‘You feel alive and you can have a hot chocolate after’ says author

Lisburn swimmer Maureen McCoy, who has penned a guide to the more interesting places for a dip across Ireland. Pic: Paul McCambridge.

Lisburn swimmer Maureen McCoy, who has penned a guide to the more interesting places for a dip across Ireland. Pic: Paul McCambridge.

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‘If you can swim, then you can swim outside.’

Maureen McCoy, a Lisburn City swimming coach, reckons there’s no excuse not to take the plunge in the chilly waters of the rivers, lakes and seas around Ireland.

Maureen's favourite play to swim and explore at the Carrick-A-Rede rope bridge.

Maureen's favourite play to swim and explore at the Carrick-A-Rede rope bridge.

And she’s even written a book to entice you in.

Maureen, along with Banbridge photographer Paul McCambridge, travelled all across the 32 counties, seeking out 50 of the best places to go ‘wild swimming.’

Among those spots are exploring the rockpool at Hook Head Lighthouse, dropping from high diving boards into Galway Bay and even circumnavigating Devenish Island in the freshwater Lough Erne.

As if those weren’t quite enough to tempt you into your bathing suit, Maureen even took to the waters at one of the island’s most popular touist spots.

The book is available to order from www.collinspress.ie.

The book is available to order from www.collinspress.ie.

“I think my favourite place is at Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge,” she said. “It’s from Larrybane Bay, which leads up to the island. We swam right across the bay and even under the bridge. That freaked a few people out above us!

“A lot of people don’t realise there is access there. If you turn left from the bay, there are strong currents but in the bay itself, they aren’t too strong.”

Safety, of course, is of paramount importance and during their trips across Ireland, searching for each captivating location, Maureen says the duo spent time ‘talking to other swimmers and getting plenty of stories.’

They also checked with fishermen, the most useful locals in knowing where is safe to take to the water.

And to make sure you don’t come acropper in your search for an exhilerating paddle, Maureen says each swim has been rated, with locations for beginners up to those only advisable for the experts. “You have to know you can get out before you even get in,” she said.

So what about those of us who don’t really fancy the idea? Well, Maureen knows how to motivate.

“It’s invigorating and it’s fun. You feel so alive afterwards and it gives you an excuse to have a hot chocolate,” she laughed.

“My advice would be get out before you’ve had enough. Then you’ll want to get back in again.

“It’s still cold and I still feel it but my mum swam and my grandfather was an open water swimmer so it was always natural for us.

“Paul said that I could write a book and he would take the photos so that was the spur of this idea.

“I had only swam at one or two of these places before so it was a real voyage of discovery. Nothing beats just driving down a wee lane and seeing what’s at the other end.

“We met some wonderful people and swam in some beautiful spots.”

The book, entitled ‘Wild Swimming in Ireland: Discover 50 places to swim’ is already available to order on www.collinspress.ie, priced €15.99.