Tag Archives: Ballycotton

Images of 2013 – 2 – Swimming Locations

I didn’t think 2013 was a great year for swimming new locations for me, though early in the year I’d hoped that would be different. Unsurprising, I suppose, as the longer I’ve been swimming, the further I would need to travel to swim new locations. I’ve covered all the Copper Coast, much of the rest of the Waterford coast and I’m not a fan of river swimming, and there are no significant lakes anywhere near me. Also, I had no big swim this year, not being able to afford one, and the situation looks the same for 2014. :-(

But that didn’t stop me having a look through the year’s locations, and there were a few I’d forgotten to add to my favourites and in review the year wasn’t bad.

I’ll start with my watery home, Waterford’s Copper Coast, and most specifically Tramore Bay from my usual starting location of the Guillamenes Cove.

Tramore Bay_MG_8972.resized
A very calm day in Tramore Bay in December, made even calmer through use of a very long exposure. The orange buoy is about 450 metres out, can’t be seen from distance in the water, and what I use to test my navigation skills during the summer, requiring of myself that I reach it with no more than a 25 metre deviation to either side.

It wasn’t all good at the Guillamenes this year. The increasing litigiousness of Irish society and the nonsensical and fearfully reactionary approach of Tramore town council and my own club led to this steel monstrosity, which so incensed Wallace.

Wallace Guillamenes

Newtown Cove is only 200 metres away from the Guillamene Cove. Though I swim past it on at least half of all my swims, dependant of swim direction, yet I start there less than one time in a hundred. We did however start the distance camp swim from Newtown Cove.

Cove entrance_MG_8971.resized

My favourite other location on the Copper coast is Kilfarassey, providing as it does a range of reefs, caves, tunnels and swim distances and directions, centered around my favourite playground of Burke’s Island which sits about 600 metres from the beach. As a swimmer and blogger I use more representational images. But as an aspiring photographer, I’m increasingly drawn to try to capture more of how I feel about a place.

Burke's Island IMG_8614_01In the first two of the extraordinary five whole weeks of summer that Ireland received in 2013, while the water hadn’t yet risen above 10C, I swam more on the coast at the east side of Tramore Bay. Swimming out from Ballymacaw, Portally and Dunmore East, including finally swimming partway into Seal Cave between Portally and Ballymacaw, a scary place. I’ve never swum this wild stretch of coast without experiencing strong tidal currents running east or west.

One Saturday in June, I took some photos of an inshore fishing boat passing below the cliff walk. Three days later I heard of yet another boat from the local main fishing port of Dunmore East lost with all three hands, all of them brothers, off Powerstown Head, which marks the entrance to Tramore Bay and can be seen in the first photo above, and which is the terminus of the easternmost stretch of Waterford’s coast. When I checked my photographs, it was indeed the same boat, the Dean Leanne, with two of the three tragically lost brothers onboard, probably the last every photograph of the brothers at sea. I found a connection to the family and passed on all the photos.

Dean Leanne & Hook head

In January a group of us attempted an Ice Mile in Dublin at the Bull Wall, but the water wasn’t cold enough, even though I got quite hypothermic.

The swim route. Nothing much to see here.
The swim route. Nothing much to see here.

A few weeks later In March, the same group swam in the Wicklow Mountains at Lough Dan. For a variety of reasons I decided against the full attempt but the trip was great, and wading into ice-covered water measuring less than two degrees at the edges was … interesting.

Lough Dan_IMG_1304.resized

 In the coldest spring in over fifty years in Ireland, Dee and I took some Mexican visitors to the West Coast for the view. The howling Force Eight wind and five degree (Celsius) air meant they were unable to emerge to see much of the scenery. But apparently the most shocking thing they saw was me going swimming in Doolin harbour in a three metre swell in a howling wind and crashing waves, wearing a Speedo, with a dolphin and two fully dry-suited divers. How Dee & I chuckled.

Beyond Doonagore Castle the Crab Beast roars
Beyond Doonagore Castle, Doolin Bay with Crab Island bearing a full Atlantic attack. This shot was taken three miles from that wave.

