32 great outdoor swimming spots around Ireland – one in every county

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Mary McCarthy’s great guide to Ireland’s top swimming locations


Name: Arcadia Beach (formerly known as Ladies Beach)
Location: Google Map: Arcadia Beach, Portrush
Brief description:
Small beach in front of Portrush town
Amenities: Toilets, parking (in town)
Lifeguard: No
Water quality: Excellent – Agricultural, Environment and Rural Affairs testing 2020
Tips: Can be wild in winter. When there's a full tide there is no beach. For a 2km swim (this course is the East the Beast race), swim out and then turn right to swim parallel to the larger East Strand, head around the buoys and back.


Name: Cam Lough
Location: Google Map: 83 Newtown Road, Camlough
Brief description:
Large disused reservoir and lake in a steep valley between Camlough Mountain and Slieve Gullion. Also called "crooked lake" for its ribbon shape which acts as a wind funnel, giving it more predictable and calm conditions than Lough Neagh
Amenities: Toilets, car park
Lifeguard: No
Water quality: Good. Its aquatic flora and fauna depend on unpolluted water, according to the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs
Tips: Well-organised swim zones with orange and white buoys range from a 75m course up to 750m. There's also a 25m laned pool handy for lengths


Name: Clashganny Lock /River Barrow
Location: Google Map: Clashganny lock. Halfway between Borris and Graignamanagh on the low road
Brief description: Calm swimming spot with beautiful grassy banks
Amenities: Parking and toilets
Lifeguard: Summer
Water quality: Poor/moderate 2013-2018 EPA report
Tips: Swim across to the weir and lie on it letting the water bubble over you like in a jacuzzi. In warm weather it heats up. In August, pick the hanging down blackberries as you float past


Name: Annagh Lake
Location: Google Map: Butlersbridge. Drive past until you reach a left turn and the signpost
Brief description: Spring lake with sandy beach in picturesque location
Amenities: Car park, changing room (funds have been allocated to update facilities)
Lifeguard: No
Tips: You can walk out to your depth, lovely sandy lake bed so no need for swim shoes. 100 yards to the left is a much deeper swimming spot



Name: Fanore Beach
Location: Google Map: Fanore More
Brief description:
Sandy beach underlain by gently sloping stepped limestone, which is exposed at low tide
Amenities: Blue flag. Toilets and parking
Lifeguard: Summer months
Water quality: Excellent – Clare County Council January 2020
Tips: Fantastic views of Galway Bay and the Arans while you tread. Atlantic waves can be choppy but otherwise it's peaceful as motorised watercraft/ surfing/canoes and kayaks prohibited near swimmers.


Name: Garretstown
Location: Google Map: Garretstown beach
Brief description:
Long, gentle sloping beach with shelter against the wind
Amenities: Car park and toilets
Lifeguard: Summer
Water quality: Excellent – Cork County Council January 2020
Tips: Check local conditions as it is quite open to rough weather and rough seas. Great waves if wind is right. Excellent food trucks in summer.


Name: Benone Beach
Location: Google Map: Benone Avenue, Limavady
Brief Description:
Long sandy beach, Atlantic water cold all year
Amenities: Disabled toilets, parking, showers behind the sea shed coffee dock
Lifeguard: Seasonal RNLI Beach Lifeguards Service
Water quality: Excellent. Blue flag beach for 30 years
Tips: Zoned swimming area. No rocks, shingle or seaweed makes it easy on the feet. Sea shed serves great coffee all year and rents wetsuits.


Name: Harry's Hole
Location: Google Map: Dunfanaghy
Brief description:
Sheltered diving pool
Amenities: No
Lifeguard: No
Water quality: Excellent (swimming distance (for strong swimmers) from Blue Flag Marble beach)
Tips: You can swim only at high tide which makes it even more special. A great time to go is 7am though in summer you'll rarely have the place to yourself.


Name: Carlingford Lough
Location: Google Map: JC Campbell garage, Rostrevor
Brief description:
Rocky lake shore
Amenities: Parking
Lifeguard: No
Water quality: Moderate. Expected to be upgraded to good with improved wastewater initiatives introduced in 2020
Tips: No need for swimming shoes as there's a slipway (Rostrevor boat club) for easy access. Water levels remain high an hour or two either side of high tide (changes every day check Google/Tides Near Me app before). Drink in sublime views of Cooley mountains and the Mournes while you paddle.


Name: Velvet Strand
Location: Google Map: Carrickhill, Portmarnock
Brief description:
Long gently sloping beach facing east. Terrific views of Ireland's Eye and Lambay Island
Amenities: Toilets at shelter beside the Martello Tower, car park (at Carrickhill)
Lifeguard: Summer months
Water quality: Excellent – Fingal County Council January 2020
Tips: Convenient to get changed and leave your stuff in the shelter. There is a good place to swim directly in front of the shelter as it gets deep fairly quickly. Gorgeous at sunset and in summer there will always be a few swimming.


