Sun, Sea, 7 degrees: Swimming in Ireland

By Clodagh Schofield (Visiting Student, Study Abroad Blogger)

Editor’s note: If you’re feeling brave like Clodagh, do your research first and make sure that it’s safe to swim – and bring a friend! You can find all the info you need here: http://www.iws.ie/

As someone who comes from toasty warm Australia, I really wasn’t expecting much from Ireland with regards to places to swim. It’s so cold here, but what I didn’t account for was how quickly one acclimatises, and how desperately I miss the beach.

It started two months ago, when I found myself seriously considering trying to go night swimming at Port Marnock, which my family and friends told me was absolutely delusional and evidently rooted in some bizarre highly Australian form of homesickness.

Then, a few weeks ago, I was in Howth doing the cliff walk when the sea glinted at me seductively. ‘Swim in me,’ it murmured, ‘I swear I am warmer than I look.’ My best friend from home sent me several urgent Facebook messages to the tune of ‘Return with all your toes unfrostbitten or you’ll suffer.’ Again, I was deterred, but only just.

Finally, last week whilst on holidays in Wexford, I got what I have been craving. Running into the sea from the beach, the water felt absolutely fine. Nice, almost. Then, in a rush, my senses suddenly informed me that my legs were on fire, and the red streaks up my legs afterwards told a similar story.

However, this was not the case. The water was just absolutely (figuratively, only just) freezing. The internet will tell you that the sea temperature in Wexford is 10 degrees Celsius, but I think this is actually resultant of a vast and intricate conspiracy by Tourism Ireland, because the loss of sensation in my feet, calves, hands, and eventually entire body tells a different story. Were it not for the absence of icebergs floating around off the coast of Wexford, I would suspect it had in fact been sub zero.

Unfortunately for me, the ocean by the beach of Ballyconnigar Strand, Wexford, does not get deep very quickly. In order to get to a depth where I could dip my head under the water and preserve the one thing more important to me than my extremities, my pride, I had to sprint/wade through an excessive amount of shallow water.

 

Clodagh Blog 5 Photo 1

Pictured above: Ballyconnigar Strand

Dipping my head under was a triumph of will or more accurately evidence of a very bad case of stubbornness, but afterwards everything took on a warm glow. I found myself standing on the beach in the wind feeling like it was a hot summer’s day (in Australia – I don’t think they really have “hot” “summers” “days here). Aware that this was likely some kind of hypothermia-induced hallucination, I got my friend to take my victory photo, and quickly covered up.

In retrospect, it was actually pretty great. If you’re looking to take a dip during your Dublin trip, I’ve since swam at the Forty Foot in Sandycove (30 minutes on the dart from town) and it’s lovely.  The Forty Foot is great because once you are in you are in – it’s deep, so there’s no messing about sprinting through icy ankle deep water. You are instead immersed in icy water. I did feel a little bit like I couldn’t breathe, and my limbs did go quite numb, but overall, once I was out, I felt fresh and accomplished.

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Pictured above: The Forty Foot

My next swim-conquest will be (aspirationally) the Howth Cliffs, which remind me a little of the Greek Islands, except absolutely freezing cold of course. It wouldn’t be Ireland if it wasn’t.

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Pictured above: Swimming off the Howth Cliffs

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