10 beautiful Irish beaches to visit this summer
1. Curracloe Beach, County Wexford
At first glance you could easily mistake this for a beach in the Mediterranean, but you can indeed find it right here in Ireland. Curracloe Beach is hands down one of the best beaches in Wexford. It becomes a hive of activity on a sunny day, but with 11 kilometres of soft white sand you’re bound to find a spot to claim as your own.
Paddle a little further north and you’ll reach equally pretty Ballinesker, pretty enough to double as the Normandy coast in the film Saving Private Ryan, in fact. Bird-watchers will love the Wexford Wildfowl Reserve around 15 minutes drive from the beach, especially exciting in autumn as huge flocks of white-fronted geese and other migrating birds come in to roost from chilly Greenland.
2. Strandhill Beach, County Sligo
Love surfing? Then this might just be the beach for you. Teeming with schools willing to teach you their ways, Strandhill‘s waves can be tamed by both the novice and experienced surfer. But Strandhill’s appeal stretches beyond boarders. Views across Sligo to the green-carpeted mountains of Ben Bulben and Knocknarea, occasional porpoise and dolphins sightings in the summer, and the steamy Victorian seaweed baths at Voya spa (yes, you read that right), next to the Strandhill Golf Club. It’s €28 for a 50-minute session, and the perfect counter to a rough day out on the waves.
Read on for more brilliant surfing destinations in Ireland, with our top ten spots around the country.
3. Barleycove Beach, County Cork
Surrounded by vast dunes and amazing stretches of sand, Barleycove Beach in County Cork is one of those rare hidden gems where you don’t have to wake up at the crack of dawn to reserve your spot. It’s remotely situated to the far west of Cork, but the scenic drive to get there takes just two hours from the city. And you can always reward yourself with a seafood dinner at the Barley Cove Beach Hotel overlooking the Atlantic. Platters cost €18.95 and are laden with fresh delights like local prawns and West Cork crab.
Feeling more energetic? There’s a lovely 3.7 kilometre walk through fields of grazing sheep to the romantic ruins at Three Castle Head. Just make sure you pack your walking boots as it can get muddy!
If you want more ruins and deep, dark history, take a tour of Ireland’s best castles with our guide.
4. Kilkee, County Clare
Kilkee‘s crescent shaped beach not only attracts families from all over the country, but it also offers plenty of climbing, sailing and hiking options. One of the best-loved Kilkee activities, however, is jumping into the Pollock Holes at the west end of the headland. Though these rock pools are great fun and big enough to swim in when the tide goes out, we recommend waiting for the warmer sea temperatures of July and August (around 20°C) before plunging in!
5. Ballymastocker Bay, County Donegal
Surrounded by a mass of golden sand and sheltered by the cliffs behind it, it’s not hard to see why Ballymastocker Bay was once voted the second-most beautiful beach in the world (trumped only by the Seychelles). For superlative views, climb Knockalla Hill (four hours, medium difficulty) to look out across the bay and the knobbled ridge known as the ‘Devil’s Backbone’. Or simply head down the pier in nearest village Portsalon for an afternoon tea (or a Guinness) on the balcony at Sarah’s Bar & Restaurant. The Stores bar is open all year-round, with the restaurant serving food from March to December.
6. Culdaff Beach, County Donegal
Speaking of top Donegal beaches, another firm favourite is Culdaff Beach. If you’re feeling particularly brave, pop on your swimming gear and hop into the icy waters with the other fundraisers on the annual New Year’s Day swim. Or survey the sea from a safe distance with a spot of night-fishing for dogfish and flounder in the late summer. Experienced anglers have been known to catch a 20 kilogramme conga eel from the western Bunagee Pier.
Call in at McGrory’s Hotel in Culdaff village for a celebratory craft beer afterwards. Their Backroom Bar has played host to several musicians that have gone onto to bigger things, including Peter Green from Fleetwood Mac.
The world’s longest touring route, the Wild Atlantic Way, starts from Donegal. Get behind the wheel and explore this and more from our list of top 5 scenic road trips in Ireland 2019.
7. Carrickfinn, County Donegal
It’s not often that you’ll find a beach right next to the airport. But if you’re in desperate need to dig your toes into the sand as soon as you’re off the plane at Donegal, then you should probably head to Carrickfinn, just a few minutes walk away. Set on a peninsula jutting out to the north, the beach at Carrickfinn is part of a wider, protected area of Gweedore Bay.
Exploring by kayak allows you to glide past the purple mountains and through the secret watercaves of Donegal’s Wild Alantic Way. A two hour trip with Rapid Kayaking costs €30 and leaves from the Boatstrand harbour next to the airport.
8. Ballybunion North Beach, County Kerry
Located within walking distance from the town of Ballybunion, this photogenic spot was once known as Ladies Beach, because men were required to bathe separately from women and children. You don’t need to worry about that these days. It’s a well-loved location for all the family.
Don’t miss ruins of sixteenth century Fitzmaurice Castle dramatically lording over the sands on the clifftop. And take a break with a homemade ice cream at Sundaes Ice Cream Parlour on Ballybunion’s Main Street (open February to April 12pm – 6pm on Sundays and daily from April to October, 12pm – 9pm).
9. Brittas Bay, County Wicklow
There’s no thronging resort at Brittas Bay, just five kilometres of powdery sand. Choose a cascading dune to provide handy shelter from any breezes that might be trying to ruin your sandwiches. You’re only 80 kilometres (around 1 hour 20 minutes drive) away from Dublin here, so it’s doable as a day trip if you’re based in the capital.
The surrounding area also has lots of stops you can make in the car, including the colourful Mount Usher Gardens, north of Wicklow town, for a wander through 5000 plant species and bubbling waterways, and a coffee (from €2.90) in their courtyard cafe.
Weekending in Dublin? We’ve rounded up the best drinking spots to try.
10. Salthill Beach, County Galway
You don’t just get one beach at Salthill, but a clutch of several small but perfectly formed sand and pebble beaches, separated by rocky outcrops. Buckets of choice and only five minutes – or a leisurely half-hour stroll along the promenade – from boisterous Galway City, with its historic walls, live music scene and artsy spirit.
The Salthill suburbs are famed for their watering holes. But avoid the tourists crowding into O’ Connors in favour of the culturally intriguing Krcma Slavic House on Upper Salthill, a Slovakian bar-restaurant offering East European eats, local beers and a good patio for summer.
10 more of the best Irish beaches 2019
|1. Curracloe Beach, County Wexford|
|2. Strandhill Beach, County Sligo|
|3. Barleycove Beach, County Cork|
|4. Kilkee, County Clare|
|5. Ballymastocker Bay, County Donegal|
|6. Culdaff Beach, County Donegal|
|7. Carrickfinn, County Donegal|
|8. Ballybunion North Beach, County Kerry|
|9. Brittas Bay, County Wicklow|
|10. Salthill Beach, County Galway|
*Published April 2019. Prices correct at the time of publication and are subject to change and/or availability.