Name: Lough Erne
Location: Google Map: Carrickreagh Jetty
Brief description:
Close to Ely Lodge Forest and surrounded by trees
Amenities: Ely Lodge Forest car park
Lifeguard: No
Water quality: No status but recognised as an internationally important wildlife area ((DAERA)
Tips: Not a designated swimming area so follow the depth markers and keep to edge of the main channel away from boat traffic. Wear swimming shoes or swim from the forest lodge as the edge is rocky. Mid morning/afternoon best as often fishermen there otherwise


Name: Coral strand (Trá an Dóilin)
Location: Google Map: Carraroe
Brief description:
Small beach. The amazing coral sand is actually detached red calcified seaweed
Amenities: Toilets
Lifeguard: Summer
Water quality: Blue Flag beach
Tips: Popular swimming spot as even at low tide there is enough depth to swim. Nice little coves to shelter and get changed.


Name: Nun's beach
Location: Google Map: Nun's Beach, Ballybunion
Brief description:
Secluded horse-shoe shaped cove. Very cold Atlantic water
Amenities: No
Lifeguard: No
Water quality: Excellent (the more accessible Blue Flag Ballybunion South Beach around the corner)
Tips: There used to be steps but now accessible only by boat or down the side of the cliff with the assistance of a fixed rope. Peaceful swimming and never overly busy as a result.


Name: Barrow River
Location: Google Maps: Across from the Aldi in Athy
Brief Description: Grassy banks, slipway and small boat jetty
Amenities: No
Lifeguard: No
Water Quality: There are no designated swimming spots in Co Kildare so water not tested for this purpose. Environmentally tested as Good/Moderate EPA
Tips: Not a lot of boat traffic but Athy Triathlon group who swim here recommend you wear a tow float and don't swim alone. Currents here can be very strong and fast. You can wade in by the slip but it gets out of depth quite quickly. There is also a slipway at the courthouse but it is deeper here.
(Edit: This entry replaces a previous one for Kildare because this is considered more suitable). 


Name: The Weir
Location: Google Map: Bleach Road, Dunmore
Brief description:
Popular swimming spot on the River Nore
Amenities: Toilets, parking
Lifeguard: Summer 2pm-4.30pm and 5pm-7.30pm. June weekends only
Water quality: Good status – 2013 - 2018 EPA report
Tips: Decent pier platform for easy access. Water quite deep only suitable for good swimmers


Name: Ballinakill pool
Location: Google Map: Ballinakill outdoor swimming pool
Brief description:
Heated and newly refurbished (2019) 35m pool includes a 10m toddler area
Amenities: Changing rooms, toilets, parking
Lifeguard: Yes
Water quality: Chlorine pool
Tips: Can get busy with lessons but slots for hourly sessions for adults and children always available. Near the free to visit Heywood Gardens for a walk after the swim


Name: Lough Melvin
Location: Google Map: Lough Melvin, Rossinver (access beside a house called Swallow's Nest)
Brief description: Lake with sandy shore
Amenities: No
Lifeguard: No
Water quality: Excellent – Leitrim County Council July 2020
Tips: Gets deep very gradually. Bay is mainly sandy underfoot. A slightly warmer water option 5km away is the little marina outside of Garrison on the NI side along the shore road just at the northern back of the port. There is a small island here you can swim over to.


Name: Glin pier
Location: Google Map: Glin village (the pier on the N69 is signposted here)
Description: Shannon estuary
Amenities: Limited parking, two changing huts, toilet in the summer
Lifeguard: June bank holiday. July and August
Water Quality: Good status EPA report
Tips: Shannon Estuary is tidal, check the TidesNearMe app. There are a number of landmarks used by local swimmers to gauge distances, for example, out to the green sign and back 3km/out to the sticks and back 800m. Running jump off the pier is local favourite. The Knight walk is great to do in Glin afterwards


Name: Lough Ree
Location: Google Map: Lanesboro commons woodland walk
On Lough Ree between Athlone and Tarmonbarry. No boats or cruisers enter this area which makes it very safe for families or individuals to swim. Big green area beside the water
Amenities: Car park (toilets other side of the water in Roscommon where boats go)
Lifeguard: No
Water quality: Good status – EPA 2013-2018 report
Tips: A number of different groups such as Lough Ree Orcas and Tri Lanesboro swim here, There are three markers which anybody can use to swim around with an estimated distance of 500m and about 100m swim to the first marker. You can also swim up along the wall where it is shallow. Locals swim all year round.


Name: Clogherhead
Location: Google Map: Clogherhead beach car park
The beach at the bathing area is gently sloping into the sea
Amenities: Toilets, first aid, car park
Lifeguard: Summer months
Water quality: Excellent – Louth County Council Sampled on 07/09/2020
Tips: Bathing area is 1,430m in length so there is always adequate space. The beach at the bathing area gently slopes into the sea so suitable for kids. However, there are two small rip currents at the north end of the beach – advice if you get caught is to identify which direction the current is moving and swim parallel to the shore to the left or right of it – never against it.


