7 – Swims Challenge!!! – Wicklow 2019

©Paul McCambridge / MAC Visual MediaUpper Glendalough

©Paul McCambridge / MAC Visual Media Upper Glendalough

Words by Maureen McCoy, Photos by Paul McCambridge

The Seven Lakes charity swim challenge started for us on the Friday afternoon. All packed with a bundle of towels, copious swimsuits and a huge parcel of snacks to keep us going for the two days, we headed south. It was a scorcher of a day which held great hopes for the weekend.

©Paul McCambridge / MAC Visual MediaSt Kevin's Way, Wicklow Gap

©Paul McCambridge / MAC Visual Media St Kevin’s Way, Wicklow Gap

Seven 1k swims in seven different loughs in the Wicklow Mountains could be made or broken by the fickle Irish weather.

Arriving in the early evening to the proposed first lough high in the Wicklow Gap we found a scenic parking spot to watch the sun go down over St Kevin’s Way. The evening light turned the land from brown to a deep glowing copper and the sky took on a hazy pink hue before the stars took the stage on a clear cool night.

©Paul McCambridge / MAC Visual MediaUpper Glendalough

©Paul McCambridge / MAC Visual Media Upper Glendalough

Early in the morning two Dublin Mini coaches pulled up and started spilling out swimmers with cries of “Where’s the lough then?” as they hauled bags from the rear.

Lough Nahanagan, a short drive below us past Danger and Keep Out signs, was perhaps not the wisest nor the most attractive place to venture for a swim! As we poured out of our coaches for this deliberation the barrier gate to the hydro-electricity plant was quickly and quietly drawn shut -security battening down the hatches against a group of rough-shod climate change protesters?

©Paul McCambridge / MAC Visual MediaLough Bray Upper

©Paul McCambridge

None of us felt inclined to find out first hand how far electricity can arc or test the effects of electricity and water on the human body and so the unanimous decision was to move on to the rather safer option of Upper Glendalough.

Pilling back on board the coaches, I guess to the relief of the plant management, we tootled down the valley to the Glen of Two Lakes, already welcoming its first visitors of the day.

Startling those morning sightseers, we stripped down to our swim gear with the mist clearing and the lough perfectly still, just a hint of haze along the valley.

©Maureen McCoy / MAC Visual MediaGer Carty, Glöndalough

©Maureen McCoy / MAC Visual Media, Glendalough

The plan; to swim out 500m and when the first swimmer hit that distance and turned, we would all return to shore – I’m not sure if those first swimmers heard that instruction as they hurtled off like steam trains down the lake towards the rising sun.

©Paul McCambridge / MAC Visual MediaUpper Glendalough

©Paul McCambridge  Upper Glendalough

Now fully wakened we padded and waddled our way along the boardwalk to the Lower lough for swim 2. Once again treating the well-dressed walkers and tourists with their chic hiking boots to the sight of a motley bunch of swimmers in a plethora of hoodies and dry-robes, towels wrapped around their lower halves and squelching flip flops.

©Paul McCambridge / MAC Visual MediaLower Glendalough

©Paul McCambridge / MAC Visual Media Lower Glendalough

The deer peeping out through the long grass, however, didn’t seem too perturbed at our fashion parade.

©Paul McCambridge / MAC Visual MediaLower Glendalough

©Paul McCambridge Lower Glendalough

Thankfully none of us caught a glimpse of the monster in the lough who used to prey on the congregation way back in St Kevin’s time.

©Paul McCambridge / MAC Visual MediaGlendalough Lower

©Paul McCambridge Glendalough Lower

Next to Vartry Reservoir and, standing on the stony shore as the wind picked up a little, we prepared for a cooler dip. A pleasant surprise when it felt warmer. We were all well into our stride now and headed off down the lake in companionable strokes, bright coloured hats a striking contrast against the grey water. On reaching 500m a circle was formed – feet in the centre, sculling to hold form; little kicks in the centre – “Right leg – up! Left leg -up! Two legs – up!” And…sink, before returning to shore – another 1k done.

©Paul McCambridge / MAC Visual MediaVartry Reservoir

©Paul McCambridge Vartry Reservoir

Side-note; when the water is low here you can see the stone walls underwater, the remains of the village that lay in the valley before it was flooded in 1863.

©Paul McCambridge / MAC Visual MediaVartry Reservoir

©Paul McCambridge  Vartry Reservoir

Back to Roundwood and a picnic lunch; 3 swims down – 4 to go.

