A Tale of Two swims…
Words by Maureen McCoy
Photography by Paul McCambridge
With the early evening sun on our shoulders Alison and I entered the calm sea at Ballygalley beach. I was struck by the simple beauty of the muted greens and greys of the sandy floor, moving through the spectrum to soft blue. The deeper water then revealed emerald green, bright with shafts of sunlight dancing across the sand.
The bay was flat calm, the water silky as Alison and I swam out to a large pink buoy then, keeping parallel to the beach, aimed for the rocks at the end of the bay. The water was cool and perfectly clear, I could see the occasional rock deep beneath, covered with sea-weed in a desert of sand. We passed two more buoys, their weed encased ropes curving down into the depths conjured thoughts of a ghost ship, covered in years of growth.
Turning back down the beach in an amicable front-crawl, together we swept past the Castle Hotel with its imposing façade.
The lighthouse beam from the Maidens swept across the beach as we left the sea,
dressed in our scruffy after-swim joggers and with salty hair and sandy flip-flops went into the Ballygalley Castle Hotel and ordered hot chocolate and coffee, and watched the sun go down over the glassy water.
Alison Cardwell and Maureen McCoy
A year later and the same spot provided a very different swim. Michelle was waiting for favourable tides for her North Channel solo and was keen to keep her cold tolerance high. So on a windy Saturday with a group of friends, lulled by the recent hot weather, we bravely set off. The water was cold and choppy as we waded out and our sanity was questioned. Rachel and Erin led the way by quickly plunging in, followed by Michelle then myself and finally the boys, “It’s actually not that bad once you get going!” said a surprised Richard. Although it took a little time to adjust their breathing amidst the waves and chop and quite a lot of water made it into their mouths, they enjoyed the exhilaration of the surf.
Michelle and I headed across the bay, feeling the power of the sea as the waves pushed us towards the shore and we had to adjust our course. We soared above forests of kelp, shafts of sunlight piercing the water and the occasional crab scuttling along the sea-bed on some errand, oblivious to the maelstrom above. We had to stop regularly to regain sight of each other in the choppy water – neither of us wanted to go back saying we’d lost the other!
Finally we returned, dressed and joined the others to sprinkle sand again on the hotels carpets!
Parking in-front of the hotel with steps leading to the beach.
A long strand, popular with families and very clear water.
An ideal training ground for long distance or triathletes with approximately a 1km stretch across the bay.