With visibility averaging 15m (49 ft.) and occasionally reaching 29m (95 ft.), and many wrecks to explore, the west coast of Ireland may be cold, but it's still a pretty good place for divers.
The Irish dive season generally starts in March and ends in October, although specific dates depend on your comfort zone. Outside these months, weather and ocean conditions could make jumping into the sea unappealing. The PADI open-water diver certification is the minimum requirement for all dives; most schools also offer introductory dives for novices.
The rocky coast of West Cork and Kerry is great for diving, with centers in Baltimore and Dingle. On the west coast, there are many great locations, one of which is the deep, sheltered Killary Harbour. Northern Ireland offers many interesting dives, with more than 400 named wrecks off the coast and many in the Irish Sea and in Belfast Lough.
The Irish Underwater Council (CFT, or Comhairle Fo-Thuinn), 78A Patrick St., Dún Laoghaire, County Dublin (tel. 01/284-4601; www.cft.ie), is an association of more than 70 Irish diving clubs. Its website lists information on diving and snorkeling, dive centers, and dive hotels (no pun intended) throughout the Republic and publishes the CFT Guide to Dive Sites and other information on exploring the Emerald Isle's emerald waters. The CFT operates under the aegis of the CMAS (Confédération Mondiale des Activités Subaquatiques), the world diving federation.
Sign up for certified level-one and level-two instruction and equipment rental for kayaking, sailing, and windsurfing at the Surfdock Centre, Grand Canal Dock Yard, Ringsend, Dublin 4 (tel. 01/668-3945; www.surfdock.ie). Dublin Bay is filled with sea life and old wrecks, making it ideal for cold-water diving. To try it out, get in touch with Oceantec Adventures in Dún Laoghaire (toll-free within Ireland at tel. 1800/272-822). It offers a five-star PADI diving school and arranges dive vacations on the west coast.
The UK Diving website, www.ukdiving.co.uk, features information on diving in the North, including an excellent wreck database you can access either through a conventional listing or by pinpointing on a map.
Irish dive centers and schools include Discover Scuba, 20 Terenure Park, Dublin 6 (tel. 01/492-7392; www.discoverscuba.ie); Oceantec Adventures, Dún Laoghaire, County Dublin (tel. 1800/272-822); Baltimore Diving Centre, Baltimore, County Cork (tel./fax 028/20300; www.baltimorediving.com); and Scubadive West, Renvyle, County Galway (tel. 095/43922; www.scubadivewest.com).
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.