Great Irish Outdoors

The Vico, Dublin – Bathing Place of Victorians, Nudists, and in the Winter, only the Greatest Among Us

Since Victorian times, sea bathing has been a popular pastime in Ireland. While it fell out of favour over the last 50-80 years, the summer of 2020 brought a huge reawakening in the pastime, along with a range of other activities in Ireland Great Outdoors.

Historic Victorian bathing sites cluster along the east coast of Ireland, in particular to the south of Dublin, the Capital city.  There are popular bathing areas at Seapoint, Sandycove, the Forty Foot, Vico, White Rock, Killiney Strand and Shankill or Corbawn beach. The Vico is accessible down a cliff walk and by crossing a footbridge, and then descending a number of thigh burning steps. There is a centuries old sea water pool for the kids (at low tide) and the sensible (at higher, rough tides), and porpoises can often be seen observing, and sometimes interacting with local bathers.

Vico Baths were formerly, like the Forty Foot (made famous in James Joyce’s “Ulysses”) originally for gentleman bathers only. Additionally, bylaws from Kingstown (now Dun Laoghaire) in 1889 required the existence of segregated bathing and bathing areas. There were penalties proposed for those who did not obey these rules.

This meant certain bathing places were:

' ... specially set aside for females. Any person offending against these laws shall for every offence be liable to a penalty not exceeding forty shillings.'

It’s interesting that over time, the Vico has transformed to a place for naturalist swimmers (early mornings only!)

Average sea temperatures in Ireland range from a bracing 8.8⁰C to a balmy 14.9⁰C, so it’s not for the fainthearted. That said, this doesn’t keep the great Irish public down, and throughout the winter, swimmers line up to take the plunge along this stunning coastline. And this writer, no longer likely to be fined forty shillings, (but generally wearing a swimsuit) they can be found there, from time to time…


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