Last updated on April 8th, 2023 at 04:10 pm
The Vico Baths in South Dublin are one of the landmark sea swimming spots in the capital. Situated 15 minutes walk south of the picturesque village of Dalkey on Vico Road, the Vico Baths are a secluded, sheltered spot perfectly suited for swimming in the Irish Sea. The baths are reached by stone steps that curl along a rocky outcrop to the sea below. This beauty spot offers spectacular views over Dublin Bay, so is worth a trip even if you don’t fancy a dip!
The area has been used for sea swimming since Victorian times, and while its popularity waned somewhat over years, the Vico Baths are enjoying a renaissance among Dubliners in the 21st century. Today, there is a dedicated group of enthusiasts who descend every morning on the baths for a sunrise dip to start their day.
In this post, you’ll find all the information you need to enjoy a chilling and thrilling trip to the Vico Baths, including the best place to park the car, and the best route to take if you’re going by public transport.
To ensure your trip to the Vico Baths goes as smoothly as possible, there are a few key items to note:
Travelling to the Vico Baths
The Vico Baths are located just over 15 minutes walk from the centre of Dalkey village. If you’re starting out from the village, the walk is pleasant and takes in some lovely stretches of a beautiful and leafy South Dublin neighbourhood. The path down the cliff to the baths is reached through a slight gap in the wall on Vico Road, so keep your eyes peeled! Once through the gap, the path takes you along a footbridge over the railway tracks before taking you down to the sea.
If you’re travelling by DART, Dalkey train station is the stop to get off at, after which you’ll be less than 15 minutes walk away. The best train station to go from if you’re in the city centre is usually Tara Street station. There is no direct Dublin bus route to Dalkey from the city centre, so getting the DART is usually your best bet.
For tips on travelling by car, see our section on parking below.
Unfortunately, driving directly to the Vico Baths is generally to be avoided, as the roads around the area are narrow and there is usually little parking space available.
We recommend driving to Dalkey train station to save yourself the hassle of trying to nab a spot on Vico Road or nearby Sorrento Road. However, if you’re visiting early in the morning, you might want to try your luck.
There are changing facilities available at the Vico Baths in a small changing cabin. There is no lifeguard on duty here, so do take care while swimming and take all recommended sea swimming precautions. As the baths are reached by stone steps, they are not wheelchair accessible unfortunately. However, the climb is not strenuous and can be achieved by old and young alike.
Alongside the option to take a sea dip, there is a natural sea pool that can be used by those who don’t want to go into the sea but would still like to benefit from bathing in the cold seawater. The sea pool is a great option when seas are rough or choppy.
Although this part of South Dublin is often called the Riviera of Dublin, the sea temperatures unfortunately do not match the name! The sea temperature varies from around 10⁰C in winter to 15⁰C in summer, so no matter when you visit you’ll be sure to catch your breath when you jump in. However, the boost to your circulation system more than makes up for the chill. Hardy locals have even established a tradition of taking a dip in the sea here on Christmas Day. If you can brave the shock of the first few seconds of cold, you are well on your way to enjoying a bracing and refreshing swim.
History of the Vico Baths
The Vico Baths date back to Victorian Dublin times (1837 – 1901), when many popular sea bathing spots were established in South Dublin. These outdoor bathing spots include Sandycove, The Forty Foot, Killiney Strand, and White Rock.
The Vico Baths were originally for gentlemen bathers only, similar to the Forty Foot, as bylaws of the time required that outdoor bathing areas were to be segregated between women and men. Specific bathing areas were set aside for women. The bylaws were strictly enforced, with a fine of 40 shillings doled out for breaking them. With the rise in gender equality in Ireland in the second half of the 20th century, women were finally welcome to the baths to enjoy a dip among the stunning scenery.
The cliff beside the baths is home to a giant land sign spelling out ‘7 EIRE’ in white painted rocks, a curiosity left over from the World War Two era in Ireland, known as The Emergency. During the war, enormous signs were constructed on the coast of Ireland to show bomber planes that they were travelling over neutral Ireland, to stop any chance of accidental bombing of the country. With the incessant bombing of the nearby UK, the signs were a necessity in the age before GPS.
Over time, the Vico Baths gained some notoriety as a nude bathing spot. In fact, there was Garda attention brought to the baths as recently as the 1990’s due to complaints made against the nude bathers. Today, the baths are still frequented by nude bathers, however they are generally out very early in the morning, and the majority of bathers do wear swimsuits.
FAQs about the Vico Baths
It is possible to park on Vico Road and nearby Sorrento Road when visiting the Vico Baths. However, as parking is usually limited, it is recommended to park at Dalkey train station and walk the 13 minute trail to the baths.
It is generally safe to swim at the Vico Baths if you take all necessary sea swimming precautions. It is recommended to avoid swimming during rough seas or bad weather, and to avoid swimming alone where possible.
High tide changes at the Vico Baths changes depending on the season, so you need to consult an updated tide forecast. Tide forecasts for Dublin are available online.