Sunseekers flocked to Ireland’s beaches and parks as the country basked in the first August heatwave in years.
Temperatures hit a sweltering 28C in Dublin, Offaly, Cork and Wexford, while counties Kildare, Laois and Tipperary saw highs of 25C or 26C.
Along the west coast, temperatures reached 23C and 24C, bringing thousands to the beaches and waterways.
Noirin O’Brien from Rosscarbery, Co Cork, and her dog Rolo made the most of the fine weather at Old Head beach in Louisburgh, Co Mayo.
Noirin and her boyfriend Niall Campbell, who’s from Claremorris, Co Mayo, are both teachers and are squeezing in as much fun as possible before the schools go back.
“We had our picnic basket and got lovely coffees, it was a brilliant day,” Noirin said.
“It’s great to see people so happy and enjoying the sun.
“There were loads of people on paddleboards, jumping off the pier, kayaking and having picnics and barbecues.
“And for the first time I have ever seen in Ireland, there was even a banana boat.”
Jake Gannon and Aoife Heverin from Castlebar, Co Mayo, also seized the opportunity to grab some rays in Louisburgh.
“I had a couple of spare hours, and when this weather comes you have to make the most of it. People are long enough complaining about the rain,” said Jake.
“It was full here today, but we got a parking space and a great spot on the beach. It’s like being abroad. There’s a good crowd but not too mental. It was nice and comfortable.
“You would never have to leave Ireland if we had more weather like this.”
Seaside businesses are reaping the rewards of the hot weather.
Ben Bennett, the owner of Ben’s Surf Clinic in Lahinch, Co Clare, said the day was magical.
“It’s super busy. The beach was thronged for the whole morning. There must have been 4,000 people there,” he said.
“And we were lucky we had some surf as well, so it was hectic between our holidaymakers, our day-trippers and then all our surf campers. “The tide came in, and when that happens, people come in off the beach and the town fills up.
“So there are queues for coffee and queues for restaurants and just lots of people sitting on the walls enjoying the sun.
“It’s fantastic. We’re always waiting for this weather, and now it’s here, and it’s going to keep up for the rest of the week, which is brilliant.
“Irish people are great at enjoying the good weather when it does happen. We get out and get stuck in.”
While the glorious weather is set to last into early next week, Ben urged anyone intending to enjoy a day at the beach to think of their safety first and foremost.
“Obviously, getting out in the water in this weather is great, but when you arrive at a beach you don’t know, ask a few locals before you jump in the sea,” he said.
“Make sure you are water-conscious. Just because there are crowds doesn’t mean it is safe. You still need to know where it is safe to go.
“Talk to the lifeguards and get the local information. It’s so important.”
Meanwhile, Matthew Niedzwiecki, regional manager of Gino’s Gelato, said it had been a bumper week for their chain of stores around Ireland.
“The past couple of days, it has been absolutely mental. It’s so busy. But that’s what our business is about, and gelato is a lovely summer product,” he said.
“Bubblegum flavour and all the sorbets are flying out, so they would be our key flavours.
“July is our busiest time of the year, and then it usually quietens in August.
“But this week has been crazy. This is great for our business, and our staff are getting more hours.
“Our customers love getting out and about – everyone is in great form.”
The news that Keem Beach on Co Mayo’s Achill Island has been named the number one “wild swimming spot” in Ireland and the UK is no surprise to locals.
But sadly, it is plagued by litter whenever a heatwave hits.
Saoirse McHugh, an Achill resident and environmental campaigner, said there are always issues with discarded rubbish at the beaches.
“There is a lot of camping down in Keem, and that’s fine, but there are people lighting fires as well, and I’m always waiting for the hill to catch fire,” she said.
“The bins are too small, so people constantly leave bags of rubbish.
“A few of us did a beach clean-up on Sunday, and there were a lot of broken glass bottles.
“A toddler could easily stand on broken glass – it’s horrifying to think of that.”
It’s the taste of freedom. Your toes in the sand, your first lick of a seaside 99, the simple pleasures of a pink sea anemone, or a bucket and spade; your fresh surprise about how BALTIC that beautiful water actually feels.