In the pretty village of Roundstone, art galleries and studios for handmade ceramics and jewellery vie for space, a walk through the town will bring you to craft shops and there is a good variety of bars, restaurants and cafes which serve locally caught seafood. The Multicoloured terraced houses crowd the road opposite the deep harbour, while fuchsia plants bob their red heads over the wall in the breeze. On the road out towards Gurteen and Dog’s Bay, surly sheep lie warming themselves on the tarmac, oblivious to the occasional car trying to negotiate a way around them.
The road signs from Roundstone village will bring you past Dogs Bay Caravan park and then down a lane to a parking area at the first of these four beaches on the west of this hammerhead shaped tombolo; Dogs Bay, here the smooth horseshoe beach is backed by a grass bank where cattle wander freely. The sand is fine and almost pure white, the bay shelves gradually and is great for swimming.
Taking a clockwise tour from this first beach; Dogs Bay, cross the narrow spit of land that forms the neck of this hammer-head tombolo to Gurteen’s long and sweeping bay. Gurteen is almost a kilometre long with the caravan park at the north-east end of the beach. Both of these beaches are ideal for swimming: if the wind is too strong at Dogs Bay it is likely that Gurteen will be sheltered. However, this is not all the area has to offer, continuing clockwise from the southern end of Gurteen walk west approximately 300m over the delicate grasslands, made up of rare machair vegetation, a habitat found on the west coasts of Ireland and Scotland, to the quiet third beach. The same fine white sand can be found on this raw and exposed beach, where the wind has eaten away the edge of the dunes and the ancient fencing has fallen. Few people walk this far past the docile cattle yet the reward is a pretty strand all to oneself. Set between two banks of rock and facing almost due south this small strand is a super swim; to the right of the bay the rocks hide a deep narrow inlet.
From here continue your loop walk north-northwest another 400m to the fourth and final treat of the day, a narrow, almost hidden, gully with a steep bank of soft sand gouged into the high grass banks
Excerpt from Wild Swimming in Ireland 2016, ISBN 978-1-84889-280-4
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