Kilkee is probably best known for its many and varied safe places to swim for all ages. From the expanse of the Strand to the natural pools of the Pollack Holes to Byrnes's Cove there is always a safe place to swim no matter whether the tide is in or out. Local knowledge and that of Lifeguards are indispensable tools when seeking advice as to where is a good and safe place to swim.
The gently shelving 1km of sand of Kilkee beach is perfect for swimmers of all abilities. The horseshoe shape of the bay also lends itself to a number of historic swims of varying distances that cross from one side to the other. The tidal flow doesn't impact too much on your tracking within the bay but will do so once you head out a little into more open water.
The Small Bay: Distance 350m
This can be done from either side, my favorite way is to swim out from the small sandy inlet under Sykes Corner called Sandy Cove, heading directly through all the small boats at anchor in the bay, aiming for the head of the pier. Of course it can also be done by leaving from the slipway but sighting is a lot easier the other way. It is always best to do this swim in the company of another swimmer.
The Horseshoe: Distance 500m
This is probably the safest long swim in the bay. Leave from the slipway, skirting all the anchored boats on your right hand side. At low water it is perfectly safe to swim this on your own as the water is quite shallow however as the tide comes in it is best to have company while doing it for safety reasons. Boats are not allowed closer to the beach than the moorings so there should be minimal risk of any mishap.
This swim can be added to the small bay to make an 800m loop if desired.
The Big Bay: Distance 1300m
The "big bay swim" is legendary....but is only for experienced open water swimmers and should not be undertaken alone and without boat or kayak cover, but it is a truly awesome swim. Leaving from the Byrnes Cove in the Eastern side of the bay, head straight out through the opening between the rocks to the Atlantic Ocean, your line of sight is now the white buildings perched on the cliff edge on the west side of the bay, these are the diving boards and the ladders provide the only egress for swimmers on this stretch of the cliffs so it's important to get your sight lines set properly. Crystal clean water, nothing but 20m of water underneath you and if you are lucky only some jellyfish and maybe a dolphin or two for company...swimmers bliss.
Head for Shore: Distance 1000m
Another classic but again, like the big bay, is only for 2 or more experienced open water swimmers.
Very simple, jump in at the diving boards, hang a right and head straight for the beach keeping 50m or so off the shore, water depth can vary depending on the tide but a really beautiful swim with lots of underwater scenery to take your breath away, at high tide it is roughly a 1km swim but if you want to go a little longer keep close to the shore and swim around the beach to the slipway which will add approx 400/500 m to your distance depending on tidal conditions.
As always don't swim alone, check the tidal conditions with someone local, a crewmember from the Rescue Service or one of the local fishermen. Wear a high viz swim hat and please tell a friend where you are going swimming, how long you expect to take and where you intend exiting the water. It in doubt, stay out of the water.