Dreaming of a relaxing beach holiday while stuck at your desk? Where do you think of? Spain? Italy? Greece? While these are all fine choices, how about trying somewhere new? Hear us out.
Now, we understand that when you think of an Irish beach you don’t think of sun, blue skies or even balmy temperatures. Ireland experiences its fair share of rainy days and 'brisk' weather, but what its beaches lack in scorching sands, they certainly make up for in unspoilt beauty.
It's fair to say that the best beaches in Ireland are characterised by incredible views rather than tropical temperatures, but Ireland's beaches also provide the ideal conditions for water sports enthusiasts. Some of the top locations in the world for surfing can be found on the shores of the Atlantic Ocean and all can be easily reached on a scenic drive.
Here’s our list of the best beaches in Ireland:
A haven for surfers, this stretch of beach is located in a stunning coastal town with plenty of attractions. Surf gear is readily available to rent and lessons can be booked easily. Drive to the Burren from here or take a trip to The Cliffs of Moher which are only 5 minutes away. With a backdrop full of bars and cafés you’re sure to find something to satisfy your belly après surf. Lahinch golf course (where the 2019 Irish Open was held) is also located beside the beach.
Located right next to each other, these two crescent-shaped beaches were formed by a sand spit and tombolo. An hour and 25 minutes from Galway City and only 30 minutes from the picturesque town of Clifden, it’s the perfect place for a swim with the family or a picnic.
This has just been voted Ireland’s best beach for 2020. An amazing setting for the opening scene of the film Saving Private Ryan and the film Brooklyn, this long stretch of beach carries on for 7 miles. Surrounded by large dunes, it’s also a great location for watersports such as surfing, waterskiing, sailing and canoeing.
If lots of space is your thing then look no further. This vast beach stretches for miles and all the way to Curracloe Beach, then further south and beyond to Wexford town. Only an hour and 15 minutes from Dublin, it also has a gorgeous cliff walk which takes you to The Strand Bar, which is ideal for a pint or a bowl of seafood chowder. Sip while enjoying the gorgeous views of the surrounding bay - you might spot a seal popping its head above the water too.
Situated along the Causeway Coast in Northern Ireland is a two-mile stretch of protected beach, where plenty of native wildlife, flora and fauna can be found. It’s also located close to the Giant’s Causeway, Dunluce Castle and Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge - make sure you leave plenty of time for all of these magnificent sights.
Located on the Dingle peninsula and Slea Head drive in County Kerry (which in itself is a must-see when in the area and one of the most spectacular places in the world), this little Wild Atlantic Way piece of heaven provides spectacular views of the Blasket islands. Note - swimming is strongly discouraged here due to the strong currents, so it's best just to enjoy the views.
Found between the cliffs of Benmore and Croaghaun Mountain, this hidden gem also has a narrow road on approach which appears to dip right down into the sea. It is also provided the setting for the famous painting ‘Launching the Currach’, by Paul Henry, which is on display in the National Gallery of Ireland.
Voted one of the best beaches in Ireland and perfect for a coastal stroll, this beach is approximately one mile long. It has a golf course located right next to it and is surrounded by the Knockalla Hills. Make this gem part of your trip to the Northwest.
There are two theories as to where the name of this beach originates. It is either from the 1800s, when somebody fell from a cliff near the beach or it’s derived from the dangerous currents. This is the second beach on our list that’s located in Donegal, a county that topped National Geographic’s list of coolest places to visit in 2017.
Located half an hour from Dingle and Killarney, Inch Beach is pretty much halfway between these two beautiful towns. Enjoy stunning views of the beach on the drive from the direction of Dingle. Arguably one of the best beaches in Ireland for surfing, a visit here isn’t complete without a trip to Sammy’s restaurant for some great food.
This is a beautiful unspoilt beach in East Cork, close to the town of Clonakilty (home of the famous black pudding) and located an hour from Cork City. It is separated by the Rocky Virgin Mary Headland and provides excellent surfing conditions, with a school offering lessons and gear for rent. Local accommodation can be found in Inchydoney Lodge and Spa and Inchdoney Apartments.
