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TRIP OVERVIEW

7 days
Tall Ship Experience
4km/day
Challenging

Tour Highlights

  • Join our pioneering adventure to some of Ireland's wildest and remote areas as we journey along the Atlantic coastline

  • Complete a series of unforgettable crossings, coastal swims and circumnavigations

  • Sleep each night on-board the Lady of Avenel tall ship - a 102-foot Brigantine square rigger which is your home for the week. You can even try your hand at crewing this iconic vessel!

Welcome to the Wild Side! Ireland’s Donegal coast is unlike anywhere else on earth, which explains why it was named ‘Coolest Place on the Planet’ by National Geographic Traveller. This liveaboard swimming holiday allows you to explore the natural beauty of Ireland’s dramatic Atlantic coastline and discover the untamed landscapes that exist in one of the country’s most isolated and beautiful areas.

Throughout the week, you’ll have the chance to swim in some of the most inaccessible locations in the Emerald Isle, many of which can only be reached by ship, as we swim and sail our way between the glacial loch of Lough Swilly and the quiet seaside village of Burtonport. You’ll also be able to take in the culture of this proudly independent region within The Republic of Ireland.

Our home for the week, the ‘Lady of Avenel’, is a 102-foot tall ship which includes our very own on-board chef. She will accompany us for the duration of our trip as we set up to experience the best of what Ireland’s famous Atlantic coastline has to offer.


Who is this trip for?

This trip is made up largely of crossings and some coastal swims. Conditions will be challenging, yet extremely rewarding.

Swimmers should have a sound understanding and experience of swimming in strong sea conditions and be capable of completing the average swim distance of 2.5km, prior to the start of the trip. The average daily swim distance is just under 4km (split over a minimum of two swims). Due to the nature of this trip, there is a minimum swimming speed of 30 min/km (40 min/mile).

We have given this trip Challenging grading. These trips are for experienced open water swimmers who want to push themselves.

No sailing experience is required however, the ship’s crew are happy for you to assist with onboard duties as much or as little as you like.


What's included?

  • Fully guided swimming holiday around the wild Atlantic coast of Ireland
  • Swim guides and full safety escort on all swims
  • Six nights' accommodation on-board the Lady of Avenel tall ship
  • All breakfasts
  • All lunches
  • All evening meals
  • Full ABTOT Financial Protection

What's not included?

  • Travel to and from the start of the tour


Related Trips

Daily Itineraries

Part of the appeal of our Lady of Avenel trips is the unpredictability of the wild areas in which we will swim. We sail when the winds are favourable, meaning a degree of flexibility is required as to when we may sail out.

Please note that the below itinerary is an example of the swims that may take place during the course of your trip, however, actual swim locations and distances can vary according to local weather and sea conditions. Your SwimTrek guides and local boat pilot will determine the most suitable swim locations each day and will let you know swim plans as soon as possible. Sailing a tall ship by its nature brings the excitement of the elements.

Trip Schedule

Start Point: The Guildhall, Derry, Londonderry, BT48 6DQ

Start Time: 18:30 on Day 1

Finish Point: The Guildhall, Derry, Londonderry, BT48 6DQ

Finish Time: 12:00 on Day 7

Day 1

After meeting your SwimTrek guides and fellow guests at The Guildhall in Derry/ Londonderry, you have a 30-minute transfer to Lough Swilly where our ship and accommodation for the week, the ‘Lady of Avenel’, is moored. After a tour of this classic rigger, we then hold a full trip briefing followed by an acclimatisation swim in Lough Swilly (light permitting). Following our swim, we hold a welcome dinner and chat further about the plan for the week ahead.

Day 2

This is the first of our full Donegal swimming days and it's a ripper. In the morning, the Lady of Avenel sails north and we stop on Lough Swilly’s western flank at Gortlosk. From here, we carry out a shallow coastal swim along to Drumnacraig beach, which features stunning white sand.

