If wild swimming is your thing, welcome to paradise!
With beautiful beaches, secret coves, mountain lakes and rolling rivers, Kerry has it all. Here are just some of our favourite spots.
Water temperatures range from around 6º to 18º C.
1. Caragh Lake
Whether you’re staying at Caragh Lake House or elsewhere in Reeks District, this lake is a must.
With 8km of pristine waters, largely deserted and nestled amongst spectacular scenery with views of Carrauntoohil – Ireland’s highest mountain, it’s the very best of private pools! Beautiful for morning and evening swims.
2. Kells Bay
Kells Bay is a cheeky little harbour with a beautiful sandy beach in a sheltered location, just off the Ring of Kerry. There’s a harbour wall to run and jump off when the tide is in as well as wonderful kelp forests to explore.
Post swim we recommend a trip to Kells Bay House & Gardens, a tropical haven transporting you to another world…. and they do awesome hot chocolate in the café; and great Thai food!
3. Coonanna Harbour
Coonanna Harbour is more fondly known as Secret Cove. A remote little harbour used only by locals for fishing, this swim location is just delightful. If you want a longer swim (1 mile+) and you have kayak support, there are the most astonishing sea arches and caves to explore, homes to starfish nurseries and puffin nests.
On the Skelling Ring lies Ballinskelligs, a moon shaped bay with jaw dropping scenery – fantastic by day and by night, with incredible bioluminescence in the summer as an added extra! Don’t be surprised to find seals and dolphins accompanying you on your swim either.
And, not forgetting post swim, there is a lovely little cafe with a farmer’s market on Sundays serving the best handmade cakes!
5. Valentia Island Pool
More of a dip than a swim, but well worth it for the adventure; but not for the feint hearted.
A natural formed rock pool that is big enough to swim in, on the very side of the cliffs on the north side of Valentia Island. There is a bit of a trek of around 1km and challenge to locate it.
You will need to follow the outer road of the island as if heading to Bray Head from Knights Town; you will eventually come to a signpost for St Brendan’s Well on the right. Follow this track all the way down to the old derelict pub – O’Sheas. I would advise parking here and walking as the road is very potholed going further.
Once you walk to the well there is a style off to the right, go up and over and then follow the wall to the left down towards the sea. When you can, before you fall in the sea, head right and walk approximately 500m. Keep a look out on the left down the rocks for the pool (its about 100m past the sea arch, if you manage to find that!!).
Well worth taking a picnic and making use of the natural seating arena, with built in view of passing whales, and the sleeping giant.
6. Devil’s Punchbowl
For a real challenge and more of a dip than a swim, why not climb up Mt Mangerton (839m) – it’s an easy/moderate climb (no specialist gear required other than boots); and as you plateau at the top you will find the Devil’s Punchbowl. For spectacular 360 degree views over the Killarney National Park, this is a trek well worth it.
On the other side of the Iveragh Peninsula you will find O’Carrolls Beach Bar – great stop for a bob followed by a beer and battered fish in a beautiful setting! And just a couple of miles before the beach bar, is Glanbeg (Wave Crest Camping) that has mind-blowing kelp fields to swim through.
8. Inch Beach
Inch Beach is a haven for water sports, with surf school options, great kite surfing as well as swimming. There are some rips here though so if you are not confident stay in the lifeguard area. But you do have roughly 3 miles of beach and swimming shoreline to explore… both front and back strand… and great sand dunes to play in.
There are also local pubs and cafés post swim.
9. Dingle Bay
Dingle bay and swim with Fungi the dolphin. You are best getting in the water before you get to Dingle town – there is a road down to the water about 2 miles out of town, and directly in line with where Fungi hangs out.
10. Wine Strand
Wine Strand is so beautiful they built a whole Star Wars set nearby! Very remote and very gorgeous, crystal clear waters with white sands.
11. Peddlers Lake
Peddlers Lake is the ideal spot for those of you who like it chilly! This small lake is up near the top of Conor’s pass – a road that takes you from Dingle to the other side of the peninsula. The views on the way are spectacular, and although there is a bit of a climb involved to get to the lake, it is well worth it. This spot is well known and has been used for ice miles.
Castlegregory is paradise on earth! This is a spit of land, where the sun always seems to shine. You are spoilt for choice with swims along this spit. Personally I like to go right the very end to Ballycurrane at lowish tide on a quiet day – unreal. I think of it as my own little Maldives. Because it is a spit you can also choose if you want to swim in the rough or the calm!
Again, you are spoilt for choice post swim with plenty of food and drink options, and there are other water sports facilities here also including water trampolining, banana boats, surfing etc..
13. Lough Canclaun
If you are looking to hike and swim then Lough Canclaun is right up your alley. A signed pathway off the R560 at the Cloughane turn, is a 5km easy hike in to a lake and waterfall in the middle of nowhere, and is well worth the effort. There are notable ancient burial grounds and direction stones to see along the way too.
Just off the Dingle Peninsula and worth a mention, is Fenit, west of Tralee. Home to the famous Tralee Bay Swimming Club, you will find swimmers here most days of the week throughout the entire year. The bay is often calm when other areas are rough, and the weather often lifts when all around is dull.
There are also plenty of organised competitive and social swims, including the legendary Lighthouse Swim – a 3km out and back.
Written by Jo Arbon, an avid swimmer, organiser of the Caragh Lake Challenge and owner of Holistic Hound.
Updated 20th of April 2017.