Sky above, sand below, peace within … we all love shore leave. We talk to ten Glossy contacts about their seaside experiences …
Catherine Mangan, Author
I almost died on Bondi beach. I was 20, had acquired a working holiday visa for Australia and like so many Irish before me, I left for Sydney with a few hundred dollars and a reservation at a hostel. To be fair, it was my own fault. I’m not a strong swimmer and I was trying to keep up with all the fit, lithe creatures who were far more comfortable in the water than I was. And this was some serious water, with powerful surf and intense, rolling waves. I wanted to fit into this new world that I was hoping might adopt me, but a rogue wave walloped me in the face and sent me spiralling. I got it together enough to find my feet, stand up and breathe deeply … but I had tumbled like damp towels on a high spin cycle and when I breathed deep, I was facing the wrong way, into another massive oncoming wave. I spun, helpless. I was hauled out of the water and laid on the sand like a limp creature. As I came to, from a state of semi-consciousness, I heard Australian accents shouting, “Get her back in the water!” I did get back in, reluctantly. I still had something to prove to the fit, lithe creatures, and to myself. But, to this day, give me the still, tranquil waters of a limpid blue bay or a protected cove over roaring waves. I’ll take Glanleam Beach, a secluded bay on Valentia Island, in Kerry, surrounded by spectacular sub-tropical gardens. There, I can swim at peace and breathe deeply. One Italian Summer by Catherine Mangan is published by Sphere.
E.V. Kelly, Author
We arrive and the luminous emotions from this day last week begin to fade, receding into sepia. Here at Dog’s Bay Beach in Connemara, all five boys are moulding an entire village into life. Team working. Delegating. Burying themselves with fervent digging. Disappearing. Half bodies. Underground systems and living spaces. Overground bridges and roads. It reminds us of Matmata, the village in southern Tunisia used as a film location for Star Wars. We travelled there, pre-marriage and kids, on an overnight bus for the thrill of sleeping in a sand cave underground.
The brothers collaborate and encourage their own Matmata into life, ignoring my pleas to take a break for their ham rolls. They strip, chests bare, while I search for a second hoodie of theirs to put on. My fingertips are becoming numb. A freezing summer’s day. The small dog keeps a watchful eye. Barks relentlessly at a cow trying to come down to join us. No. This beach is just for me and my crew, he says. The cow backs away.
When will all this teamwork lark be done? Do we want it to be done? In years to come, we know, they will not be having this sort of beach fun together. They mould on, trying to force a canal up to it, and then one of them shouts that it’s time to swim. Swim? It’s grey and cold and there’s a soft drizzle set to descend. They screech and laugh, echoing into the ice as if at an alcohol-infused stag party. I dance a jig on the shore to keep the blood circulating, and I wonder. About their future. About all the little endings. How this time last week I was ironing a white shirt and polishing black shoes for the school graduation ceremony. How we are here now. Exactly where we should be. Her Last Words by EV Kelly is published by Quercus in paperback, e-book and audio on June 9.
Chris Bellew and Hugo MacNulty, Love Your Swim Spot
“Over the last year, we visited over 80 beaches and have swum in over 50 of the spots that we have photographed for Love Your Swim Spot,” explain business partners Chris Bellew, photographer and Hugo MacNulty, pilot. Combining their talents, they founded the poster business after recognising the passion fellow sea-swimmers had for their favourite swim spots, producing spectacular aerial views alongside unique characteristics including latitude and longitude, minimum and maximum water temperature, as well as aspect and terrain.
