51 ways to survive the Irish summer
Delicious, daring and downright useful ideas for making the best of our summer days
You need the umbrella, the togs, the wind breaker and don’t forget the chips on the way home. Photograph: iStock
1: Get wet
We rely far too much on good weather for summer fun and it almost always lets us down. But what if you tried your hand at something that doesn’t need sun, or even dryness? From stand-up paddleboarding in Dollymount to surf schools in Bundoran and kayaking on the Boyne or sailing in Sligo, the country is awash with watery pursuits that allow you to cock a snook at the weather while having oceans of fun. And you don’t have to have any experience or even any aptitude to knock a bit of craic out of it – you can trust us on that score. With the dramatic improvements in wetsuit technology over recent years – and their frequent availability in the likes of Aldi and Lidl – it it is quite possible to stay in the cold waters off our coasts for hours without feeling a thing.
2: Bring a ball
Kids, adult, pets will all be happier.
3: Never plan ahead
If there is one thing that enrages the weather gods more than anything else it is barbecue planning. It is an incontrovertible fact that if you arrange to cook any class of meal outdoors any longer than 20 minutes ahead of the exact moment you plan to put the burgers on the coals, then the storm clouds will gather and the torrential downpours will come.
4: Do the ice-cream run
One of the great pleasures of a hot day is everyone silently lying in the back garden until someone decides that such overheating requires ice-cream. Will you go to the shops? Yes you will. Because the person who goes to the shops gets to eat their ice-cream on the way home, while the ones in the bag for life you’ve brought are slowly melting. Go to the shops.
Connect with your family and friends by ditching the phone. Even better, go somewhere with poor reception and no wifi and you’ll all be forced to enjoy each other’s company. It will make for a much better day out.
6: Sunscreen’s not just for holidays
We’re happy enough to lather ourselves in high-priced creams and lotions when overseas but when the sun shines at home we forget all about it which is why, at the end of a nice summer day in Ireland, the heat coming off the burned people would be sufficient to generate enough electricity to see us through the winter. Remember, there is no need to be hung up on fancy brands either – most supermarkets stock their own creams and oils for a fraction of the price you’ll pay elsewhere and – according to consumer magazine Which? – they’re just as good as all the rest.
Rain, hail or shine, they are an essential. Same goes for 99s.
8: Use this app and don’t get burned
Why leave a sunburned face to fate when you can have your phone keep on top of it for you. For €1.09 – or less than the price of a bag of Tayto – the Wolfram Sun Exposure Reference App will work out where you are and exactly how long you can be in the sun without burning based on your complexion, time of day and the SPF you’re using. It also provides a UV forecast for your location.
9: Dodge the traffic
And speaking of clever phones, make use of yours. If the sun shines and you decide to take a spontaneous trip to the beach, take a look at Google Maps first. You’re not looking for directions – you know how to get to the beach – but what you are looking for is traffic congestion. The software uses witchcraft (we think) to work out how bad the traffic is on your route in real time. A quick look may save you spending two hours of a rare sunny day stuck in traffic jams swearing at fellow drivers and shouting at your children.
10: Go bananas
Kids love a barbecue but generally need to be kept away from open flames. Get them involved by bringing a roll of tin foil, a bunch of bananas and some bars of caramel chocolate. Peel the bananas, score down the middle, and let the kids stuff squares of chocolate in and wrap them in tinfoil. When you’re finished barbecuing, stick them in the embers for 10 minutes and voilà, a gooey, quick-fire banoffee.
11: Turn the tide
There’s no point going through the trauma of getting yourself “beach ready” (and we don’t mean going on a diet, we mean packing the wetsuit, the sun cream, the umbrella, the togs, the wind breaker, the flask of tea, the towels – but not the good towels – the goggles for pretending you’re going to put your head in, etc) if you arrive and the tide’s so far out it’s touching Holyhead. Tide apps such as Irish Tides and Tides Ireland take out the guesswork.
12: Have a sense of humour
You left for work in nothing but a tiny pair of shorts and now it’s snowing heavily and all your friends are dead. After several days tracking elk through the tundra you’re contentedly covered in thick deer skins and slathered in animal fat but suddenly everyone is wandering around in singlets, eating Tangle-Twisters and listening to Don Henley. It’s like the Irish summer wants you to look like a complete tool. If it could talk the only thing it would say is: “Ha ha ha, Patrick, ye stupid p****”. All you can do is laugh, I suppose.
