How the odd downpour or two didn't stop us enjoying our holidays
We're made to suffer through a real washout of a summer as the sun ditches us for another year
The summer of 2015 - it was the season that Northern Ireland forgot. Instead of rays of sunshine turning us tan, we had relentless stair rods of rain. This isn't the emerald isle without reason.
Sure we all expect some rain even in the hottest months of the year. But every week and often for days on end, it has made planning a day out a nightmare for those who decided that our home shores were their preferred destination.
We have some of the best beaches in Europe, but it was a rare day indeed when anyone felt brave - or optimistic - enough to try to sunbathe. Indeed, the familiar sight was of the occasional hardy soul, well wrapped up in winter waterproofs taking a stroll along the shore if only to escape the cabin fever of being locked up in a B&B or holiday home.
So we asked four of those hardy souls how they coped with the summer that never was.
Lynette Fay (37) presents the Lynette Fay show on Radio Ulster every Saturday from 6-8pm. She says:
I don’t think you can get better than holidaying at home — good weather or not we’ve got everything we need on our doorsteps. There’s nothing better than being free to jump in the car and go to a festival or a gig or just to drop in and see friends. There has been so much on this summer anyway. I love traditional music, so summer has been a fine time for me.
I’ve also been able to travel round and see friends all over the place.
I’m not one for beach holidays anyway. After three days, I would need to be up and doing something.
I did sneak in a bit of a trip — I went to New York for four days in July but that was only to see U2 in concert and catch up with family. It wasn’t for the weather.
I’ve been to lots of weddings this year in places including Galway, Cavan, Rostrevor, Maynooth, Donegal and Westport giving me little breaks and they’ve all been great and we did not have to worry about tickets or baggage allowance.
The weather has been awful this summer, though. We’re at the end of August now and I think people are really starting to feel the effects of being sun deprived. I haven’t gone anywhere without an anorak, a hoodie and a pair of wellies in the car. I was at Belsonic the other night and it got rained out.
That’s Belfast for you. Mind you, you could have expected lovely weather in any other European city.”
Paul Clark (61) is a journalist and broadcaster for UTV. He lives in Belfast with wife Carol and they have two sons, Peter (27) and David (24). He says:
This year we agreed to stay at home and fix some things around the house. We decided to have a couple of weeks in Donegal, but that’s something we do every year.
We went for two weeks at the beginning of August and it rained a lot. I have to say I wasn’t one bit disappointed — I go to Donegal all the time and I don’t go for the Mediterranean weather. The fact that it rained didn’t bother me a bit. I read a lot and I don’t check my emails on holiday, it’s all about relaxing.
I like a walk in the rain — I subscribe to that great line by Billy Connolly who says there’s no such thing as bad weather, only the wrong clothing. I have wet gear and love puddles.
It would have been lovely to see some sun this summer, but it didn’t spoil my holiday.
I think holidays are as much a state of mind as anything else. If you go intending to enjoy yourself whatever the weather then you will enjoy yourself. I go to Donegal not to do, but to be.
We were in the south west of Donegal, so we could sit and watch the storms making landfall from the Atlantic Ocean. There were some serious winds that even rocked the car as we drove along the coastline.
We do go away some years, normally to an area of France in the Alps with its own weather pattern which isn’t necessarily very good. We’re very used to not getting sunshine when we go on holiday now. I’ve never been much of a beach person anyway.
Mind you, immediately after we came back from Donegal, the next four days were absolutely brilliant.”
Ivan Little is a freelance journalist and actor. He says:
I will never forget Northern Ireland’s summer of 2015. It was a Tuesday. I was on my way to Rathlin Island on the second day of my first staycation on the north coast when the sun popped up overhead.
And I thought my ship had really come in as the rays beat down on the ferry and later made Rathlin my very own island in the sun.
However the dark clouds with their anything but silver linings weren’t far behind and were soon raining on my parade.
But that week near Portrush was positively tropical compared to last week up north where I was told that there had been rain on every one of the last 15 weekends.
But anyone who can’t find something to make the soul and the senses sing on the north coast is a lost cause to humanity.
Come rain or shine — and it was rarely the latter — I took myself off on bracing walks on the area’s unbeatable beaches and on the unsurpassable paths that link Portstewart with Portrush.
The sagacious purchase of an expensive but sturdy umbrella and a coat with a hood prepared me well for any storms in the Port.
Well almost any. There were allegedly summer days which were bloody freezing as the winds whipped in on the promenade along the West Strand in Portrush.
One morning a luxury cruise ship disgorged its passengers and I comforted myself with the thought that I wasn’t paying a fortune for the pleasure of my pummelling from the Ulster elements.
