Nudist Hawk Cliff – A brief history of Dublin’s Nude Riviera
In 1896 the Vico Bathing Place Swimming Club was formed by a group of prominent local residents. They initiated the construction of the Vico baths (as it was known back then) and a small swimming shelter.
Due to prevailing Victorian attitudes of the time women were not permitted to swim naked at Hawk Cliff, they could however access the sea via nearby Whiterock beach. In 1903, Dalkey Urban Council acquired ‘The Ramparts’, a grassy plateau just above the bathing area to ensure continued public access down.
The swimming club organised social events and swimming galas, the last of which took place in 1913. In 1920 the club lapsed and ceased to function but the location continued to remain popular for sea swimming for many decades after.
In 1939, The Coast Watch Service was set up to guard Ireland’s neutrality against invasion from either Allied or Axis forces, via the sea. More than 80 sites around the coast from north Louth to Donegal were selected, and look out posts were located on these sites. The same year the Coastal Watch commandeered Hawk Cliff as ‘lookout post 7’.
In 1942-43, the team of men stationed at these posts were tasked with the building of marker signs near their look out posts. In 2018, Dalkey Tidy Towns (www.dalkeytidytowns.com) undertook a restoration project to rejuvenate LOP7. What followed over a six-month period was the unearthing and lifting and cleaning of an estimated 100 tons of stones laid out in trenches in the precise shape of EIRE. Over 60 volunteers committed 1,692 hrs to the project. Also, DTT rebuilt the old picnic table and benches, landscaped the surroundings for the public to enjoy and planted a wide area with Irish Wildflowers.
By 1959 it was noted that up to 80 people used the facility all year round, being particularly popular on Sunday mornings. However, by this time it had dilapidated into a chronic state of disrepair. Also, in same year, the original swimming club was revived. Its primary goal was to liaise with Dun Laoghaire Borough to maintain the upkeep and maintenance of the swimming area and to work in harmony with near groups like Dalkey Swimming Club who met at Bullock Harbour.
Leading members of the club kept records of reconstruction works completed at Hawk Cliff and regularly wrote to Dun Laoghaire Borough concerning the removal of seaweed, painting of the metal railings on the steps and the erection of signage. At the request of the club benches were erected on ‘the Ramparts’. Residents and visitors were always warmly welcomed by the regular swimmers, this tradition ensured that Hawk Cliff continues to be enjoyed as a beautiful amenity to this day and is also arguably Dublin’s most scenic naturist spot with stunning views.
In recent years, the Irish Naturist Association has been campaigning for Hawk Cliff to be Ireland’s first official ‘clothing optional’ location. In April 2018 Hawk Cliff was acknowledged as a naturist bathing area after the Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council agreed to display signage making people aware that this was a designated area for nude sunbathing and swimming. Three poles were erected to facilitate the signage.
The Irish Naturist Association www.irishnaturism.org continues to lobby Dun Laoghaire Rathdown County Council on its commitment to follow through with the proposed signage.
Arguably Dublin’s most picturesque stretch of coastline, it’s easy to see why Hawk Cliff appeals to so many visitors: the breathtaking views, the history surrounding the recently revived EIRE sign and, of course, swimming with or without clothes.