©Paul McCambridge / MAC Visual MediaLough Dan

©Paul McCambridge  Lough Dan

Now, Lough Dan and what had been referred to as “A bit of a hike…” took the best part of an hour for us all to get down to the lake – with some grumblings. The water was low and as most started the long trek through the shallows, five of us went rogue and explored the river which flows into the lake. It started promisingly with us managing front crawl to the first bend. But from here on it was shallow, forcing us to scull, dog paddle and use the good old “crocodile crawl” to wend our way to the main lough. Still, we were off-grid and “venturing through the wilds…”

Once in the main lough we joined the group. Coursing through the blackness I could see tiny golden bubbles rising from my hands as I disturbed the silky water – from black, through gold to the surface grey sky above.

©Paul McCambridge / MAC Visual MediaCooper's Creek, Lough Dan

©Paul McCambridge Cooper’s Creek, Lough Dan

With not enough time and unlikely to get access to the Guinness lake, swim number 5 was re-scheduled to be a dip in the rockpool just below the bridge on our return walk. We had now re-named this river Coopers Creek. Clare once again led the way in, clambering over the rocks. Our circle was formed, this time perched on boulders and an attempt made at the syncro routine.

©Maureen McCoy / MAC Visual MediaCoopers Creek, nr Lough Dan

©Maureen McCoy, Coopers Creek, Lough Dan

For a final flourish, we each ducked into the small space behind the tiny fall to look out through the curtain of water streaming into the pool.

 

The first mizzle and rain of the day caught up with us on the steep climb back up to the road. Un-daunted we had only two swims to go – Upper and Lower Loughs Bray.

©Paul McCambridge / MAC Visual MediaLough Bray Upper

©Paul McCambridge Lough Bray Upper

These were the coldest of the day, the skies were grey and the light rain whisped through as we clambered inelegantly over rocks and stumbled our way in to each of these loughs.

©Paul McCambridge / MAC Visual MediaLough Bray Upper

©Paul McCambridge Lough Bray Upper

7 swims completed and still enough time to bathe with Fia’s Lake Soap from her native Sweden in preparation for our reservations at the Merry Ploughboy.

©Maureen McCoy/ MAC Visual MediaLough Bray Lower

©Maureen McCoy Lough Bray Lower

We all smelt quite lovely at dinner!

The 7 Lakes Swim Challenge drew two coachloads of seasoned outdoor swimmers, from Channel swimmers and Ice-milers to Wild swimmers, all ready for an adventurous day out with a great deal of craic raising money for Spina Bifida Hydrocephalus Ireland;

©Paul McCambridge / MAC Visual MediaLough Bray Lower

©Paul McCambridge / MAC Visual Media Lough Bray Lower

If you would like to donate, please click on the link;

https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/marathonmantoironman

Thank you all for a brilliant day!

Thanks to all the organisers including; Fia, Sarah (Aqualine) who printed the T-shirts, the two Stephens, Kevin and the ever patient drivers Daniel and Liam.

 

 

 

 

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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.

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.

Chunky Dunker’s New Years Swim 2018

Dunkers New Years 11a

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.

Dunker's New Years 3a

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.

Dunker's New Years 16a

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.

Dunker's New Years 1a

Dunker's New Years 2a

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.

Dunker's New Years 13a

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!

Dunker's New Year 20a

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

Dunker's New Years 10a

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.

Dunker's New Years 8a

Happy New Year 2018!

Keep Swimming

Dunker's New Years 19a

Dunker's New Years 7a

Dunker's New Years 6a

Dunkers New Year 14a

Dunker's New Years 12a

Dunker's New Years 15a

Vico – County Dublin

Mo filming 1b webWords by Maureen McCoy, photos by Paul McCambridge

 

Dublin City has a great tradition of alfresco swimming and further south from the famous Forty Foot, on the Vico Road the pretty area of Dalkey boasts a similar bathing area, The Vico nestled along the cliff edge between Dalkey and Killiney beach, is popular with naturists.

