Why I do like to be beside the seaside
Published 08/05/2008 | 01:00
A report into the favourite holiday destinations of the UK was published recently which shows the decline of the traditional British seaside resort. Theme parks, high-tech attractions and well-being spa breaks have taken over from the pull of the tide and the now it seems that picnicking and paddling on the beach simply isn't enough to attract day trippers in their droves anymore.
But whoever did the research certainly didn't check out Bangor, Co Down, that's for sure.
I love Bangor and I'm proud to bring my kids up here, despite having left all my roots and reason in England to 'emigrate' here in the late 80s.
Since then I have seen the town transform from a slightly shabby-looking backwater that had seen better days (quite a long time ago) to a vibrant resort complete with its world-class marina, landscaped promenades and unrivalled views across the lough to the Antrim coast and Scotland.
On May Bank Holiday Monday afternoon, after the thick morning mist cleared to reveal a perfect sunny day, Ballyholme beach in Bangor was positively heaving with holiday spirit.
Hundreds of people set up camp for the day, complete with sun loungers, fold-away furniture and, yes, even a few traditional canvas deck chairs just like the good old days.
Although there wasn't an ice-cream van, Punch and Judy stall or a donkey ride in sight, there was so much to look at.
At one stage in the bay I counted three sailing yachts, four cruisers, two motor boats pulling water-skiers and a kite surfer, dressed in a black rubber wetsuit like an extra from James Bond.
A pair of jet-skiers (the Hells Angels of the waterfront, with their noisy motor and break-neck speeds) annoyed their more serene neighbours by doing mid-surf acrobatics and causing tumultuous waves to rock their hulls and wreck their solace.
Meanwhile, in the distance, you could just about make out the pristine white sails of a flotilla of little toppers, bobbing against the wake of the passing Stena HSS, just visible through the misty heat haze. Then, just as you thought that the view couldn't possibly be improved, two women on horseback came clip-clopping down Ballyholme esplanade, wearing racing colours and treated us all to an equestrian display of breathtaking grace and speed.
While they splashed and galloped along the shoreline the hundred-strong flock of visiting Canada Geese were startled and flew up suddenly into the sky, momentarily blotting out the sun.
And that's not just me waxing lyrical. Believe me, it was idyllic.
But what completed the perfect day for me was the sight of the first swallows, swooping and diving into the puddles that were left from a morning rain shower.
Swallows, swifts and housemartins fly for thousands of miles across the Sahara desert each spring in order to spend their summers along our lush coastlines. They're not daft, are they? So, who says there's a decline going on?