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The Treacherous Beauty of Tullan Strand

Tullan Strand

Tullan Strand is the backdrop to this photograph of a bearded patriarch seated on the cliffs above it.

Thanks to the heroism of a surfer who came to their rescue, seven children were rescued from drowning at Tullan Strand, near the seaside resort of Bundoran in County Donegal, on Wednesday July 24.

The children were on a one-day outing by bus from Cavan, and were tempted to play in the shallow waves which looked so enticing and harmless.

Suddenly all seven were floundering. A surfer nearby noticed their plight, and raced to drag them to safety.

When the alarm was raised, an Air Corps helicopter was dispatched, a lifeboat was launched from Bundoran, and local Gardai rushed to the scene. By the time they arrived, the exhausted surfer had saved all seven children.

The incident revived memories of the dangers for non-swimmers of bathing at Tullan Strand, dangers as real today as they were sixty years ago, as told in this extract from "The Kindly Spot" on this web site.

From Tullan Strand there opened up the whole of Donegal Bay, the Leitrim Mountains on one side, Slieve League and the Rosses on the other, the broad Atlantic ceaselessly in motion in between. The strand itself, all two or more miles, was usually deserted. Behind it lay little friendly sandhills that it was fun to race up and jump down from their tops so that your legs sank into soft, sun-warmed sand, up to your knees and hips……

Tullan Strand was a beauty spot, but a notorious one too. At one end lay the remnants of the (wrecked) collier. At the other end rose the rocky cliffs that stretched all the way to Roguey, a famous bathing inlet beside Bundoran strand. These cliffs were home to the Fairy Bridges, rock arches beneath which thousands of years of pounding waves had created caverns where seas roiled and spumed, dashing spray up to the cliff top during winter storms.

The cliffs fronting the strand caused strange, unseen patterns in the flow and ebb of the tides. On the surface the little wavelets reaching the beach seemed just as friendly, just as beckoning, as the waves a mile and more away along the strand. But, as they reversed and rolled seaward, they took the sandy bottom with them, so that even a person paddling at the strand's edge, in only three inches of water, would suddenly find his feet yanked from beneath him, and in seconds be dragged into the deeper surf from which there was no escape, not even for the strongest swimmer.

Warning signs were posted on the pathway from the cliffs to the beach, but summer after summer some unwitting Sunday excursionist would be tempted to shed shoes, socks or stockings, to wade ankle-deep close to the cliffs, only to be swept away before the horrified eyes of friends and relations.

Tullan, its charm is treacherous. Only those who know it well, and know the really dangerous places, should bathe there. It was my favourite bathing beach.

In recent times Tullan has become a mecca for surfers who are drawn to it from all over Europe. Its beguiling charm, however, remains treacherous for children and non-swimmers.

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