North Channel Swim Conditions


The North Channel is also referred to as the North Irish Channel and is a stand alone swim and is a part of the Ocean Sevens series.

Swim windows

The North Channel has shorter and substancially less tidal windows than those of other channels across the globe.

In some swim windows there are only five days within which a North Channel swim attempt can take place.  Other swim windows extend up to eight or nine days.  

Swim windows for the North Channel are usually on a neap tides occuring between June and September.  Outside of this the daylight hours are less and the waters are much cooler which do not make for pleasant swimming conditions.

north channel

Distance, tides and currents

The shortest distance across the North Channel in a straight line is 34.5 Kilometers. 

All official North(Irish) Channel swims take place within Admarality Chart 2198 Southern Part.  There are other channels of water outside of this area including the Dál Riata Channel.

All official North (Irish) Channel swims adhere to Irish Long Distance Swimming Association North Channel rules.  

A North Channel crossing may commence in either Scotland or Ireland and the history of the North Channel as maintianed by Irish Long Distance Swimming Association records successful swims from both sides and from various starting points along the coastline within the Admarality Chart.

Whilst the swim progresses East through West or vice versa, the tide runs North to South in 6 hour ebb and 6 hour flood cycles. With strong tidal currents your swim may cover up to 45 Kilometers. Your swim line will track North or South whilst advancing Easterly / Westerly depending on your swim speed, tidal flow and weather conditions.

In training for your North (Irish) Channel attempt you should get experience of swimming across currents and not just with or against the tide.  

In the final approaches to landfall be mindful that the currents and tidal force will push you back.  You need an extra swim gear for this.

Image: Susan Knight USA North (Irish) Channel Solo swim 2019 with thanks to track.rs

As the tidal flow changes, your swim start time may be in the hours of darkness.  In training for your North (Irish) Channel attempt be sure to practice swimming in the dark, swim with friends for support, have a kayaker chaperone you and also get used to wearing an adventure light https://infinitychannelswimming.com/product/infinity-adventure-lights-guardian-expedition/ or a glowstick on the back of your goggles or swim costume.

Water temperature

Water temperature ranges between 11°C  and 15°C with some evidence of 15°C  to 16°C  later in the season.

Part of the North (Irish) Channel swim crosses  over the Beaufort's Dyke where temperatures can drop to around 11°C to 12°C.

Some previously recorded water temperatres and buoy markers are detailed at the bottom of this page.

In training for your North (Irish) Channel attempt, after your qualifification swim you should continue to gain exposure to colder waters. If ,where you are from you are not able to achieve this easily as the sea / lakes or rivers are too warm, take advantage of cold showers, ice baths, no swim cap and maybe ice cold drinks during your swims.  These are all important parts of you being prepared for the elements on swim day.  

If you are in a position to attend an open water endurance camp / cold water camp do so - examples include our very own HITtheWALL (inMay of each year) and Cork Distance week.  Either will give you experiences in water similar to the North Channel.


The weather on the North Channel can change quite quickly often regardless of what the weather forecasts have predicted. In days of modern technology we all have access to advanced Apps which tell us of the wind, weather etc.  

infinity Channel Swimming  will decide on your swim date and communicate this with you in the days leading up to your North Channel attempt.  Allow us to worry about Mother Nature and give yourself and your crew important time to focus on being rested and ready.

Wild life

The North Channel has revealed a fabulous array of wildlife indicating healthy, clean waters including Dolphins, Minke Whales, Orca, lots of Seaguls who come and rest a while beside you and seals.  The only other debris being seagrass and seaweed.  

Oh ! and the jellyfish! 

Moon jellyfish at Gota Sagher.JPG

Aurelia aurita (also called the common jellyfish, moon jellyfish, moon jelly or saucer jelly)

There are of course plenty of lion's mane jellyfish and it would not be the North (Irish) Channel without them.

Other sea life and views

The North (Irish)hannel is not a busy shipping area.  The Stena ferry crosses and there are a minimal number of vessels and sailing craft.

