By Pauline O’Riordan
Living in Dublin on the east coast of Ireland means I have access to many beaches in the bay area and beyond. My favorite place is Bray, County Wicklow, known as the Garden of Ireland. It is a seaglasser’s paradise because the slowly eroding cliffs include materials from a disused landfill site. It is also the site of a glass factory that closed in 1952, where at the end of each day the leftover pieces were dumped into the sea. The access to this beach requires a bum slide—and in wet weather this can be very difficult—but it is well worth the trouble!
During the last three years, I have spent many happy hours there, usually with the beach to myself, and the weight of sea glass I collect—often up to 6 kilos (13 pounds)—dictates when I leave each time.
I discovered beachcombing in the autumn of my life and have a particular interest in glass and pottery. I had no interest in making jewelry, wind chimes, or attractive displays.
My happiness came during the search and subsequent examination and storage of the loot in labeled plastic containers.
Slowly one shelf in a kitchen cupboard became two, and one cupboard became two, so something had to be done. By joining sea glass sites, I discovered many people were landlocked, so I had the idea of gifting my treasures. The big question was how to pay for the postage.
I came up with what I think is one of my best ideas: I absorb the postal costs and ask that the equivalent be donated to a local animal welfare shelter, thrift shop, or veterinarian.
To date, my postage costs have benefited animals worldwide by almost 2,500 euros.
Some of my pieces are jewelry quality, in particular the Hag Stones. A talented lady designs and sells items using them and all proceeds go to various worthy causes. I get frequent photos and updates of the money raised, making me glow inside and believe me, that feeling is worth a lot more than the cost of postage.
I charge postage for the second and subsequent gift packets because our postal service decided to hike up the costs and in order for me to keep gifting I have no alternative. Most packets weigh 1 to 2 kilos (2 to 4 pounds), but some of my huge chunks—some weighing 5 pounds—have been mailed around the world and are greatly loved and admired in their new homes.
Recently I’ve arranged to take visitors to local beaches in the knowledge that they will be impressed with the variety of finds. If visitors are on a tight schedule, it saves time when you are personally shown where and how to get to a good beach. Typically my visitors have rented a car and include a beachcombing trip on their itinerary, or they are on a tour and fit in a visit to Bray before or after the tour. We also sometimes visit the beaches in Skerries, just a half hour from the Dublin Airport.
I like to think I’m an Ambassador for Ireland and send visitors back to their own countries with good memories of the beaches—not just of the rain!
This article appeared in the Beachcombing Magazine March/April 2019 issue.
I just came across your article while researching things do with my family while in Ireland. I’ve been collecting sea glass for around 10 years now and I try to find a beach anywhere we roam. This will be our first time to Ireland and this would be an amazing activity to add as well all love the thrill of the hunt. As of now, we don’t have any firm plans and I would love to plan a day to Bray. We are tentatively scheduled to be there between the 6th and the 9th of October 2022. I will even offer to bring a bit of sea glass from the states, specifically Chesapeake Bay VA, to add to your collection.
Hope all is well and I look forward to hearing from you.
Hi Pauline! Are you still taking visitors on sea glass hunting adventures? I’ll becoming to Ireland at the end of August 2022 and would love to have a guide to show me some great spots. If you aren’t still able to take visitors could you share some specific spots you’d recommend.
Hi Pauline how can I order some sea glass off you thanks
Hi Carol Collins, go down Baginbun Beach past Feathered on Sea i found lovely pieces of seaglass, also on Rosslare Harbour beach I found Chaney, broken China there. Good luck with your search
I love beachcombing for sea glass. I lived in Southern Ireland last year. Next september I’ll go back for a week doing a trip around the island with my family.
Could you tell me which is the best beach to find sea glass in Wicklow?. I’ll have few time for beachcombing and I’ll be very grateful if I am able to find some sea glass pieces in few time.
Thank you belle!!!
Hi, Cate! Pauline took me to her bum slide beach near the harbor in Bray! Have fun!
This is so wonderful! Wonderful to share the treasures with the landlocked! I wonder if yiu could share the location of the “bum slide” beach :)
Love what you do to help worthy causes. I donate seaglass jewelry to many organizations and fund raising, including animal welfare groups. Whatever seaglass you send me, I will be happy to make into jewelry to benefit local charities. Thankyou and hope to hear from you soon.
I would love to know where the beach is. My pup and I are always looking for quiet places to meander and find treasures.
I’d love to see that stretch of beach and to bring my niece. I can’t leave a beach without a pocket full of shells or stones or even better seaglass and driftwood. My niece is the same. Kindred spirits…and absolutely heaven if it’s just you and the waves. Is it easy to find.
Hi Pauline, I live not far from Bray and would love it if you would take me on an excursion to show me how to get down to that particular spot! After the lockdowns are over, of course!
Well done, I feel you are a kindred spirit as I have been collecting beach stones, an urge I got when walking my dogs which got out of hand.
I am trying to make jewellery which I would like to sell and give a percentage to animal charities.
I haven’t found any sea glass down here in a Wexford. Would you have any advice also on sources for identifying Irish beach stones ? The books I bought are more general.
I am thrilled that you are helping the animals & veternarians. Thank you & may God bless you & assist you in continuing your work.
I so much wish I was there with you!