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Storm over Broadhaven

All along the winding North Coast Road from Ballycastle to Belderrig Storm Bella came howling down from Greenland walloping the car with fitful splatterings of rain and hail. Approaching Céide, the car was rocking like a ship in a storm, its windscreen wipers batting away noisy pellets of hail the north-westerly was spitting out with venom.

Over my right shoulder I got glimpses of walls of waves hundreds of meters below me roaring in from a seething North Atlantic; hurling themselves against North Mayo’s skyscraper cliffs that over millennia have been shaped and sculpted by such winter storms as Bella that brought post-Christmas misery for those harried and hurried commuters and the many who were left without electricity.

Earlier in my journey, I stood in awe as I watched the storm maul Dun Bríste and Downpatrick Head. One of nature’s uncontrollable forces continuing its relentless work eroding and chiseling out the caves and blowholes beneath the headland.

Waves driven by Storm Bella envelop Downpatrick Head. Photo: Anthony Hickey

Waves, bursting into the narrow sound between the sea-stack and headland, charged up the cliffs in raging bursts of white surf veiling the promontory’s World War 2 lookout post in lacy, tails of misty spray.

At Céide, the heaving sea was in turmoil, hurling mountainous waves against the dizzying cliffs and shooting walls of feathery white spray skywards where gulls unbothered by the mayhem wheeled in the updraft.

Explosions of Surf

In the more sheltered coves, the breaking waves after hurling themselves against the cliff-face were like drifts of snow in a blizzard. A witches’ cauldron, its frothy brew firing beige blobs of foam into the wind, like hundreds of discarded Christmas baubles flouncing across the road.

By the shores of Broadhaven Bay waves that had travelled thousands of miles met their fate detonating against the bay’s treacherous rocks and reefs in explosions of surf that thrust soaring spumes into a now brightening sky.

Swirling surf cloaks Broadhaven Lighthouse during Storm Bella. Photo: Anthony Hickey
Swirling surf cloaks Broadhaven Lighthouse during Storm Bella. Photo: Anthony Hickey

Tucked away on the relatively sheltered Gubbacashel Point, the 27 meters high Broadhaven Lighthouse was dwarfed by rampaging breakers crashing into the headland’s rocky shoreline.

Drifting and swirling spray and mist from the clouds of surf clothed the lighthouse in a translucent silk cloak. The next minute, a burst of sunlight cutting through the gaps in the racing clouds illuminated the green of the sea under the white crested waves, and a shaft of sunlight lit up the snowy contours of the lighthouse.

Shivering now in the freezing gale, it was time to return to the warmth of the car and head for home dreaming of turkey sandwiches and the comfort of a log fire.

By Anthony Hickey

Follow writer and photographer, Anthony Hickey, as he travels around his native Co. Mayo, Ireland.

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