Sunday 25 June 2017

Wild Swimming: 10 of the most amazing outdoor swims in Ireland

Dive into Ireland!

Glanmore Lake, Co. Kerry. © Paul McCambridge - MAC Visual Media. From Wild Swimming in Ireland – Discover 50 Places to Swim in Rivers, Lakes and the Sea, by The Collins Press, 2016
Glanmore Lake, Co. Kerry. © Paul McCambridge - MAC Visual Media. From Wild Swimming in Ireland – Discover 50 Places to Swim in Rivers, Lakes and the Sea, by The Collins Press, 2016
Silver Strand Donegal
Carrick-a-rede, County Antrim; ©Paul McCambridge 2015 - MAC Visual Media. From Wild Swimming in Ireland – Discover 50 Places to Swim in Rivers, Lakes and the Sea,The Collins Press.
Ballydowane, County Waterford. ©Paul McCambridge - MAC Visual Media - 2016. Taken from Wild Swimming in Ireland – Discover 50 Places to Swim in Rivers, The Collins Press.
Tra an Doilin, County Galway; © Paul McCambridge 2015 - MAC Visual Media. From Wild Swimming in Ireland – Discover 50 Places to Swim in Rivers, Lakes and the Sea, The Collins Press.
Hook Head Lighhouse, County Wexford. ©Paul McCambridge / MAC Visual Media 2015. From Wild Swimming in Ireland – Discover 50 Places to Swim in Rivers, Lakes and the Sea, published by The Collins Press, 2016.
Vico, County Dublin; © Paul McCambridge / MAC Visual Media 2015 East. From Wild Swimming in Ireland – Discover 50 Places to Swim in Rivers, Lakes and the Sea,The Collins Press.
Howth, County Dublin; ©Paul McCambridge / MAC Visual Media. From Wild Swimming in Ireland – Discover 50 Places to Swim in Rivers, Lakes and the Sea, by The Collins Press.
Blackrock Diving Tower, Salthill, Galway; ©Paul McCambridge 2016 - MAC Visual Media. From Wild Swimming in Ireland – Discover 50 Places to Swim in Rivers, Lakes and the Sea by The Collins Press.

Maureen McCoy & Paul McCambridge

When the sun shines, there's nowhere better for an outdoor dip than Ireland. Here are 10 sweet spots for your swims.

Here's a book with summer written all over it.

Maureen McCoy and Paul McCambridge's Wild Swimming in Ireland – Discover 50 Places to Swim in Rivers, Lakes and the Sea (Collins Press, €19.99) has us running for the togs and towels.

Here are 10 of Paul and Maureen's top outdoor swims in Ireland. Before reading, remember that you should never swim alone, and always take safety precautions (see the Irish Water Safety's 14 rules for safe swimming below). Enjoy!

Glanmore Lake, Co Kerry

Slip into tranquil waters around this tree-shaded lake (pictured, top) to swim through reflections of the towering Caha Mountains. Weave around the many rock islands in this pristine lake each with trees growing in impossibly little soil. You can even climb out and explore the man-made crannóg with its small and over-grown stone building.

Note: This is a secluded lake swim.

Silver Strand and Malin beg, Co. Donegal

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Silver Strand Donegal

A stunning horseshoe shaped strand nestled beneath grassy headland at the base of a steep set of steps, this is as close to the perfect beach as you could ever hope to find. The added bonus here is the nearby Malin Beg harbour, perfect for divers and snorkelling.

Note: Ideal for families. No phone reception!

Read more: Donegal Airport voted one of world's Top 10 scenic landings

Carrick-a-rede, Co. Antrim

Wild Swimming in Ireland - Carrick - a - Rede 01.jpg
Carrick-a-rede, County Antrim; ©Paul McCambridge 2015 - MAC Visual Media. From Wild Swimming in Ireland – Discover 50 Places to Swim in Rivers, Lakes and the Sea,The Collins Press.

One of the most dramatic swims in Ireland has got to be this superb swim across Larrybane Bay to Carrick-a-Rede Island and under the famous rope bridge. Squeals of fear and laughter echo around the bay as visitors carefully cross to the island… the reward of the long, one kilometre swim across the bay is to swim right beneath the feet of these visitors.

Note: An advanced swim for strong swimmers only.

Ballydowane, Co. Waterford

Wild Swimming in Ireland - Ballydowane 17.jpg
Ballydowane, County Waterford. ©Paul McCambridge - MAC Visual Media - 2016. Taken from Wild Swimming in Ireland – Discover 50 Places to Swim in Rivers, The Collins Press.

Step out into a rugged landscape with the red and purple cliff behind and great pointed sea stacks jut out of the water like some mythical sea creature, you can lose yourself in this other-worldly place on Irelands Copper Coast.

Note: Advised for strong swimmers as there can be currents.

