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Salt water sisters: meet the wild-swimming Irish women who take the plunge 12 months a year

Year-round swimmer Kathy Donaghy meets some of the growing number of women forging their own saltwater communities, taking the plunge through the winter

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All together now: the Wild Atlantic Dippers

All together now: the Wild Atlantic Dippers

Zeita Gallagher. Photo: Lorcan Doherty

Zeita Gallagher. Photo: Lorcan Doherty

Angela Mulreany-Griffin. Photo: Lorcan Doherty

Angela Mulreany-Griffin. Photo: Lorcan Doherty

Dee McGettigan taking a dip. Photo: Lorcan Doherty

Dee McGettigan taking a dip. Photo: Lorcan Doherty

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All together now: the Wild Atlantic Dippers

The water is at its coldest now. It's only 8°C but it feels like it's freezing. At high tide the women gather. Springing from cars, stripping off jackets and scarves, donning colourful hats and goggles. It's time to get in.

At Mountcharles Pier in west Donegal, the rain has finally abated. Not flat-calm but not choppy - the swimmers eye the water carefully, knowing that it's still going to hurt. It's here that the Wild Atlantic Dippers, a 12-strong group of female swimmers (and one honorary male), meet at least once a week.

At this time of year, the swimming will be brief. It's a case of get in and get out and grab the hot coffee in the Salthill Cabin coffee dock that's just a stone's throw from the pier. I'm here to talk to them about what motivates them to brave the biting cold and swim together all winter long. As someone who swims all year round, I know my own reasons. But for every woman who swims, there's a different motivation for getting in, especially during these chilly months.


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