Socially distant dates can be more than an awkward walk

Eva O’Beirne highlights sea swimming as one way to break free of virtual dating

It’s been six months since Ireland went into lockdown, and for a lot of us, so did our love lives. The rules of dating became increasingly blurred as we spent more time apart from our crushes and partners. We got a glimpse of how old courtships used to blossom, but instead of sending love letters and poems, chatting on Facetime and sending funny TikToks became the norm. Once restrictions were lifted and the 5km radius extended, the question began to emerge: how are we supposed to date while staying two metres apart? Accepting someone into your bubble, pod, or household is a major step. It’s scary. It’s a commitment to stay socially responsible not just for yourself, but for each other, in order to stay safe. But how are we supposed to get to that stage if we can’t even hold hands? Fortunately, I have some date ideas that I’ll be sharing over the next while, and you can submit your socially distant dating tales too! 

The first date I had during lockdown was like no date I’ve ever been on before. I’m glad to report that it wasn’t just a simple stroll around my local park. Instead, I took the plunge, literally, into the Irish Sea. The Irish sea isn’t exactly tropical, but Dublin certainly has some truly beautiful swimming spots. Inspired by influencers like Roz Purcell and James Kavanagh, I had the brainwave to ask my date to go for a socially distant swim and cycle for our first outing post-lockdown. The checklist is simple: pack a flask of something hot, your mask, plenty of towels, and warm clothes for afterwards, and don’t be afraid to jump in! However, make sure to check the tides and weather beforehand. My beach of choice was Balscadden Bay in Howth; it’s fairly secluded and safe, and with plenty of cafes and restaurants doing takeaway in the village, you can truly make a day out of it. I’d also recommend bringing your bike or even renting a city bike, as there are some lovely cycling routes around the peninsula. You can make this date even more adventurous by choosing to go at dawn or dusk for some seriously Insta-worthy shots. Going at these times can also ensure fewer people if you’re worried about crowds.

“Having a unique experience as a first in-person encounter really helped to break the ice, and felt less stuffy than a traditional dinner date.”

The date itself felt natural, even though we couldn’t hold hands or kiss goodbye. Having a unique experience as a first in-person encounter really helped to break the ice, and felt less stuffy than a traditional dinner date. It’s also an experience that never gets old; there’s so many beaches and swimming spots dotted along the East coast. The Vico Baths in Killiney, the Forty Foot in Dun Laoghaire, and Portmarnock Beach are just some of the places that spring to mind. You can impress your date even further by bringing homemade treats or even a full picnic. Take inspiration from social media to up your picnic game and make a charcuterie or cheese board to share. Just make sure to pick up your litter afterwards!

I highly recommend a day of socially-distant swimming, cycling and snacking as a first date during these unprecedented times. Although I know that this kind of date isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, it can be a nice palate cleanser. It’s a break from the standard dinner-and-a-movie format that we’re all used to. It’s a chance to show your adventurous side as well as a chance to explore what your local area has to offer.

Eva O'Beirne

Eva O'Beirne is the Deputy Editor of Sex and Relationships, and a Senior Fresh student of History and Economics.