They do of course say that home is where the heart is, but during the chillier times home for me was where the hearth was, usually with a nice fire burning in it.
It’s also said that on a clear day you can see for ever from high above Ballycastle but on a trip there after that earlier Rathlin roasting I could scarcely see the nose at the end of my face.
Within half an hour, however, I was strolling along the beach as the mist cleared and the sun reigned supreme but only fleetingly before the rain came back.
Which was the cue to visit the Bushmills distillery, where the free shot of a hot toddy always hits the spot. In nearby Bushmills there was the fascinating game of fame for all the family to play where contestants had to figure out why pictures of Dolly Parton and John Wayne adorn storyboards on lampposts in the main street.
At night, of course, the north coast really shines, even in the gloom as fantastic restaurants like Harry’s Shack and the five eateries in the Ramore complex make it an area to dine for.
So would I really try to make it third time lucky in the Port?
Absolutely. But not until after I’ve enjoyed a hot port — like Portugal.”
Frances Buscough, a freelance journalist and Belfast Telegraph columnist, says:
A cruel twist of fate happens almost every year: the moment the end of term exams start, the sun comes out. So it didn’t bode well for our forecast that as my son was sitting his first A-level in June, it was pouring down outside. English paper one: rain. History paper one: more rain. Drama theory: torrential rain peppered with hailstones. And so it continued. The exams came and went and the sky never cleared. The tests were marked and the results were published, and still it rained.
My mantra was a nursery rhyme from my childhood: “Rain, rain, go away. Come again another day.”
That didn’t work and the rain just kept coming.
I tried to coax the sun out by getting my summer clothes out of the closet and storing away my woollens, but to no avail. I was still wearing polo necks and opaque tights in August.
I promised myself that the moment the weather improved I would dust down the sun loungers, clear up the overgrown back garden and get it bikini-ready. Three months of almost incessant rain later, the weeds were so high it looked like Jurassic Park and the loungers never once saw the light of day.
I also promised myself that the moment the weather improved, I would get someone in to fix the broken tiles on the roof that were causing a leak on to our landing. Three months later, the leak was still cascading so freely through the ceiling that it looked like an indoor water feature.
There are three family members who dislike the rain more than me. Bailey, Heidi and Walter, my dogs. Unlike most normal dogs, none of mine are waterproof. They hate getting wet and won’t even paddle, so when it’s raining I literally have to push them out of the door to get them to pee outside. They won’t even go walkies in the rain. They look at me as if to say, “Get us and umbrella or get lost”, when I try to pull them out of the front door by the scruff of their leads.
By mid-August, I’d had enough. The chance of a cheap trip to Rhodes came up and I grabbed it. On approach from the plane, the island looked like a barren desert, yellow, cracked and dusty. It was so dry and parched there, and had been for so long, that every one of its five rivers had dried up. I looked up at the clear blue sky and a solitary buzzard soared in the hot air currents, scouring the scorched earth for carrion.
At my hotel, the swimming pool was the only source of fresh water for miles, and all the feral cats from the village would flock there at the crack of dawn to lap up the water before any humans appeared. They didn’t care about the chlorine, their thirst was so compelling.
By day three, I had decided that I couldn’t bear the heat and took to my room, longing for a thunderstorm to clear the choking air, thick like smoke from a forest fire.
“Be careful what you wish for,” I thought to myself as I took refuge from the relentless heat under a spinning hotel fan and the temperature went off the grid.
Northern Ireland looked as green as a tropical rainforest when I arrived home after a week of arid yellow dust. Yes, it was raining as we touched down at Aldergrove, but it didn’t seem so bad after all.
While southern Europe prayed for rain, we had far more than our fair share. But our countryside looked verdant and vibrant in comparison. Our rivers flowed freely, our fields were lush, crops were busting forth and our wildlife was thriving. Our sea was just as blue, and, when it did appear from behind the clouds, so was our sky.
Like the blooming and bountiful nature all around us, I knew which climate I preferred.”
A very average season...
Our summer may have come as an unpleasant surprise to most of us, but according to the Met Office there have been absolutely no surprises during our holiday months.
Across May, June, July and August temperatures were around average. The mean temperature was 13.7 degrees Celsius, just 0.8 degrees lower than the UK average. While the rainfall in August was 12% above our average for the month, the 223mm of rain that fell during June, July and August was just 8% above the UK average.
And, given that we often looked enviously at images of sunshine in other parts of the UK, the surprise to the lay person is that it was sunnier here than in England.
So what was to blame for our inclement conditions. According to the Met Office this was due to a westerly air flow from the Atlantic.