'Wild Swimming in Ireland' – a bible for outdoor swimmers

'Wild Swimming in Ireland' – a bible for outdoor swimmers

It’s a mixed bag of non-fiction this week, covering a broad spectrum of topics, so without further ado let’s take a peek…

Wild Swimming in Ireland, M McCoy and P McCambridge, Gill, €19.99

Fully illustrated with some great pics, this book is like a bible for outdoor swimmers. Set out province by province, it gives the lowdown on more than 200 Irish swimming spots for sea swims and – more interestingly, perhaps – lake and river swimming spots. It’s been published at precisely the right time of year and is ideal for seasoned outdoor water warriors and tentative beginners alike. Beats dragging your togs and towel to the nearest thick-with-chlorine swimming pool, too.

From Tip to Top, Peter Murtagh, Gill, €18.99

Journalist Peter Murtagh was never going to be a pipe-and-slippers man when he retired, but he had no idea on his retirement day of the adventure he would embark on in the ensuing years. He travelled from Chile’s southernmost point right through south and central America, up through the States and finished in Alaska’s northernmost point, all on his motorbike. His journey was interrupted early on as Covid struck in 2020 but he returned in 2022, undeterred, to finish what he’d started. And it makes for a wonderful story. From being stopped by a cop on his way to Mayo to self-isolate in the family’s summer house and being asked where he was going: ‘Louisburgh’ and where he’d come from: ‘Chile’, to some hairy moments in some hairy countries, this is a treasure for anyone with a love of travel, expertly crafted and consistently entertaining.

Buildings of Ireland, Lost and Found, Robert O’Byrne, Lilliput, €25.85

Another beautiful book from a man some people may know as The Irish Aesthete, from his blog and social media. It’s a fully illustrated account of old buildings from across the 32 counties that O’Byrne encountered on his travels. Some of them are still in use, privately owned or otherwise, and some, unfortunately, are in a bad state of shameful dereliction. We live in a country that can neither provide housing nor protect its existing old houses. (That’s something you could bring up with each of those myriad grinning gowls clambering for your vote.) There’s a potted history of each building he’s selected, as well as architectural details. And speaking of details, he’s captured many outstanding details within some of these buildings, including the derelict ones. The photos are excellent, and were taken with just the author’s phone camera. A lovely book.

The Great Irish Bucket List, Catherine Gough, Gill, €16.99

A book to have in the house for the summer, this is a list of 101 places to visit across the country, for those who are holidaying here at home, or who intend getting out and about for special days and summer weekends. Whether it’s culture you’re after or craic, an invigorating hike or a swim in a secret hideaway, whether you’re interested in history or in nature and wildlife, there’s plenty here to keep you busy, and plenty of ideal spots for families, too. It’s laid out province by province and full of photographs. You’ll never be stuck for ideas if you’ve got this book handy.

Tax, Drugs and Rock n’ Roll, Damian Corless, Mirror Books, €16.99

Music journalist Corless looks back at Ireland in the ’80s in this trip down memory lane, and particularly looks at British celebrities who made Ireland their home, reluctant to hand over their hard-earned cash in taxes to Her Majesty’s coffers. Ireland in the ’80s may have been a tax haven, but it was a grim place, too, and the 40 shades of green didn’t suit every tax exile who arrived here. Andy Summers of The Police, for instance, thought he’d never get out of West Cork, it bored him to distraction. Sting, however, lived here for several years and loved it. But lots of other people moved here too, and Corless argues that the presence of these tax exiles, in a country still under the lash of the church-and-state regime, is what dragged us into the 20th century. It’s a big claim to make and I’m not sure it would withstand close scrutiny, but this book isn’t about scrutiny, it’s about entertainers. And it certainly entertains the reader as a social history, with chapter titles like ‘John Lennon c/o Beatle Island, Mayo’ and ‘Jack Charlton’s Team of International Misfits’. If you’re an aul’ wan like me, and fondly remember the ’80s as your salad days, this is a marvellous rolling catalogue of mementos.

Murder at Lordship, Pat Marry and Robin Schiller, A&U, €15.99

Retired Garda detective Pat Marry has become a familiar face on TV true crime documentaries, having been involved in some of the country’s big cases. He was also involved in the case of the murder in 2013 of Detective Garda Adrian Donohoe, shot dead in an ambush at Lordship Credit Union in Dundalk. The investigation took years, with three of the gang of four having since been put away. But the gang member most of us remember is Aaron Brady, finally convicted of the garda’s murder and jailed in 2020. Brady’s mouth is what got him into trouble. He had fled the country for the US and had settled there. But after a few drinks, he had developed the habit of boasting that he had killed a cop back home. His bragging would lead to his downfall. And while detained here, he attempted to intimidate witnesses for the prosecution. While it’s a memorable story, there’s a lot more to it than was ever made public at the time of the investigations. It’s all here, though, and Irish Independent journalist Schiller has done a superb job in sustaining the tension from the get-go, a difficult task when the reader already knows the outcome. A must-read for the true crime fans.


The Kells Hinterland Festival will be upon us at the end of this month and as it draws crowds from all sorts of far-flung places, it’s advisable to book your tickets early. Big names include Anne Enright, Sinéad Gleeson, Elaine Feeney, Martin Doyle and Emily Houricane, but there are lots of other names too. There truly is something for everyone in Hinterland, whether your interest is literature, music, politics, art or history. See hinterland.ie for details.