On social media, Dubliners can be seen plunging into the cold Irish Sea for a mind-awakening dive all year round, both to strengthen their immune systems and also to help fend off the impact of a few too many days in lockdown. One of the great things about sea swimming in Dublin is that it doesn’t take a long car ride or a sunny day to make it happen. Even in the winter months, hardcore sea swimmers can be seen getting their blood pumping in Dublin Bay.
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Many who were lucky enough to be in a coastal county during the lockdown had the opportunity to examine the shock and calming forces of complete immersion in our fortifying seas and have the Irish waters paralysing effect dispel pandemic anxieties and jolt the monotony of lockdown days.
However, regardless of when residents reach the choppy waters or what time of year they do so, folklore says that an energising swim boosts the immune system and promotes overall health, as well as supposedly curing a bad hangover. For observers, though, it’s difficult not to question if an icy swim does cure the agony from a drinks-related headache or simply replaces it.
With the hope of the summer ahead of us, we thought we’d take the time to tell you more about some of the finest spots to go for a swim in the nation’s capital.
Despite the name, the Forty Foot is not home to waves forty feet high, nor is the water forty feet deep. The Forty Foot or 40 Foot was the headquarters of the British Army’s 40th Regiment of Foot, hence the name. The Forty Foot in Sandycove is a coastal rocky nook with expansive coastline views and the recognition of being a genuine Dublin institution, with 250 years of experience under its belt. It was a favourite of James Joyce and was immortalised in James Joyce’s Ulysses as the place with the “’snot green sea”.
The amenities are excellent; it is the city’s most popular swimming spot for a reason – there are plenty of handrails and an abundance of space for easy access to the water, not to mention a fantastic, well-loved jumping platform. It’s also a lively place to swim on sunny days because it attracts such a big audience.
A narrow gap in the wall along Vico Road, walking up the hill away from Dalkey, marks the entrance to the route that leads to the famed Vico Baths by crossing a high-sided footbridge over the railway and then descending a series of thigh-burning steps down to the sea. At higher and rougher tides, the sensible should use a centuries-old saltwater pool. Porpoises are used to frequent the Vico pools, where they can be seen watching and occasionally playing with local bathers.
The Vico Baths are worth visiting just for the beautiful scenic drive along the shore, with it being a popular swimming spot for generations. While the cold sea can deter potential swimmers, the Vico Baths attract a vast number of courageous swimmers every year, as average sea temperatures in Ireland vary from a chilly 8.8c to a scorching 15.0c. Still, it’s not for the faint of heart. However, this does not deter the Irish public, and in the winter, swimmers queue up to take a dip along the breath-taking Irish coastline.
The Vico Baths are also welcome to the nudist community. While most people wear their togs, you should be prepared for the likelihood that others may not.
Sandycove Beach is in a prime location in Dublin Bay, and it is the nearest swimming spot to Teddy’s Ice Cream (arguably Ireland’s greatest 99 ice cream cone). Sandycove is a perfect place to take kids because there’s plenty of open space to run around in, and it’s well-protected by lifeguards. It’s much less crowded with swimmers than the nearby Forty Foot. The size of the beach can vary depending on the tide, but there is often a short sandy beach in the inlet’s corner.
With a kitesurfing launch area along Bull Wall, it’s a water sports paradise. Bull Island is about 5 km long, and the Bull Wall has a bathing shelter that has been featured heavily on social media. Steps are leading down into the briny waters that make entry easy.
The water isn’t extremely deep, but it’s a perfect low-key spot to go swimming and rest for the day, and it feels a million miles away from the stresses of daily life. The nearby sandy beach is also a perfect spot for a post-swimming picnic or stop by one of the pop-up coffee shops on the island for a coffee and a warming toastie.
With the good weather we’ve experienced in the last two weeks, we got to see a glimpse into what the summer of 2021 has in store for us. If you’re living in Dublin, why don’t you make a trip out to one of Dublin’s beloved swimming spots? Just don’t forget something warm and cosy to wear for the journey home!