There are a few reference points:

Copeland Islands with Mew Island Lighthouse 

Donaghadee Lighthouse 

The Gobbins  

Larbrax Wind Farm https://larbraxwindfarm.co.uk

Killantringan LightHouse

Portpatrick Harbour http://www.portpatrickharbour.org/harbour-facilities

Dunskey Castle https://www.visitscotland.com/info/see-do/dunskey-castle-p255821  

The coastline is fabulous, steep cliff faces, some small sandy beaches and green fields galore and of course an ever changing sea state.   


Nutrition and hydration

In days of old we have referenced the legend Kevin Murphy who enjoyed pork pies and chicken legs on his North Channel crossings.  Ocean Sevens legend Lynton Mortenson knows of the benefits of a warm cup of MILO hot chocolate and Queen of the North Channel Caroline Block will vouch for her bespoke infinit swim nutrition and essential mild mouth wash to stave of the salt tongue.

What ever your feed of choice be sure it is tried and tested. There are a world of options out there for carbohydrate, protein and essetial nutrient and electrolyte nutrition including UCAN, SiS,  CNP, Tailwind, High 5, SPONSER etc, etc.  we have seen them all.  Find yours.  It may be as simple COMPLAN but regardless if it works it works.

Realise the movement of the tide / sea and how this may impact on your tummy / digestion. Again - practice !

Seak specialist advice from a Sports Dietitian who has experience of long distance swimming nutriton especially relating to how cold water impacts on the digestive tract and on your feed absorption.  

With the addage - don't try anything new on race day - have a plan written down and if its working in training stick with it.  A few tweeks here and there can make a difference.  Make sure your crew know your feed plan and you inside out and know how to help if there needs to be some tweets made.  eg: reducing feed times to every 20 minutes if you get colder, increasing feed times if you are advancing well,  Have a treat box it may include a chocloate roll, a jaffa cake, some chocolate even some jelly sweets, small things you can look forward to and enjoy with your mainly liquid diet., 

Practice feeding and in an precise way,  the tide moves fast, if you stop to fed for 2 minutes you can lose up to 300m distance - over 12 feeds thats a lot more swimming you have to do!.

Learn to feed from a bottle atached to a feeding line, see how you can be fast to grab someting from a feed tray and pocket it in the side of your mouth to enjoy between feeds.  These skills all take time to learn, practice and know the benefits of.  

Flat coke can be a good item to have in your kit box - it can settle an upset tummy.  

Definatley consider and if we can be specific opt in for warmed feeds.  Quick reiminder here of the temperature of the North channel - a warm feed is a saviour.  

Talk to other channel swimmers and see what they recommend.

General Wellness and readiness 

Do your homework, swim the distance in training, get the feeding regime correct, arrive physically and psychologically ready for your swim day.  


 An ear infetion, a flu ?  - don't skip on being honest.   Any chink in your armour the North channel will find it. 

Plan on arriving a least a few days before your swim to ensure you get time to marinade in the local waters of Donaghadee and meet the Chunky Dunkers. If time is of the essence opt to arrive well before the swim window.r.  If you can arrive well before and stay after your swim window even better as there is so much of the Emerald Isle to see.


Antiemetics , AntihistaminesGrease / Desitin / Sunscreen  / Vaseline, Arnica for bruising, etc etc.  Speak to your pharmacist an get what suits you.  Remember your crew also - they may not be used to life on a boat and don't yet have their sea legs.  


Again this is all only advice - none of it is exact science (well maybe the sealife is) but it is from the heart and it is based on our experiencs of the North Channel to date.

We want you to have a successful crossing, so from practice at night swimming to getting the feed right we want you to come here prepared and ready to be successful.

Pádraig,  Jacqueline, Milo and the infinity Crew 


For reference we can direct you to  Here

South Rock Down Buoy


South Hunter Buoy

Other references:- Click Here



Irish Weather Bouy Network(IMOS)

United Kingdom Live Buoy Observations

Marine Observations- Ronaldsway

Dingieshowe Weather Forecast

United Kingdom Recent Marine Data

Marine Observations- Belfast International Airport


Here is some other data from the North (Irish) Channel Weather

North (Irish) Channel Swim Temperature

North (Irish) Channel Swim wind speed


North (Irish) Channel Swim Hours of Daylight

North (Irish) Channel Swim Hours of Sunshine


North (Irish) Channel Swim Sea Level Pressure


If you or your team have any other questions please feel free to contact us by email and we will be happy to answer your questions.

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