Murder Hole Beach.

This beautiful beach has been titled as Ireland’s top hidden beach and it is very well deserved. It is found on the Melmore Head peninsula in Northern Donegal. The beach can only be accessed via private land with cows grazing throughout so you should always be careful, mindful, and respectful when visiting.

This beach has beautiful golden sand, dunes, cliffs, clear waters and some small caves. Unfortunately, I visited during high tide, so I was unable to access the caves as they are separated from the beach by rocks and water. It was such a pleasure to just simply watch the ocean from this beach. Every view is as beautiful as the next. With views of Horn Head and Tory Island in the distance.

It is hard to understand why such a beautiful place can hold such a morbid name. I have heard a few rumours of the origin of the name;

  1. There is a story about a girl falling to her death from the cliffs in the 1800’s
  2. There is another story that this girl was pushed to her death
  3. The last story is about the waters around the beach and how unpredictable they can be, with strong currents leaving bathing highly perilous.

The latter is probably the most likely. As I stood watching the waves, I could see the current and it was very strong and extremely unpredictable. The waters were powerful, and the tide was on the turn, pulling each wave towards the vast ocean, it would definitely be a very dangerous place for swimmers.

One thing I found amazing and interesting about this area was the EIRE sign in the field used to access Murder Hole beach. The famous EIRE signs were strewn across coastal headlands in Ireland during WWII to highlight that this was neutral land to both allies and the German air forces. The sign here at Melmore is EIRE78 of the 80 signs found across the isle. The signs are made up of whitewashed stones, but they are well faded here at Melmore. I am sure that most people walk past these stones without noticing as they are well overgrown now and it seems like such a shame. Luckily for me, I was staying with a friend who owns a mobile home in Melmore who has been visiting Murder Hole for the last 19 years so was a very good tour guide and pointed them out to me, and it was so exciting. This is the first that I have seen, and it was very special as I felt the history of this era immediately.

I would definitely recommend anyone to visit this beautiful beach and try to catch low tide to have a look at the caves. I hope to visit again and check out the caves too.

Day trip to the North Coast

I recently went for a trip to the North Coast of Ireland to meet up with some friends. I studied at the Coleraine campus of Ulster University, living in the beautiful seaside town of Portstewart for a few years, so this area is very special to me and I try to visit when I can.

Of course, I went to Portstewart first, went for a walk on the promenade with an ice-cream as usual. The whole town was buzzing with people and Covid-19 or not, I always crave a quieter experience on the North Coast so I jumped in my car to get away someplace else.

I made a quick pitstop at the lovely Bothy Cafe for a latte and it was just the cutest little place, I would highly recommend checking it out. The coffee was great, but honestly it was the location and decor that won me over. Firstly, I love the name; a Bothy is a hut or cottage used for refuge by the public on mountains, although this is usually a Scottish tradition. Secondly, the rural setting of this coffee shop is so perfect, as I was sitting drinking my coffee, I could hear the sheep in the field next to me and that was just amazing. The decor of the outdoor seating area was extra special to me because it was filled with old farmyard collectibles, most of which my dad has collected over the years and fills our garage and garden. The best part was that my stool was made from an old tractor seat, which is something that I have been begging my dad to make with his.

All fueled up with my coffee, I was ready to hit White Park Bay for the first time and it was beautiful. As I got out of my car, I could hear the waves and could immediately sense the power of the ocean. As I walked down towards the beach, I was greeted with a fantastic view of sand dunes, wildflowers, white sand, cliffs, the open ocean and a lot of sea fog which made the whole place look quite mystical. I won’t lie, I was very disappointed that there were no cows paddling on the shore as I have seen in many photos of this beach, but the sea views made up for it. I really enjoy just being by the water, watching and listening as the waves flow from crest to trough. After a while appreciating this beautiful beach, taking lots of photos, having lots of laughs and nearly getting caught out by a rogue wave, we decided to move along the coast and visit Ballintoy Harbour.

Ballintoy Harbour was a very cute, small harbour that is located down a narrow windy road that you would barely even notice. That is until it became the Iron Islands of the global sensation Game of Thrones. Now this little gem is a massive tourist attraction and is always busy but it was a delight to visit just as the sun was going down. I like to explore as much as possible, so I clambered up the rocks to get higher and higher and it was just an epic feeling. That feeling of standing on the edge and listening to the powerful waves crash beneath me was just what I needed. I felt free in that moment, vulnerable and small but calm. Everything went quiet in my mind as I focused solely on those waves and I wished that I could just sit there for a long long time.

I was very sad to say goodbye to the North Coast that evening and I already can’t wait for my next visit.

What do you do when it rains; stay inside or grab a raincoat?

Most people hide from the rain, taking shelter indoors but I find that it makes me want to go exploring.

