Irish Nudism and Nude Beaches

Naturists May Break Laws

UK, Northern Ireland, Exterior
••• Walter Bibikow / Getty Images

You want to strip off, bare it all, and go for a bit of skinny-dipping in Ireland? You are a dedicated nudist or just feel daring at times? Think twice. Because nudism and public nudity in Ireland are a tricky subject, and Irish nude beaches officially unknown. So what to do if you want to fling your clothes off and go naked in Ireland? No problem, just be sure to do it in the privacy of your own room, and only observed by consenting family and friends.

Otherwise, you might have a run-in with the law. To be blunt: public nudity is illegal in Ireland. Though it might be tolerated occasionally, strangely enough. And therein lies the crunch - if you strip off in the wrong area, you might find yourself having a lot of explaining to do. Even topless tanning, the norm on most continental European beaches, is severely frowned upon. In other areas, however, stripping off is part of local tradition.

Irish Laws say "Stay Covered"

At first glance, there seems to be no law against skinny-dipping or getting a tan without pale bits. But two Irish laws may apply if you drop your textiles and somebody decides to take offense:

  • The Town Improvement Ireland Act of 1854 forbade men to expose themselves. Apparently, this law was mainly aimed at curbing the rampant urination in public, obviously just a male problem.
  • The Public Order Act of 1935 criminalizes nudity if the nudist intends to offend.

    You can see that a. male nudity is a bigger problem (it also is more likely to cause offense), and that b. the law might be open to interpretation. After all...does or doesn't the intention to offend start with stripping off?

    What it boils down to is this: nudity in public is off limits. If somebody takes offense or if you are male or if the wind is blowing from the east and the guards are missing their lunch because of you.

    Curiously enough, local authorities would have the power to establish clothes-free or clothing-optional areas on beaches. But none do, preferring to turn a blind eye to the problem. This might well be due to fear of a public opinion backlash should any authority be perceived to further "indecent behavior."

    Irish Nude Beaches Amongst Best in World

    Now here's a curious fact—Irish beaches feature amongst the most popular nudist beaches in the world. Not a bad effort considering that there are no nudist beaches in Ireland.

    Yet there are nudists in Ireland. And if they are not otherwise engaged or fighting the (often very vocal but still ludicrous) minority opinion that nudists are perverts and potential pedophiles, they actually like to strip and hang out together. And slowly but surely they have claimed some areas as their own. Illegally—that goes without saying.

    Regularly rated top are Trawalua in County Sligo (according to an old Ryanair in-flight magazine even Nude Beach No. 1 in the world), Brittas Bay, and Inch.

    Zones of Tolerance: Where to "Get Nekkid" in Ireland

    Here is a run-down of the beaches that have been "claimed" by Irish naturists. For detailed instructions on how to get there, visit the website of the Irish Naturists' Association.

    Take note that the "nude" parts of the beaches may be a considerable distance from the nearest car park and other facilities.

    Leinster:

    • Brittas Bay
    • Corballis
    • Curracloe
    • Dalkey - Vico Road

    Munster:

    • Clonakilty Bay
    • Inch
    • Inchidonney
    • Long Strand

    Connacht:

    • Achill Island - Trawmore
    • Bartraw
    • Roundstone - Dog's Bay
    • Silver Strand
    • Trawalua Strand
    • Yellow Strand

    According to the website of naturists in the UK, there are no official or unofficial nude beaches in Northern Ireland. Which chimes in with a weird sign to seen in Belfast: "No Topless Bathing! Ulster Has Suffered Enough!"

    On a slightly curious note, here are a few thoughts about a place where going naked is almost part of the local folklore. If you fancy a skinny-dip, you might also like to try Dublin's "Forty Foot," a public "gentlemens'" bathing place in the shadow of the James Joyce Tower at Sandycove.

    Here, otherwise conservative gentlemen brave the waves naked, sometimes adding nude aerobics to the entertainment, in plain view of the busy promenade. In other words: behavior that would have the gardai come running in other places is totally normal at the Forty Foot, one simply chooses not to notice.

    By the way – the male bastion of the Forty Foot has been toppled recently, so you’ll also find females going for a swim there. Female nudity has not yet been observed, or at least hit the outraged headlines.

    Some Final Words of Caution

    If you hit any beaches mentioned above, do not get everything off without taking a good look around you first. You should be fairly safe if there are other nudists (or nobody) about. But should a group of elderly nuns and a large gathering of young schoolchildren be enjoying the beach nearby it might be unwise to strip off in front of them. Let common sense prevail, bearing in mind that a complaint may lead to a run-in with the law.

    Secondly, act naturally, do not flaunt yourself, and do not engage in anything that might be interpreted as "sexually suggestive" or lewd behavior. Let alone with a partner.

    Oh, and just by the way, check up on the Irish weather before planning a nudist holiday here. Average temperatures might see your enthusiasm shrinking fast! And if you head out to see, nude or not, also check up on dangerous animals lurking beneath the waves