 

Early March this year I travelled back to the Vico, invited by some documentary film-making students from Trinity College. We were lucky, the previous week had been grey and windy and yet the weekend brought with it sunshine, interspersed with the odd shower, perfect spring swimming weather. When I arrived I found the crew had already spent several hours before, setting up time-lapse cameras and planning the story. It’s a little un-nerving having someone new behind the camera, I’m used to photos, not so used to being filmed but variety is the spice of life! Several walks up and down the approaching path certainly warmed me up before I was to get into the water. As the day wore on the regular patrons filtered in and away, stopping for a quick chat, sharing more favoured spots around the country and commenting on the mild weather. “Have you had your swim then?” the constant question, “Not yet, but it’s coming!” As the day faded to evening and the sun sunk ever lower it was time to brave the sea. My last swim that week had been in a lake in the Mourne mountains and had been acutely painful it was so cold, I was now rather nervous that I may squeal and shiver uncontrollably, all to be documented on camera! Joy, the water was not as sharp as that mountain lake. As I swam under the craggy rocks of Hawk Cliff a seal popped his head above the swell some way further out. He’d spent the day milling around, a little curious but otherwise unconcerned with the small stream of swimmers who had been in and out of the sea all day as the tide rose and fell away again. He seemed much less interested in me than I in him.

 

Mo filming 2a web

 

Once dressed and just before I left the Vico I looked out to see a pod of porpoises gliding through the water, their dorsal fins slicing the small waves as they passed back and forth across the bay. Below me the final evenings swimmer, a lady around my own age, side-stroked along the shoreline, swimming with ease and un-encumbered by swimwear. I admired her bravery as she finished her swim, climbed out, dried and dressed, unabashed, then made her way back up the long flight of steps in the evening light.

 

A narrow gap in the wall along the Vico road walking up the hill away from Dalkey marks the entrance to the path which first goes across a high-sided footbridge over the railway and then down towards the shore. Surfboards line the railings and the small white-washed shelter built into the rocks stands out against the grey stone. Handwritten on a board the words ‘swimwear optional’ and the white painted shelter above the ladders welcomes you in. Steep steps with handrails lead you to the water and to one side a small sea-water pool mirrors the sky, a sharp contrast to the choppy sea.

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

50 - Dublin - Vico - 02 web

Getting there; by car from Killiney take the Victoria then the Vico Road past Victoria Park. At White Rocks Bathing Area there is a lay-by with car parking spaces. Frome here walk as there is no further parking along the road. Heading towards Dalkey as the road sweeps left and drops down look out for the narrow gap on the sea-ward side, take this path across the footbridge and down to the Vico Bathing Area.

 

Google Maps;

https://goo.gl/maps/rV6bUBTTKs82

 

Glanmore Lake, County Kerry.

50-kerry-glanmore-lake-beara-peninsula-02a-wm

©Paul McCambridge – MAC Visual Media – 2016 Glanmore Lake, Beara Peninsula, Co Kerry.

Words by Maureen McCoy, photos by Paul McCambridge

Slip into tranquil waters around this tree-shaded lake to swim through reflections of the towering Caha Mountains. Weave around the many rock islands in this pristine lake each with trees growing in impossibly little soil. Even climb out and explore the man-made crannog with its small and over-grown stone building.

On a calm day the lake waters act like a mirror, broken only by the occasional trout jumping, spreading ripples out across the surface. Walking into the lake you realise it is alive with tiny insects flitting above the surface, it is these the trout are leaping for and the birds which swoop low over the water returning to the heights of the trees to eat their fill before their next flight. Well-known as a fishing lake, Glanmore is one of the nicest lake swims on the Beara peninsula, set at the base of Lackabane Mountain with the trees reaching up to the sky it could be deep in the Canadian wilderness.

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

Getting there; from Kenmare Co Kerry, cross over the Kenmare River and turn right onto R571(this junction has an astounding 20 signs so don’t even try to read them!) Enjoy the scenery as you wind along the river 24km to Lauragh. From Lauragh take the R574 Healy Pass road, past an old pub, an Sibin, turn left following signs for Rosie’s Lake view Restaurant. Climbing further into the mountains as you pass the entrance to Rosie’s the road drops and you get your first view of the lake, pick your spot along the lake shore.

Google Maps; https://www.google.co.uk/maps/place/Glanmore+Lake/@51.7354675,-9.7821405,15z/data=!3m1!4b1!4m5!3m4!1s0x48457a64440894f5:0xb8bbc7f0c503f1b5!8m2!3d51.7355162!4d-9.7737708

Donabate / Portrane Co Dublin

Donabate ed 06b

Words by Maureen McCoy

Photography by Paul McCambridge / MAC Visual Media

An early evening walk along the public right of way through the golf course, led us to the long strand at Donabate. Dotted along the beach were little family groups, a dad watching one son running in and out of the tiny waves and a younger boy perched high atop his shoulders. A bright picnic blanket in the distance made a splash of red against the pale sand, waiting for another family to return from their play in the sea.