Following lunch on board our ship, we travel to Fanad Head Peninsula and carry out a swim between the two beaches that sit either side of the exposed lighthouse of the same name. From here, there is nothing to see but the vast Atlantic Ocean. In fact, if you kept swimming, Iceland is the next piece of land you would come to. The coastline here is formed of steep jagged rocks that tower above the ocean floor. Due to Fanad Head’s exposed position, you should expect some swell as we swim this stretch.

In the late afternoon, we cruise by ship around to Sheephaven Bay, which is home to one of Ireland’s most vibrant Herring fishing fleets. There is an opportunity to go ashore and stretch our legs as well as visit the Singing Pub, which looks more like a traditional Irish cottage than a pub.

Day 3

Things start to get really interesting today. We start by approaching Horn Head at the entrance to Sheephaven Bay. The 180-metre high cliffs are some of the tallest in Ireland and make the swimming here all the more spectacular. We carry out a stunning coastal swim underneath these cliffs. There are still remnants of Neolithic stone circles and tombs which dot the landscape.

Once everyone is back on board, we travel across to Tory Island, which lies eight miles off the Irish mainland. The island is steeped in history, mythology and folklore and has a unique rugged quality to it. Swimming here is rare to say the least, so some of the swims that we carry out will undoubtedly be firsts.

We head to East Town and the isthmus that separates Noughermore from the rest of the island. We circumnavigate the peninsula, which features swim throughs, sea stacks and sheer cliffs. It’s certainly a unique place and one that makes for an unforgettable experience. If conditions allow, we will moor near the island and try to enjoy what East Town has to offer in the evening.

Day 4

This morning features our first long sail as we travel from Tory Island to Owey Island and the islands nearby. During the voyage you will have an opportunity to help sail this square rigger. On route we will see Bloody Foreland and the islands of Inishsirrer, Inishmeane and Gola. It’s a dramatic scene as the wild Atlantic roars along this coastline.

In the afternoon, we carry out our first crossing of the week as we swim first around Owey Island and then hop to Cruit Island. It’s possible to see the seabed most of the way across. Once we reach Cruit, we have a chance to walk around the island and explore. The ship will moor up somewhere in this archipelago of islands where we will spend the night.

Day 5

We continue on our journey along the Donegal coast. Our next stop is Arranmore Island, a rugged and unspoilt island which hosts imposing sea cliffs, stunning bays and idyllic inland lochs. Between Arranmore and the mainland is a host of small islands and islets which make for an exciting sea swimming adventure, The underwater topography is also something to marvel at, as well as the resident grey seal population.

Today’s swims will be a mix of a coastal swim along Aranmore’s dramatic west coast and an afternoon crossing to the hundreds of island that lie in between Aranmore and the mainland.. If the weather allows, we will tuck ourselves away near Calf Island to spend the night, where there are some stunning walks to be enjoyed.

Day 6

Today we will start to head back North up the Donegal coast. There is a myriad of possible swims that we can choose from. Possible swim spots are the Bloody Foreland peninsula, should conditions be benign, otherwise we may well visit Sheephaven Bay should the weather pick up. If we make it into Sheephaven Bay, the impressive sight of Doe Castle, which was a historical stronghold of the MacSweeney Clan, dominates the skyline. Whatever option we undertake, the swims will be exhilarating and something you’re unlikely to have ever done before.

In the late afternoon, we travel past Ballyhiernan Bay and Fanad Head before arriving back into Lough Swilly where we will spend our last evening. It’s a great opportunity to reflect on the trip and the swims that we have undertaken.

Day 7

We start the morning with a pre-breakfast swim before our final group breakfast. For those making their way from back to Derry/Londonderry, your transfer will take you back to The Guildhall where your trip ends.

