Beneath Wild Atlantic Waves...
Hold onto your snorkel, Dorothy... Ireland has just got itself five brand new Blueways.
Imagine floating in a shallow Atlantic cove. Below you, a scallop sits like treasure in the sand. A crab creeps out from the rocks. A tiny goby looks like a castmember from Finding Nemo.
You've heard of Greenways... now get ready for a new Atlantic adventure.
Blueways are snorkelling and kayaking trails aiming to get visitors up close and personal with the marine environment, and five of them have just been launched in Galway and Mayo - at Boffin Harbour on Inishbofin, Killary Fjord in Leenane, Keem Bay on Achill Island, Mannin Bay near Clifden and Old Head at Louisburgh.
The trails are a pilot initiative developed with the support of Fáilte Ireland and Leader, and designed to complement the Wild Atlantic Way and encourage visitors to discover our coastline.
“The Blueway initiative provides visitors with a safe haven to immerse themselves in some of the most glorious coastal waters anywhere in the world," said Minister of State for Tourism & Sport, Michael Ring, who launched the trails yesterday.
Glorious they are, but be under no illusions - the water is cold. Average Atlantic temperatures range between 8 and 14 degrees in Ireland (the sea off Spain’s Costa del Sol, by contrast, fluctuates between 18 and 24 degrees).
Wetsuits are most definitely required for all but the most hardy of souls, or the height of summer.
The surprising underwater life, however, is absolutely worth the effort.
Fancy giving it a try? A series of taster days scheduled over the coming months sees local activity operators providing tuition and equipment together with safety advice to anyone interested in snorkelling or kayaking the Blueways.
Here's where you'll find them:
June 8: Killary Harbour (Glassilaun Beach)
June 15: Achill (Keel & Keem Beach)
June 22: Mannin Bay (Clifden)
June 29: Inishbofin (Harbour)
July 19: Achill (Keel & Keem Beach)
July 20: Mannin Bay (Clifden)
July 27: Killary Harbour (Glassilaun Beach)
August 3: Old Head (Louisburgh)
August 9: Inishbofin (Harbour)
More info: www.blueway.ie