I paddled through the shallows the water lapping around my ankles as I picked up and examined various tiny shells. The sand crunched beneath my toes and my sandals swung loosely in my hand, such simple pleasure. I could have been on any beach, anywhere in the world but for the next pair I came to meet.

A whimsical Irish sight; fiery red hair above freckled skin, bikini clad and wielding a hurling stick, she looked like a modern day, Irish Boudicca. I couldn’t have scripted such an encounter. Only in Ireland, aye but here’s the rub, neither of the hurling players were Irish. They were in fact, French!

Speaking in perfect English, Severine told me how she’d been in Ireland now for several months and had recently bought the hurling sticks as a souvenir of her time here. This quiet beach was the perfect place to hone their skills. Running and laughing as they passed the sloitar between them, trying to keep control of a steady volley back and forth, their game continued long into the cooling evening. As I left them and walked back along the boreen through the golf course, I could hear the gentle crack of leather on ash as it echoed across the strand.

Donabate ed 01b

Donabate Strand – Lifeguarded during the summer months

12 miles north-east of Dublin, the town centre is served by both train and bus routes from Dublin.

The strand lies between the Rogerstown and Broadmeadow estuaries, both of which are designated Special Areas of Conservation with an internationally important population of Brent Goose and nationally important populations of other bird species.

Nearby Newbridge Demesne is a Georgian mansion built for Charles Cobbe, Archbishop of Dublin, in 1736. It sits on 370 acres of eighteenth century parklands with woods, lawns and wildflower meadows. The estate is now a public park used year round. Newbridge House was a location for the 1965 film The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, starring Richard Burton.

Irish Grid Ref  0225501

Salthill, Galway – Boards and Ice Bucket Challenges

300814-Swim edit Salt Darragh 072a

Words by Maureen McCoy

Photography by Paul McCambridge / MAC Visual Media

The wind whistles through the metal rails flanking the boards. The waves wash the concrete structure and a queue weaves its way up the steps, spilling out onto the top board. Squealing youths launch themselves into the air, legs kicking as they approach the water, to land with a great splash. A rush of sea water and bubbles as they each claw their way up to the surface, gasp for breath against the cold and exhilaration, then, shaking the sea from their hair, race back to the steps and climb to the high board again.

Mere minutes from Galway City along the Salthill promenade is where you will find these famous diving boards and this traditional sea bathing area. The yellow walls of Salthill, built at various angles to create shelter from the wind, invite one into the inner sanctum where white painted benches, strewn with towels and little mounds of clothing, run the length of each wall. A community of sea-swimmers thrives here, coming from all walks of life.

Early morning sees the business folk taking a dip before their commute. Mid-morning and the retirees club share swims, stories and cups of tea and after school and throughout the summer, the youths congregate.

Following the traditions of past generations, the high boards have become a rite of passage. On the last day of school the leavers flock here in uniform to storm the sea, a release before exams begin. Encouraged and guided by the veteran divers, they progress from the lower and middle boards. Finally making their way up to the double-sided high platform. Egged on by each other and the older divers, they gain confidence, throwing themselves, twisting and somersaulting, towards the ocean.

300814-Swim edit Salt Darragh 093a

Now taking the ice-bucket challenge to new heights, a group of teenage girls arrived. Each clutched a small white bucket, pink fluted pinnies worn over their swimsuits. They giggled as they milled on the steps, each pushing another forward, none wanting to be the first, while the on-lookers smiled in amusement. They nervously followed the stream of boys up onto the high platform. The boys shouted as they leapt while the girls, one by one, edged to the front of the board, looking back for re-assurance, then, with courage plucked, a deep breath and a scream, stepped out.

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Squeals of delight as they re-surfaced, the girls joined the boys again in the race back to the top.

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Salthill; Sea Swimming area and Boards

Easy to find along the promenade and show-cased around the world in film, including Brendan Gleesons “The Guard”, the area is a hive of activity.  Bicycle parking and toilets.

Flanked by banks of steps, the near-side bathing area forms an amphitheatre above the sea stage, behind the double-ended boards soar up.

Seamus Heaney wrote several poems in this area and along the promenade you can find quotations of his scribed on the sea wall.

Here is the place to meet swimmers and find out about the local history, people will share with you the hidden beaches and will recommend the entertainment spots in the city.