As the mass exodus to the nation’s beaches continued on Tuesday, sun-kissed Strandhill in Co Sligo saw seaweed baths, surfing, 99 cones and a couple of shared sandwiches on a shorefront bench add to the upbeat atmosphere.
A long spell of dry and settled weather has been forecast across the country, with temperatures of up to 24 degrees expected right into the June bank holiday weekend.
The highest temperature so far this year was recorded in Inagh, Co Clare, with 24 degrees reported there. The UV index is high for the entire country, with people reminded to wear sunscreen and seek shade during midday heat.
For many in Strandhill, just knowing that it is hotter here at 22 degrees than in many holiday resorts abroad made it so much more fun.
Jonathan Younger, on holiday in Sligo with his 76-year-old mother Lily, a native of Ballinacarrow near Collooney, was delighted to report that it was cloudy in London where he lives. Another woman had just told him it was raining in Majorca.
“Ireland is the place to be at the moment,” he said. In Sligo town it was so hot that “we were melting”, which explains his morning dash to Strandhill where “you feel like the waves come right up to you” when you sit on a bench at the shore.
Ciaran Kilfeather from Riverstown in Co Sligo was taking his surfboard out of his car when approached by The Irish Times. Having surfed for just a year, he has already braved the waves in Lanzarote (only 22 degrees yesterday) and Morocco (temperature not much higher than Strandhill this week).
“I am plastered in factor 50,” he said as he headed for the beach, noting that he had braced the same waves a few short months ago when the temperature was minus four. “It is a great feeling to be out on the water especially on a day like today,” he said. “It is so refreshing. You are standing on the water – like Jesus,” he joked.
Jane Chambers, who owns Shells seafront cafe on the shore in Strandhill, had set her alarm for 5.30am on Tuesday and was in the water on her surfboard 15 minutes later.
She and her husband, Myles Lamberth from Cape Town (a chilly 14 degrees yesterday), are both surfers and she was getting in a few waves before doing the school run and preparing for the start of the breakfast shift at 8.30am.
“I checked the surf camera when the alarm went‚ and there were lovely small waves ideal for long boarding,” she said. “It’s just a magical day for surfing”.
Magical for business too as she explained that “most people don’t want to be stuck at home cooking on a day like today”.
Caroline Henry and Bernadette Melly from Sligo town hadn’t taken the day off but they were making the most of their lunch break tucking into sandwiches on a bench near the shore.
“This is our breather and we are taking advantage of the sun,” said Bernadette, explaining that they both work in a local doctor’s surgery. “This is our chance to feel the sun and smell the sea,” she added.
Cathal Burke from Carrick-on-Shannon had done a little forward planning before hitting the road for Strandhill. “We checked the tide and knew low tide was at 11.15am,” said Cathal, explaining that it is a very short walk on the beach in Strandhill if the tide is in.
After the walk he treated himself to fish and chips and an ice-cream at Mammy Johnston’s ice-cream parlour where proprietor Neil Byrne was less than fazed by the current controversy about the flakes being used on 99 cones which reportedly are now made in Egypt and are crumbling into shreds before even being handed to parched customers.
“We had that last year. I’d say we had to throw away a quarter of them,” said Byrne who trained as a gelato chef in Cattabriga university in Bologna.
He says that thanks to some forward planning this year he sourced his flakes in Germany and believes they are made with Belgian chocolate which he says has proved to be a better option than the once-lauded “crumbliest flakiest chocolate in the world”.
With about 40 staff required to cover three shifts during this hot spell he wasn’t complaining. In fact, his colleague Jason East, surveying the queues for gelatos and waffles, uttered the unforgivable words: “I am looking forward to the rain again.”
Outside the village a suited cider sales rep called Colin Farrell emerged from the supermarket happily clutching a fast melting 99 cone. Asked about the quality of the flake he patiently explained that while the chocolate sticks appear to be getting smaller every year, he had no other complaints. “And it’s a great day for selling Bulmers,” he beamed.