My ultimate favourite place to be when it is raining is along the beach. Any beach. There is something very special about it. There is usually very few people about, if any. I suppose it sounds very selfish, but I love having the beach to myself so this is perfect for me. I studied at the Ulster University Coleraine Campus, so I was very lucky to be surrounded by Northern Ireland’s beautiful North Coast and I used to visit the local beaches quite often. My favourite was Portstewart Strand, a 5-minute walk from my house, which I used for escaping the stresses of university of life. Quite often I woke early to head out there, especially when the weather was unfavourable. My housemates always thought that it was strange of me to enjoy the beach whilst the wind and rain hammered down on me, but after months I finally convinced one of them to join me, and he instantly understood why it appealed to me so much. He realised how refreshing and calming it was to stand on the open beach and to be truly surrounded by nature as it reached out to all of your senses. 

Rain in Northern Ireland usually comes with some pretty strong winds so the waves are usually crashing along the shoreline. It is these kinds of conditions that remind us of how fierce and powerful the ocean can be. I could sit on the shore for hours listening to the waves and watching the birdlife. 

So last week I had a free day, it was raining and I wanted to get out of the house, so I ventured to Murlough Nature Reserve outside Newcastle in County Down. It’s a place that I visited when I was younger but it has been some time since I have been there, so I am glad I thought of it. There were a few cars in the carpark so I wasn’t the only one brave enough to face the stormy weather.    

As I walked through the 6000-year old dune system I couldn’t help but watch the birdlife flying above me. The birdlife in this area is very interesting with many species to be found; Buzzards, Red Kites, Greybacks, Magpies, Oystercatchers and of course a few species of Gulls. It was amazing to watch these birds soar along with the strong winds, swooping in and out of the dunes with such ease. The closer I got to the shore, the louder the waves got and when I finally left the dunes behind and stood on the open sand the noises of nature were deafening, the waves, the winds and the calls of the birds. I took a few moments to take it all in. Then I began to try to capture the beauty before me, which often proves to be very difficult. As I looked along the shoreline towards Newcastle, I noticed how the mist had moved in around Slieve Donard. The Mountain was engulfed in white. Looking out towards the Irish Sea, it could have been a colour chart filled with greys displaying every grey you could imagine from the sky to the sea.

It is very difficult to portray the beauty of a dull, grey stormy scene through a camera lens, so I urge you to grab your raincoat and go out and experience it for yourself. 

Let me get to the point………….. Killowen Point that is!!

With a strong background in all things Environmental, I am always looking to understand the land and sea on this amazing planet. During my studies, I tended to focus on coastal landscapes as they appealed to me the most. This is probably because I grew up close to the shores of Carlingford Lough and was always finding a feature that astounded me. So, when I started to learn about the influences of wave action on the coastline I began identifying the reasons behind certain features found along Carlingford Lough.

Most people understand that beaches are formed due to the friction inflicted on the coastline by the waves and tides of the ocean. Not only is the shape of a beach influenced by the wave action, but the beach slope and sediment size are too. Where wave action is not as powerful, you would normally find larger sediment on the coastline like pebbles and this is what is typical along most of Carlingford Lough. Some areas of the Lough shores have sand but mostly it is shingle beach with lots of seaweed washing up along the highwater mark.

One of the features that always amazed me was Killowen Point, a place that I visited numerous times but was always impressed by. The point looks like a big arm extending into the Lough and it raises the question of how this can happen. I know that it is a simple process of erosion and deposition which is occurring constantly, but it still intrigues me. The tip of the point is submerged during high tide and can only be seen fully during low tide. I find it so interesting to see how the point will change over time, if I will easily notice changes to its length or shape.

I love that in the photo I took down at the waters edge, that you can see a perfect curvature of the high watermark, proving how special and unique our coastlines can be. On the same day I took a photo of the water as I was pleasantly surprised at how clear the water was at this location. Living around a harbour town notorious for a lot of shipping traffic, seaweed and mud, the waters mostly seem murky around Carlingford Lough, so this was a welcome new experience. The photo looking down on Killowen Point was taken along the slopes of Slieve Martin (Sliabh Mártain) which shows the Point in all its glory during low tide. From here you can see a lot of Carlingford Lough and you will start to notice that there are other land formations along the shores that mimic this one at Killowen Point, however they are all man-made. You can see piers and slipways on either side of the Lough but Killowen Point is a naturally occurring deposition of sediment over time which has created a permanent sandbank.

Over the centuries construction has occurred along coastlines worldwide to create promenades and walk ways and sadly it took a long time for the negative impacts of this to be recognised. But here, in Killowen, nature created her very own walkway towards Carlingford Lough for people to use and enjoy.