To Wicklow Town

Day 11 – Kilcoole to Six Mile Point

We got parking at the end of a laneway by the beach at Six Mile Point. There are a couple of houses down there at the railway crossing. Some guys were fishing – not the more typical mackerel fishing we’ve seen thus far and would see again. Onto the bikes and away back to the start – it was a kind of semi-circle – back up to the main road and then off it and back down to the beach at Kilcoole. A farmer was cutting barley which was as early as I have seen that done ( it’s not yet the end of July). We passed an odd-looking building – The Watch Tower – I thought maybe it was a hotel, but it didn’t come up on a quick google search when I checked later – nor is it a nursing home. When writing this I had another look online, it turns out that Watch Tower House was the Irish headquarters of The Jehovah’s Witnesses in IrelandThe building was put on the market for €4.5m in 2011 but I don’t think it sold. To avoid the hill into the main village, we cut through the commercial estate which lead into a housing estate. Kilcoole is bigger than I had thought.

There were some families at the beach again with kids in swimming. We were a bit later than scheduled getting into the water – 8.08pm to be precise – but as it was mid-summer and as the map below shows it was pretty much a straight route. We swam close to the shore all the way – it was so nice to be able to see the stony bottom below. The sun was setting and there was an amazing arc of cloud around it. Indeed, the clouds that night were very impressive – New Zealand is known as Land of the Long White Cloud and we had plenty of them – out to sea and over the land – running parallel as we headed south. We swam past a part of the beach which is off limits for people. The Kilcoole Little Tern protection Scheme has been ongoing since the 1970s. The nesting terns usually occupy a small strip of shingle beach at “the Breaches”, midway between Kilcoole and Newcastle railway stations. We saw a hide / hut and there was a Birdwatch Ireland volunteer (I assume) on the beach as we passed. Lots of terns were fluttering about over the water and land. Nice to see them thriving there.

Till every season, tern, tern, tern ..

We initially thought / hoped the hut was a building further down the coast, but it wasn’t to be. Ceall was a bit annoyed – he can get a bit grumpy at times when he isn’t as far as he thinks – its kind of funny to be honest. We just ploughed on – there wasn’t much choice. By Newcastle beach a few more guys were fishing, I assume for dogfish, bass, or pollock, maybe flatfish…

There was a funny step in the sea at this stage – it was quite marked and dramatic even – if you were getting in for a random swim and weren’t looking it could feel like a trapdoor. It was getting darker, but still fine. We had a good flow behind us for the first hour or so, but for the final half hour we had slack water so progress was slower. The houses at Six Mile Point came into view and when we got close we decided to exit via the second set of steps – to reduce the swim distance for the next day. Tonight had been a 5.5km swim journey and good preparation for our next swim – which would be 7.5km all going well.

Day 12 – Six Mile Point to The Murrough

It was a nice calm Friday morning. We drove to a car park north of Wicklow town and then cycled back to Rathnew and back onto the smaller country road to Six Mile Point. There were some fine old estates along the way. I had been feeling hungry and thirsty after previous swims, so packed in the tow float today was a Lidl Mars bar equivalent and a half bottle of water. We had agreed to stop for a “picnic” in or around the half way mark. Sure why not, no channel rules apply to this jaunt.

The swim was very similar to the previous leg, but this time we saw lots of small black fish. We came across shoals periodically as we swam on south.  Earlier in this swim I had seen two “proper” fish – the first I’d seen on the journey thusfar. The same shelf was apparent as from the last day and it also affected your swim speed – if you swam close to it, you were slower than if you were closer to shore. The shelf was a bit like being in an old style swimming pool which has a sudden drop at mid-point. We literally swam a lot of this leg just a few feet above the sand and stones. The picnic was cool – far nicer than being at the computer. There was hardly a puff of wind and we were making good progress.

The water was lovely and clear throughout. Wicklow was full in our sights as we got nearer and nearer to the beach to its north – called The Murrough. As per another website – “The Murrough’ is a 15 km long coastal wetland area, extending North of Wicklow … a walk begins there at the Glen Beach on the outskirts of Wicklow town” There is apic in the next leg also. At 7.5km, this was our longest swim to date. I felt tired, but capable of more.

The Murrough

Planning for Wicklow and Day 13 – Around Wicklow

Our weather source of choice is Wind Guru – , its fab and the free version gives wind direction, speed, gusts, air temperature, wave sizes and more. Its primarily aimed at wind surfers / kite surfers, so when it has stars highlighted, it generally means happy days for those guys and bigger wind and waves – which are great fun sometimes – but not suitable for swimming races or what we are doing – unless the wind is from the west. If a westerly, the inshore area can be protected from the wind and remain calm. The wind direction also impacts on the wave direction and if you are swimming with the tide, but against the wind, you may lose the tidal benefit you would expect. We have been lucky in having light northerly winds on a number of the legs.

The days leading up to the next swim’s possible window of Tuesday, July 27 (based on work and home diaries, weather etc) showed stars but the weather conditions forecast were changing from day to day.  As of the Monday morning; 5pm on Tuesday was one star – but with an improving situation – wind dropping and wind direction was West to North West, which isn’t bad. I also came across which gives a live view over Wicklow from The Murrough to the harbour – covering much of our next leg. Weather conditions of the screenshot were not dissimilar to what we got for the swim. Crucially no sign of white waves. You can see the curve of the beach that we had followed.

Wicklow as far as the eye can see

This was to be a short 3km leg – the rationale being we wanted to start our next leg with support to get around Wicklow Head with a destination beach in mind and didn’t want to take the risk of making the swim longer than it needed to be. We aimed diagonally towards the lighthouse on the harbour. Conditions were as the webcam promised. There were a few young fellas fishing off the harbour wall. From here we literally flew south. Before long we were at the end of the harbour wall and the old Black Castle ruin was in full view with its lovely little town beach below.

I have both started and finished races here over the years – going to or from tonight’s destination beach. Also last year, we swam a race similar to tonight’s course in very tough conditions (in skins) – but starting further up The Murrough. There were massive waves down by the harbour. It was memorable. A few people were pulled out as it was too much for them. Having said that a couple of our oldest female swimmers (in their 70s) were among the finishers.

On this occasion as we approached the harbour the water simply became very warm – always creates a question in your mind as to why, but anyway…We sped on past the castle ruin and while admiring the scenery another guillemot was just to our right, then he dived down, appearing back just to our left. Onward ho! We landed at the beach beside Wicklow Gold Course. It was empty apart from one woman and her dog. We got chatting and she said she swims a fair bit and her husband was a member of the local Wicklow SC. We got the time from her. The whole thing was a mad 30 minutes – twice the speed of a hard pool swim. It was good fun, but I almost felt a little cheated by how short it was, but hey…

For information on An Taisce Clean Coasts see and for Temple St Children’s Hospital

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