Words by Maureen McCoy, Photography by Paul McCambridge

Turning down at Buttermilk Café towards the pretty beach patched with rocks and the harbour dotted with moored boats where bathers were enjoying the start of the summer season and the end of a long lock-down. At the far end of the beach the harbour wall hid an area to park several vehicles and it was here Keith, Matthew, Paddy, Carl and Kevin were on the lookout for our arrival. The plan to take us out to the blowhole, a mere 1600m round trip.

In a mixed group of wet-suits and skins, with Matthew kayaking beside us, we followed the shoreline, large rocks close to the surface made us give it a respectful distance, with no desire to beach ourselves and the knowledge that at the first headland there is a septic tank, giving that rocky outcrop a wide berth was certainly desirable! Strong advice is not to swim here after heavy rainfall!

The day was calm, there had been no rain recently and a mild breeze just lifted the surface into tiny waves. The water was that deep teal green, clear and fresh. I could clearly see the white sand several metres below, patches of kelp and the long trailing tentacles of small lions mane as they drifted below me, those delicate fishing lines can pack a punch.

As we neared the cave Kevin pointed out to me the “Eye of the Needle” a sea arch off the next headland.

“If you want a longer swim, go for that, if you’re brave enough and it’s very calm you can swim through!”

The arch is very narrow and despite the days small swell it still was enough that a swimmer would be at risk of being dashed against the rock pillars – so perhaps another day!

Swimming into the blowhole cave with this gentle swell was still possible though. The layers of rock towering above us ranged in colour from red to purple and underwater the bronze kelp waving back and forth as we drifted deeper into the cave. Light flooded the far wall as we swam out from the darkness suddenly the bright sky was revealed to us above the encircling walls of the cave.

We were careful not to outstay our welcome, although the water was calm and the forecast remained good nothing is guaranteed in the sea so we retraced our strokes out of the cave and began our homeward swim.

Thank you Gartan swimmers for looking after us and taking us on the guided tour. With so many places to explore in the area both sea and lakes we look forward to joining you all again soon!