Well known for its annual horse-racing on the beach, Laytown is in County Meath along Ireland’s Ancient East route. The races are held once a year on the beach and it is said that they date back to 1868, when a rowing competition also took place at high tide. On one side there are sand dunes and on the other, a beautiful thatched cottage, overlooking the bay. Travel time is just 45 minutes from Dublin City.
Make Brittas Bay part of a day trip to Wicklow. Located close by are the seaside towns of Bray and Greystones, with a fantastic cliff walk connecting the two. Also nearby is the valley of Glendalough for spectacular walks and the Sugar Loaf mountain for views of Dublin Bay and the city.
Ok, granted this is a very small beach, but with a lovely drive through Dun Laoghaire, you'll spot hundreds of boats both docked and trawling through Dublin Bay. You’ll also also find the People’s Market on Sundays in Dun Laoghaire when the town becomes a hive of activity (AND there are plenty of places to get ice-cream). Don't miss the famous 40-foot bathing area around the corner from Sandycove Beach. Ok, technically not a beach but a great spot if you want to take a dip.
This beach is located within view of the Sugar Loaf Mountain in Wicklow and can be easily reached from Dublin City. Either drive to Killiney Hill (where you can take a stroll and watch the views of Dublin Bay or the climbers scaling the rocks here), or you can take the DART (train). Despite its location in Dublin it is surprisingly quiet, even on a sunny day. There are also some fantastic restaurants within walking distance.
In the shadows of Ben Bulben is the beach of Mullaghmore in Sligo. On a clear day, you’ll notice a blue haze way in the distance as this beach stretches for about 3 kilometres.
Positioned right on the edge of Dundrum Bay, this is a favourite spot for bird watchers and anyone looking to stretch their legs with a nice, easy-going walk. Murlough Beach has beautiful views of Co. Down’s beautiful Mourne Mountains. A large area of the beach has been designated as a National Nature Reserve, thanks to its ancient 6,000-year-old sand dune system.
This is a secluded gem located on the Inishowen Peninsula in Donegal. Five Fingers Strand has some of the highest dunes in Europe and its rocky tips reach out and touch the sea, giving this golden beach its name. Look out for the lovely little church positioned snug in between the sand dunes, which reach as high as 30m.
A gorgeous stretch that’s great for a relaxing walk along the beach as the sun begins to set. Ballycastle is a long, clean, sandy beach with beautiful scenery you’ll spend all evening gazing at. Located just half an hour away from the Giant’s Causeway, on clear days you can even catch a glimpse of Scotland across the Irish Sea.
Strandhill is a surfer's delight. This rugged Co. Sligo gem has exceptional mountains all around and is affectionately known as the jewel of the Wild Atlantic Way. Standhill’s brilliant cliffs, hidden beaches and inviting bays are complemented by the lovely restaurants and eateries located nearby.
Enjoy an exciting afternoon of kayaking along Waterford’s beautiful coastline. There are half a dozen coves located along the village of Dunmore East, where swimming and snorkelling is also popular. With quiet beaches and red sandstone cliffs, Stony Cove, Ladies Cove, Men’s Cove and Badgers Cove are some of the most peaceful and secluded areas along the sunny southeast.
There's a range of excellent beaches located across Brandon Bay in Co. Kerry. Swimmers, anglers, and surfers all come here to enjoy the awesome waves and sandy peninsula. The bay is set at the foot of the Brandon Mountain and there are a number of archaeological sites dating back to the Bronze Age on the southwest corner.
There is a slight pink tint to the sand along Magheraroarty Beach, which gives it an other-worldly look and feel. One of the most enchanting seaside destinations in Donegal, Magheroarty Beach has Inishbofin and Tory islands located nearby and (weather permitting) there are daily boat journeys that will take you there.
Now that you've got the ultimate lowdown on the best beaches in Ireland, all you need to do is decide where to start your road trip. Whether you’re a sports enthusiast, a Sunday stroller, or simply looking to appreciate stunning views, whatever your next trip, take in an Irish beach along the way.