New Year 2022 & Wild Swimming

by | Jan 17, 2022 | Outdoors, Swimming

Hi, and welcome to A Wandering Hippy and my first blog post of the New Year. There have been various incarnations of this blog over the past few years. But, I finally decided to give it a permanent home, right here.

I am looking forward to blogging about my adventures over the next year and on into the future.

The past two years have been interesting, to say the least. We had plans organised, and then poof, they all dissolved under the veil of Covid. (As did most people’s, I expect).

I stopped blogging before that anyway, and as the time lapsed between my last posts and now, I started to miss it. So I am back with a commitment to post at least once a week. In general, it will be mainly about the outdoors and probably a lot about swimming, my new favourite thing to do.

Swimming, swimming and swimming. Is pretty much all I have been thinking about over that past while. I remember distinctly the moment it occurred to me I needed to swim, emphasising the ‘needed’. It was late March 2020, a few days before lockdown, 6 am, and I was standing in Salthill looking out over Galway bay. The covid lockdown was impending, and the one thing I took for granted, the Ocean, would be outside of my allowed 2km.

Mind though, it did take me until August 21 to actually get into the Ocean and convince Alan that he needed to do it too. Finally, after a week of unseasonably hot Irish weather, we dipped, he liked it, and I broke it to him that we would be continuing this.

‘Into Winter?’

I confirmed. It had only taken Alan 20 minutes the first time to submerge with just a swimsuit on him. (Previously, he had worn a wetsuit) But now we had started, there would be no stopping.

Six months on, I can happily say we have been in the Ocean every month, and it’s great. I love it. We both do. Alan has gone from being sceptical to embracing the cold.

In later posts, I will be going over the beaches and places we have visited. Otherwise, this one would go on forever. I’m starting with our most recent and coincidently our first two swims of the New Year.

Old Head Beach, Louisburg, Co Mayo

Old Head Beach, Louisburgh

Over the weekend, we visited Old Head Beach, Louisburg, Co Mayo, for our first swim.

We were lucky enough to have nice weather, and we wanted to take full advantage of it, so packing our campervan, we headed for a swim and a late lunch on the beach.

Old Head Beach Wild Swimming January 22

When we arrived in the afternoon, there were already quite a few people swimming and jumping off the pier. Old Head Beach extends to the right of the harbour with Croagh Patrick standing tall on the horizon overlooking Clew Bay. Then to the right of the pier, another beach leads to a forest walk. We did a short walk with our little Missy and then headed for a dip.

Having swum in December, we were still full of trepidation. Every seasoned swimmer we met told us swimming in January, February, and March was the coldest and to be aware of not staying too long and wearing the right gear.

So hat, gloves, booties and long-sleeved swimsuit, with towels and robes standing by, we headed for the calm blue water, perfectly framed by a similarly coloured sky and the outline of Mulranny and Achill Island away in the distance.

Yes, it was cold, freezing, but exhilarating, slowly walking forward, breathing deep and taking time for my body to adjust before I dipped my neck down to the waterline, then pushing forward, I started the breaststroke.

Feeling my body moving through the water slowly, focusing on the now, is the gift the Ocean gives in every moment I am in there. Yes, it is freezing, and I am a strange shade of reddish pink when I come out, but I feel I can do absolutely anything if I can do this.

Hugs, high fives and a quick picture later, we are wrapped up and on the way back to the camper for warm soup and some homemade bread.

Tina, Alan and Missy Old Head Beach January 2022

Old Head beach is stunning, sandy beaches, no rocks. The section we swam in is a little cove, and the water was almost a turquoise blue. There is a big car park nearby. I have attached a pin to the map below.

Mullaghmore Beach, Co Sligo

Mullaghmore Beach, Co Sligo

Clearly, our swim on Saturday did not satiate our addiction because we decided to head off for another swim the following day. One of the beaches we had visited previously and wanted to swim at was Mullaghmore Beach in Co Sligo.

Again packing the camper for a day trip, we headed off, arriving mid-afternoon. Mullaghmore is a long sandy beach surrounded by dunes, with a small harbour to the left and a small cove to the right that is accessible via the beach when the tide is out.

On this occasion, the tide was coming in, so we decided to take a walk with Missy first and then go for a swim. The beach is approximately 3 km both ways from the car park. So Missy’s toing and froing is probably double that for her.

Colder than yesterday, as we returned, I started to feel a little chilled and almost, just almost, had second thoughts.

But, we had driven here, so I was going in. The water was grey with a steady set of waves that lapped against our bodies. The one thing that strikes me is every day you go into the water, it is different, and I can’t have any expectations. I may find it too cold. The water swells and shifts my body left to right, making it harder to swim parallel to the shore. I’m cold. I dip down. I swim. My body moves with the waves. Alan calls to me.

‘It’s colder today.’

It is. I dip down for a few more strokes and follow Alan out of the water. I’m in the moment, and it is different, and I like it.

Back at the van, two people walk by us.

‘You’re brave.’

I smile.

A cup of tea, and we head home.

Tina and Alan Mullaghmore Beach, Co Sligo

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