Location Summaries

Wild Atlantic Way

The “Wild Atlantic Way” is a route that showcases the sheer magnificence of Ireland’s West coast, from stunning headlands and beaches to colourful villages and towns all infused with the history, heritage and tradition of this rugged coastline. Relax in cosy rural pubs, find sanctuary in old monastic sites, learn the histories and tales of ancient castles as you swim and sail your way along this enthralling coastline.

Lough Swilly

Located at the start and end of our trip, Lough Swilly is one of only three glacial lochs in the whole of Ireland and is a wildlife haven with dolphins and porpoises below the water and a large range of migratory birds above.

Fanad Head and Arranmore Island

This is a dramatically exposed headland on the stunning Fanad Peninsula. Razor sharp rocks, broken up by idyllic beaches, typify the coastline. This is a popular spot for grey seals bobbing about in the water. Arranmore Island is a spectacularly beautiful island off the west coast, featuring wild and rugged landscapes with incredible cliff views, dramatic sea caves and golden sandy beaches.

Trip Grading

We have given this trip a ‘Challenging’ grading. These trips are for experienced open water swimmers who want to push themselves.

Swimming Distances

Swim Distance
Gortlosk-Drumnacraig (Lough Swilly) 2½km
Horn Head (Sheephaven Bay) 2km
Owey Island - Cruit Island 1½km
Arranmore Archipelago 1km
Doe Castle (Sheephaven Bay) 2km
Fanad Head Peninsula 2km
Tory Island (Noughermore Peninsula) 2km
Cloughcor (Arranmore Coastal) 2½km
Bloody Foreland 3km

Please note that these swims are an example of the what may take place during the course of your trip and should be used as a guide only. Actual swim locations and distances will vary according to local weather and sea conditions.

Swimming Conditions

Swimming in the sea is a fantastic experience, however you should be aware that certain marine life such as jellyfish may be present during the swims. In all cases we will work on reducing your contact with these creatures, however if you suffer from anaphylaxis, please consult the office prior to booking.

Walking Conditions

Most walks take place on recognised paths and tracks, however there may be cases where we walk along trails or other unsealed surfaces and care should be taken in these areas. If you do not wish to walk any of the trails, you are welcome to remain on board the ship.

Temperatures

Month Water Temperature* Air Temperature*
July 13-15˚C / 55-59°F 15-18°C / 59-64°F

*Please note that these temperatures are indicative and should be used as a guide only.

Weather Caveat

For safety reasons, we rely on decent weather conditions when carrying out our swims. As a consequence, open water swimming holidays require a certain degree of on-trip flexibility which can result in changes to the planned itinerary. These changes often add a touch of uniqueness to your trip and will be communicated to you by your SwimTrek guides as quickly as possible.

Given the location of this trip, the weather will play a key factor in all our swims and crossings. It should be assumed that changes will be made to the planned itinerary based on local conditions.

Trip Information

Group Size

This trip has a maximum group size of 12. The group will be split into two groups, based on speed, with each group being accompanied by their own safety vessel/escort. 

Boat Support

Boat support on this trip includes one main ship and two inflatable boats to be piloted by your SwimTrek guides and a local boat pilot. Please note that this boat support is subject to change without notice and cannot be guaranteed.

Equipment Checklist

In addition to your daily non-swimming clothes, we also recommend that you bring the following items:

Item Item
Swimming Costume (x 3) Thermal Layers
Wetsuit Sweater / Fleece / Thick Socks
Swimming Goggles (x 2)* Long Trousers**
Sun Hat and Sunglasses Woolly Hat and Gloves
Waterproof Sun Cream Waterproof Jacket
Small Daypack Walking Shoes / Aqua Shoes / Sandals
Towel (x 2) Personal Drink Bottle (x 2)

For more information please visit: www.swimtrek.com/packing-list

*Try to bring one clear lens and one tinted lens for different light conditions.

**We also recommend gaiters/rubber bands for protection from ticks when trekking.

There are no safes in the cabins on the Lady of Avenel, so valuables and other belongings are brought on board at your own risk.

