I thought I’d already posted this swim, as in the swim report for Bunmahon to Ballydowane, I alluded to previously discussed knowledge of Bunmahon from years visiting it and as the surf spot that I know best, even better than Kilmurrin. I must have spent hundreds of hours surfing here. As a swimming location it can be dangerous on swell, producing a powerful undertow at a higher tide, and it’s taken the lives of a couple of people over the years. This swim was a companion specifically to the Kilmurrin to Tankardstown swim, to complete the same stretch of coast.
The small beach break belies its unprepossessing appearance by producing a series of shifting, fast, steep and occasionally very big waves and as such is much-loved by local surfers. Even on swell though it’s pretty mushy and mundane at low tide with the power best unveiled on a rising tide.
It was raining and low tide when I arrived, utterly uninviting, with a solitary person walking a dog, a couple of kids in wetsuits with foamies, and the two lifeguards, Bernie and Kate, sheltering in the prefabricated metal lifeguard hut. Only in Ireland would we make beach lifeguard huts metal. After I’d explained what I was doing, I started from the west end of the beach where the locals and regulars park, even though it has only a small amount of the space of the main car park. The main car park is for tourists!
I swam away east, swimming along the beach through the mushy channel area, the tide being low meant there were none of the channels or rips that often occur in the centre of the beach apparent. I passed the Mahon river mouth and swam out of the small bay after about 12 minutes. I passed though a section of rocks, with the almost unknown slipway and difficult to access of Stage Cove up at the high tide line.
I wondered if I was going to run into the current and difficult conditions that typified the Kilmurrin to Tankardstown swim from the opposite direction, though even though there was a similar onshore wind, I believed I might be lucky with the low tide, and so it was, as I passed across the tiny Stage Cove and into the area below the cliffs, moving past the rock of Cassaunagreena, now exposed by the low tide. The cliffs coming from this side sloped more slowly up the height of the Engine House and old main mine shafts, all of 240 metres deep, well below sea-level.
And then I had a slow-ish swim to pass under the Cornish Engine house until I was past, in line with Drumboe rock under CastleCoileen, and therefore sure that I’d overlapped the swim that ended around there on the Kilmurrin to Tankardstown, in much worse conditions.
The water conditions were nowhere near as bad as they were on a higher tide, with all the reefs now exposed, even though it was a cloudy and dull day, with the rain still falling.
Because of the low tide of course, I was further out, and that also reduced the sensation of the menacing overhang of the cliffs. I’d reached turning point in a mere 40-ish minutes. The swim back was uneventful, a few turns around reefs and to swim around the reef and rocks outside the Mahon estuary, and slowing as I swam up the beach, losing a few minutes on the return but finishing in about one hour and twenty-five minutes.
Bunmahon to Kilmurrin is one of the most interesting sections of the Copper Coast, with the Cornish Engine House as the centre-piece, the surroundings nicely landscaped, new walking paths and guides all over the area. There are a lot of old mine shafts along this section but all have been safely cordoned off and sign-posted, some of the old signs in place for a long time.