy buzz.

Thanks for the warm welcome ladies and I hope to see you again soon!

FB Link – Ballyhornan Sea Swimming Group

Ballyhornan – Lecale way inlet 

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©Paul McCambridge - www.wildswim.wordpress.com

Lough Neagh Monster Dunkers

On the shores of Lough Neagh, behind the Discovery Centre a short slipway offers entry to a sheltered section of the lough and it’s here at the weekends that Lough Neagh Monster Dunkers meet.

Rows of cars parked close to the water, spilt out swimmers in various stages of undress. Some with woolly hats, others already in their swim caps, all the same pale blue with a very amiable-looking Monster depicted on the side. The Dunkers have arrived.

©Paul McCambridge - www.wildswim.wordpress.com

A quick pre-dip brief by founder member Chris Judge included a warm welcome to us guests, it’s been quite a while since I swam with Chris at Newcastle harbour on a grey day. Nice to catch up again and it was great to see so many faces in the group.

After briefing, the Dunkers flooded down the slipway, some singing and some squealing as they waded in. A sea of bright coloured tow floats jostled with the blue Monster hats and the singing continued.

 Catching up with Francie McAlinden (Winner Global Swim Series 2018) who amongst other things is planning a charity swim for his grandson, 14th September – Swim for Oran – raising funds for the Heart Beat Trust RVH, I’m all signed up!

©Paul McCambridge - www.wildswim.wordpress.com

Several members of Lisburn Triathlon club were tempted to explore winter dunking and swimming and then were very quickly drawn irreversibly to “the cold side…” These guys have ditched the wetsuits and set themselves some challenging swims over the next 2 years.

The wearing of bright coloured togs is optional but has become the trade mark of one “Paddy Pineapple” – Paddy Montgomery – Lisburn Triathlon Club, Ice Km and keen promoter of “Budgie Smugglers” togs… perhaps it makes one at least think a little warmer when dressed in tropical prints…

©Paul McCambridge - www.wildswim.wordpress.com

Darren Cusick – Lisburn Triathlon Club, Ironman and Ice Km, has really taken to cold water swimming. Comfortable in the chilly water, it begs the question has he found an, as yet unresearched advantage? Subcutaneous ink-sulation???

Andrew Vaughan – Lisburn Triathlon Club, quietly takes it all in his lengthy stride…

Cathy Devlin, a founding member of the Monster Dunkers, greeted me with a big hug, having now ditched the wetsuit – a change from that long ago night swim at Janet’s Rock.

It was nice to catch up with old friends and see so many new faces getting into the water. Thanks for the swim caps Chris!

©Paul McCambridge - www.wildswim.wordpress.com

FB Link – Lough Neagh Monster Dunkers

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©Paul McCambridge - www.wildswim.wordpress.com

Jordanstown Lough Swimmers

Meeting up at the car park on the Lough Shore at Jordanstown, just beside the small café, it wasn’t long before we spied a small group of swimmers; warm coats and kit bags slung over their shoulders… we were in the right place.

The water looked grey and a little murky with the wind lifting a chop and creating waves which churned up the sand below, still, most of todays dip would be head up. More swimmers gathered, and we introduced ourselves to each other before Jonny lead us along the path that winds across Loughshore Park. At the far side we passed under some trees and were brought close to the water’s edge. Here the path met a high wall which we skirted around and continued along the seaward side to a gate and slipway.

©Paul McCambridge - www.wildswim.wordpress.com

Nestled between the wall and the gate is the perfect changing area. As we prepared for our dip the air began to crackle with excitement, a few first timers were a little nervous but support was plentiful.

©Paul McCambridge - www.wildswim.wordpress.com

No two swims are ever the same, weather changes, conditions are different, how we feel on that day… these factors and more will make a difference…that’s what makes it so addictive.

The waves washed seaweed around our ankles as we made our way into the lough chatting and encouraging each other.

©Paul McCambridge - www.wildswim.wordpress.com

Bobbing about in the waves we looked toward Belfast, the giant yellow torsos of Samson and Goliath (cranes in the docks) standing out against the grey sky – the iconic view of Belfast. Still chatting happily as we climbed our way out across the mat of seaweed, everyone seeming to revel in the post swim buzz, discussing the merits of various coats, jackets and changing robes. The conversation continued as we walked back to our cars and the café.

