Into tourist mode now and off to find the Forty Foot. This is a ‘gentleman’s bathing place’ at Sandycove, at the southern end of Dun Laoghaire. It has a long history indeed but has been embedded in the fabric of Dublin life via the James Joyce classic Ulysses. (I must get round to tackling that again, it’s been many years since I read it).
I have plodded by there a few times, but to find it you need to abandon the streets and hug the sea wall. Just before you arrive there you pass a couple of child-friendly beaches the size of a postage stamp. Indeed the beaches on Ireland’s east coast are – as far as I’ve seen, pretty poor as regards family outing material. By far the best beaches are the deserted ones on the west coast. Inch Strand springs to mind. It’s just as well the Irish climate has never encouraged a beach-going culture. Indeed the odd (very odd) hot summer’s day just encourages the white-skinned natives to throw caution to the winds and lie in the sun for hours, necessitating a week’s painful recuperation with AfterSun at best, or a trip to A&E at worst.
But I digress. One soon arrives at the Forty Foot. It is a rocky inlet with steps cut to give access to a deep-looking Irish Sea. Child friendly it is not. Although it is sheltered from the prevailing winds there was a swell running, and a child might easily end up dashed against the rocks. There appears to be however a more calm pool area away to the right that might be OK.
On the way down to the steps are al fresco changing areas. Until fairly recently the Forty Foot was gentlemen only. In fact it became gentlemen-with-no-togs only! But apparently those damn women’s libbers in the 1970s invaded the place, since when it has become a mixed bathing place. Today there were a dozen or so hardy souls of mixed gender taking the waters. (Well, one was a wimp who had to be pushed in so that the others on the steps could enter). With one or two old-looking signs up, it was a scene that cannot have altered that much in 250 years or so.
So, glad that I’d ticked that box, I headed around the corner to the James Joyce Museum. To be greeted by a notice that said the museum had ‘closed for the season’ on 31 August. Words fail me – even Jersey’s beach concessions remain open thru September, with most historical attractions being open all year round.
Whatever, I was cheered up by a fabulous pannini and coffee at Poppies on Upper Georges Street before heading back to town.