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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Glassilaun Beach – Killary, Connemara, Co Galway

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Words By Maureen McCoy

Photography by Paul McCambridge

I have been stunned by the raw beauty of Connemara, the lake dotted peat bogs and the myriad beaches from stone, to shell, to fine white sand and now, travelling towards Killary Harbour the mountains soar up. Rugged green banks rise from the roadside and I want to jump out of the car and stride into the hills despite the driving rain, horizontal and beating its way through any gap in my armour. The narrow winding roads take me past new houses, old cottages and tiny fisherman’s hides, some made from metal and some looking like miniature white-washed stone cottages.

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On the Atlantic coast and near the mouth of Killary Harbour, Glassilaun Beach does not disappoint, breath-taking even on a grey and windy, rain-swept day, soft pale sand sweeps round in a gentle arc towards a small island with a second small beach. On a warm and sunny day I would swim from here across to that beach and lie in the sunshine. I would walk on the grass-topped island and look out across the North Atlantic, bring a picnic, and while away the day. Today though, there would not be any sun-lounging, the dry bag was needed to store clothes and towels against the rain as we ran across the sand and into the water – all set to squeal at the chill but no, the water was pleasant. A shoal of the tiniest jelly-fish I have ever seen, our only company. Swaying back and forth with the outgoing tide, little button mushrooms, some smaller than my baby toe-nail, they hadn’t the strength to sting.  We left the colony and swam on towards the island, while the gentle Atlantic swell softly brushed the shoreline.

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Glassilaun Beach is one of a number of Blueway Beaches and as such has car-parking and good information boards. Take the N59 from Leenaun and follow the Connemara Loop past Lough Fee, sign posts then for Glassilaun and Scuba Dive West guide you to the beach and parking – no facilities.

Killary Harbour is a glacial FJARD, similar to a FJORD, only shorter, shallower and broader. At 16km long and over 45metres deep it is one of three Fjards in Ireland; Belfast and Carlingford Loughs being the others.   

The Killary Fjord Swim takes place on the 11th October this year, 750m and 2km swims in the Fjord;

http://www.thegreatfjordswim.com/