Fortyfoot hole

In Brief

Mulligan leads the way "down towards the fortyfoot hole," an ocean swimming spot about one hundred yards from the tower. Stephen follows behind him with Haines, his walking stick scraping along the path.

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A rocky ledge juts into the sea near the Sandycove tower, sheltering an inlet good for swimming. The water there, though deep, is less than forty feet, so the source of the name is anyone's guess. In Joyce’s time only men swam in its cold waters, and bathing suits were optional. Flann O’Brien’s At Swim-Two-Birds features the same swimming hole.

Joyce twice refers to the waters in the hole as "the creek," apparently because the ceaseless movement of ocean water into and out of the inlet gave him the impression of a river of water.

JH 2011
1950s photograph by William York Tindall of the path to the swimming hole. Source: The Joyce Country.
2009 photograph of "the creek," looking north-northeast toward the Howth peninsula. Source: Wikimedia Commons.
Another recent photograph of the inlet, looking southeast toward Dalkey. Source: www.intangibility.com.