First wild swim in the Irish Sea / Nager en mer d’Irlande

wild swimming Ireland Wicklow Irish Sea nage en eau libre outdoors Irlande adventure family famille aventure

This weekend I swam in the Irish Sea for the first time ever. It was invigorating. Exhilarating even. Now I can’t wait to do it again.

It was about 6 o’clock on Saturday evening when we headed down to our local beach. The car temperature gauge showed 28°C. Needless to say, this is something of a rarity in Ireland.

I had wanted to go for a sea swim for a long time. What this the day it would finally happen?

Squirrel and Pebbles were busy shovelling sand with their new beach toys. Mermaid and Jedi were already splashing in the gentle waves. Brian, drained after a gruelling karate session earlier on in the day, simply said that he wasn’t going in without a wetsuit. (He did eventually go for a dip, which felt wonderfully soothing on his aching muscles.)

Will I? Won’t I? I felt nervous.

wild swimming Ireland Wicklow Irish Sea nage en eau libre outdoors Irlande adventure family famille aventure

Then I got up from my camping chair and took off my summer dress. ‘If I make it into the water, can you take some photos?’ I asked Brian before walking towards the shore.

Cold. The water was undeniably cold. Taking two steps in and one back, I slowly waded in. As the waves reached higher and higher up my stomach and chest, I let out many gasps. ‘I always do that too!’ Mermaid assured me with an excited laugh. A few metres from her, Jedi was also walking in and out with lots of squeals.

By then the skin on my legs was numb. Every so often I had to lift my hands out of the water and wriggle my stiff fingers. As the swell slowed, I took a deep breath and, with my eyes closed, I swam in the Irish Sea.

It was only a few strokes, over a dozen metres alongside the shore. But the sensations were indescribable. I did it!

Rubbing my eyes and spitting out salty water, I stood again on the gravel sea floor. Next time I’ll bring my goggles.

Learning to swim

Had it not been for the swimming lessons Brian got me as a Christmas present, none of this would have happened. 

I was a poor swimmer. Mediocre skills and zero confidence. Swimming outdoors anywhere north of Lyon looked like self-inflicted torture.

Yet I am fascinated by wild swimming.

Last year we hiked up Tonelagee, Co Wicklow, to look from above at a remote mountain lake shaped like a heart. Down by the shore of the lough two hikers went for a quick swim in the cobalt blue water, and I secretly wished I were able to do just the same.

Just before our Easter road trip in a camper van, I borrowed Wild Swimming in Ireland from the library. Suddenly, open water swimming appeared as another exhilarating way of enjoying Ireland’s great outdoors.

Now that I have taken this step, imagine the family adventures we’ll have!


Ce weekend, j’ai nagé en mer d’Irlande pour la toute première fois. Ce fut revigorant. Grisant même. Et j’ai déjà hâte de renouveler l’expérience.

Il était près de 18 heures samedi quand nous sommes descendus à la plage. Le thermomètre de la voiture affichait 28°C. Inutile de dire que ça n’arrive pas souvent en Irlande.

Depuis longtemps, je voulais nager en mer. Le jour J était-il enfin arrivé ?

Ecureuil et Caillou creusaient résolument dans le sable avec leurs nouveaux jouets de plage. Sirène et Jedi pataugeaient bruyamment dans les vagues. Brian, éreinté après une séance de karaté exténuante, annonça simplement qu’il n’irait pas se baigner sans combinaison de plongée. (Il finit toutefois par aller à l’eau, ce qui eut un effet délassant sur ses courbatures.)

J’y vais ? J’y vais pas ? J’appréhendais.

wild swimming Ireland Wicklow Irish Sea nage en eau libre outdoors Irlande adventure family famille aventure

Je me suis levée de ma chaise de camping et j’ai enlevé ma robe d’été. “Si je réussis à me tremper dans l’eau, est-ce que tu peux prendre quelques photos ?” demandai-je à Brian avant de descendre sur le rivage.

Froide. L’eau était indéniablement froide. Faisant deux pas en avant et un pas en arrière, je m’avançai peu à peu dans les flots bleus. Comme les vagues montaient de plus en plus haut sur mon ventre et ma poitrine, j’en avais le souffle coupé. “Ça me fait tout le temps ça !” assura Sirène en riant d’excitation. A quelques mètres de là, Jedi allait et venait en poussant des petits cris.

La peau de mes jambes était déjà transie de froid. De temps à autre, je ressortai les mains de l’eau pour remuer mes doigts engourdis. Comme le ressac ralentissait, je respirai profondément et, les yeux fermés, je nageai en mer d’Irlande. 

Ce ne fut que quelques mouvements de crawl, sur une dizaine de mètres, mais les sensations étaient extraordinaires. Indescriptibles. J’ai réussi !

Me frottant les yeux et recrachant de l’eau salée, je me redressai sur le fond sableux. La prochaine fois, je mettrai mes lunettes de piscine.

Apprendre à nager

Sans les cours de natation que Brian m’a offert pour Noël, rien de tout ça n’aurait été possible. 

Jusqu’à il y a six mois, je savais à peine nager. Technique médiocre et confiance au ras des pâquerettes. Nager en plein air au nord de la latitude de Lyon me paraissait un acte de torture volontaire.