Thank you, Jonny and JLS for inviting us to join you – great swim and see you again soon!

©Paul McCambridge - www.wildswim.wordpress.com

FB Link – Jordanstown Lough Swimmers

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Everyone; keep swimming, keep safe and keep enjoying…

©Paul McCambridge - www.wildswim.wordpress.com

 

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The Legend of Jenny Watt

The Legend of Jenny Watt by Brian Meharg, Bangor Boats

Beautifully illustrated by Janet King

Book Cover 1

Bangor’s first children’s book by North Channel Pilot and amateur historian Brian Meharg has captured the imaginations of children and got them wanting to get outdoors and explore their local area.

Reviews:

Esther aged 8years

Esther Smith 1

“The whole idea of the Jenny Watt… it makes you want to find out more and maybe go to the place where the war was. Maybe if you went digging there you might find something magical. This book has a very good sense of adventure and it was very easy to read. I loved where in the very same spot where Jenny Watt was found there was a puppy. That book was just amazing. I love reading new books and I think this was one of the best books I’ve ever read… I thought it was just gorgeous.”

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Elijah aged 11years

Elijah Smith 1

“I thought this book explained the story very well. It made me think what it was like back then when there were smugglers. Whenever they got on their little boat and started smuggling the story got really intense. I loved it so much I read it all in one sitting. The Jenny Watts cave was so cool it made me want to go there and shout “Jenny where is Con” and she would hopefully reply.“gone”. I would recommend this book to children of all ages.

Ps. When I asked for a great book to read I defiantly got one.”

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Lovely reviews from 2 of my swimmers.

Author Brian Meharg signing my copy at Helens Bay…

Brian Meharg and Mo 1

Printed by Impact Printing, Coleraine & Ballycastle – 2018

ISBN 978-1-906689-84-1

Buying on eBay

ILDSA, Global Swim Series Awards – 2018 Season & Ireland Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame

190209MAC - ILDSA Awards 53a

Female and Male Swimmers of the Year Lisa Cummins and Ion Lazarenco Tiron

Maureen McCoy, photography by Paul McCambridge

Saturday 9th February, 2019 at Belfast Castle

Outdoor Swimmers all over Ireland enjoy a good old get together and this year kicked off at Belfast Castle at lunch time, Saturday.

So much is shared on social media about our endeavours that we now feel we know the people we’ve never actually met so this annual event gives folk a chance to get a little spruced up and meet acquaintances they’ve been following, face to face, ask how it really felt, get inspiration and share their stories.

Between the presentations of awards each of the 4 speakers had a different story to tell. Speaking of their personal journeys, each tale had something that rang true for the crowd in the room.

Speakers:

Vanessa Dawes

190209MAC - ILDSA Awards 15a

Vanessa Dawes explained how her swimming and art projects meld together. For her they are a combined entity; the research, gathering her group of helpers, and co-swimmers, reconnoitering the swims and finally the completion of her project.

Vanessa Dawes – length of Lough Mask, 2018

Marie Watson

190209MAC - ILDSA Awards 18a

Marie Watson told us how she came from non-swimming to a world first, the swim to Fastnet Rock; 18km. Her journey started with learning the basics, swimming first in wet-suit then ditching that in favour of “skins” for the Fastnet swim.

Carol Cashel

190209MAC - ILDSA Awards 17a

Carol Cashel made the transition from pool to open water with some trials on the way. Even coming from a competitive swimming background she said; “it was not easy…” In the beginning she hated it, no lanes to guide her, no blue line on the floor and other swimmers in “her space”. It took several swims to iron out the difficulties and, like each of us, she has learned valuable lessons from her failed swims. No swim is ever wasted and research and preparation are key;

“that’s what we do, as swimmers we are very stubborn – if we get an idea we will, to the best of our ability, just get on with it and get it done…”

