Words By Maureen McCoy
Photography By Paul McCambridge / MAC Visual Media
The reeds whispered in the gentle breeze as we walked into Lough Derg on a warm summers evening and swam out into the dark, peaty water. Far across the lough rose the impressive structure of the Sanctuary, the circular Basilica with its great copper dome dominating the lake. I thought of the many thousands of pilgrims who have travellled here seeking enlightenment, or to ease their suffering and that of others, or came here in thanks. Clearing my mind of the everyday rush, I stopped making lists and simply enjoyed being here, immersed in the water and the moment. In a kind of meditation I let myself relax and breathe, taking the time to enjoy the cool water, the warm sun and the soft breeze.
For hundreds of years, Station Island where the Sanctuary sits was believed to be a special place, even before Saint Patrick travelled here in the 12th Century. But it was after Patrick’s vision of the afterlife during contemplation in a cave here that it became a place of Christian pilgrimage and the island was given the name, Purgatorium Sancti Patricii.
The largest lough in Donegal at six miles by four, Lough Derg can afford the swimmer plenty of quiet places to explore without interrupting anyone else’s spiritual experience. Away from the main car-park there are plenty of access points used by fishermen and with no motor-craft allowed, the peaceful air is tangible.
Although it would be tempting to swim out to the Sanctuary, they ask that no craft go within 300m of the island, and I accept that this would include swimmers and so I am happy to enjoy my solitary contemplation, enjoy the peace and admire the grand building from afar.
New to this page. I used the search function but nothing matched.
Anyone know if it’s safe to swim at Lough Fern near Milford?
Sorry for the Maps being out of sync this is due to Google Maps changing the search criteria from Co-Ords. We are endeavouring to fix this a quickly as possible.
As for Lough Fern, word has it that some swimmers use the lough but we haven’t checked it out ourselves. If you contact Gartan Open Water Swimmers FB link https://www.facebook.com/GartanOpenWaterSwimmers they will hopefully know the form for there.
Hope this helps and hopefully our map will be sorted very soon.
Kind Regards Paul