Name: Belmullet Tidal Pool
Location: Google Map: Shore Road, Belmullet
18m long main pool. Has a baby pool
Amenities: Parking and Portaloo toilets during summer
Lifeguard: Summer months
Water quality: Sea water. No chemicals. Water is kept fresh by the high tides
Tips: Open all hours. Can get busy in the afternoon in summer as there are swimming lessons though a section will always be left open. At sunset it's something special


Name: Laytown
Location: Google Map: Laytown beach
Fine sand beach. Decent sized bathing area 1.5km in length and 0.6 km2 in area
Amenities: Toilets, parking
Lifeguard: Summer months
Water quality: Excellent – Meath County Council September 2020
Tips: Great swimming community comes here and there's a good buzz


Name: Hollywood Lake
Location: Google Map: Hollywood Lake, Co Monaghan. The park is signposted off the Ballinode to Scotstown road
Description: Small lakeside park with wooden pier
Amenities: Parking, picnic area and toilet
Lifeguard: no
Water quality: Generally very good. Tested by Monaghan Co Council (20 samples over four years)
Tips: Do the gorgeous nature walk afterwards


Name: Banagher outdoor pool.
Location: Google Map: Banagher outdoor swimming pool. In Banagher take a right turn and drive across the river bridge turn in on your left
Description: Pool is in the River Shannon, Galway on one side and Offaly on the other
Amenities: Picnic tables, parking, toilet in canal house near pool
Lifeguard: No
Water quality: Moderate –EPA (report for river, lakes 2013 - 2018)
Tips: Swimming generally possible only in summer as current is too strong and river level much higher in winter. Family friendly in summer with a real Mediterranean vibe.


Name: Hodson pillar
Location: Google Map: Hodson Bay Hotel
A small beach on the tranquil shore of lough Ree on the Shannon in front of the hotel
Amenities: No
Lifeguard: No
Water quality: Longford water quality good EPA 2017
Tips: Take the challenge and do the short swim out to Hodson pillar, the (reputed) centre of Ireland. You can wade out part of the way to the island. It's a rock little island so wear swimming shoes if stopping or else swim around and back. Head into the restaurant at the hotel for lunch after.


Name: Mullaghmore
Location: Google Map: Mullaghmore beach
Brief description:
Sheltered sandy beach. The bathing area is about 300m long though the beach is 2km in length
Amenities: Parking, toilets
Lifeguard: Summer
Water quality: Sufficient – Sligo County Council (Sampled on 07/09/2020
Tips: Really nice for a swim before dinner.


Name: Lough Derg
Location: Google Map: Lough Derg, Hasseys pier, Dromineer
Brief description:
Small beach east side of Lough Derg. Bottom is sandy. Slope very gradual and 2.5m end of pier
Amenities: Parking, public toilets and showers
Lifeguard: No but has Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) station
Water quality: Good. EPA test regularly
Tips: Water can be rough in extreme conditions. It's the third biggest lake with its own weather system. Swim between the two piers in Dromineer and head for the famous coffee cake after at the Lake cafe open March-Oct and weekends low season


Name: Loughmacrory
Location: Google Map: Loughmacrory, Omagh. From the village turn north opposite the Post Office along the Ballybrack Road. After about 100m, entrance to parking available in a layby on the left
Brief description: Small lough only one small car park. beautiful, unspoilt freshwater environment
Amenities: Car park, toilet in the area
Lifeguard: No
Water quality: The NIEA does not monitor but it is within the Drumnakilly water body which is classed as being good or better status
Tips: Mostly used for fishing but more swimmers are starting to come here. Handy stone slipway into the water. Not a designated swimming area but peaceful and gorgeous surroundings. Lovely walking route around the lake


Name: Pegs Rock
Location: Google Map: Dunmore East Beach
Swimming spot at the corner of Dunmore East's main strand
Amenities: Car park, toilets
Lifeguard: In summer
Water quality: Excellent – Waterford City & County Council September 2020
Tips: Tide needs to be fully in to jump off the rocks. There are steps but you go at your own risk as the council bricked up the gap that existed in the wall to let people in previously. Main beach great for swimming and life guards particularly nice.


Name: The Cut
Location: Google Map: Lough Lene, Co Westmeath
Brief description:
A small beach on the freshwater lake of Lough Lene. Public access is on the eastern shore, near Collinstown
Amenities: Toilets, car park (opposite side of road)
Lifeguard: No
Water quality: Excellent – sampled Westmeath County Council September 2020
Tips: A boardwalk with ladders brings you into your depth. The bathing area is 70m by 170m and never too packed as can accommodate 100 swimmers ; quite shallow so no diving.


Name: Carne beach
Location: Google Map: Carne Beach
Brief description:
Blue Flag, fine sand underfoot
Amenities: Toilets, car park
Lifeguard: Summer
Water quality: Excellent – Wexford County Council sampled September 2020
Tips: Ideal for families as water is quite shallow. Very romantic for a sunrise/sunset swim.


Name: Travelahawkbeach
Location: Google Map: Black Castle, Wicklow Town
Brief description:
Small, quiet beach nestled at the end of the hills of the Black Castle
Amenities: Parking
Lifeguard: In summer at the harbour. Toilet access at harbour in summer
Water quality: Good – Wicklow Harbour sampled by council September 2020
Tips: If you are a strong swimmer, swim cove to cove like local swimming groups – the Focas and the Travelling Swimburys – do.