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Jacques Cousteau once described Ireland as having some of the best diving in the world, with a landscape of exceptional beauty. This hidden gem has a dramatic coastline with shallow rocky reefs, deep walls, and sunlit kelp forests waiting to be explored. Ireland is also a wreck diving paradise, with over 10,000 wrecks, from WWI U-boats to Spanish galleons.
Added to that, Ireland’s rich waters are warmed by the Gulf Stream and boast diverse fish life, basking sharks, dolphins, seals, Mola mola, and whales. Being a relatively small country, you can easily go on a road trip to explore the best dive spots in Ireland’s counties. So, grab your sense of adventure and discover the best places to go diving in Ireland here.
Dublin is famous as a UNESCO City of Literature and is packed with history, including Ireland’s oldest library, a 13th Century castle, the National Museum of Ireland, and countless historic buildings.
It is a fantastic place to start your dive trip and indulge in some of Dublin’s many cafes and restaurants to fuel your adventure.
Dublin Bay is a vast c-shaped bay with a variety of interesting reefs that are home to crustaceans and a variety of fishes. It also boasts a mixed colony of grey and common seals.
There are several dive sites around the bay, including at Dalkey and Lambay Islands.
Dalkey Island is around 16 kilometers south of Dublin and features the Muglins – a long stretch of rocks to the east of the island with excellent scuba diving.
The rip tides can be strong, but with the right preparation, you will be rewarded with diving among anemone-covered walls and thriving kelp forests.
County Cork is one of Ireland’s main tourist destinations and is easy to reach as part of a road trip from Dublin. It is home to numerous megalithic monuments and is the starting point of a 2,600km coastal drive, the Wild Atlantic Way.
Taking in 9 counties, the Wild Atlantic Way is one of the longest coastal routes in the world and has stunning scenery - and great diving - along the way.
The MV Kowloon Bridge is a huge 295-meter-long ship that sank in 1986 with a full cargo of iron ore and is one of the most popular places to go scuba diving in Cork.
Sitting at a depth of 36 meters (118 feet), this impressive wreck is covered in anemones and is home to an array of crustaceans.
But the real highlight is seeing the $2.6 million’ worth of iron ore that is still resting on the seabed today.
A short drive from Cork will take you into the heart of County Kerry and to some of Ireland’s most sought-after tourist attractions, including the Ring of Kerry, the Dingle Peninsula and the Skellig Islands – made famous as the site of two recent Star Wars movies.
This fascinating county is all about wild spaces and Atlantic views, with quaint towns, medieval castles, and isolated beaches that take your breath away.
Even though you are diving just off the coast of Ireland, the waters around the shores of Kerry are relatively warm, thanks to the Gulf Stream coming up from the Gulf of Mexico.
This warmer water has allowed a variety of marine life to flourish around Kerry, including sharks, pilot whales, and tuna. All of which can be spotted in Brandon Bay.
The far western coast of Ireland is famed for its traditional Irish music and the enormous 14-kilometer-long Cliffs of Moher. These dramatic cliffs plunge into the ocean and are a bird-watching paradise that also hosts sharks and dolphins.
Diamond Rocks is one of the most unique places to go diving in Ireland and is often voted among Europe’s top 10 dives.
This quirky dive site consists of quartz-filled rocks that sparkle in the sunshine and rocky reefs full of invertebrates.
Sitting in a sheltered bay with calm, clear water, it is a great place for Open Water Divers to explore.
Another one of Europe’s top 10 dives, Fanore is a beautiful reef and cavern system that hosts an abundance of fishes and plant life. Like Diamond Rocks, Fanore has fantastic visibility.
It is also one of the most reliable places to spot dolphins in Ireland. Keep your eyes open for Dusty, Ireland’s second-most famous dolphin, whilst you dive there.
County Galway, the festival capital of Ireland, has an average of 122 festivals and events per year, including arts, films, and foodie events.
It is a great place to go diving, join a festival or two, and visit some of Ireland’s best-known attractions, including the Aran Islands.
A short boat trip to the Aran Islands will see you diving among scenic boulder fields, swim-throughs, and walls. Poll na bPéist, or the Wormhole, is also located there.
Cafes, bistros, Michelin-starred restaurants, and mouth-watering markets await your return to Galway town.
Carraroe is home to shallow reefs and offers sheltered scuba diving and good visibility all year.
It is an ideal spot for new divers and offers diving among rocky reefs busy with life:
Sitting on the border between counties Galway and Mayo, Killary Harbour is a natural fjord that offers deep diving to around 45 meters (148 feet).
Surrounded by imposing mountains, this dive spot has spectacular scenery before you even descend.
Below the surface, there are thick kelp forests full of fishes and eels, an anemone-covered wreck - the Julia T,and walls covered in life.
Dolphins and whales are regularly seen in the area, and if you visit in late summer, you might spot playful grey seals.
County Mayo is often overshadowed by neighbouring County Galway but locals will tell you that Mayo is the best county in Ireland. It is surrounded by picture-perfect beaches and has a history dating back to 3000 BC!
With big wave surfing and some of Ireland’s best breweries as well, Mayo delights before you even go diving.
That said, Mayo has five dive destinations to keep avid divers entertained.
Clare Island is Mayo’s best-known dive destination and sits just off the coast of Mayo.
This remote island boasts rocky landscapes that plunge to 50 meters (164 feet), with vivid anemone-covered rocks, ledges, and cliffs.
There are countless places to go diving at Clare Island, and rumour has it there is a WWII plane wreck under the water - but it has never been found.
County Donegal is remote and a little difficult to access – earning it the name of ‘Ireland’s Forgotten County’. But do not let that deter you.
Home to Ireland’s famous Surf Coast and fringed by one of Ireland’s three glacial fjords, there is a lot to like about Donegal.
You can hike and bike along the verdant green coast, take a boat trip to the fjord, or simply spend your days diving.
Due to its rocky seabed, Donegal has clear, clean waters, with visibility regularly reaching 30 meters (98 feet).
Littered with shipwrecks, diving in Donegal is a paradise for rust fans, and Malin Head boasts more U-boats and liner wrecks than anywhere else in the world.
Rutland Sound ticks the boxes for a laid-back diving day, being safe for all experience levels, sheltered, and easy to reach.
There you will find rocky walls and crevices covered in bright sponges, plus swaying kelp forests, and soft sandy landscapes.
With such diverse landscapes, Rutland Sound hosts an array of marine life and has plenty of interesting places to dive.
Tory Island is best-known for hosting the HMS Wasp, a gunboat of the Royal Navy that sank off Tory Island in 1884.
This popular wreck has two cannons visible and is a thriving artificial reef that draws divers to Tory Island every year.
The summer months are the best time to go diving in Ireland, though you can go diving there all year.
With water temperatures ranging from 10°C (50°F) in winter to 18°C (64°F) in summer, it is best to dive with a thick exposure suit.
There are dive sites suitable for all experience levels in Ireland.
Most diving in Ireland is conducted from shore or by boat and includes a mixture of sheltered reefs in clear, calm waters and thrilling wreck and deep reef dives.