Swimming a new location: Portally Cove to Swines Head

While I like visiting Dunmore the area isn’t one of my main swim locations.

The advantage of Dunmore is it is inside the Waterford Estuary and is protected for the prevailing south-westerlies and southerlies. On a big blow, one that needs to last for at least 24 hours at probably Force Five or above, some good surf can then hit the beach as the swell comes right around the head and the wind can be offshore at the beach which can produce a short, good, dumpy wave. I once saw a very talented surfer I knew from Tramore snap both leg bones when hitting the sand bank in the middle after an elegant dismount in shallow water

Above Portally Cove

Anyhoo… Just outside Dunmore is Portally Cove. It’s a tiny sheltered cove, probably only 2 kilometres from the town, and is also connected by a cliff walk.

In Portally, you actually feel quite isolated, and on a sunny summer day it’s like you are visiting the Aegean or somewhere, as the shallow cove seems quite green.

It’s only about 200 metres or less from the beach at high tide to outside the cove so for a swimmer, it’s attractive mainly because it’s sheltered but it’s too small for any swimming. I’ve made a few visits to investigate how useful it might be in the winter if I want a sheltered swim.

Portally Cove, looking weird because of the stitching software

Dunmore East to Tramore or the Guillamene has been swam at least twice as far as I know (and one abandoned). There are pretty strong currents at various places along the coast. I’ve been out there once with Clare (the Tall Ships) and we also talked previously about the stretch of coast.

So with some rare blueish sky and a light wind, I headed out. The beach is a mix and sand and stone that would be difficult in the winter, which was what I had in mind. The couple of rowing boats moored might be absent, hopefully because when moored they are held in place by ropes that stretch across the narrow cove just under the surface.

Brownstown Head from the east

Once outside the cove I headed right, i.e. west, toward Swines Head and Brownstown Head.

I passed a couple of anglers on the rocks about 15 minutes who must have been surprised. There was swell coming from the south-west, about one metre, but not windy, only a light southerly Force Two. Once I had passed the next rock promontory I could see Swines Head and the rocks out from it maybe 500 metres away. On the way I passed a huge sea cave. The cliffs here are lower and more stable than the Copper Coast on the other side of Tramore Bay,

Swine Head in the distance

It took me 20 minutes to swim those 500 metres, longer than it would normally take to swim a kilometre. It was a slog. The wind had picked up fractionally while I trudged across this section, into low Force Three. I eventually made the rock outside Swines Head, scaring off the resident cormorants and turned back. It had taken 40 minutes for the distance. Coming back I had the swell, current and wind behind me, and the return was ten minutes shorter. It’s a nice swim on a calm day, but the currents were difficult as predicted. It’s high tide only also for swimmers.

There’s some great scenery, nice cliff walks on both sides but I doubt I’ll be adding it as a regular or even irregular swim.

Eastward is the estuary into Waterford.

Hook Lighthouse, with ship in the distance

South east is Hook Head and Hook Head Lighthouse, the most geographically remote lighthouse in Ireland and the oldest operating lighthouse in the world.

Dangerous waters

The waters of the Celtic Sea south-east of Ireland are dangerous. They become the Western Approaches the UK, made so famous during the Battle of the North Atlantic in World War Two.

Coming round the headland

Fishermen and ships plying these waters are always at risk, as everywhere at sea, but the south-east is littered with wrecks and tragedies, even up until recently.

Starlight of Dunmore East


Coming into Waterford Estuary and Dunmore must always be a relief.

Blue water, red boat

Going home.

Heading to Dunmore East

Hook Lighthouse, with ship in the distance

Some of the colours of the South East in summer. My tagline for the site used to be “These are the colours of open water swimming”. Not just the water, but the sky and the sea-coast environment.

Yellow lichen on the cliffs.

Yellow cliff lichen and cave

Fishing pots overgrown with thistles.

Pots & thistles

A funnel spiderweb and lichen.

Funnel web & lichen

Who knows when we’ll get sufficient sun to appreciate these colours again?

Hook Lighthouse

Portally Cove to Swines Head Map


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