Carol Cashel – circumnavigation of Bere Island, 2018

Lisa Cummins

190209MAC - ILDSA Awards 35a

Lisa Cummins focused on her lessons learned from achievements over the years, from a 2-way English Channel solo in 2009 to a 2-lap Manhattan Island, 2018:

Lesson 1                Don’t train through injury – for the sake of a short rest period at the time of injury one could save oneself years of recurring problems

Lesson 2                Don’t be afraid to dream big – Planning a 2-way English Channel as her first channel attempt; “I felt with the work I’d put in that I’d swim across, then turn around and see what happens. At least I’d always have a 1-way… I didn’t realise at the time it was such a naïve way to think…”

Lesson 3                Not everything goes to plan

Lesson 4                Don’t try something new on the day

What’s next? “For now, I’m chilling out and doing shorter swims.”

Awards;

2019 ILDSA Award Winners List

Juvenile Best Newcomer                                                   Jack Bingham

(Sponsored by Bingo Bus)

Juvenile Best Newcomer Runner Up                          Sabian Kulczynski

(Sponsored by Bangor Boat)

Senior Best Newcomer                                                  Audrey Burkley

(Sponsored by Ei Travel Group)

Ted Keenan Ulster Swimmer of the Year                 Gary Knox

(Sponsored by Infinity Channel Swimming)

Páraic Casey Munster Swimmer of the Year          Lisa Cummins

(Sponsored by Wild Water Adventures)

Connaught Swimmer of the Year                                Fergal Madden

(Sponsored by Aqualine) 

Leinster Swimmer of the Year                                     Vanessa Daws

(Sponsored by Leinster Open Sea)

Best Organised Open Water Swim                                Liffey Swim

(Sponsored by Dublin City Council Events Section)

 Sheena Paterson Spirit of Open Water Swimming               Donaghadee Chunky Dunkers

(Sponsored by Swim Ireland)

Shane Moraghan Award Best Overseas Performance by an Irish Open Water/Marathon Swimmer

(Sponsored by Half Moon Swimming Club)                     Lisa Cummins

Margaret Smith Award                                                        Infinity Group

(Sponsored by Global Swim Series)

Open Water Swim Performance of the Year               Lisa Cummins

(Sponsored by Swim Ulster)

Junior Swimmer of the Year                                             Sabian Kulczynski

(Sponsored by New Wave Swim Buoy)

Female Senior Swimmer of the Year                             Lisa Cummins

(Sponsored by Pier 36)

Male Swimmer of the Year                                               Ion Lazarenco Tiron

(Sponsored by Pier 36)

 

Lisa Cummins: 

Páraic Casey Munster Swimmer of the Year – Shane Moraghan Award Best for Overseas Performance by an Irish Open Water/Marathon Swimmer – Female Swimmer of the Year 2018.

190209MAC - ILDSA Awards 51a

 

Ion Lazarenzo Tiron:

 

Irish Open Water Swimmer of the year – Ireland Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame,

Seven Oceans Swimmer.

190209MAC - ILDSA Awards 52a

He has also been nominated for Nobel Peace Prize for his #SwimOfPeace, Moldova.

“Believe in your dreams….my objective; the message of peace…I thought; if I do all these swims they will listen, and they did…”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z7PxMEC9hVk

8th person to complete the Oceans Seven and the first to complete each crossing on his 1st attempt.

The Irish Long Distance Swimming Association event couldn’t have happened without the help of so many people and sponsors. Thanks to Stephen Millar, Caroline Grierson, Anne-Louise Docherty, Heather Grierson, Joao Santos and Gary Knox to name but a few.

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After an evening meal and socializing a Stormont Hotel, Belfast, Sunday saw just a few souls brave the water at Helen’s Bay for a quick dip – a frosty but beautifully sunny morning.

Safe journey home to all!

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Thank you, Brian Meharg (Bangor Boats) author of Bangors’ first Children’s book; The Legend of Jenny Watt – for an impromptu book signing at the water’s edge.

http://bangorboat.com/jenny-watt-bangor-childrens-book/

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Iz5BAbyaLLQ

Keem – Achill Island, County Mayo

wild swimming in ireland 08a

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.

wild swimming in ireland 07a

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

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.

Tra an Doilin 1

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