Important: It can be very cold both during and between swims, so we advise all guests to bring appropriate swimwear and clothing in order to be as comfortable as possible in these conditions. We recommend that all guests bring plenty of layers which can be added and removed as required. SwimTrek will supply swim hats, water and electrolyte drinks. The guides will no longer distribute shared drinks bottles, but rather will fill up each individual guest’s personal drink bottle. Please ensure these are clearly marked to help our guides identify yours. If you would like to use a wetsuit, rash vest, snorkel or fins during your swims, please ensure that you bring these with you. For more on our Updated Packing List check out our: Covid-19 guidance.

Luggage

Due to the limited space in the cabins on board the Lady of Avenel, we strongly recommend that guests bring soft, duffle-style luggage and that it is restricted to a maximum size of 40 x 70 x 40cm.

Getting There

The easiest way to get to Derry/Londonderry at the start of your trip is to fly into either Northern Ireland (Belfast International or Belfast City Airport) or The Republic of Ireland (Dublin International Airport) and then catch a train or bus to Derry/Londonderry. There are also limited flights into City of Derry airport.

There are good train and bus links from both Belfast and Dublin to Derry/Londonderry. For further information about these services, please visit: Visit Derry.

Once you arrive in Derry/Londonderry, you will need to catch a taxi to our meeting point at The Guildhall (BT48 6DQ), which is located in the heart of the city. From here, your SwimTrek guides will accompany you on your journey to The Lady of Avenel.

As SwimTrekkers come from all over the world, and join our swimming holidays in numerous destinations, we don't currently offer flights as part of our SwimTrek packages. We do however want to do as much as we can to ensure that our guests get the best deals when travelling to one of our trips so check out SwimTrek's tips to help you get the best deals for your flights page on the website.

Option 1: Flying into City of Derry Airport (Limited Availability)

The City of Derry Airport is located around a 20-minute drive from the centre of Derry/Londonderry and has a limited number of direct flight arrivals.

There is a taxi rank located immediately in front of the airport terminal with taxis available for private hire. There are also a number of buses which run from the airport to the city centre. For timetables and further information, please visit: Translink.

Option 2: Flying into Belfast International or Belfast City Airport

There are regular direct bus services from both Belfast airports to Derry/Londonderry. For timetables, tickets and further information, please visit: Airporter.

Translink also operates a train service from Belfast Central Station to the centre of Derry/Londonderry. For timetables, tickets and further information, please visit: Translink

Option 3: Flying into Dublin Airport

If you are flying internationally into Dublin International Airport in the Republic of Ireland, there are train and bus services to Derry/Londonderry via Belfast, however, journey times are considerably longer than flying directly into Belfast. For timetables, tickets and further information, please visit: Translink.

Accommodation

The Lady of Avenel is a 102-foot Brigantine square rigger ship with 12 guest berths and staff quarters. Originally built in Poland in 1969 as a tug vessel, she was refitted in 1992. The ship made her film debut in 2016 in ‘Through the Glass’, the sequel to Tim Burton’s ‘Alice in Wonderland’.

All cabins on the Lady of Avenel include duvets, pillows and bed linen. Spaces are offered on a twin share basis and include bunk beds. All guests and crew use shared bathroom facilities with two bathrooms located close to the cabins on the lower deck and a toilet located on the upper deck.

Please note that due to the limited number of cabins on board, there are no single supplements or non-swimmer places available on this trip.

Pre/Post Trip Accommodation and Trip Extension Options

Occasionally we operate consecutive trips on Lady of Avenal and if you are booking both it may be possible to leave luggage or even stay aboard between trips. It is never possible for us to confirm extra pre and post nights aboard Lady of Avenal.

Food and Drink

All meals are included on this trip and are prepared by our very own on board chef. With years of experience working on various vessels, our chef offers a high standard of food which will keep you well fuelled for your swims during the trip.