Pourtant je suis fascinée par la nage en eau libre.

L’an dernier, nous avons gravi le mont Tonelagee, Co Wicklow, pour admirer d’en haut un lac de montagne en forme de cœur. Sur la rive, deux marcheurs ont piqué une tête dans les eaux bleu cobalt. Secrètement, je souhaitai pouvoir en faire autant.

Juste avant notre weekend de Pâques en camping-car, j’ai emprunté le livre Wild Swimming in Ireland à la bibliothèque. La nage en eau libre y apparaissait comme une autre façon grisante de découvrir les merveilles naturelles d’Irlande. A présent j’attends avec impatience de recevoir l’équivalent français Baignades Sauvages en France

Maintenant que j’ai franchi le pas, oh les aventures que nous allons vivre ! 

wild swimming Ireland Wicklow Irish Sea nage en eau libre outdoors Irlande adventure family famille aventure wild swimming Ireland Wicklow Irish Sea nage en eau libre outdoors Irlande adventure family famille aventure


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18 Responses to “First wild swim in the Irish Sea / Nager en mer d’Irlande

  • Oh Wow! My dream! Well done you for being so brave! I think I would have chicken out actually because it looks so cold! lol! Looks like you have all enjoyed yourself though. 🙂

    Thank you so much for linking up with us on #FabFridayPost
    Su {Ethan & Evelyn} recently posted…Tofu Scramble with Indigo Herbs Organic Turmeric Powder

    • It’s all a matter of grabbing the bull by the horns, as the saying goes. If you really want it, then you’ll do it! Can’t wait to read all about it Su 😉
      Thank you for hosting #FabFridayPost

  • Wow! Way to go! I’m a huge wimp when it comes to cold water! Glad that you have made some progress with swim lessons! #TriumphantTales

    • For the longest time I was like you, wincing at the mere idea of swimming outdoors in Ireland. I am living proof that it can be done!Thanks for stopping by 🙂

  • Fab photos! Good on you, I don’t think I’d manage it! #TriumphantTales

    • Thank you! I had set my mind to it several months ago, and now the sense of achievement is unbelievable. Thanks for stopping by 🙂

  • Oh go you! I hate swimming in the sea as its always so cold and salty, but it is definitely an experience that needs to be done and I’m so proud you got to try it!
    Thank you so much for sharing this with us at #TriumphantTales. I hope to see you back next week.

    • I’m so proud of myself, you have no idea! I went for a sea swim again last weekend, and it was definitely easier now that I know I can do it. Suddenly the pool doesn’t have the same appeal anymore…
      Thank you for hosting #TriumphantTales and for taking the time to comment, especially this week that you’re doing it on your own. 🙂

  • Oh god, I thought it would be cold! I was almost wincing as I read down, knowing I’d see it was freezing! It looks lovley in pictures though!


    • Once you get past the wincing part, it feels pretty good. And I felt great afterwards. So good indeed that I think I may be hooked already 🙂

  • Amazing! You are very brave I am a nervous swimmer so I’m not sure I would have done it. I tend to panic when I get out of my depth in water. Well done. Sarah #FabFridayPost
    Sarah Stockley recently posted…Joy Festival 2017

    • I was a very poor swimmer too, but the lessons and practice in the pool built up my confidence. That said, this first wild swim was in shallow water. I still would be nervous about going out of my depth.
      Thanks for stopping by 🙂

  • Oh way to go Annette! Very brave indeed. Sounds wonderful though and good for all the tingles! I’m not a confident swimmer but love water so would probably benefit from proper swimming lessons. Pat on the back and ‪Thank you for linking up to the #familyfunlinky‬
    Karen | TwoTinyHands recently posted…Oh I Do Like To Be Beside The Seaside

  • Ha ha! Good on you – I hope this opens the door to a whole world of watery adventures with the whole family! 🙂 #AdventureCalling
    Jonny (daisythebus) recently posted…Canoeing (and kayaking) on the Sauer

  • I can swim fine in a pool, but wild swimming scares me a bit. Good on you for doing it, can’t wait to hear more about your adventures in the water. Hope you get to go somewhere a little warmer as well 🙂 Thank you for sharing with us #AdventureCalling
    Lauren The Helpful Hiker recently posted…Review: Salomon X Ultra 2 GTX Men’s Walking Shoes

  • Fab photos an great video. Apart from the odd dip here and there I haven’t really done any proper wild swimming. I’m definitely going to look into those books you suggest as it’s something that definitely tempts me. Thanks for joining us on #adventurecalling I hope you can again tomorrow.
    David – Potty Adventures recently posted…#pottyadventures Instagram Community: Week 35

  • Well done Annette! (I’m going to stick to the ‘nowhere north of Lyon’ policy though – love that idea!!)

Trackbacks & Pings

  • Summer of wild swimming in France / Eté de baignades sauvages en France :

    […] Hardly an hour after driving off the ferry at Cherbourg, we pulled up on the beach at La Fontaine-Saint-Côme, near Arromanches-sur-Mer, Normandy, for our first ever wild swim in the English Channel. Under a cloudy sky and in the ebbing tide, we had the place, and a lifeguard, all to ourselves. At a lovely 18°C the water felt nearly warm compared with the oh so cold Irish Sea. […]

    6 months ago

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