In former times it was exclusively a gentlemen's bathing place and the gentlemen's swimming club was established to help conserve the area. Owing to its relative isolation and gender-specific nature it became a popular spot for nudists, but in the 1970s, during the women's liberation movement, a group of female equal-rights activists plunged into the waters and now it is also open to women and children. The gentlemen's swimming club still exists and is open to all genders, it expects voluntary contributions to the upkeep of the area. Many people believe that swimming in the extremely cold water is healthy.
James Joyce and Oliver St. John Gogarty once resided at the Martello tower together. It is now the James Joyce Tower and Museum. The opening section of Joyce's Ulysses is set here, with the characters Stephen Dedalus and Buck Mulligan being partly based on Joyce himself and Gogarty, respectively. Buck Mulligan described the sea as "The snotgreen sea. The scrotumtightening sea."
The Forty Foot also featured in the novels At Swim-Two-Birds by Flann O'Brien (1939), At Swim, Two Boys by Jamie O'Neill (2001) and Nessuna notizia dello scrittore scomparso by Daniele Bresciani (2017).
- Information about tides and conditions for sea swimmers at Fortyfoot
- RTE documentary about the Forty Foot, recorded in 1982