Hoping to strip off, bare it all, and go for a bit of skinny-dipping in Ireland? Daring beachgoers and dedicated nudists may face a few hurdles when going all natural because nudism and public nudity in Ireland are tricky subjects caught between outdated laws and often conservative social rules.
To be blunt—public nudity is illegal in Ireland. Yet, Ireland's first official nudist beach, Hawk Cliff in Dalkey in County Dublin, was opened in 2018 and was met with mixed reactions. Signs were posted to inform the unaware that people may be there sans clothing.
Several other secluded beaches have long been known as unofficial nudist retreats. In certain areas, going for a naked swim is even a part of local tradition. However, if you strip off in the wrong area, you might find yourself with a lot of explaining to do. Even topless tanning, the norm on most continental European beaches, is severely frowned upon.
Irish Laws say "Stay Covered"
At first glance, there seems to be no clear rule against skinny-dipping or bans on stripping off on the beach, but two Irish laws may apply if you ditch your clothes and someone else feels offended:
- The Town Improvement Ireland Act of 1854 forbids men from exposing themselves and was put in place to curb public urination.
- The Criminal Law Act of 2017 replaces an earlier public order from 1935, and criminalizes nudity only if the nudist intends to cause "fear, distress or alarm."
The criminal law recognizes that exposure is only forbidden if it aims to offend. That means that consenting nudity might be legal—or at least that the law is open to interpretation.
What it boils down to is this: nudity in public is off limits. If someone feels fear, distress or alarm and reports you to the police, then you could face legal action. Technically, local governments already 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 be due to fear of a public opinion backlash and the risk of being accused of supporting "indecent behavior."
Irish Nude Beaches Are Some of the Best in World
Now here's a curious fact—despite the laws, Irish beaches are some of the most popular nudist beaches in the world. This is pretty impressive considering that there are no official nude beaches in Ireland.
Even without official permission, there are definitely nudists in Ireland. They prefer to go clothes-free whenever possible and they have claimed some beach areas as their own—illegally—it goes without saying.
Zones of Tolerance: Where to Go Nude 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.
- Brittas Bay
- Dalkey - Vico Road
- Clonakilty Bay
- Kilkee Beach
- Long Strand
- Ventry Beach
- Achill Island - Trawmore and Keem Strand
- Old Head - Clew Bay
- 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 so those hoping to go for a dip without a swimsuit are better off sticking to the Republic of Ireland beaches above and using their own best judgment.
If you really cannot resist a skinny-dip, you might also like to try Dublin's "Forty Foot," a public bathing place in the shadow of the James Joyce Tower at Sandycove. This is where otherwise conservative gentlemen come to brave the waves naked, sometimes adding nude aerobics in the name of entertainment, and all in plain view of a busy promenade. In other words: behavior that would have the gardai (Irish police) come running in other places is totally normal at the Forty Foot thanks to the local tradition of suit-free swimming that has been taking place here for decades.
By the way—the nude swimmers at Forty Foot were traditionally always men, but more recently there are also women going for a swim there.
Some Final Words of Caution
If you decide to try any of the "nude" beaches mentioned above, don't strip down without taking a good look around you first. You should be fairly safe if there are other nudists (or nobody) about. But if there are other groups enjoying the beach nearby with all their clothes on it might be unwise to go nude in front of them. Let common sense prevail, remembering that any public complaint about nude beach going may lead to a run-in with the law.
Secondly, act naturally, keep a low profile, and do not engage in anything that might be interpreted as lewd behavior.
Oh, and maybe check up on the Irish weather before planning a nudist vacation. Average temperatures might put a damper on beach trips. Regardless of how you like to swim, you should also check up on dangerous animals lurking beneath the waves and any anticipated storms.