Dip your toes into your next adventure this festive season at one of Fáilte Ireland’s ten perfect swimming spots around the country

by Alison O'Hanlon
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Fáilte Ireland have released a swimming-spots recommendation list that will have you refreshed, rejuvenated and renewed!  

Getting away from the busyness of this time of year can be just what the mind, body and soul needs, and it allows people to discover the beauty of Ireland right through the festive season and into the new year. Why not embrace the unique charm of Irish weather and escape on a short break during your holidays and include a visit to a picturesque Irish swim spot as part of your getaway.  

Whether it’s the invigorating chill of the sea or the crisp air surrounding a tranquil lake, Ireland’s natural swim spots offer a refreshing and rejuvenating experience that transcends the seasons, making each visit a memorable adventure. Whether you’re looking for a refreshing dip between Christmas celebrations to awaken your senses and rejuvenate your mind or looking to embark on a short break to kick-off your new health kick for 2024; a cold-water swim as part of your time away might just be the perfect activity for you.  

Although many may shudder at the thoughts of diving into the sea at this time of year research has shown that a cold swim holds a myriad of benefits not just for your body, but for your mind too. 

Head of Marketing Communications at Fáilte Ireland, Emma Woods, states “Taking time off during the Christmas period and quieter January can be relaxing and offer respite from everyday stresses. Despite chillier weather, Ireland’s year-round beauty beckons. Cold-water swimming, walking, hiking, and cycling are popular in all seasons. After outdoor activities, enjoy a local meal or treat yourself to a cozy hotel stay—a perfect break for mind, body, and soul.” 

Fáilte Ireland has curated a list of ten of Ireland’s must-visit swimming spots to enjoy on a short break during the festive season or for your new year adventures. Whether you’re a first timer interested in taking a dip in the sea, or paddling in calmer lough waters, Ireland has something to offer for all cold-water swimmers.    

Claremont Beach, Co. Dublin   – Located in the heart of Howth, Claremont beach is a small cove-like beach situated close to Howth village and a perfect spot brave the cold waters for a refreshing swim. Afterwards you can enjoy a plethora of places to eat and drink such as Wrights of Howth or traditional fish and chips at Beshoff’s. Located on the Dart line you can explore more if the Dublin Coastal Trail if you have time.  

Portmarnock Beach, Co. Dublin   – Portmarnock Beach, also known as the Velvet Strand, is a sandy beach located in North County Dublin. The beach is 8km in length and stretches all the way to Baldoyle, adjoining Malahide Beach, it has beautiful views of the Dublin Mountains and Howth Harbour. The water here is quite shallow, perfectly suited for those beginning their sea swimming journey this season – ideal for a quick dip!   

Ladies Cove, Co. Wicklow   – A firm favourite among many Wicklow residents is Ladies Cove, which is beautifully emulated in Ruth Fitzmaurice’s book, I Found My Tribe. This hidden gem is a peaceful spot to embrace the cold waters of the Irish sea and connect to your mind, body, and spirit as you wade further into the cold waters. Following your dip, you can pay a visit to Fad Saoil Saunas, which boasts authentic wood-burning Finnish Sauna facilities.

Bundoran, Co. Donegal   – Known as one of Ireland’s surfing paradises, Bundoran is home to a variety of beautiful strands that are ideal for the seasoned sea swimmer. From Rossnowlagh Beach to Tullan Strand, there is so much choice when it comes to taking a dip. The wild Atlantic waters promise the perfect conditions for a cold-water swim.  

Baginbun Beach, Co. Wexford – Baginbun is a beautiful, sheltered cove with a sandy beach that is perfect for enthusiastic swimmers at this time of year. Located just outside Fethard, Co. Wexford, it is a stunning location surrounded by picturesque cliffs.  

Mountshannon, Co. Clare  – Mountshannon Village, located in east Co. Clare overlooking Lough Derg, is nestled at the base of Slieve Aughty Mountains and is home to a delightful variety of lakeside bathing areas.  

If you’re looking for something a little different than your typical sea swim, why not dip your toes into the refreshing waters of Lough Derg at Mountshannon Beach. Those who brave the cold waters of Lough Derg can indulge in a sweet treat at the Boat House Café or take a trip into the village and enjoy the cosy surrounds of The Snug which serves a range of delicious hot food.

For families taking a visit to East Clare, you can also check out the magical Woodpark Forest and Fairy Trail where you might just spot a sprite or two! 

Lough Hyne, West Cork  – Lough Hyne is Ireland’s first marine nature reserveand unique sea-water lake.  Located just off the Skibbereen to Baltimore Road, Lough Hyne is nestled within a fold of rolling hills that offers beautiful views of the surrounding woodland areas. This spot has become hugely popular in recent years, with many claiming it’s a touch warmer than the open Atlantic Ocean, and perfect for a brisk winter swim.

It is also the perfect time of year to pay a visit as you might be lucky enough to catch a glimpse of the bioluminescence which appears on the lake and offers a magical swimming experience.  

Salthill, Co. Galway  – One of Salthill’s main attractions, the promenade covers approximately 3km of Atlantic coastline, stretching all the way from the Claddagh Quay to the famous Blackrock diving tower.   

Wild Swimming in Doon Shore at Lough Key  – Doon Shore is one of Ireland’s ultimate hidden gems, and a perfect spot for winter swimming. Doon Shore is a stunning swimming spot treasured by the locals and unknown to many tourists. Visitors can park up and enjoy swimming in the tranquil waters. 

After your swim, you can enjoy lunch at Jinny’s Bakery and Tearoom and even rent an electric bike to cycle along the Acres Lake up to Drumshambo. You can also do a Wim Hof Method workshop with Lough Allen Adventure at Drumshambo, where you can learn essential skills for baring the chilly waters when swimming this winter.  

Cooley Peninsula, Co. Louth   – Enjoy a majestic swim in a glacial fjord at Carlingford Lough and Gyles Quay, situated on the Cooley Peninsula. As well as a winter swim, you can also enjoy a variety of water activities such as kayaking at the closely located Carlingford Adventure centre.  

Safety First  – While there are many benefits of open water swimming, Fáilte Ireland advises those taking a dip in inland or coastal Irish waters to always check the weather conditions before entering the water and ensure they are swimming in a spot that is designated as safe to do so. 

Remember to only swim at designated waterways and beaches.  Visit Water Safety Ireland’s website first to find out lots of safety tips for swimming year-round. https://watersafety.ie/open-water-swimming/  

If swimming is not your bag, there is plenty more adventure to be had during the festive season and well into the new year – whatever the weather. From all-weather outdoor activities including walking, cycling and kayaking as well as indoor options including galleries, sports experiences and epic interactive historical tours there is something for everyone to enjoy in all weathers. With less crowds and great deals to be found if you shop around or travel mid-week, you might find yourself planning a festive winter or new year’s getaway every year!  

For more information, please visit www.discoverireland.ie/weather  

Pictures Marc O’Sullivan 

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