Belfast Telegraph

One cool dude... and a few little water babies

Families flock to the coast to get a taste of summer

By Anna Maguire

Beaches were a blaze of colour on Thursday as people across Northern Ireland basked in some long-awaited summer sun.

Highs of 16C brought families out of their homes to relax in the balmy weather.

At Seapark in Co Down sun-seekers enjoyed picnics and sparked up barbecues.

“We couldn’t afford a holiday this year, so it’s great to see a change in the weather,” east Belfast woman Barbara McConaghie (39) said.

Barbara and her family were among the throng who had headed for the Holywood seaside.

A shift in the jet stream — the influential high-altitude wind blamed for the wettest April and June period on record — helped light up the skies this week over a sodden province.

Yesterday was the first time this summer that 91-year-old Tom Martin could see the north shore of Belfast Lough from near his Holywood home.

“I try to get out here every day to keep the old bones moving,” he said. “This is the first bit of sunshine I have seen for a long time.

“It’s great to see the families and kids out enjoying the weather.”

Laura Montgomery (27) stood by the shore watching as her children — Becky (5) and Ethan (2) — splashed happily in the cool water. She, too, has felt let down by the summer weather.

“It has not been great so far,” she said. “We did not know what it would be like today, but when we saw the sunshine we came here.”

The inclement weather so far this summer has not just been a hindrance for families hoping to get out and enjoy some sun.

As high street stores brought their summer sales forward to coax shoppers through their doors, tanning salons offering an artificial sunshine have been unusually quiet — until this week.

Tropical Tan, which operates a number of outlets across Belfast, found trade halved during the wet weeks of June.

“We have eight beds here and half were being used in June,” Ashleigh Elliott (19), an assistant at Tropical Tan on Belfast’s Woodstock Road, said.

“I think when people see the sun they think, ‘I need a tan’. When it’s wet they are not as bothered.

“It’s been a long summer — until this week.”

Oasis Travel, Northern Ireland’s largest independent travel agent, is among the few businesses who have been bucking the trend.

Mark Davidson, manager of the company’s Belfast outlet, said bookings for holidays in September are up by 25%.

“Earlier in the week we had a lot of retired couples coming in saying they were thinking of booking a holiday in September, but the bad weather persuaded them,” he told the Belfast Telegraph.

“In the past if you got a good July you were doing well. But it’s been a healthy month for us with the weather,” he added.

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