The relative abundance and variation of Cr, Co, Cd and Pb in Ascophyllum nodosum and intertidal surface sediments from six locations around the coast were assessed over six seasons. Higher Cd and Pb levels in Galway Docks and Cork Harbour were attributed to localised inputs of these metals from municipal and domestic waste, while at a reference site (Ballyconneely), high algal Cr concentrations were considered a function of geological setting rather than anthropogenic loading. Little seasonal variation was observed, with the exception of higher Co levels in plants in winter, associated with growth dynamics and increased fluvial inputs. In comparison with previously published data for metals in A. nodosum from the North Atlantic, with the exception of localised hot spots, the Irish coastline is still a relatively pristine environment. A. nodosum may be successfully and easily used as a biomonitor of metal contamination in coastal waters. (C) 2007 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.