‘Ultra-clean waters’ – Irish beach named best wild swimming spot in UK and Ireland

With another summer heatwave on the way, Keem Bay on Co Mayo’s Achill Island has been named the No 1 “wild swimming spot” in the UK and Ireland.

 survey carried out by UK-based reusable bottle company, Ocean Bottle, lists 20 wild swimming spots – with no less than six featured in Ireland. 

As well as Keem, it includes Trá na Dóilín and Dog’s Bay in Connemara (6, 13), Dooey Beach in Co Donegal (9), Curracloe in Co Wexford (12) and Enniscrone beach in Co Sligo (14). 

In compiling its results, Ocean Bottle said it drew on the latest year of water samples from over 800 waterways, analysing levels of E.coli and intestinal enterococci in samples sourced from governmental sites, including the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

It then cross-referenced each waterway’s Google rating and number of reviews.

“The higher the rating and review count, the better the waterway,” it said. 

Keem’s waters boasted a cleanliness score of 20 (a count of 10 per 100ml, per bacteria sampled, the company said), while its visitors gave the beach an average rating of 4.9 over 1,683 reviews.

“Boasting clean, plastic-free white sands and clear turquoise water, Keem Beach has been awarded the Blue Flag for its ultra-clean waters and is a beautiful rural and picturesque spot to enjoy a swim,” it added.

It’s not the first time Keem has caught the eye of international lists and surveys. 

Last year, Lonely Planet named the beauty spot as one of  its Top 20 beaches in Europe, describing it as a “gloriously remote” treasure and a “half-moon bay of golden sand (spread) at the foot of steep cliffs and grassy slopes.”

Peak season traffic has been an issue at the beach, however, and prior to the pandemic, Mayo County Council issued tender documents for developments including a “skywalk”, traffic management and pedestrian trails.

Over 13,000 people signed a  Change.org petition against the plan.

With works delayed by the pandemic, the council now says it is collaborating with Fáilte Ireland “regarding the overall development of a plan for Keem”.

Plans will examine car parking, traffic management, facilities and general people management at the site, as part of a wider Clew Bay Visitor Experience Development Plan recently launched by Fáilte Ireland.

In its survey, Ocean Bottle also looked at waterways that had the fewest number of reviews but the best water quality.

Its list of Ireland and the UK’s “Top 20 Wild Swimming Hidden Gems” was topped by Aillebrack/Silverhill Beach in Connemara, “thanks to its unspoilt white sandy beach and impeccably clean waters”.

Blackpool Beach in Lancashire, England, was deemed the most unsafe spot for wild swimming.

“Our work involves the rivers and waterways further afield where plastic pollution is worst but it’s our belief that everyone deserves the right to a clean planet,” said Ocean Bottles co-founder Will Pearson. 

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