Travel Advice

For more information on any of the following sections please visit the Travel Advice page of our website:

Money, Extra Expenses and Tipping

You should bring extra money with you to cover such items as trips to the occasional island pub and shopping on the few islands that have towns. The currency along the Donegal Atlantic Way is Euros (€). In Derry/Londonderry, where you will start and end your trip, the currency is British pound (£).

Responsible Travel

SwimTrek is conscious of the importance of protecting the world’s natural wonders. We are acutely aware of our responsibility to not only take care of the natural environments which we are lucky enough to explore, but also to educate our guests about the importance of conservation efforts and responsible tourism. It’s for this reason that we have worked so closely with our partners to ensure that our trips are conducted in the most responsible and sustainable way possible, working tirelessly to minimise the impact of our presence on local marine life and the natural habitat.

For more information please visit: www.swimtrek.com/sustainable-travel

Passports And Visas

The start and finish point for this trip is in Derry/Londonderry, which is part of the United Kingdom, however, the trip itself takes place in the Republic of Ireland. Non-residents of both the U.K. and Ireland require a full passport to enter the country, which should be valid for six months beyond the expected length of stay. Citizens of most countries, including all E.U. member states, U.S., Canada, Australia and New Zealand are given ‘leave to enter’ the U.K. and do not need to apply for a visa for either the U.K. or Ireland.

Please note that visa regulations are subject to change and we advise that you check your own visa requirements prior to travel.

Travel Insurance

We consider comprehensive travel insurance to be essential, and we strongly recommend that you purchase insurance which includes, but is not limited to, cover for illness, accident, emergency repatriation, ambulance, air ambulance, helicopter rescue services, cancellation, lost luggage and delays.

Your travel insurance should also cover you for open water swimming and any other activity listed in your trip itinerary (including races and competitions, where applicable). Please read your policy details carefully and remember to take them with you on your trip for your own reference. For further information about travel insurance, please visit: SwimTrek Travel Insurance

Health Information and Recommended Vaccinations

For comprehensive health information for people travelling to the UK and Ireland, including all recommended and required vaccinations, please visit Travel Health Pro. Please note that this information is subject to change and you should re-check this site regularly prior to your trip.

Travel Plugs & Electricity

There is extremely limited Wi-Fi and mobile phone reception on board the Lady of Avenel and it is entirely dependent on our exact location and signal strength. To be safe, it should be assumed that you will have no access to 3G, 4G or WiFi for the duration of your trip.

The Lady of Avenel features UK-style power points in some cabins and in communal areas.

For a useful source of information on the different electrical outlets, electrical plugs, and electric sockets, please visit worldstandards.eu.

  • A true open-water experience! - if you like challenge to skill and endurance, whilst playing in crystal-clear waters in between - Donegal is your scene :)

    Mads S, Denmark - 2019
  • This trip is very different to other SwimTreks I have been on. Living on the sailing ship and swimming in rough, cooler water really helps you to appreciate the absolutely stunning scenery of the Irish coast.

    James L, UK - 2019
  • Extreme SwimTrek! Lady of Avenel took us places I didn't know existed!

    Susi A, UK - 2019
  • An exhilarating week, with like minded swimmers and some of the most interesting swimming I've done in years! There was so much to see underwater, it felt like flying over forests. Dolphins playing around the ship was a magical experience.

    Marg S, UK - 2018
  • SwimTrek knows how to listen to customers and always comes up with great new locations. Donegal is a great addition with exceptionally clear sea water and clean beaches.

    Claudius U, Switzerland - 2018
  • What a privilege to live on a pirate ship, and to be able to jump into crystal seas in places where swimmers have hardly ever ventured!

    Naomi B, UK - 2018
  • Fabulous swimming in crystal clear water over beautiful kelp and golden sand. The most amazing trip!

    Jos S, UK - 2018

Book with Confidence

Our new flexible booking conditions include a 7-day refund guarantee and free trip changes.

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