“Each beach we have visited has its own unique quality,” explains MacNulty. “It’s hard to pick our favourite, from the Forty Foot in Dublin – my local spot where I meet my swim group, the Gollymocky Whalers – or the Vico in Dalkey, to the wilds of Pol Gorm and Aughris Pier in Sligo. I think our favourite photograph was of Loughshinny beach in North County Dublin, a beautiful sheltered fishing cove that felt as though it should exist in the west.” MacNulty’s favourite beach is Castlehaven Beach near Castletownshend in West Cork. “For me, it’s Morning Beach at Bettystown in Meath, close to where I grew up,” says Bellew. “Both remind us of where our love of water began.” Above: Brittas Bay, photographed by Love Your Swim Spot. www.loveyourswimspot.com
Amber Shresta, junior doctor and yoga teacher
Growing up in Co Kerry, the Atlantic Ocean has been the source of some of my most enduring and happiest memories. As I write this from Perth in Western Australia where I now live, my heart longs for a meandering walk along Rossbeigh Beach in Glenbeigh, or a peaceful soak at Glanleam Bay on Valentia Island, where my family has a small cottage. And while every inch of the Kerry coastline is worthy of its own novel, if I had to pick just one stretch of sand I’d choose St Finian’s Bay or The Glen, as it is known to the locals. On the Skellig Ring drive, between the towns of Portmagee and Ballinskelligs, St Finian’s Bay is one of Kerry’s last wild frontiers, a secluded cove with an unparalleled view of the Skellig Islands making it one of the best beaches in Ireland. The bay is also a mecca for intrepid surfers who are drawn to its incessant and stormy sets of waves courtesy of the Atlantic swell.
Despite the remoteness of St Finian’s Bay, you won’t have to travel far for some company or coffee. Driftwood Surf Café sits behind the beach and is the perfect place to let your salt-soaked hair down as you enjoy a seasonal menu that draws its inspiration from the surrounding farmland and ocean. While the profile of this secluded stretch of sand has risen quietly over the last few years among surfers and diners alike, I first learned of the bay when I was on the hunt for a camping spot. The beach is flanked by a grassy verge which is the perfect place to park a campervan or set up a tent. You’ll fall asleep under one of the clearest night skies in the world (the surrounding Iveragh peninsula is home to one of only three Gold Tier Dark Sky Reserves in the world) and wake up to crashing waves – what more could you ask? Amber is brand ambassador for Irish fashion designer Aoife McNamara; www.aoifemcnamara.com. Above: Amber Shresta on Valentia Island, Co Kerry.
Aoibheann McNamara, restaurateur and fashion designer, The Tweed Project
I have always lived by or near the sea; I love the drama of it and its power and energy. I swim regularly – I find it cleansing emotionally, spiritually and creatively. We are blessed to have six beaches in Galway. They all have their own names – either real or made-up – like Ladies Beach or Dogs’ Beach. If it’s a scorcher, I head to the long, wide, sheltered sandy beach of An Trá Mhór. Its tranquility and gently sloping sands into the sea, make it popular with swimmers. Another paradise is Trá Sailin, which only has room for about ten families and has no phone coverage, so it’s a place to fully disconnect and enjoy the water. On beach outings, I wear a Balloon dress, which we designed two years ago at The Tweed Project. As a welcome break from designing in tweed, we embraced linen that summer and the dress always makes me feel liberated. In the picture, I’m wearing it on Fanore Beach, Co Clare, where I stayed in a studio with my bloke Ben Geoghegan. We had hoped to surf but the wind was so wild we paddled in the rock pools and skinny-dipped in the quiet coves. Bliss! www.thetweedproject.com
Isobel Henihan, artist
The sea is a constant source of inspiration for my work and places along the Irish coastline often feature in my paintings. A few on my expanding list of favourite spots include Keem, Fanore, Enniscrone, Inch, Inchydoney as well as the Cliffs of Moher and Kilkee in Co Clare. Sometimes a work will be more about somewhere between the water and the sky, and the sensation of being there, not about a specific location. I swim every morning in Dublin Bay, at Seapoint, so that holds a special place in my heart. After my swim, I will often try to recreate the textures and mood of the water back in my studio, using a combination of sketches and photos. I’m intrigued by the sea. Facing and embracing the cold and experiencing the profound connection of being immersed in sea and sky helps keep me grounded and focused for the day ahead. www.isobelhenihan.com
Roisin Meaney, author
I adore beaches: the briny smell of them (all the better if they’re laced with seaweed), the thundery rush of the sea, and the wide sky above. You can’t beat an Irish beach, weather notwithstanding. Being a West of Ireland girl, I’m most familiar with the beaches that run out to meet the Atlantic, from the glorious stretches that stud the edge of West Cork, right up to Donegal with its own share of coastal treasures. Although I appreciate a good beach in all weathers, I can’t deny that sun splashing on an expanse of sand brings a new level of enjoyment.
