It’s a long way to… Mullingar

IMG_4350 Yesterday was just too nice to sit at home, and as I was off on my roster, S and I decided a swim was in order. We had a few options. One was to head to Howth, and a nice little cove we have swam at before near the Martello Tower. The other option was to head west instead, inland, to Lough Owel, near Mullingar.

This is a well-known spot for open water swimming, as far as I can tell, and it certainly caters for all users, with a well-made jetty and diving platform. It’s also relatively shallow for a good way out, though the bottom is very stony and will test your nerve. Best to get in off the jetty using the ladder. Or do the full Tom Daley. Your call.

Some enterprising souls have dropped a few marker buoys so you can work on your sighting for open water swimming. I’ve no idea how far apart these are, but the first one along near the shore is still well within standing depth. The water was lovely and warm, and relatively clear too. As I turned and headed out into the choppier water and the further buoy, the bottom suddenly shelved away and vanished, and I experienced that little flutter you get whenever this happens.

IMG_4352 Lone Swimmer has eloquently nailed this feeling, and blogs about it here.

He has also developed his own rather unique way of dealing with the vanishing act when the bottom falls out of your world, though I admit I find it hard subscribing to it. Read it if you dare!

I managed a few laps of these buoys and called it a day. The lake here is clearly popular with local folk of all ages, not least the teens strutting their stuff. It was good to see a young girl haul out a crayfish with a net – a sign of relatively clean water. Lough Owel is, I gather, fed from underground springs in the middle of the lake, but also suffers from agricultural run-off from surrounding farms. Despite this, it has a reputation of being clean and safe to swim in, and is much deeper than its sister, Lough Ennell, on the other side of town. According to Wikipedia, it is a Ramsar site (a conserved wetland), and even holds a few char; another positive sign of water quality and eco-diversity. I see Mael Sechnaill found the waters deep enough to drown the viking chieftain Turgesius, according to legend. But that’s a long time ago now.

Fun to stare out across the lake; at its widest it’s 3km. So not even an Iron Man distance. It sure looks a long way when you stitch all those pool lengths together. I guess that’s why we do all that training.

For the record, the crayfish went back into the water unharmed.

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