What makes a great beach? I was wondering this as Jenny and I and a friend were walking across Ballyholme beach, just a few miles from Belfast, and I was thinking "This is just as good as Bondi."
Yes, I've been to Bondi, but why it has such a glittering reputation I don't know. It's no better than a lot of other beaches. It's probably all the visiting celebs who give it an inflated glamour.
So what's the secret of a perfect beach? Here's my own checklist:
1) plenty of sand
2) plenty of space
3) no sharks, jellyfish or other nasties
4) not too many people
5) no litter or pollution
6) attractive setting, not over-developed
7) warm enough to swim
8) windy enough to surf
9) some good cafés
10) some interesting shops
Well, Ballyholme scores on most of those (even the surfing), though swimming is for the warm-blooded only and I did see a few jellyfish. And the only cafés and shops are round the corner in Bangor.
On the other hand Bondi is often distinctly overcrowded and touristy, and sharks sometimes pay a visit. The one big difference is of course the blazing Aussie sun. But wild, windswept beaches can be just as exciting as the scorching ones.
The fact is I was just as reluctant to leave the particular charms of Ballyholme beach as I was to leave Bondi. And I know some Sydneysiders wouldn't be seen dead on Bondi, they sneak off to the quieter, more remote beaches only the locals know about.
So move over, Bondi, other beaches are magical too.
PS (Wednesday): A 14 foot shark has been spotted at Portrush harbour on the north coast. But it's a basking shark and is said to be harmless to humans....
Pic: Ballyholme beach, near Bangor, Northern Ireland