I don’t think my first Sandycove trip of 2013 was until April, but I managed more Sandycove laps in 2013 than in 2012. My lifetime total is still well below 200, so joining the Sandycove “D” Club of 500 lap swimmers seems distant at best and I shall to remain content with being  “C” club member. Most of the rest of the County Cork Coast eluded me this year, despite early promises from other Sandycove swimmers. And I guess I’ve written and shown you plenty of Sandycove before.

Morning view from the outside west entrance with the sun in the east. The slipway is on the left, some of the reefs at the first corner are appearing and the tide is dropping toward low.
The Red House above is no longer red.

April and May saw me returning to my usual caves on the coast, but leaving exploration for new caves until the water warms up later on in the summer.

Newtown Cave
It is impossible to capture the range of light visible to the human eye with a camera in one photograph but I love the reflections of this shot from inside Newtown Head cave.

I made it back to Coumshingaun in the Comeragh Mountains during both winter and summer. Coumshingaun is the closest lake to me, if one ignores the 45 minute climb, but only I swim it during summer as the edge is circled with rocks and being so far from a road the risks are too high to swim in winter. 

Coumshingaun in winter (Nat Geo filter).resized

Loneswimming Coumshingaun.resized

I’m not sure if I made it out to Carricknamoan rock off Clonea in 2012, but I was back there in 2103. It’s a swim that looks simple in the picture below, taken from the slight height above the beach, and is only about three kilometres round trip, but it still requires experience as the rock is so low that it can’t be seen until the last couple of hundred metres, and there are changing tidal currents.

Carricknamoan & Black Rock_MG_4927-resized.resized

 I also completed a short swim I’d scouted in 2012, swimming out of Ardmore Bay to the wreck of the Samson, under the cliffs of Ardmore Head. (Ardmore is the oldest Christian settlement in Ireland). You can take a shorter 10 minute swim to the wreck if you climb down the path to the angling point and start from there, but what’s the fun in that? While rounding Ardmore Head into the bay on the return swim, Dee took a favourite photo with mine.

Loneswimming IMG_4749.resized

While Distance Camp final weekend and the qualification and torture swims were on, I instead cancelled my planned attendance on the last weekend to catch up with a swim I wanted to do for many years, to circumnavigate Skellig Michael, the 800 feet high island peak the site of a 1500 year old ancient hermetic site, 12 miles off the Irish south-west on the end of the Continental Shelf. Another swim not for beginners, despite its short course.

NW reef IMG_7077.resized

During the summer, I also range out along the Copper Coast away from usual entry and exit spots, particularly liking to risk swimming across Ronan’s Bay, as the return trip can present currents strong enough to cut swim speed by two-thirds and generate a significant challenge.

Newtown Head and the Metalman & pillars from across Ronan’s bay

August is the summer peak for open water swimmers. Long warm(-ish) days (this is Ireland after all), warm water (16 to 17 degrees Celsius in August this year, exceptional) and races. Carol Cashell organises the local favourite Ballycotton 4 kilometres race, which is usually cursed with bad weather, late in August. It’s a challenging swim and the conditions the past two years have made it an experienced-swimmer-only race.

After the race, after the pub, I wandered back down to the tiny beach to catch the moon over the island.

Ballycotton Island moon IMG_8815.resizedSeptember saw two visits to Dover for Sylvain’s Channel Butterfly swim. So there were the usual swims in Dover Harbour,

Dover Harbour Entrance IMG_0196

…and a swim into France with Sylvain. Channel dawn.resized

Not a bad swimming year I guess, in reflection.

If the weather co-operates, when this post is published, I’ll be swimming at the Guillamenes for my Christmas day swim.

Update: The Christmas day weather didn’t co-operate. The swim was cancelled due to heavy seas, but I swam anyway and about 20 people foolishly followed me into the water. Foolish as the swell as almost three metres, and I’ve had a lot of practice at timing and rough water particularly in Tramore Bay. But everyone was safe and fun was had.

Maybe we’ll get to swim together next year but regardless, have a happy holiday and my best to you all, my friends.

Related articles

Images of 2013 – 1 – Swimming People (loneswimmer.com)

A pictorial tour of my 2012 open water swimming locations

This post is now part the My Swimming Life, 2012 series.

