|From Regional Weekend Cahirciveen|
Recently I was asked why the South West Regional Weekend is hosted in Cahirciveen every year, “Why Doesn’t it travel around instead?”. On the face of it, the question is sensible enough sure, but in reality when something isn’t broken there is no need to fix it. Not only is this a brilliant event every year, well attended by many clubs in and out of the region, it is expertly run without a hitch. The team at Inbhear Sceine make hosting look easy.
Hoping that our club might show in numbers this year, Brian Kearney and myself worked on recruiting members for several weeks. It falls so close to our annual trip to Portmagee on June weekend that it just wasn’t to be. I contacted Ray ahead of time to offer at least a compressor, but he was already sorted he told me. “Just let me know numbers expected and arrive early Saturday to register, dive brief at half ten” , the rest was taken care of he told me. Indeed it was.
Driving down from Limerick in a short 2 hour spin I began to wonder why we don’t head here more often. Once you hit the corner with the Donkey posing for tourists, you begin to realize you are not far now. When the road goes under the railway bridge, the next few turns provide incredible views of Dingle Bay. Passing Kells Bay you might be tempted to turn off and just jump in the gorgeous waters below – but we are close now so foot down, next stop the marina.
The village of Cahirciveen appears to be sleeping peacefully the hour we arrive, until we make sight of the camp forming near rivers edge. Sure enough the crowds were building and familiar faces were appearing all round. Just enough time to grab a coffee and start enquiring about boat space. We were made feel very welcome as were all stragglers – I think everyone had a spot before the dive brief was even finished. I was fortunate enough to get a spot on our friends from Aughinish’ boat – and headed out to Illaunnanask (Doulous Head) with a spirited crew.
Sun was shining brightly on our Dive spot and the water was calm enough that 3 boats operated easily from the one place, we were joined by Loch Derg and ULSAC as well. The sea swell normally present was absent this morning making attempts to swim through the backside of the small island feasible. I saw Paddy from ULSAC manage it and Aoife declared “Best Dive ever” upon surfacing the other side of sunlit jewel anemone walls. My buddy and I managed to enter the underwater valley, but at depth we missed the turn left. I think Dave was more interested in the incredible perfectly formed holes in the seabed, littered with broken mussel shells. Occasional crab nooks could be seen that were just big enough to house a single occupant. In the end we turned back to the South and did a very long stop right up against the rock face examining the tiny life present – plenty of evidence of nudi branch but none spotted by me.
Lunch was a homemade meal at a genuine Italian Restaurant in a surprising place, opposite the Super Market at the edge of town. The Cappuccino with hot milk to start was a good sign of things to come and the Mozzarella Pork with Red Sauce proved a huge hit – will definitely head back to La Dolce Vita.
Back on site we negotiated spots with Loch Derg who were happy to have us on-board. They were heading to Basalt Cliffs to look for the promise of a cave located somewhere along the cliffs edge, possible on the left side. We were dropped mid wall about 50m from the Basalt and took a heading of almost due south. I had an idea that the sharp corner on the left side my yield a result. This dive, unlike the mornings, was chock full of life. As we swam across a sparse Kelp forest, we were often rewarded with drop offs. Here under the overhangs we found Pollock, Wrasse, Dogfish. Tucked into every crevice was a community of common crab, squat lobster, prawn and blennie and every wall was spotted with Devonshire Cup Coral. The final pay off came nearly too late, at 35 minutes we encountered a massive gully, narrow enough for single file and running the entire height of the 17m depth available. I could tell from Dave’s thumbs up the distance travelled was well worth it and we both knew we had to try to reach the end. Alas, the end of dive came too soon , we will have to try that again. Thanks to Loch Derg for being so welcoming. A tighter group of diving friends you won’t find on any dive slip and I look forward to their company again someday.
With a solid days diving under our belts it was time to sample what else was on offer in Cahirciveen. It has been a few years since I sat down for a meal there, but I knew from the passing talk that day – QC’s is still the best spot in town for seafood. In fact, if you don’t believe me, head over to their website at www.qcbar.com and you can read for yourself the numerous awards that have been heaped upon them recently, including the 100 Best Places to Stay in Ireland! I knew from previous meals here I wanted to return, but I also knew from previous regionals that so did everyone else. This was THE spot and it was buzzing with a real New York vibe. Top divers from all across Ireland were dining here all night, tables of good diving friends filled the place. With no reservation in our possession we staked out two spots at the bar and arrived early enough to beat the crowds. It took longer for us to argue on what to order than to have it all arrive dish after dish. Sizzling Chilli Prawns, Crab Bisque, Calamari Frito and Scallops delicious with the Hunky Dory White. Desert? Why another share of Pan Fried Squid with Caramelized Onions, pint of Guinness to wash it all down.
We chatted to the locals all night long and were told every time how delighted they were to see people visiting the place and using the marina. It made us think about convincing our own club to trek down here more often if we could. It really is a spot you want to return to. Thanks to all at Inbhear Sceine for making it at least possible to do so every year in May, see you soon!