The Longest (Barefoot) Day concluded

I’m back home again in Downpatrick. I would have written this update in Newcastle but for some reason the internet connection on my phone just wouldn’t work.

So what did I do on the beach and for how long was I barefoot? Well, to answer the second question, by my estimate it was ten hours.

To answer the first question, I arrived on Murlough Nature Reserve at 8.20am where I too off my shoes. I walked along the wooden walkway to the beach and turned left. I headed up towards Dundrum, turned back and walked down towards Newcastle. On the way I took a detour off the beach up to the caravan park and into the little cafe where I had a pot of tea and a lemon flavoured muffin.

By this time it was high tide and the lure of the sea (combined with the glorious summer weather) was getting stronger. I started off by having a paddle in the surf, gradually going in deeper; and even though my jeans are rolled up they still end up getting soaked. And then the water comes up to my hips and I think, oh well, I may as well let them get totally soaked.

After a few minutes larking in the surf I continued my journey to Newcastle. Now although it was unusually hot, especially by Irish standards, my jeans were still wet so I couldn’t very well take a seat in Maud’s ice cream parlour, so I got a baguette and a tea from Subway instead and had them on the grass beside the promenade.

I played on the sand dunes after that before I took the bus back to Downpatrick. So, from 8.20am when I arrived at the murlough nature reserve to 6.50pm when I left the beach at Newcastle to catch the 7.00 bus I was barefoot the whole time (except for the twenty minutes when I was buying my lunch from Subway) – more than ten hours!

A whole day on the beach in the sun! This has been my best Twelfth Day of July ever!

The Longest (Barefoot) Day

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The anniversary of D-Day was last week and the  summer solstice was three weeks ago. And today, the twelfth day of July, will be a special day for me. Why? Am I going out on the march to commemorate the Battle of the Boyne? Nope.

Today I’m planning to spend no less than eight hours in the sunshine by the beach barefoot. I arrived at Murlough Nature Reserve at 8.20am where I slipped my shoes off and stuck them in a plastic bag and padded down to the beach.

It was low tide so I turned left and walked along the sea front until I was almost in reach of Dundrum. In fact if I’d been wearing swimming trunks instead of jeans I would have been able to ford the little river and walk to the town.

At present I’m in the little cafe in the Murlough Nature Reserve near the caravan site. I’ll give you a further update when I get to Newcastle.

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I’ve said this many times before and I’m saying it again: Sunshine, I love you!

Summer has started at last

After many months of wondering if we’ll ever get a spring this year, let alone a summer, I am pleased to report that we have had several days of warm, sunny weather. And I’ve been taking maximum advantage of it.

On Saturday I took my usual barefoot trip to Murlough Beach and Newcastle. On Sunday I went to Tyrella Beach where I played on the sand dunes and in the surf. And today I went back to Murlough Beach and explored the sand dunes and the caravan park.

I also discovered that although I’m on the wrong side of forty I can still sprint.

Yes, I’ve discovered something here that I could never have discovered in Belfast or London: barefoot running. I never had much interest in running when I was growing up in Belfast and the only sport I actually attended in London was the Marathon. Not only that, I never liked wearing gutties (that’s the Belfast word for sneakers or trainers). They made my feet sweat and they’re not my style anyway. And London and Belfast are no places for a barefooter. London is swarming with cars, and in many of Belfast’s streets there’s broken glass and dog dirt everywhere.

And that’s why I’m so glad I live within walking distance of not one but two beaches where all I have to worry about is the weather and the tides and I’m not encumbered by such a petty and distasteful thing as footwear.

So now I’ve discovered the advantages of barefoot running, I’ve decided to put in a short burst of running whenever I visit a beach. Nothing too strenuous, you know, not more than a minute or so.

This is my favourite time of year and this year in particular I’m really coming alive!

Still barefootin’

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Dundrum Bay, County Down


At home I almost never wear shoes. I’m either in socks or barefoot. But recently I’ve been going further. Some people reading this post will think I’m a nut and they might have good reason to do so. After all, who in his or her right mind would wander up and down the beach barefoot in the winter? Ireland isn’t really a good place to go about unshod. It’s often too cold and wet.
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The Mourne Mountains

But this afternoon I did just that at Tyrella Beach. And on the Sunday before last I took my usual route from the Murlouhgh Nature Reserve down the beach to Newcastle’s Slieve Donard Hotel, and, yes, I was barefoot there too.

Now I should point out that these are two extraordinary cases. I took these barefoot trips on days that were about as mild as a winter’s day could be, when there was no rain, no snow and the temperature was about 9° or 10° centigrade. Also it was at low tide, which means I could walk over flat sand instead of crawling over shingles and rocks, which is what I often have to do at high tide.

The question still remains, though: why do I do it? There are two answers.

1) Because I can. Yes, I’m not getting any younger and I don’t know how much longer I’ll have the physical and mental strength to go on walking trips that can be as much as twenty-five kilometres. In the near future I could be in a job that takes up six days of the week and leaves me limp as a rag on the seventh day. I want to do all my walking while I still have youth on my side and plenty of spare time.

2) I enjoy it. I really do. I love the feeling of walking about without worrying about sand in my shoes or having to walk round large pools left behind by the tide. Besides, wet feet are easy to dry off; wet shoes and socks aren’t. I could come wearing wellies but they’re not much good for the long distance walks I take. And my feet need to breathe as the rest of my body does. After a ten-kilometre walk my feet would stink like billy-o.

And I’m not the only one with a predilection for going around barefoot. Here you can read about people in fiction and in real life who are more or less like me concerning footwear.

Barefootin’

The little café at Murlough

The little café at Murlough

One good thing about being unemployed in the summer is the freedom to come and go as you please. You’re not cooped up in an office or a department store where there’s no sunlight. If it’s raining, too bad.

But the past three days have been just what a summer’s day should be, hot and sunny. And I’ve been using those days as best I know how, to slap on the sunblock and get out and enjoy the sunshine!

In fact, not only have I been taking maximum advantage of the summer, I’ve visited a new beach. Murlough Beach stretches from the Murlough Nature Reserve near Dundrum all the way down to Newcastle. The first time I visited this beach was on August 8th where I decided to cool off my feet after a walk all the way from Downpatrick. Then I jumped back on the bus home.

Yesterday, however, I went further. If there’s one thing that’s guaranteed to get my energy levels up to maximum it’s a summer’s day in the countryside and the beach. So I used that energy to walk along the beach, in and out of the surf, all the way to the Slieve Donard Hotel in Newcastle. And when I reached Newcastle I walked all the way back. Nothing unusual about that, but I was barefoot the whole time, from when I reached the beach at Murlough caravan park to Newcastle.

I got into the habit of being barefoot on the beach at Tyrella. You don’t have to worry about sand in your shoes and you can walk through rock pools and the surf with total impunity. I put my shoes back on at Newcastle and had a walk about the town, but when I got back to the beach the shoes came off again and I didn’t bother putting them back on until I reached the asphalt path back onto the main road.

Now, according to Google Maps, the distance via the A2 from the Murlough Caravan Park to Newcastle is 3.04km, but the route I took along the beach is shorter, 2.5km or so. So, 2.5km there and 2.5km back adds up to a full five kilometres, give or take a few hundred metres. And that is the longest distance I’ve ever walked barefoot in one day. And my feet are none the worse for it.

I think I’ll make a pilgrimage to Croagh Patrick in County Mayo, and I just might be one of the pilgrims crazy enough to do it barefoot…

…though I’m not promising anything.