Are you part of the open water swimming community that flock to the frigid waters on a daily basis? Then perhaps 2018 is the year you step it up a notch and sign up for an open water swimming race.

Make this the year you join the hardy souls who shun wetsuits to swim in open water day in, day out all year round and take to the start line of one of the many, many open water races around the country. They really are one of the best communities in the Irish outdoor scene. If you’re convinced and ready to see what the options out there are, then have a look below at some of our favourite open water swim races in 2018.

1. The Great Fjord Swim, Connemara

Date: 6 Oct 2018

Open water swimming races

This open water swim is one of the best water-based events on the calendar. Taking place in the deep waters of Killary Fjord surrounded by the mountains of Mayo and Connemara, the event offers three distances – 3.9km, 2km, and 750m – and competitors in the longer events can choose to swim in togs or wetsuits (it’s wetsuits only for the 750m). Swimmers in the 2km and 750m are brought out into the middle of the fjord by boat and jump off it to start the race!

More info: Gaelforce

2. The Aura Boyne Swim, Co Louth

Date: 16 June 2018

Aura Boyne Swim

Do you have what it takes to battle the mighty Boyne? The newly named Aura Boyne Swim will take place on Saturday 16 June 2018. Swimmers turn out in their droves to Drogheda, Co Louth every year to take on the 2.7km course. And registration is now open for the swim organised by Drogheda Triathlon Club, with the entrance fee for adults costing €30 and €15 for minors. Take to the warm waters (hopefully) of the historic River Boyne for your chance to win one of their stunning trophies designed by local sculptor Ronan Halpin, and commissioned by Drogheda Port Company.

More info: The Boyne Swim

3. Vibes and Scribes Lee Swim, Co Cork.

Date: 30 June 2018

Open water swimming races

A point-to-point swimming race through the centre of Cork City that is not to be missed. It is a fun event with a competitive element, with age group prizes and five historic trophies up for grabs. There is separate categories for wetsuit and non-wetsuit swimmers. The 2km swim comprises of a downstream section of 1.7km in the North Channel of the Lee and a short upstream section of  300m in the South Channel. Passing under nine bridges in total. This is the one to do if you want to hang around after for a party.

More info: Lee Swim

Open water swimming: everything you need to know

4. Liffey Swim, Co Dublin

Date: TBC Aug 2018

Open water swimming races

This is the oldest and one of the most prestigious open water races in Ireland. The 2.2km event will see participants race from Rory O’Moore Bridge to the Custom House. This is the only swim of its kind to take place in a European capital city. Often compared to the Grand National, every swimmer has a chance of winning the Liffey swim because of the handicap system. Competitors from as young as 13 pit their strengths against 70-year-olds and swimmers come from all over the country and abroad. NB you must qualify for this event by participating in a number of open water swim races.

More info: Leinster Open Sea

5. Dun Laoghaire Harbour Race, Co Dublin

Date: TBC August 2018

Open water swimming races
Image: Marjan McCarthy

The second most prestigious swim on the calendar and also Ireland’s second oldest swim is the Dun Laoghaire Harbour race. The course consists of a 2.2km lap of the entire harbour. The best part of the race is the crowds of spectators who line the piers to cheer on the swimmers. This race is handicapped like the Liffey Swim to give all abilities a fair chance at a medal. In 2018, the Dun Laoghaire Harbour Race will celebrate its 88th year.

More info: Dun Laoghaire Harbour Race

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6. Glendalough National Park Swim, Co Wicklow

Date: TBC September 2018

Open water swimming races

If you’ve climbed the Spinc in Glendalough on many an occasion like us, you may have gazed at the lake longingly once or twice and wondered what it would be like to swim in its depths. If that sounds like you, then Gthis is the race for you. On the Saturday the swimmer can choose from a 750m and 1.5km Olympic course and on the Sunday the really tough nuts come out for the 3.9km iron distance event which is 3.9km.

More info: Open Water Swimmer

7. Lough Dan Swim Race, Co Wicklow

Date: TBC Aug 2018

Open water swimming races
Image: Andre Ray

Another race in Wicklow is the Lough Dan, with 2.5k, 5k and 10k races on offer. The race course is a straight line in a south-to-north direction. The 5km race is two laps, while the 10km race is four laps. Remember when signing up that Lough Dan is a mountain lake so water visibility is low and water temperatures are really low, so don’t forget to pack that robey.

More info: Leinster Open Sea

8. Lough Key Forest Park Swim, Co Roscommon

Date: 16 June 2018

Open water swimming races

This is a stunning setting for a swim, a tree-lined lake with a castle slapped in the middle of it. The Lough Key swim has a choice of distances, a 750m and a 1,500m. The ‘Castle Island’ gets lapped on the 1.5km course while the 750m swimmers simply pass it. If you are feeling fit you can even swim both of out distances on the day for the one entry!

More info: Open Water Swimmer

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By Orla O'Muiri

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