You’ll need them if you’re bringing your brood to the beach or lake or out for the day. Carry a full change of clothes for everyone under 12 and an extra set of undies for everyone that’s going to be messing about in the water.
14: Be a tourist in your own town
It is always illuminating to see your world through the eyes of the people who spend big bucks to visit it. So think about the biggest attractions in your neighbourhood and devote a summer’s day to checking them out. They may be brilliant. They may also involve an open-top bus tour through the more grimy areas of the Liberties and endless traffic jams along the Dublin Quays but you won’t know until you try.
15: Recall summers past
On any sunny day make sure to regale youngsters with tales of The Big Summer of your youth. Recount how you fished in a creek, rafted down a river and played insensitive pranks with your friend Tom Sawyer before realising that you’re actually recalling bits of Huckleberry Finn. At this point, you may silently remember a whole summer playing Sonic the Hedgehog with the blinds drawn and a GP saying “rickets are quite unusual in a boy his age”. But say nothing. These little bastards already think they’re better than us.
16: Put the sandwiches somewhere where they won’t be sat on
Warm egg salad sambos are bad enough without half the filling squished out into the tin foil.
17: Help a tourist
If you see one looking lost, stop and help them out. Be nice. It will make you feel better about yourself and make them think better of our country. And remember we will need all the tourists we can lay our hands on when the tech giants and big pharma leave us.
18: Sun downers and star makers
On a warm clear evening, drive somewhere remote and watch the sun set. Take magical pictures on your phone. Then, rather than racing home to crack open the Chardonnay, hang about a bit and marvel at a the night sky. Haven’t a breeze what you’re looking at? No worries, the Sky Guide app is amazing. It shows where all the constellations, planets, and satellites are and all you have to do is point your phone towards the sky. There is a free version but the enhanced app costs €3.49 and is just deadly.
19: Forget tissues
A packet of tissues? Tissues? Ha! You will need an entire six pack of kitchen towels to cover a picnic on the beach/top of a mountain/roadside pit stop. You’ve been warned.
20: Drink like a European
On a sunny day in this country, social norms change. At the slightest shift in temperature you can replace your business suit and briefcase with short-shorts, flip flops and a bum bag. You can also decant your gin from its usual hip flask into a big wine glass and drink like a European right there at your desk. You’re not a problem drinker who’s on their last warning from HR. You’re just French!
21: Game play
“Are we there yet?” “I’m thirsty.” “I need to go to the toilet.” “Molly punched me in the face.” We love our kids – obviously – but a long car journey can be a trying experience. If you’re taking a road trip with smallies plan some games in advance so you’re not left thinking up things on the fly. To get you started we have three: There is I Spy (obvs) – top tip: ban things that were outside the car for half a second as you sped along a motorway. Road Trip Bingo is always a winner but it takes prep. Print out bespoke bingo cards and give each player a pencil. When they see something on their card, they scratch it out. The more items you have on the card the less time they have to fight. With I’m Going on a Picnic, the first player says, “I’m going on a picnic and I’m bringing . . . an apple” or something else that begins with A. The second player repeats what the first person said, but adds something that begins with B. And on it goes. Make the prizes substantial to keep interest levels high.
22: Carry on camping
Buy a cheap tent. Pitch it in the garden (or some more exotic location if you are brave). Sleep in it. Fun is guaranteed.
23: Have a job that requires you to be indoors
Due to the failure of our parents to work harder and provide us with trust funds, many of us have to “work” in “offices” where the prevailing weather conditions are beside the point. “Youngsters” with “summer holidays”, in contrast, get to have weather-related conundrums and bliss. In the summer they are either sullenly housebound or can be found frolicking in the sun. Meanwhile, the rest of us must toil weatherless in air-conditioned sterility. Here at The Irish Times, for example, we are strange, pale creatures who refer to everything outside the building as “the outlands” and strangers as “outlanders”. The vagaries of summer matter not a jot in our pursuit of truth.
24: Bring cash
You’re gasping, and those quaint, out-of-the-way cafes you read about often don’t take cards. Disaster strikes when the nearest ATM machine will inevitably turn out to be 35 miles away.
