Twenty minutes west of Sligo, turn off the main road and travel down the narrow and twisting rural lanes to the lovely Aughris Head Beach Bar. This pretty, single-storey thatched building serves superb food. An eclectic mix of décor inside and friendly staff make this a popular place with locals and returning holidaymakers. There is a long and stony beach here but the better beach by far is a 25-minute walk from here on the Aughris Head walk.

Aughris Head ©MAC Visual Media

The path follows the rocky coastline and looking back towards the Beach Bar affords superb views across Sligo Bay to Benbulben Mountain. After about twenty minutes, the path broadens and you find two rocky inlets calling out to be explored.

Aughris Head ©MAC Visual Media

Further along the path it again broadens out, sweeping around to the left above a curved black-sand beach. Tiny starfish lie washed up on the shore, bright white against the dark sand.

From this beach one can swim around the rocky headland on the left into a second cove. Accessible only either by swimming or by boat, this cove feels far removed from the rest of the world. As you swim around, feel the surge of the water rushing back and forth between the shore and the rocks. Take care making your way through the narrow gap. Only to be attempted in calm conditions!

Aughris Head ©MAC Visual Media

In this second cove, low tide reveals shallow caves under the overhanging rocks to explore. Dive under the low arches to swim under the rock walls from one cave into another – if you are brave enough!

Aughris Head ©MAC Visual Media

To get to the start of the walk, follow the road up from the bar to the crossroads, turn right and walk to the small harbour, where the road sweeps sharply to the left with a sign warning cars of the steep slipway. A bungalow is directly ahead. Between the slipway and the bungalow is the start of the walk.

Aughris Head ©MAC Visual Media

At a glance

A coastal walk then a swim from one cove to the next, finally return to the Beach Bar for a great meal and a pint then settle down for the night camping in the bars beach front garden.

Excerpt from Wild Swimming in Ireland 2016, ISBN 978-1-84889-280-4

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