I once decided to do a Shirley Valentine, holidaying alone on the Greek island of Zakynthos, where I happened late one afternoon on a taverna by a beach that resembled the one Shirley had found for her solitary vino. I took a seat and ordered a bottle of house red, feeling very heroic. As the sun disappeared below the horizon, the temperature plummeted, leaving me shivering in my sundress. I sipped the not very vintage wine, trying to ignore the pack of dogs that had appeared out of nowhere, sniffing with alarming enthusiasm around my ankles. With no sign of a Greek hero coming to my rescue, I distracted my audience by pouring my wine onto the sand, and scuttled back to my apartment. Beaches, I decided, were best enjoyed in daylight hours. Life Before Us by Roisin Meaney is published by Hachette Ireland on June 6 in paperback and eBook.
Frances Fogarty, swimrobe designer
I was brought up in Tipperary and apart from an occasional visit to my aunt’s beach house on Clonea Strand, it wasn’t until I met my husband that I really felt the draw of the sea (his great grandfather was a Blasket Islander). Before moving to Dingle, West Kerry in 2019, I spent many years running hotels, restaurants and cafés and liked nothing better than a trip to a beach on my day off to recharge the battery! During lockdown, I took up daily sea swimming and am now a proud member of our local swimming group – the Baile Bathers. It was during a post-swim chat that I had my eureka moment – what if we were all to wear swimrobes made from recycled towels? Within days I had created my first colourful LilyMais swimrobe. I combine three things I love – fashion, the environment and sea swimming – in this growing business. My favourite beach is Tráigh Uí Chléirigh in Dingle, a two-minute walk from my studio. Pictured: colourful swimrobe, €150, www.lilymais.com
Laura Chambers, cashmere designer
As an art student, and to this day, the beach has always been a source of inspiration. I love photographing our campaigns beside the sea whenever the opportunity arises. Last year we photographed on the beach in Portmarnock, the sand dunes proved to be the perfect backdrop to our laidback, sea-inspired summer cashmere collection. This year we went to Bray Promenade for our playful “Wish You Were Here” campaign.
The light is very distinctive at Lahinch Beach especially on an overcast day. The artist Corrina Earlie captures this beautifully in her painting “Summer Time, Lahinch Promenade” which I have hanging in my hall.
On holiday in Kerry last year, I was blown away by the beauty of its seascapes. It’s not surprising Inch Beach was used as a location for several films including Ryan’s Daughter and Playboy of the Western World. Derrynane is my absolute favourite. With the nature reserve behind the beach and the turquoise waters, it feels like paradise. I can’t wait to return this summer. Pictured: red and blue striped cashmere top,€350; red cashmere coatigan, €850; both www.laura-chambers.com
Fiona O’Brien, author
As an advertising copywriter in a former life, I got to see more than my fair share of idyllic beaches, thanks to shooting commercials abroad. For spectacular pink coral sands, and laidback Bahamian vibe, Harbour Island takes first prize. India Hicks got into trouble with the locals for saying it would become the next St Barth’s, which is just what they don’t want. I pulled a muscle jogging by the sea and spent the rest of the trip on crutches. The rum punches and conch fritters are memorable too. I’ve always thought there was something rather regimented and joyless about Côte d’Azur beaches, although Cannes is entertaining for people-watching. For a more relaxed vibe, head to St Raphael, where F Scott Fitzgerald wrote Tender Is The Night. South Beach Miami has pristine white sands, cool hotels, hot celebrities, and a Latino vibe, worth seeing for its famous Art Deco district. Head to Ocean Drive and be prepared to party. Read To Have And Have Not by Hemingway before you go. Closer to home, Derrynane Beach, Caherdaniel, Co Kerry is my best-loved beach. Overlooked by the ruins of the beautiful sixth-century abbey and graveyard, I feel a sense of peace there I have never found anywhere else – whatever the weather. I bring my troubles, and inevitably leave them behind. The Houseshare by Fiona O’Brien is published by Hachette Books Ireland in paperback, eBook and audio.