Recently I wrote a piece about the three Blue Flag beaches we’re lucky enough to have here in Inishowen; but those three are just the tip of the iceberg. Inishowen’s coast is dotted with beaches and sandy coves – more than I could possibly go into in detail! I did decide though, that I would run through some of my favourites. Do bear in mind that these beaches don’t have lifeguards and some waters may be deceptive. I don’t recommend you swim at any but the ones with a lifeguard unless you really know what you’re doing!
Five Finger Strand – Lagg
Just outside Malin, on your way up to Malin Head, is this fantastic stretch of beach. This strand hugs the curve of the bottleneck where Trawbreaga Bay meets the Atlantic; you can walk right around the curve and enjoy both sides. The bay side is calmer but the water is shallow and prone to currents as the bay rushes out to meet the sea. You can often find crab shells washed up here, and the tidal bay is a bit hit with shorebirds. In fact, Trawbreaga Bay is a birdwatching reserve and there are two huts set up in Malin town. On summer evenings this stretch is also where bats like to feed, you can watch their aerial acrobatics over the road and water.
From the main stretch you will be able to see why this beach has it’s name; at the end of the beach there are cliffs under Knocknamany Bens – out beyond these, at the very end of land, stand five rocky outcrops like fingers reaching up to the sky. This strand is fascinating as it changes dramatically with erosion on a regular basis. Sometimes it’s stony, sometimes sandy. The car park has taken a serious battering and the dunes may collapse before your eyes! It’s a great place to witness the power of the wind and sea.
This beach is signed from the main road, but as I said that car park is quite reduced. There is still space to park if you’re careful, but if it’s busy turning to get out can be your problem! Which is why we like to cycle out there – there are some signs you can chain the bike to. Alternatively you can park at the gorgeous church and walk down, or tuck in at a layby where the sea wall ends on the main road.
Pollan Bay – Ballyliffin
Now this is a beach that is popular with surfers! Here, you can get amazing surf pounding in – though clearly not on the day I took this picture!
From here you can see out to Glashedy Island, which is uninhabited and easy on the eyes. I have swum on this beach and found it fine, but have also heard the odd horror story. As I say though, it’s popular with surfers and there is a rinsing area in the car park. To get here you turn in at the Strand Hotel and follow the right down the hill. There’s a good big carpark there.
This is quite a rocky shore, but there is a lovely walk just up from the beach – from which you can enjoy all the views but also a good surface! In fact, while you can’t cycle the entire way, it’s mostly fine for taking your bike along. Good to know eh? You can follow this trail the whole way over to the Isle of Doagh, which is a kind of a sub-peninsula. At the end of this walk you’ll find Carrickabraghy Castle, a 16th century ruin which has recently had some conservation work completed and is looking rather well for its age!
You can have a poke around the castle, and if the wind and tide are right you could be in for a treat! Behind the castle looking down on the rocks you are looking at a blowhole. If you listen out you can hear the water makes different sounds as it sloshes around in this rocky hollow. And then every so often…. Whoosh! With the right weather this can blast water really high into the air in gorgeous, feathery plumes. It’s more often active than not so go explore!
Isle of Doagh
The beach at the Isle of Doagh is not marked on maps and you will often find it completely deserted. This beach is directly ooposite Five Finger Strand, there must be less than a mile between the two, but the stretch of water in between has a deadly current. This beach is just across the road for the Doagh Famine Village, you get to it by crossing the grassy area there.
This stretch of shore is great for exploring; there are huge rockpools, caves and great big lumps of rock for bouldering on. The film Grabbers used this beach as a location and does a great job of making those caves seem enormous! They aren’t all that big, but they are still plenty of fun for climbing around, and some of the rocks here really look like prehistoric creatures.
The rock pools are full of life, if you know where to look! You will always find the ‘peeled plum’ lookalikes that are sea anemones, and as your shadow falls across the pool the water will burst into life with shrimp and minnows hiding. Once I found a baby squid in one of these pools – from the amount of ink he was squirting out he didn’t seem too happy to be trapped until next high tide!
Please do not swim at this beach; not only is there a strong current but the beach is a ledged beach which means one step can take you from knee-depth to out of your depth! What is brilliant for families though is that there are some rock pools which fill up enough for even adults to swim, and the water in those pools can even get quite warm. And they’re full of seaweed, so look at it as a free seaweed bath… Very good for the skin I hear.