25: Buy the kids water balloons
Activities such as packing up the car to go to the beach require effort, stress, and money. Bring summer joy to the kids on the estate by loading up on water balloons and letting them run riot. Hours of cheap amusement and relatively harmless (unless you’re in the firing line). While you do run the risk of ending up in Smyths buying the H20 X500 PUMP ACTION BAZOOKA once the simplicity of balloons runs out, you know you want to. Lock and load.
26: Ice, ice baby
You can buy bags of ice for a few euro in most petrol stations, supermarkets and corner shops these days. Throw one in your cooler bag and wave goodbye to sweaty cheese and warm drinks.
27: Learn the lyrics to every Ed Sheeran song
This is a necessity for a summer’s day when Sheeran blares from every car, radio, phone, and errant voice up a ladder fixing the gutter. While Sheeran’s complexion is no friend of the sun, his music certainly is, so make it your business to bellow along.
28: Fire up
Bringing a disposable barbecue? They’re a great way to have sausage sambos on the beach, but they cool quickly so you’ll need at least two if there is a gang of you. And be sure to dispose of properly.
29: Jump in the sea
Like everything these days, sea swimming has been commodified. But don’t you wish you were one of those wholesome, hardy, Happy Pear types? It’s time to start your sea swimming career (believe us, it’s a career, and the first step on your path to Instagram influencer enlightenment and part-time yoga entrepreneurship), and what better moment than when the sun is shining. Head to a sea swimming spot that’s very populated, and jump in, emerging with a goofy grin, radiating smugness, and babbling about chakras, the Camino, and protein balls. Transformation complete. Note: this only works in Dublin.
30: Thick skin
Must be able to withstand the sandblast effect of hurricane-level gales at the beach and watery sunshine that burns pasty skin to a crisp faster than you can say “mine’s a Solero”. Also must be capable of retaining enough body heat to survive a four-second dip in the Atlantic or eating al fresco after 5pm, and the barbs of tipsy relatives after a nice family day out.
31: Buy a pop-up gazebo
Be one of those people who everyone is jealous of at Electric Picnic, but in the comfort of your own garden. Littlewoods sell pop-up gazeboes (gazeba?) for €49.99, and apart from the inevitable argument that will accompany putting it together, your food and drinks will stay cool, and the kids can be periodically ushered into it to avoid sunburn.
32: Read a good Irish book
Lolling around on a lounger for the day? Catch up on your reading. There are loads of good new ones out perfect for a summer read. Try Louise O’Neill’s The Surface Breaks, Eithne Shortall’s Grace After Henry, Donal Ryan’s From A Low And Quiet Sea, or Julian Gough’s Connect.
33: Pop-up tents
The noughties version of the wind-breaker. Great for keeping all the bags and gear together, and great shade for the dog, too.
34: Get a good tan
Not in the sun, obviously. That’s for amateurs. Tanning is a bit of a catch 22 scenario. In order to get a tan, one needs to expose one’s skin, yet in order to expose one’s skin, one needs to be tanned, apparently. Anyway, protect yourself from the rays, and try a false one. Cocoa Brown’s one-hour tan mousse works for that instant hit.
35: Hold the DIY
A sunny day often feels like the perfect time to paint the house, clean the windows, weed the entire garden, or clear the gutters. Just remember that when it’s actually very hot, strenuous activity can knock you for six, and cause dizziness and dehydration. Feel free to cite this point when asked to do any kind of DIY or housework when the sun comes out. If you must go on a gardening or cleaning binge, do it early morning or in the evening, and don’t be sweating buckets in the middle of the day.
36: Keep an eye on your pets
You may throw yourself at the sun’s mercy, but your pets probably have other ideas. Cats will just glare at you from the shade, plotting your downfall, but dogs may actually need some interventions. Make sure dogs have plenty of fresh water to drink. Be especially aware of not leaving the dog in your car while you’re in the petrol station raiding the freezer for Tangle Twisters.
37: Bring airline sick bags
We’re not advocating stealing (honestly, airlines) but if you happen to get your hands on some airline sickbags, they’re great for nauseous kids in the back seat when you can’t pull in on a tiny winding road on the Ring of Kerry.
38: Crowd source
For a successful day out, you will probably need to include other people or the promise of other people. They will make your lot behave better.