Read more: 10 great reasons to visit Waterford

Trá an Dóilín, Co. Galway

Wild Swimming in Ireland - Tra an Doilin 21.jpg
Tra an Doilin, County Galway; © Paul McCambridge 2015 - MAC Visual Media. From Wild Swimming in Ireland – Discover 50 Places to Swim in Rivers, Lakes and the Sea, The Collins Press.

At the mouth of Galway bay, between Casla Bay and Greatman’s Bay, lies one of the most extraordinary beaches in Ireland; Trá an Dóilín, or the Coral Beach. The beach is made not of sand, but of millions of pieces of what looks like coral in myriad colours. Scoop a handful of this coralline algae - known as maerl - and it gleams with the mother of pearl hue of minute shells amongst tiny branches of delicate underwater plants.

Note: A Must see on the west coast.

Keem Bay, Achill Island

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Keem Bay, Achill Island. One of the new Blueway trails.

One of the most popular beaches on Achill Island, although rarely over-crowded, is the picturesque Keem Bay. The first view of this strand set in a steep amphitheatre under the Benmore cliffs comes from high above on the vertiginous road that winds up from Dooagh village. It was from this strand that fishermen would launch their curraghs in search of Basking sharks, right up until the 1950s. Today, the beach is a signature Discovery Point on Ireland's Wild Atlantic Way.

Note: Keem is one of five Blueway trails (blueway.ie) designated for snorkelling and kayaking on the Wild Atlantic Way.

Watch: Basking shark swims within metres of shore in Keem Bay

Vico, Co. Dublin

Wild Swimming in Ireland - Vico 11.jpg
Vico, County Dublin; © Paul McCambridge / MAC Visual Media 2015 East. From Wild Swimming in Ireland – Discover 50 Places to Swim in Rivers, Lakes and the Sea,The Collins Press.

Dublin City has a great tradition of alfresco swimming, and further south from the famous Forty Foot the pretty area of Dalkey boasts a similar bathing area. The Vico is nestled along the cliff edge between Dalkey and Killiney beach off the Vico Road, and is popular with naturists. From the steep path down to this bathing spot, steps and ladders lead down the rocks into the deep waters.

Note: Good for skinny-dipping!

Read more: 8 brilliant beaches within an hour of Dublin...

Hook Lighthouse, Co. Wexford

Wild Swimming in Ireland - Hook Head 18.jpg
Hook Head Lighhouse, County Wexford. ©Paul McCambridge / MAC Visual Media 2015. From Wild Swimming in Ireland – Discover 50 Places to Swim in Rivers, Lakes and the Sea, published by The Collins Press, 2016.

At Ireland's oldest working lighthouse, you'll find a large natural rock pool filled at mid to high tide. This is a swim with an audience, but the dramatic setting of the rugged pool with Hook lighthouse in the background and the open sea in-front is to be savoured in summer.

Note: Swim in calm conditions only.

Read more: Diving the Hook: Wexford's underwater wonderland

Blackrock Diving Tower, Salthill, Galway

Wild Swimming in Ireland - Blackrock Diving 23.jpg
Blackrock Diving Tower, Salthill, Galway; ©Paul McCambridge 2016 - MAC Visual Media. From Wild Swimming in Ireland – Discover 50 Places to Swim in Rivers, Lakes and the Sea by The Collins Press.

The bathing area and boards here are a magnet drawing young and old, and a hive of activity as retirees mix with schoolchildren to swim and jump from the dual-aspect boards. Last day of term sees the school leavers flock to the tower and cast off their ties as they leap into summer.

Note: Family swimming, jumping and diving.

Howth, Co. Dublin

Wild Swimming in Ireland - Howth 07.jpg
Howth, County Dublin; ©Paul McCambridge / MAC Visual Media. From Wild Swimming in Ireland – Discover 50 Places to Swim in Rivers, Lakes and the Sea, by The Collins Press.

Where teenagers flock along the cliff path to an old swimming and diving haunt, now re-claimed, boards are set up for the summer months and youths scramble up the barnacle encrusted rocks, some with socks the only protection for delicate feet.

Note: Good for jumping and diving.

Wild Swimming in Ireland – Discover 50 Places to Swim in Rivers, Lakes and the Sea by Maureen McCoy and Paul McCambridge is published by The Collins Press at €19.99.

See wildswim.wordpress.com and collinspress.ie for more.

14 Steps to Safe Swimming

Irish Water Safety has published a list of 14 rules to enjoy yourself in the water, and come home safely. Contact 1890 420 202 or iws.ie for more.

  1. Don't swim alone
  2. Don't swim just after eating
  3. Don't swim when you're hot or tired
  4. Don't swim in strange places
  5. Don't swim out after anything drifting
  6. Don't stay in the water too long
  7. Don't swim out to sea
  8. Swim parallel and close to the shore
  9. Do what the lifeguard tells you
  10. Never use air mattresses
  11. Pay attention to signs on the beach
  12. Don't be a bully
  13. Learn to use equipment before trying it out
  14. Learn basic life support

In marine emergencies, call 999 or 112 and ask for Marine Rescue.

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