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  • Writer's pictureGregory Besterman

Wild Swimming in West Cork




Venturing into wild waters is not something we take lightly. Whether we take the journey step by step, acutely conscious of that waterline creeping higher and higher up our calves, to our knees then our hips and ribcage – or whether we welcome every sensation in one breathless leap from overhead – it’s never easy, no matter how practised you get.

But, as they always say, nothing in life worth doing is easy – and wild swimming is more than worth the time it takes to build up your courage, kill time at the water’s edge, then recollect your breath under the sunshine after.

Ireland has so many wild pools and meres to offer the brave of heart, and you’ll find your fair share in the area surrounding our luxury holiday home in West Cork

Lough Hyne

A marine lake filled by the Atlantic Ocean, Lough Hyne’s salt content is tempered by seasonal rainfall in the area. The air is fresh, the water is cool, and the lough is continually reborn thanks the Rapids, which are fed twice daily by the high tides.

One of the reasons we love to recommend Lough Hyne to travellers is its communal, friendly atmosphere. This is a popular destination for locals, whether they’re there for an easy, early morning swim or a day paddling from shore to shore.

The waters are filled with fish and nourished by the plant life that lines the lakebed.

While, toward the centre of the Lough, the waters reach a depth of around 50 metres, the water’s edge is a popular haunt for swimmers still finding their fins – or their courage on chillier days.

The scenic views surrounding Lough Hyne on all sides are really something to behold, so pack up plenty of food and drink along with a couple of fresh towels, something hot enough to reset your internal central heating, and some sunscreen on the brighter days, and enjoy a beloved local haunt for all ages.

The Swelter Shelter Sauna

If you’re looking to return to the house after a full day spent in the fresh air, fresh water, and rejuvenating glow that surrounds Lough Hyne, then be sure to pay a visit to the Swelter Shelter Sauna. Mind, body, and soul are all uplifted, particularly if you follow a session spent sweltering with a cold water plunge.

Silver Strand and Cow Strand

Both located on Sherkin Island, these two strands offer breath-taking views across Roaringwater Bay. You can reach Sherkin Island by ferry, which runs to and from Baltimore several times a day – just check ahead for timings. 

These strands are wild but dearly loved by the locals. If you’re interested in foraging for local ingredients, then you’ll find an array of seaweeds and hardy plants that grow in the breezes and bright sunshine swept in by the ocean.

Baltimore

Baltimore is a small town close to Gortadrohid with panoramic views of the Atlantic. We’ve written before about the incredible walks and hikes of West Cork – many of which begin (and end) with Baltimore and the pastel hues of its sea fronted buildings.

But Baltimore is more than its historic streets, its incredible live music scene, and its local restaurants. It holds a deep connection to the waters it overlooks. From the pirate attacks to the hopeful goodbyes of entire generations of families looking for the possibilities of the new world, the waters that lap Baltimore’s shores are wild and, at times, rough – but they’re also a part of the town’s DNA.

Baltimore opens onto the sea, but you’ll also find plenty of quieter spots around the area. Many of these coves and beaches aren’t marked on the maps of the area, but speaking with the locals will ensure you’re pointed in the right direction.

Snave Pier

If you’re driving North to pay a visit to Ballylickey, then bring some swimming gear so you can pay a memorable visit to Snave Pier. There’s plenty of parking, but it’s best to bring a packed lunch if you’re planning on whiling away the better part of a day on the water, as Snave Pier is a little more remote than some of the other spots we’ve mentioned.

Snave Pier is tucked into a cosy little cove along Cork’s shoreline. A great atmosphere, particularly during the spring and summer holiday period, and accessible even for less experienced swimmers, this one is more than worth the longer drive.

Muir Cheilteach Bay Beach

This is a real gem of a spot for swimming in West Cork, with stunning views of Flea Island. A pebbly beach just a short walk away from the (equally gorgeous) beach of Castlehaven, Mui Cheilteach is a great place for foragers and more experienced wild swimmers alike. Thanks to the beach’s secluded location within the bay, this is also an excellent for paddleboards and kayaks, with only a moderate, gentle surf to rock the board as you explore the shoreline.

This is a lovely place to set up for a few hours with a good book, sore feet from walking, and no other calls on your time.

Ardnagrena Bay Beach

Taking you right back home again with Ardnagrena, which is just a few minutes away from Gortadrohid and offers some incredible views across to Baltimore Harbour.

This beach really comes to life in the evening, when the sun is draping a fleeting, warm cloak over the area, the water is still and the tide low, and the first few lights begin to speckle the coastline as far as the eye can see.

This is the calm, comfortable ambience that makes West Cork such a unique part of Ireland, and exactly why we cannot wait for you to come and see it yourself.

 

When wild swimming, make sure you do your research before (literally) taking the plunge. If you’re lacking experience, stick to the more populated areas – and steer clear of the beaches during the tides. Not all of West Cork’s beaches are manned by lifeguards, so keep that in mind if you’ve got young children or learner swimmers travelling with you.

 

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