Tramore, my main swimming location

Most of my lone swimming is at:
Tramore Bay, Guillamenes and Newtown Cove.

The Guillamenes is the best County Waterford open-water swimming spot. It is located about 2 miles outside of Tramore town, down the steps at the bottom of a 40 foot cliff on the West side of the bay, about 1000 metres before the three large columns on the headland (“The Metalman”). It has been used as local traditional swimming spot and has had a club for over 60 years.

It has ample parking, public toilets open during the summer and lots of local “polar-bear” short-distance year-round swimmers. It has a diving board during the summer and steps & ladder entries.

It can be swum on any tide. The main starting spot is down at Guillamenes cove which has a concrete apron and steps.

Newtown Cove about 50 yards away is a slipway and rocky small beach entrance and is slightly better for entering on a Southeasterly wind though will still be choppy on this wind. exiting on the stony beach will be difficult in these conditions.

Care should be given to watch the swell height at both locations on choppy days to make sure exiting is safe.

Tramore Bay is about 5 metres deep in the middle, running to 10 to 11 metres deep outside the outer bay entrance and around the headlands. It is about 4 km across.

T-Bay is shallower in the outer middle bay due to sandbanks, and swells often develop there even in calm which are difficult to see from land.

Boat traffic is low, mainly local inshore fishing boats, and there are occasional (but rare) idiot jet-skiers, but the boats are generally on the west (swimming) side of the bay therefore bright caps are strongly advised.
Line anglers dot the rocks the whole way from the Collomene, (400 metres inshore of the Guillamenes) out to the headland, so be wary to stay outside them.

During middle of the summer, large blooms of jelly fish accumulate in the west (swimming) side of the bay in Easterly or South easterly winds. These include stinging Lion’s Mane, Compass & “Purple Stingers”. First blooms happen late April/early May and are quickly followed by very large blooms, later settling to smaller numbers.

At least one inward running cold-water current (know as “The Scarf) on the west side of the bay usually about 100 metres from the coast. Not strong in the outer half of the bay , the Scarf runs in towards Doneraile Head above the town, where it can get up 1 knot. At this point it turns and runs outwards but dissipates quickly. The Scarf also moves. A South Westerly swell and wind can move it out into the middle of the bay.

It is not recommended to swim from the Beach Lifeguard hut end of the beach (Pebble Beach) directly across the bay towards the Guillamenes because of the Scarf as it can significantly slow progress of even strong swimmer, and will stop weaker swimmers.

It is better to swim along the beach into the long-shore drift, around Doneraile Head to the Pier staying within about 200 metres of the coast at this section, across to the pier and along to the Guillamenes.

There is also a current at the east side of the Bay coming in past Brownstown Head but this is rarely swum and generally needs boat access.

There are occasional localised strong rips around the entrance to Tramore Pier. Entrance back into the small harbour can be difficult in swells.

There are no strong currents around the Metalman but there a few large sea caves that can be swum into on very calm days. Larger swell waves can arise around this area in Southerly and South Westerly winds. About 50 metres outside Newtown Cove is an area I call “The Washing Machine”. There’s a reef here which causes swell and chop to jack up (and very occasionally break). Swimming back in from the headland through this can be unpleasant, with suddenly rising waves faces coming up suddenly from behind one. I usually swim outside it but a SE or SW swell can push one in towards it.

All that said, the water is deep and clean (though often murky due to sand raised in onshores). There’s a local common seal who pops up mainly in choppy conditions, and has occasionally swum alongside me.

The area is sheltered from westerly and North-westerly and south-westerly winds, and even some slight shelter from the prevailing southerlies, as it faces slightly south-east. I can plan a variety of swims from 1 kilometer up by varying direction and turning point.
The regulars are very friendly and we welcome tourists, of whom we get a lot. The “Men Only” sign is a relic of days gone-by.

And if you see a plastic box with “Long-distance swimmer” on it, down on the concrete, I’m out at sea…

Irish South Coast swimming conditions

For the South/South East, very warm water temperature, if we get them (which we haven’t really the last 2 summers), would be 17°C/18°C i.e. 62.5°F/64°F. Or at least there were 4/5 days I recall last year that I swam here in those temps. There was no consistent period however at that level, except one good week in May 2009.

But the last two summers here have been dreadful. We would have reached those summer temperatures regularly before. The SW wind is slightly warmer, maybe 1deg C, because it catches the Gulf Stream better. All around the North & East coast could be 2 deg C colder. Best regular water temperatures last year during August/Early Sept. were around 14°C/57°F in Tramore Bay, Waterford where I mainly swim. I often swim Sandycove in Cork more towards the SW, (one of the world’s great swim locations) and sometimes find the temp. can be a degree warmer.

Typical south coast Winter water temp might drop down to 8°C/46°C, with 7°C/46°F common in the SE. That can vary a bit depending on wind direction again and occasionally rising cold currents.

The winter of 2009 though, after the New Year, saw apparently the coldest water in 10 years with one day at my main training spot measuring 4°C or 39° F. Certainly since I started sea swimming 4 years ago and being a surfer before that, it’s hard to say,a since I was always wearing a wetsuit back then.

Oh, yes, I almost forgot. Typical tidal range on the South coast is 5 to 6 metres. Gotta remember that for a lot of swims ’cause it means strong tidal currents at times and locations. Spring tides can get up to 7 metres.

I’ll do a long article on local and south coast tides soon.