39: Have antihistamines at the ready
Midsummer heat can also mean dastardly hay fever for many people, so you don’t want to be left sneezing in the house while everyone else is re-enacting a John Hinde postcard outside. The pollen count escalates in Ireland from May onwards, so get ready to combat your hay fever before it strikes.
40: Give the exercise a break
Much like straining your body with DIY, going for a run when the temperature rises may not be a good idea, especially if you’re used to jogging in our delightfully dull, cool climate. If it’s a hot day, take the day off running. Be alert to the symptoms of heat exhaustion, which is what happens when your body overheats and you lose too much water and salt. If you’re feeling weak, faint, nauseous or get a headache after you’ve exerted yourself, chill out in a cool place and drink a decent amount of water.
41: Spare tyre
Stop worrying about how your stomach looks in your new togs, and think about your real spare tyre. Check that you have one before you leave home, and that it’s not punctured. Nothing dampens a day out like waiting for roadside assistance at 9pm.
42: Don’t go shopping
As we all know, hell is a series of stuffy, airless, overheated changing rooms where your body appears to swell to twice its size, or at least sufficiently to turn your shopping trip into a Mr Bean sketch as you attempt to get out of those skinny jeans you grabbed from the railing in shall we say an “ambitious” size. Nobody wants to be doing the chasing-your-tail-turn trying to yank down a zip on a dress you’ll probably never buy. Try window shopping instead.
43: Don’t give into summer FOMO
When the temperature rises, Instagram, Facebook and Snapchat light up as if everyone has suddenly been cast in that MTV show in the 1990s. Just because everyone else is taking selfies with Teddy’s 99s, doing the hotdog legs thing, and tweeting stuff like “Costa Del [insert Irish town name here]” with a million sun emojis, doesn’t mean they’re actually having fun. Clontarf is not Malibu, calm down.
44: Mobile hospital
Don’t let falls and scrapes finish your day. Carry antiseptic wipes and large scale bandages for those really bad knee and elbow grazes that come with added grit in them.
45: Go for cotton or linen
There is nothing worse than uncomfortably sweating in the heat. Get cool and breezy with cotton or linen clothes, and put yourself, and your threads, at ease.
46: Don’t complain about people having fun in the sun
Nothing sucks the joy out of a sunny day than someone ranting about the following: people playing music in the park, kids jumping into the water at Grand Canal Dock in Dublin, skateboarders taking advantage of the weather, the busyness of the beach, lads with their tops off. Give it a rest, Grandpa Simpson! The sun is for everyone.
47: We know you’ve a six-pack but...
Lads, put your tops back on. Especially as it’s only 15 degrees out and you’re in town.
48: Don’t travel too far
It’s the sun, not a destination or setting that makes a summer’s day in Ireland. Do you really want to be sitting in traffic off to somewhere everyone else had the same idea of going to? When you’re sitting on the motorway glowering at your fellow day-trippers, you’ll wish you were back in your garden/yard/street/balcony/park soaking up the rays. Keep it local, and you’ll have more time to enjoy the weather with less stress.
Take a second to stop worrying about the kids spraying lighter fuel on the barbuecue, or the cat stealing slices of ham from the counter, or the pollen, or the traffic reports, or the low water pressure, or the water balloon aimed squarely at your head, or the shorts from Penneys that must have shrunk in the wash because you only had one white chocolate Magnum today (okay maybe two), or Facetiming the cousin in Australia to brag about your summer versus their winter, and enjoy it. It doesn’t happen too often.
50: Start a sun-based religion or, alternatively, go on a holiday
It begins as a hushed rumour uttered by an old man in the pub. He has heard tell of a fiery ball that hangs in the sky just beyond the clouds. He thinks it might be called “Jesus”. This is disputed by a callow youth who says that the fiery ball is a gateway to hell and that we’re better off down here in the drizzle. Before long there are two proselytising factions building pyres and talking of “infidels” and “heresy” and it’s only early yet. You go home slightly tipsy and book two weeks in Malaga, aware that this might get you categorised as “a witch”.
51: Have chips when you get home
This applies to most days, really, but definitely a summer day in the sun. Forget making dinner. Stop at the local chipper, grab a few bags, lash on the salt and vinegar and finish your day the right way.