Wild swimming could be one of the most exhilarating, at-one-with-nature feelings we can experience. After spending the best part of the year inside artificially heated or air-conditioned buildings, surrounded by man-made comforts – carpet or tile underfoot and hot water at the touch of a button, there is something undeniably primal about swimming out of doors during the summertime. Or even winter, if you’re brave.
Even on a sunlit day, you are hit by the sharp, unapologetic sting of the cold water as you tip-toe, wade or just jump right in. This is nature, and there is no temperature control for our personal comfort. It is quite literally, breath-taking. You will feel more wide awake than you can recall. As your head breaks the surface after a dip, you feel cleansed - skin tingling and sinuses cleared.
Once the initial shock of the cold leaves you and you start to adjust to the new temperature, you start to enjoy the feeling of weightlessness, the feeling of freedom, the lack of walls, artificial light and the smell of chlorine. The air is fresh and crisp, and the surrounding sounds are not echoing shrieks and shouts bouncing off tiled walls, but of lapping water, birdsong and wind rustling through leaves.
Out of the water, there’s an enormous comfort to be taking from wrapping in a big towel, with a steaming hot cup of tea on colder days, or flopping down on the sand, and drying off slowly in the summer sunshine.
We’ve put together some of our favourite beaches and lakes for wild swimming around Ireland.
Let’s dive right in.
There are so many options for outdoor swimming in Kerry, including many beautiful beaches and lakes. So whether you prefer saltwater or freshwater, there is something to suit.
Close to the quiet little town of Killorglin, Caragh Lake is 8km of clear, fresh water, surrounded by beautiful scenery and views of the Mcgillicuddy’s Reeks and in particular Carrauntoohil – Ireland’s tallest mountain. The lake developed in a deep valley between the mountains and hills of the area.
Carrig House in County Kerry itself looks out over Caragh Lake, so might be the perfect spot to stay if you fancy surrounding yourself with gorgeous natural scenery and having easy access to the lake.
Located within Lough Swilly, Rathmullan Beach is an ideal choice for a bracing swim this summer. The beach starts at the edge of the village and stretches a few kilometres up the coast. Moving away from the village, you will find the beach becomes increasingly secluded and peaceful.
The beach is sandy, so beach shoes are not required, and early in the day, there may be nothing else to disturb you than the sound of gently breaking waves, and the occasional bird.
Closer to Rathmullan village, there is a car park and toilets, however, if you decide to stay for a night or two in Rathmullan House, you can also access the beach directly, by just strolling across the lawn. The casual Tap Room Restaurant at Rathmullan House might also be the perfect place to warm back up after your swim, with local craft beers and delicious stone-baked pizza.
County Westmeath has some of the most beautiful freshwater lakes in the country. Lough Lene Is one particularly popular for water sports, swimming and surfing, due to its clean, clear waters.
The area of the lake short known as “The Cut”, on the east side of the lake, allows easy access to the water. The shallow water close to the shore is ideal for swimming or paddling, and there is plenty of grassy areas and tables outside for a picnic or simply to dry off in the sunshine.
The River Barrow is one of Ireland’s best-kept secrets and a popular beauty spot for those in the know. Popular with walkers, kayakers, paddleboarders and swimmers, for the calmest, gently rippling waters and the beautiful, verdant natural scenery.
There are two spots along the River Barrow that are particularly popular for swimming:
At Graiguenamanagh, there are lifeguards at busy times, as well as changing rooms and diving boards. 7 kilometres along the bank at St. Mullins, there is ample green space for relaxing, and stone steps that lead down into the river, for access.
If you don’t feel like swimming there is a wonderful walking trail alongside the Barrow between St. Mullins back to Graignamanagh. Along the way, keep an eye out for herons, swans and other water birds.
Gurteen Beach and Dog’s Bay
Gurteen Beach and Dog’s Bay are considered some of the finest beaches on Ireland’s west coast and offer stunning ocean panoramas and views of the surrounding countryside. The beaches lie back to back forming a tombolo which juts out into the Atlantic ocean. The headland offers a certain amount of protection from harsher currents and winds and as such both beaches are relatively sheltered and ideal for swimming.
Green grass meets bright, white sand meets the clear turquoise sea – what more could one ask for?!
If you’re looking for a place to stay nearby, the beach is just 20 minutes from Cashel House and 30 from Rosleague Manor. Both properties place you in an ideal spot for exploring Connemara as well as the many other beautiful beaches along the Atlantic coast.
Just a few kilometres outside Clonakilty you will find Inchydoney Beach, renowned as one of the most beautiful beaches in Ireland. In fact, it was voted Best Beach in Ireland in the Tripadvisor Traveller’s Choice Awards in 2019. The beach is popular with swimmers, sunbathers and surfers, however, the size of the beach means that even on a relatively crowded summer day, there is still enough space for it to feel secluded.
Inchydoney is a Blue Flag beach and during the summer there are often lifeguards on duty. There are also toilets and a car park. Beautiful grassy hills slope down to pristine golden sand and undulating sand dunes private and additional element of seclusion for beachgoers.
If you’re looking for somewhere to stay nearby, the boutique private rental property Dunowen House is only a 10-minute drive away. Former the home of Noel Redmond, bass guitarist with the Jimi Hendrix Experience, the house perfectly marries its rock and roll heritage with its choc elegant décor. Perfect for private parties and group getaways.
A few safety tips:
It should go without saying, that you should be a confident swimmer before trying wild swimming. Aim to swim accompanied by another person or in a group, and pay attention to any warning signs, currents, changing weather conditions, weeds or rocks. Don’t stay in too long if the water is very cold, and make sure to warm up properly when you get out of the water. If you are in doubt about whether a location is safe for swimming, then don’t. Safety always comes first when