The Story Behind The Now-Iconic Forty Foot In Dublin

Forty Foot in Dublin
Photos via Shutterstock

The Forty Foot, along with the nearby Vico Baths, is arguably one of the most famous places to go swimming in Dublin.

People from far and wide have flocked to the Forty Foot for decades to take to the chilly waters that surround it, regardless of the season.

You’ll find it at the tip of Dublin Bay at Sandycove where its said that people have swam for over 250 years (although it was once a men-only bathing spot!).

Below, you’ll discover everything from the James Joyce link and where to get parking nearby to the history of the now-iconic Forty Foot in Dublin.

Some quick need-to-knows about the Forty Foot

Although a visit to the 40 Foot in Dublin is fairly straightforward, there are a few need-to-knows that’ll make your visit that bit more enjoyable.

1. Location

The Forty Foot is a promontory that can be found at the south tip of Dublin Bay at Sandycove. It’s a short train ride from Dublin city centre and it’s a handy 5-minute walk to nearby Dalkey and a 20-minute walk to Dun Laoghaire.

2. Parking

There’s a handy bit of parking nearby; we’d recommend either Windsor Terrace (23-minute walk) or Eden Park (25-minute walk). Keep in mind that you’ll need to pay for both.

3. Swimming (safety needed)

While the Forty Foot is a popular place and used year-round for outdoor exercise, there are hidden rocks that are not visible so pay attention to the warning signs. Also, understanding water safety is crucial before entering the sea. Here are some handy water safety tips!

4. Getting here by DART

You can easily take the DART to the Forty Foot from Dublin City if you hop on this route. The DART is fairly frequent and it’s a handy option if you fancy 1, dodging the hassle of parking or 2, have a post-swim pint.

The interesting history of the Forty Foot

history of the 40 foot
Photo by Michael Kellner (Shutterstock)

Public bathing areas can be found dotted around Dublin in the likes of Skerries, Dollymount and nearby Killiney.

In many cases, the baths tend to have a nice bit of history/legend attached to them. Here’s a brief history of the 40 Foot.

It used to be men only

People have been swimming at the Forty Foot in Dublin for some 250 years, though when we say ‘people’, up until the 1970s, the beach was male only, and a gentleman’s swimming club was established there to preserve the area.

That changed when a group of women’s equality activists plunged into the sea in 1974, and from then on women and children were welcomed there too. The gentlemen’s swimming club is still up and running, open to all genders, with voluntary contributions welcomed to help preserve and maintain the area.

The James Joyce link

The 40 Foot has a proud literary heritage. At one point, James Joyce stayed at the nearby Martello tower as a guest of the poet Oliver St. John Gogarty, and the sea there is described by the character Buck Mulligan as “the snotgreen sea” (ew).

The Forty Foot also appears in the novels, At Swim-Two-Birds by Flann O’Brien (1939), and At Swim, Two Boys by Jamie O’Neill (2001).

Things to do near the Forty Foot

The 40 Foot is a short spin from many of the best things to do in Dublin, from food and castles to hikes and more.

Below, you’ll find info on where to eat near the 40 Foot to where to soak up a bit of local history.

1. Sandycove Beach (2-minute walk)

sandycove beach
Photos via Shutterstock

If you’re not into wild swimming, a gentler afternoon out might be a visit to the tiny Sandycove Beach, a nearby inlet with shallow waters where you can take a nice paddle while admiring the views. 

2. James Joyce Tower & Museum (2-minute walk)

James Joyce Tower
Photo by Alfiya Safuanova (Shutterstock)

You can’t visit this part of Dublin and ignore Dublin’s most famous literary son, James Joyce. The Martello tower these days serves as a James Joyce museum and is open all year round. You’ll be able to see some great Joycean memorabilia here and if you’re lucky enough to visit on June 16, Bloomsday, there will be plenty of people dressed in Edwardian period costume celebrating the book and life of Joyce.

3. Dalkey (20-minute walk)

things to do in dalkey
Photos via Shutterstock

Dalkey Castle and Heritage Centre is one of several fortified townhouses that were built in the Middle Ages to store goods offloaded at Dalkey, which was then the port for Dublin. You can visit there for living history tours that explore what went on in times gone by. There is a wide range of places to eat and drink in the area – restaurants, wine bars, grills and pubs.

4. People’s Park (15-minute walk)

places to visit near the forty foot
Photo via Google Maps

The People’s Park is a short stroll from Dún Laoghaire harbour, and popular with people of all ages, and locals and visitors. The gardens are beautifully maintained and there’s a restaurant and café on site, fountains, and a children’s playground.

FAQs about the Forty Foot in Dublin

We’ve had a lot of questions over the years asking about everything from is there any parking nearby to how do you get there from Dublin City.

In the section below, we’ve popped in the most FAQs that we’ve received. If you have a question that we haven’t tackled, ask away in the comments section below.

Can you swim at the Forty Foot?

Yes! The 40 Foot is a popular swimming spot all year round. However, keep in mind that there are hidden rocks below the water, so care is needed.

Where do you park for the 40 Foot in Dublin?

There’s no parking next to Forty Foot near Dun Laoghaire. We tend to park at either Windsor Terrace (21-minute walk) or Eden Park (22-minute walk).

Emma Baird is a lifestyle editor and novelist. She has worked in the communications industry for more than 25 years, and loves animals, the countryside and lingering in a great pub for the food and the craic.

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