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Old wooden sea defence at Allihies beach, Beara Peninsula, Co Cork.

Words Maureen McCoy – Photography Paul McCambridge

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The village of Allihies stands on the hillside above the rugged splendour of the beach and Ballydonegan Bay. Welcoming with vibrant, painted buildings and a relaxed atmosphere at the end of summer, one is drawn to this little oasis, which hugs the hillside. Dotted around are the remains of the copper-mining industry: stone buildings with curiously shaped chimneys, balanced on impossibly small ridges climbing towards the top of the mountain. 

Below, the white beach looks as though the sand has been carried in truckloads to make that impressively deep bank smothering the little bay. The water reaches from pale blue shallows to the deep blue-grey of the ocean and Dursey Island is visible to the west. 

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To the right of the beach, leading up to the pier, the stark white concrete sea-defence wall is elegant in its simplicity, its stepped formation providing shelter, seating and reflecting the sun’s warmth. 

The water shelves steeply to a good depth for swimming and several small groups of rocks are scattered along the beach. As you swim, watch for the pinnacles of rocks close to the pier, which are hidden at high tide.

Take in some of the local walking trails, signposted in Allihies, and finish the day enjoying the last of the evening sunshine sipping a beer outside O’Neill’s bar on the main street.

Excerpt from Wild Swimming in Ireland

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