The only place in town
Willie White, Artistic Director and Chief Executive of The Dublin Theatre Festival
My favourite place in Dublin is the Forty Foot, recently named as one of the top 10 swimming spots in the world by folk singer-songwriter Loudon Wainwright III in The New York Times.
While many people visit the James Joyce Tower and Museum in Sandycove, the location where the writer set the opening chapter of his masterpiece Ulysses, fewer take the plunge into the sea below it. I was introduced to the Forty Foot by Joyce’s book and first visited there when I came to Dublin as a student. Although the water is not quite 40 feet deep, as the name might suggest, it is known as somewhere it’s always possible to swim, even at low tide, and I have been doing so now for at least 25 years.
While the idea of jumping into cold, salty water may not be everyone’s idea of fun, I find it absolutely invigorating. There’s a wonderful sense of sanctuary that comes from swimming so close to the city.
I only manage to get into the sea a few times a month but there are hardy regulars at the Forty Foot who swim daily throughout the year. They enjoy a great sense of camaraderie, which they extend to less frequent visitors, particularly those who demonstrate their commitment by visiting early in the morning and in the quieter parts of the year.
Sea swimming is a tonic – you emerge from the fresh-smelling brine feeling revived. The temperature can dip as low at 8ºC in spring, which doesn’t encourage one to linger, but by late summer it’s a more comfortable 16ºC, lending itself to longer swims. Such information does not convince visitors from warmer countries who look in pained sympathy at this eccentric pursuit while bathers insist to them, ‘It’s not that cold, really.’
After swimming, or watching others do so, you can warm up again with a stroll towards Dún Laoghaire, enjoying the views across the bay to Howth Head, or maybe pop into Glasthule for a coffee or something stronger.