personal · travel

At Home on Sandymount Strand

 

 

 

 

Sandymount Strand (1)

I grew up next to the sea, near Sandymount Strand.

Sandymount Strand is a strip of coastline which used to just consist of a tarmac path and jagged  boulders leading down to the beach. A few years ago someone official got serious notions and put in streetlamps for the dog walkers and exercise machines for those who 1.) use the strand as a running track and 2.) have no shame*, which has actually improved the area quite a bit. When the tide comes all the way in, the sand disappears entirely, and the water crashes up against the rocks, flooding the gaps and trapping sea-borne debris. When the tide goes out, the sea is almost in line with the horizon; it retreats so far out that the beach looks like a desert.

It’s a very recognisable stretch of coastline, largely due to the 680ft Poolbeg chimney stacks** on the left, which rise up from behind the Dublin Bay Nature Reserve. Their jaunty red and white rings make them look like they were painted by a rabid Where’s Wally? fanatic, and I’m glad that they’re now protected structures because the skyline wouldn’t be the same without them.

The strand features in ‘Ulysses,’ if you’re ever brave enough to read it, and it’s a nice place to stare out at the edge of the world for a while and gather your thoughts. Although I’ve never been one of those people who pound the sand in brightly-coloured running shoes and would have to be dragged bodily into the water – since willingly setting foot in the sea around Ireland is not something I will ever do again*** (I only willingly venture into the sea when I’m abroad) – I’ve always loved it. I love how the landscape changes so radically with the weather.

I’ve seen a swathe of cloudless blue so bright it would hurt your eyes. I’ve seen rainbows. I’ve seen purple evening skies and clouds slung so low you could touch them if you stretched. I’ve seen flat, sneaking tides and wild waves that crash over the granite sea wall, ignoring the sandbags hurriedly placed to keep them at bay. I’ve sat on the sand, and on the rocks, and on the grass, and on the benches, and on the wall of what remains of the old sea baths. I’ve been caught out by the tide and had to wade shoeless back to land more than once.

Sandymount Strand has always been a part of my life. It’s played a million different roles as I’ve grown, and I’ve felt every possible emotion on that beach. At times it was an escape, and at other times a refuge. I have so many snapshots of memory and feeling that feature the strand, it’s almost an extension of my home. On that strand I shivered with friends while trying to light disposable barbecues. I prodded at dead jellyfish with pieces of driftwood, and picked through mounds of seashells for seaglass. I walked the dog so many times, in so many different kinds of weather, that I’m sure there isn’t a grain of sand she hasn’t sniffed.

I’ve walked down there to pick blackberries with only blank happiness on my mind, and I’ve run down there to cry until I thought my heart would burst. I’ve been kissed in a parked car there, looking out at the stars, drunk on love, and (on a different occasion, thankfully) puked out the passenger side of a car, just plain drunk, in more or less the same spot.

Dublin has a lot of beautiful areas, and honestly, Sandymount Strand probably isn’t on anybody’s Top Ten of things to see in the city. Places like Killiney Hill, the Phoenix Park, St. Stephen’s Green and Temple Bar would be more highly recommended than this capricious bit of coastline. Still, I love it. It has character.

Now that I live away from the strand, I miss it from time to time. I miss the wind whipping my hair into one mad scribble, and I miss coming home from a winter walk by the sea with my nose and cheeks red from the cold. I’ll have to make an effort to get back there more often.

In the meantime, one of my best friends gave me a print of it for our home, where it has pride of place in the living room. It reminds me that homes don’t always have to be houses.

Sometimes they’re simply a strip of shoreline with sand and saltwater spray.

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*I have yet to see a single person use these. I think most locals would rather die than be spotted using them in any kind of unironic manner.

**You can actually see them in the U2 video for In The Name of Love, although the video is black and white so you don’t get to see them in all their loony glory. You do get to see Bono with a mullet though, so that’s something.

***When I was about ten my parents entered me in a Sea Swim. Safe to say the traumatic memories still linger. I thought I was going to pass out and drown from the cold, and I emerged from the water a changed child, blue-tinged and with a thousand-yard gaze.

27 thoughts on “At Home on Sandymount Strand

  1. Every time I make the drive to visit my parents, I turn on the road they live off of and during the 8 mile drive, I can’t help but smile every time. It’s nothing by cow fields, corn fields, and a pond or two, but it’s where I grew up. It’s home. But I don’t think I will ever return. I’ve placed my roots somewhere else. I can’t wait for the day to come that I have the same feeling for the place I now call home. 🙂

    1. I sometimes look forward to the idea of a forever home, but I’m happy to live the adventure until that day comes! I totally understand the idea of having moved your roots though.

  2. I love this!
    I totally agree that home does not have to be about houses. You grew up in such a lovely place!!

    We used to sometimes stop there to walk the dog before catching the ferry back to the U.K. I didn’t know what it was called, but I recognize the those chimney stacks!

    1. It’s a GREAT place to walk the dog! They can romp around for miles without running into anybody when the tide is out!

    1. It’s nice! It’s got a small kind of feeling about the place. I like that there are so many trees. I actually think all streets with big leafy trees are good streets. Particularly the ones that lead to the sea!

  3. Yes, my local beach where I grew up is not fancy or fashionable but it’s home <3 (Although apparently they are “redeveloping” it which means they’re going to ruin it 🙁 )

  4. Any place around a sea is special and the places not in the Chamber of Commerce’s places you must visit list doubly so. Any place that recalls thoughts of home are special and the places that still recall such vivid memories doubly so. It looks like you’ve hit the jackpot on special places. I’m jealous. Quadruply so!

    1. Thank you for reading it! It is a beautiful place, you know, at certain times, when the tide is just right, and the weather is fine, and it’s not too cold out…

      So about three days a year, so! Haha! Unless you have a love for inclement weather in which case any time is a good time to visit.

  5. It is so beautiful there and I love your description. I think you’re right people would prefer to die than be caught dead using the equipment lol

    1. I have NEVER seen anyone using it. Except me. I used the crosstrainer-y one once to freak out my dog, who barked like crazy until I stepped off it.

  6. This is nice. I have places like this in my life. Places that are meaningful only to me. They would make someone else go “Huh, really?” I can’t stand Bono. He’s just like Sting.

    1. You must be an honorary Irishman, because the amount of dislike to Bono in this country is … high.

      I don’t really know anything about Sting except that he has sex for hours without orgasming. And I don’t even know what he sings, so I have NO idea why I know that.

  7. I so wish I lived near the coast, my heart feels happy when I can see the sea or hear it but mostly if I can feel it. This post made my heart happy ❤️

      1. I love it!! I often go paddling in the sea when it’s cold here, the beach is quieter when it’s cold! My sister and I Done the Loony Dook once (you might have to google that) …please note -we didn’t do it naked!!!!

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