CATRIONA MITCHELL explores Ireland’s east coast and swaps the usual beach hotspots for a cinematic experience at Curracloe, the secret beauty of Forlorn Point's rock formations and natural wonders at Murlough
WHEN you think of Irish golden or white beaches doesn’t your mind go to Dingle or maybe to Donegal for those long stretches of beach, dunes and blue sea in the west?
Well let’s consider the east coast instead.
We had the pleasure of stopping over in Robin Hill B&B with the lovely Valerie, who lives not far from the amazing beach of Curracloe, Co. Wexford.
At seven miles long it is the longest beach in Ireland. A short walk from the car park on boards will take you through the dunes to the soft white sand and blue sea.
It is ‘Omaha’ beach in Saving Private Ryan (1998) and more recently, Saoirse Ronan and Domhnall Gleeson filmed Brooklyn (2015)
Valerie, who does not seem old enough to have been a host during the filming of ‘Saving Private Ryan,’ was told she would be hosting a producer: sadly it wasn’t Steven Spielberg. He missed out on Valerie’s fabulous breakfast.
In the heat of the June sunshine the sea, beach and dunes were busier than normal at Curracloe. Even on our first, fairly late, evening many were still in swimming despite the cool breeze. No wet suits here.
It is a Blue flag beach, has a reasonable sized car park, a café an ice cream ‘parlour’ of sorts and a surf shack.
If you tire of the beach there is The Raven Nature reserve close by.
In Co. Wexford travel east to the fishing village of Kilmore Quay. You can book a trip out to the Saltee islands famous for their breeding seabirds. The first thing you notice in the harbour is the sizeable fishing fleet. It is good to see that the fleet is surviving despite many difficulties and restrictions.
There is also a Tamar class RNLI Lifeboat sitting in the harbour. Just this month, June, they rescued nine people from a rudderless yacht. Unsurprisingly Kilmore Quay lifeboatmen have received many gallantry awards and medals over the years.
Therefore it is also unsurprising that there is a memorial garden to those lost at sea — place of sadness and quiet contemplation.
Head on up the hill from the garden, follow the paths and over the top of the dunes you see yet another amazing long, sandy dune sheltered beach, curving
Into the distance. Don’t be put off by the name Forlorn Point. At low tide you can walk out to the point and take in this ancient rock formation. Or just enjoy the wonderful rock pools on this headland. ‘Forlorn’, by the way, may not mean this place is tinged with sadness — the might be a corruption of the Yola ‘furloan’ meaning foreland.
Still in the sunny southeast, just south of the city of Waterford is Tramore Beach, over 3 miles of wide sandy blue flag beach. An amusement park, shops, cafes are all near the town end of the beach, but as always walk a bit further and it is quieter as you look towards Brownstone head. Trá More means Big Strand. That says it all.
If nature reserves near the seaside are your thing, another great beach is part of Murlough nature reserve, Newcastle, Co. Down. Again there is a long sandy beach reached through a bit of a walk along boards through the dunes. Look right to Newcastle and the Mourne mountains sweeping down to the sea. Look left towards St John’s point in the distance. There is a small shop and toilets by the National Trust car park. Warning: watch out for car park and facilities closing times.
Newcastle, not far away can supply you with everything you might need from a seaside resort including pedalo swans and the view from the big wheel, The Mourne Eye.
Some of the other amazing east coast beaches include Tyrella, Co. Down, Cranfield in south Down, Rosslare Strand, Co. Wexford.
And of course there is always Giant’s Causeway, Co. Antrim, which isn’t a beach at all.