I must start with the Guillamenes and Tramore Bay and Kilfarassey of course, my main swimming locations.  My usual range in Tramore Bay is between Newtown Head (under the pillars) to the beach, along the west side of the bay, most of the range seen in this first photo, with much less regular venturing across or out deep. (I also regularly leave the bay by passing around Great Newtown Head into Ronan’s Bay).

Tramore Bay
Tramore Bay, May 2012

Swimming range in Kilfarassey is mostly based around swimming out and around Brown’s island, Yellow Rock and the big arch. Once the water warms up I will up past Sheep Island.

Kilfarassey, August 2012
Kilfarassey to Sheep Island August 2012

Other locations on the Copper Coast: Bunmahon, Gararrus and Ballydowane. I didn’t, that I recall, swim at Kilmurrin, Ballyvooney or Stradbally this year. Funny how you just don’t make it to some places each year.

Tankardstown, past Bunmahon & to Tempevrick
Tankardstown, past Bunmahon (in behind the middle medium island) to Tempevrick
Ballydowane Cove across to St. John's island
Ballydowane Cove across to St. John’s island
Gararrus across to Sheep Island
Gararrus across to Sheep Island with Eagle Rock just visible behind

Clonea beach, but only a couple of times. I didn’t swim at Baile na Gall.

Clonea beach across Dungarvan Bay to Helvick Head, new Year's Day, 2013
Clonea beach across Dungarvan Bay, past Carricknamoan, to Helvick Head, New Year’s Day, 2013

Sandycove, Garrylucas, Ballycotton, Myrtleville and across Cork Harbour.

Sandycove panorama
Sandycove panorama, the first and fourth corners of the island to the Red House
Garrylucas, April 2012
Garrylucas, April 2012. Most boring photo of the year?
Ballycotton Lighthouse
Ballycotton Lighthouse
Myrtleville beach at dawn, Oct. 2012
Myrtleville beach at dawn, Oct. 2012
Roche's Point to Power Head
Roche’s Point to Power Head

Round Beginish Island, but I missed swimming at Derrynane, Finian’s Bay or Kells this year, which are usual Kerry locations for me most years.

Valentia Island and Sound panorama with Caherciveen bay and the small islands, July 2012
Valentia Island and Valentia Sound panorama, with Caherciveen bay and the small islands, July 2012

Kingsdale to Deal, Dover Harbour, and Cap Griz Nez.

Kingdale Beach
Evening on Kingdale Beach
Dover Harbour from Dover Castle, July 2012
Dover Harbour from Dover Castle, July 2012
Les Hennes to Cap Gris, July 2012, taken on one great day with good friends.
Wissant beach to Cap Gris nez, past the WWII bunkers, July 2012, taken on one great day with good friends.

Inishcarra, Coumshingaun and Bay Lough are the lakes I can recall swimming. First year not swimming in any of the Kerry lakes for a while.

Inishcarra reservoir
Inishcarra reservoir
Coumshingaun Lake panorama
Coumshingaun Lake panorama, Comeragh Mountains
Bay Lough
Bay Lough, Knockmealdown Mountians

And of course Coney Island’s Brighton Beach and Around Manhattan.

Brighton beach, Coney Island
Brighton beach, Coney Island
Lower Manhattan
Lower Manhattan

All photos are of course my own.

Passing Roche's Point

Sailing from Crosshaven & Cork Harbour to Dungarvan

I recently had the opportunity to spend the day on Clare’s Orcasailing from her over-wintering berth in Crosshaven (on the west side of Cork Harbour) back to Dungarvan. (Thanks Clare). Click all pics for larger sizes.

Leaving Crosshaven

Crosshaven is the home of the world’s oldest sailing club, RCYC.

Outside Crosshaven
Outside Crosshaven

Cork Harbour itself is considered the finest natural harbour in the islands of Ireland and Great Britain. Winston Churchill made a speech after  WWII telling the Irish people we were lucky he didn’t just take Cork Harbour. (Yeah, that’s one of the Churchill speeches that gets less publicity).

The Skipper
The Skipper

Each side of Cork Harbour is protected by old Forts.

Fort on west side of Cork Harbour

The day started out beautiful, sunny, blue skies and flat water. And no wind.

Approaching Roche's Point from inside Cork Harbour

Roche’s Point Lighthouse is famous as a Sea Area Weather Forecast location, and is situated on the east headland at the entry to Cork Harbour.

