Cut down your carbon footprint and stay home: Ireland’s beautiful coastline and clean seas have so much to offer …
With the recent announcement that over 80 beaches across Ireland have received an international Blue Flag award, it’s more important than ever to appreciate their wild windswept beauty – whatever the weather.
Hardy sea-swimmers are already adopting the Wim Hof Method, named after a Dutch extreme athlete who is also known as The Iceman. He is an advocate of breathing fully and using exposure to cold to help improve physical and mental health, energy levels, stress management, and so on. The method is taught via workshops and retreats (the next one is at the Cliffs of Moher in November and will include hikes, meditation, ice baths and yoga). WimRise is also gaining a cult following: groups meet on the beach at 5am for breathing techniques, followed by a bracing sea swim (see www.breathewithniall.com). Exhilaration guaranteed.
Also gaining traction globally is an amphibious adventure race known as “SwimRun” which sees participants taking part in long distance races in and out of water. Wearing the same outfit, of specially designed Vivobarefoot shoes and a wetsuit, pairs of participants run and swim from 10k – 26k along coastlines without changing. It’s a growing endurance sport, which has its spiritual home in Devon, UK. We’ve probably been doing swim runs in Ireland without giving it a name for decades.
Post-swim, warming up with a sauna on the beach is the genius idea of The Warming Wagon in Co Cork. Book an hour all year round via @the_warming_wagon on Instagram/Facebook (€20). Also follow Bosca Beatha mobile sauna on Facebook; it’s often in Garrettstown, Kinsale. Breac.House, the luxury B&B in Donegal, now has a (carbon-neutral) sauna to retreat to on a chilly day. Seaview House Hotel in Bantry, West Cork has a dedicated seaweed bath house and spa, with an outdoor hot tub and sauna.
Where to swim
ROCK POOLS Most dramatic swim spots are Poll Na Bpeist (the Wormhole), Inis Mór, the Aran Islands, and the Pollock Holes, Kilkee, Co Clare. • GIMME SHELTER Guillamene, Tramore, once a men-only swim spot, is in a sheltered cove. • WARM WATER Outdoor pools Basllinakill near Abbeyleix, Co Laois, and Acres Lake, Drumshanbo, Co Leitrim, are both heated and well-maintained. • DIZZY HEIGHTS Take a dive from Blackrock Diving Tower, Salthill. • LIDO LIFE Ballyhaunis pool, Co Mayo is open all summer • POOL WITH A VIEW The Blue Pool, Glengarriff, Co Cork is a natural inlet surrounded by trees. •HERRING POND, PORTSTEWART Co Antrim, a natural deep water pool. www.outdoorswimming.ie
Three top beaches
Rosses Point – Co Sligo
Set against the stunning backdrop of Dartry mountain range and the beauty of Sligo Bay, it’s the perfect spot for windsurfing and other water-sports, and is patrolled during high season. A 20-minute drive from Rosses Point is Lissadell House & Gardens, where a walk and a treat in the newly designed tearooms completes a day out.
Ventry – Co Kerry
Ventry beach or Ceann Trá is four miles west of Dingle. The most unique aspect of Ventry is that it’s linked by the arc of Ventry Harbour, with one of the most untouched natural beaches on the west coast of Ireland. Small but quaint with one pub, one shop and a church, Ventry is pure escapism.
Garrettstown – Co Cork
The beach is divided in two parts, one sandy part when coming from the Old Head Kinsale direction and a smaller part when passing by Ballinspittle. There is a surf school at the beach where equipment for surfing, body boarding and stand-up paddle-boarding is available. Garrettstown Woods is also nearby where enjoying the wildflowers and trees are the perfect finale to your trip. A short drive up the road to Kilbrittan, The Pink Elephant serves fresh food produced in West Cork.
Three brilliant spots for the freshest seafood by the sea
Fisk Seafood Bar, Donegal | Fisk (Swedish for fish) is a tiny jewel in Donegal’s sparkling crown. This little shack next to the Harbour Bar overlooking the beach at Downings is sheer perfection for anyone who loves the freshest seafood, beautifully and simply cooked. Grab a bench outside or squeeze inside for spiced butter prawns, crab claws in Dulse butter, the most perfect fish and chips and Donegal oysters. I’m still dreaming about the perfect freshly grilled mackerel … Just bliss. The Harbour Bar, Downings, Co Donegal. www.fiskseafoodbar.com (no phone, no bookings).
O’Neills (The Point), Co Kerry | Known as The Point, this family-run bar is always buzzing. The crab claws with chilli and garlic are legendary, as is the atmosphere. If you can bag a window seat as the sun goes down, with views over Valentia Island, there is nowhere finer to eat seafood. Caherciveen, Co Kerry. www.oneillsthepoint.ie
Strove Beach, Co Donegal | Strove Beach is on the east coast of the Inishowen peninsula close to the village of Greencastle. There’s plenty to do and see such as the “Inishowen 100” a 100km driving route leading to Malin Head which loops back to the small village of Burnfoot. After a day out, freshly caught fish is served in local restaurants; try Kealy’s Seafood Bar.
Three of the best pit stops on the road
The Shack in Dunfanaghy, Co Donegal, has it all – deckhairs, views over Blue Flag beach Marble Hill, its own roasted coffee beans, great pastries and Mullins ice cream. We wish it was our local.
Eddie Doherty has been handweaving tweed since he was 16 using Donegal wool. His blankets, made in Ardara, Donegal are beautifully soft, and can fit in a cycle panier in various colours €150.
Michelle Crehan-Kavanagh had a French pâtisserie in mind when she opened Marmalade Bakery in Galway. Pick up a loaf, still warm from the oven, and enjoy coffee with a pastry or sourdough slice piled high with gourmet toppings. Vegan options are also available. Marmalade, 3 Middle Street, Galway.
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