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5 Best Wild Swimming Spots in Northern Ireland

Updated: Mar 14

Your Ultimate Guide to exploring off-the-beaten track wild swimming spots scattered across Northern Ireland.


Northern Ireland is home to some of the best natural wonders the UK has to offer, and among them are some of the most beautiful wild swimming spots waiting to be discovered. Tucked away in remote coasts, these hidden gems offer a tranquil escape from all the crowds, allowing you to swim in peace!


In this article, we share 5 of the best wild swimming spots in Northern Ireland which you need to add to your Northern Ireland bucket list this year. We hope you enjoy!


Image of Lough Shannagh in Northern Ireland


1) Kilclief Beach


Kilclief Beach is a lovely quiet beach around a 40 minutes drive from Belfast. With soft sand and clean water, this is the perfect spot for a stroll and swim.


The beach has a gentle gradient, so good to go for a swim, and there are rocky outcrops meaning plenty of rock pools to explore when the tide is out. They are used by the local seals to sun themselves when it's quiet and safe, so be aware of them if there with dogs!


FAQs/Things to know before visiting Kilclief Beach


1) Where is Kilclief Beach located?

Kilclief Beach is situated along the picturesque Ards Peninsula in County Down, Northern Ireland. It is nestled near the village of Kilclief, offering visitors stunning views of Strangford Lough and the Irish Sea.


2) Is Kilclief Beach suitable for swimming?

Yes, Kilclief Beach is known for its clean and relatively calm waters, making it suitable for swimming during the warmer months. However, visitors should always exercise caution and adhere to any safety signage or guidelines provided at the beach.


3) Are there facilities available at Kilclief Beach?

While Kilclief Beach is a secluded and natural spot, it does offer some basic facilities for visitors' convenience. These may include car parking areas, picnic tables, and public toilets. It's advisable to bring along any additional supplies or refreshments as amenities may be limited.


Image of Kilclief Beach in Northern Ireland

2) Brompton Bay


Brompton Bay is a great swimming spot for those who like to swim in deep water. It's a beautiful sheltered, rocky cove featuring the legendary Jenny Watts cave, a stone jetty and a disappearing sandy beach.


FAQs/Things to know before visiting Brompton Bay


1) Where is Brompton Bay located?

Brompton Bay is situated along the stunning coastline of County Antrim, Northern Ireland. It lies near the village of Ballycastle, offering breathtaking views of the rugged coastline and the North Channel.


2) Is Brompton Bay suitable for swimming?

Yes, Brompton Bay is known for its clean waters and sandy shores, making it suitable for swimming, especially during the warmer months. However, visitors should always be cautious of changing tides and currents.


3) Are there facilities available at Brompton Bay?

While Brompton Bay maintains its natural charm, it may offer limited facilities for visitors. These could include car parking areas and access points to the beach. Visitors are encouraged to bring along any necessary supplies, such as food and drinks, as amenities may be limited in the immediate vicinity.


Image of Dunseverick Cove in Northern Ireland

3) Ballygally Beach


Ballygally Beach is a lovely place to visit away from the crowds with a beautiful scenic view. It's a real hidden gem, providing visitors with a beautiful serene beach with fabulous views out to sea and the rolling Glen.


The place also has the Ballygally Castle Hotel which is right across the road facing the sea.


FAQs/Things to know before visiting Ballygally Beach


1) Where is Ballygally Beach located?

Ballygally Beach is nestled along the picturesque Antrim Coast in Northern Ireland, near the charming village of Ballygally. It boasts stunning views of the Irish Sea and is easily accessible by car or public transportation.


2) Is Ballygally Beach suitable for families?

Yes, Ballygally Beach is an ideal destination for families with its soft sandy shores and shallow waters, perfect for paddling and building sandcastles. Lifeguards are often on duty during peak times, ensuring a safe environment for visitors of all ages.


3) Are there nearby amenities at Ballygally Beach?

Visitors to Ballygally Beach can enjoy convenient facilities such as parking areas, toilets, and picnic spots nearby. Additionally, the Ballygally Castle Hotel overlooks the beach, offering dining options and refreshments for beachgoers looking to relax and unwind after a day by the sea.


Image of Whitepark Bay Beach in Northern Ireland


4) Murlough Bay


The road down to this hidden gem is narrow and in places steep but it is quiet and there is parking. With low numbers of people it feels as if you have this whole bay to yourself. It's a peaceful, quiet and stunning coastline, and if you make it all the way you'll be surprised to discover an idyllic sandy beach.


Visitors can enjoy a long walk around the coast but we recommend wearing proper footwear, as it's not suitable for anyone in a wheelchair or those who can’t climb up uneven surfaces.


FAQs/Things to know before visiting Murlough Bay


1) Where is Murlough Bay located?

Murlough Bay is situated along the stunning Causeway Coastal Route in Northern Ireland, near the village of Ballycastle. It offers breathtaking views of rugged cliffs, pristine beaches, and the Atlantic Ocean, making it a must-visit destination for nature lovers and photographers.


2) Is Murlough Bay suitable for swimming?

While Murlough Bay boasts crystal-clear waters and scenic surroundings, swimming is not recommended due to strong currents and unpredictable tidal conditions. However, visitors can enjoy leisurely walks along the shoreline, exploring the area's natural beauty and wildlife.


3) Are there hiking trails near Murlough Bay?

Yes, Murlough Bay is surrounded by picturesque hiking trails that offer stunning panoramic views of the coastline and countryside. One popular route is the Murlough Bay to Fair Head walk, which takes hikers along rugged cliffs and grassy slopes, providing opportunities for wildlife spotting and birdwatching.


Image of Murlough Bay in Northern Ireland
Photo taken by Nicola Wasson.

5) Lough Shannagh


Who knew there was a beach in the middle of the mourne mountains? And who knew there were lizards in Northern Ireland (friendly ones!)?


Wild swimmers will be rewarded with the amazing surrounding views whilst having a little dip, and we'd say it's well worth the hike up. While here why not climb on up Slieve Doan for an even better view?!


FAQs/Things to know before visiting Lough Shannagh


1) Where is Lough Shannagh located?

Lough Shannagh is nestled within the heart of the Mourne Mountains in County Down, Northern Ireland. It is a tranquil mountain lake surrounded by breathtaking scenery, making it a popular destination for outdoor enthusiasts and photographers.


2) Can I swim in Lough Shannagh?

While Lough Shannagh is a beautiful and serene location, swimming is not recommended due to the cold temperatures of the mountain lake and potential safety hazards. Visitors are encouraged to admire the lake from the shoreline and enjoy the surrounding hiking trails instead.


3) Are there hiking trails around Lough Shannagh?

Yes, Lough Shannagh is surrounded by a network of hiking trails that offer stunning views of the surrounding mountains and countryside. Popular routes include the Lough Shannagh Circuit, which loops around the lake and provides opportunities for birdwatching and exploring the rugged landscape.


Image of Lough Shannagh in Northern Ireland

We hoped you enjoyed discovering the local finds and less known wild swimming spots which are scattered around Northern Ireland. We are confident that visiting some of these hidden gems will make your Northern Ireland trip even more memorable!


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