Spike island & Cobh

Cobh (pronounced cove) used to be known as Queenstown, famously the last port of the Titanic (Titanic 100 week there this week). Spike Island was a prison and is now one the three Triple Crown Of Prison Swims (Spike, Alcatraz, Robben) which only Ned Denison and Mike Harris of Sandycove and Gary Emich of San Francisco have completed.) The harbour is so large there are a few islands within it.

Exiting Cork Harbour

The water always seems to be choppy around the harbour entrance with strong currents running.

Roche’s Point Light is very pretty on a nice day.

In 2008, Danny Walsh, Eddie Irwin, Ned Denison, myself and Niall O’Cruallaich swam from Roche’s Point to Power Head, from a boat drop. Niall and myself swam most of the way back before the tide stopped us.

Roche's Point to Power Head (Power Head is the furthest away headland in the photo), Roche's Point is just behind)

Ballycroneen, home of Channel swimmers Liam Maher and Eddie Irwin, is on the next stretch of coast after Power Head.


The Magnificent Seven did a 5 hour swim here on the first week of Ned’s Distance Week in 2010. We started 3 hours before all the remaining campers arrived, and finished an hour afterwards, with an hour of unscheduled racing in between. (I just remembered that was another time I fell foul of Finbarr on a buoy turn and Rob ran me into a canoe).

Ballycotton island in the distance

The next headland is Ballycotton village with Ballycotton Island and Lighthouse just off the coast, home to Carol Cashell’s late summer great Ballycotton 4k swim, for advanced open water swimmers only. (I also just remembered I never wrote up that swim last year). Tough conditions. Great swim.

Ballycotton Lighthouse

Ballycotton Lifeboatis one of the most famous of RNLI stations for its multiple famous rescues, especially the 19365 Daunt Lightship rescue, having received multiple RNLI medals, two Gold, seven Silver, eight Bronze. After passing Ballycotton there’s the long flat sweep of Garryvoe, before the coast turns past Capel island across Youghal bay, a long sail north-east before reaching Ram Head and Ardmore, site of Ireland’s oldest Round Tower and possibly the oldest Monastery in the country. With a large telephoto lens the photos are just too dull and the coast too far away.

Traditional fishing boat off Youghal

After Ardmore, the coast changes to the beautiful rugged sandstone cliffs of the Copper Coast I showed you so much of last year. The next landmark is Mine Head, Ireland’s highest lighthouse, also a radio call station for the Coast Guard, and well-known to everyone who’s listened to an Irish sea area forecast.

Approaching Mine Head

 By this stage the sunshine had long departed but the wind never picked up past low Force Three.

Looking back at Mine Head

From Mine Head it’s a quick run to Helvick Head at the end of the Ring peninsula, the entrance to Dungarvan Bay.

Approaching Helvick Head with the Comeragh mountains behind Dungarvan. Bracken burning high on the mountains

We were outside Dungarvan Bay a bit early, and Clare needed to wait an hour for more tide and draft for the boat. So we sailed past Carricknamoan rock, one of my turning points for swims, but just a rock so not very exciting. Then a tack left us facing Helvick Head with Mine Head jutting out in the distance.

And back past Ballinacourty Lighthouse on the other side of the bay.

In the bay we saw flight of Mallards returning to the Back Bay tidal lagoon behind the long Cunnigar spit of land that stretches out from the Ring peninsula.

Fight of Mallards
Helvick Head, Pier and Ring

Across the bay was Helvick Pier, destination for the Helvick swim. (Study the photo to get a good line if you are swimming this year).

East (town) end of Cunnigar, behind stretches out the flat calm expanse of the Back Bay.

Heading into Dungarvan past the end of the Cunnigar.

Approaching Dungarvan

Only two hundred metres or so from Dungarvan, the end of the Cunnigar is a popular beach angling location and subject to extremely strong tidal currents.

Dungarvan Lookout. Clare looks out from her house everyday.

Past Orca’s normal mooring  at the Lookout to go into the town pontoon to pick up a dinghy.

Abbeyside Church

Passing around the old town walls into the inner harbour.

Finally, back in Dungarvan, a fantastic day at sea again, thanks to the Skipper.

Inside the town harbour approaching the pontoon.