Being an island, Ireland has a vast and ever changing coastline. And Ireland beaches are just as varied as the overall coast is. Whether you want to swim, surf, sunbathe or simply enjoy a stroll along the shore, here is a list of the best beaches in Ireland to help you choose the ones you will visit.
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Ireland Best Beaches to Visit
From Portrush Whiterocks beach to the best Donegal beaches and even Galway beaches, you will find a list of the best beaches in Ireland to consider visiting right here. Whether you are looking for a day out to swim and sunbathe, or you are an avid surfer and are wondering which beaches of Ireland are the best for watersports, this list will help everyone decide which beach in Ireland is the one to visit.
Beaches in Ireland Map
Murlough Bay, Antrim
Of the beaches Northern Ireland has to offer, one of the most beautiful is Murlough Bay Beach near Ballycastle, not far from the Giant’s Causeway. Murlough Bay lies between Fair Head and Torr Head and is an area known for its outstanding beauty and remote location.
Located just off the Torr Head Scenic Road, it is only accessible via a narrow side road, the sign for which is inconspicuous. Take care when driving. There is a small car park above the bay from which you can reach the beach. There is a set of ruined miners’ cottages (about 10-minutes’ walk) if you walk north along the shoreline. These are left over from the days when coal and chalk were once mined from the cliffs above the bay. It was also the chosen burial place of Irish patriot and poet, Sir Roger Casement.
Shielded from the land by steep rocky cliffs, Murlough Bay is a Blue Flag beach known for its flora, fauna and geology and is home to birch, rowan and hazel trees as well as wild goats. As it lies close to Rathlin Island, the view across to it are stunning as are those towards the Mull of Kintyre, Islay and Jura. Apart from the small car park, there are no other facilities here.
GPS location: 55.20882, -6.12998
Best place to stay near Murlough Bay – Stay in Ballycastle, and check into the budget-friendly Carnately Lodge B&B. See availability and latest prices here.
White Rocks, Portrush, Antrim
Whiterocks Portrush beach is one of the best beaches in Northern Ireland. Located in County Antrim, just off the Causeway Coastal Route, it gets its name from the limestone rocks formations which stretch from Curran Strand to Dunluce. At this beach you will find golden sand and dunes, which along with East Strand forms 3 miles of amazing beach.
This beach is a Blue Flag beach and is very popular with water sports enthusiasts who enjoy surfing, kayaking and body boarding along its shore. It is also ideal for families who flock here on sunny days to enjoy the expanse of sand and water.
Whiterocks, Northern Ireland is facilitated by a large car park, toilets and amenity block that have shower facilities included.
There are a few points of interest nearby which include Shelagh’s Head, the Wishing Arch, Elephant Rock and Lion’s Paw, all distinguishable headland forms.
GPS location: 55.2073, -6.65875
Best places to stay near Whiterocks Beach – Consider staying in the Inn on the Coast Hotel. See this hotel and prices here. Or if you prefer a B&B, stay at the All Seasons B&B. See latest prices and availability for the All Seasons here.
One of the best beaches in County Donegal is Portsalon. Also known as Ballymastoker Beach, this Blue Flag beach stretches for over 1.5km towards the small harbor town of Portsalon. This is a beach with golden sands that is sheltered and surrounded by unspoiled countryside.
The beach is served by a car park, has toilets and recycling bins and is dog-friendly (remember to clean up after your dog). During summer you’ll find food and ice-cream vans to grab a snack. The beach is in a Natural Habitat Area and the views of the beach from the hills above are worth the walk.
Visitors enjoy swimming, walking and surfing, although the consistent surf is mostly flat during summer. It is located just 20-minutes from Fanad Head and was once voted the second most beautiful beach in the world by Observer Magazine.
GPS location: 55.18919, -7.60862
Best places to stay near Portsalon Beach – Letterkenny is just a 35-minute drive from Portsalon. Check into the Radisson Blu for a comfortable stay. See this hotel and latest prices here. Or for a more budget-friendly option, stay at the Mount Errigal Hotel. See latest prices and availability for this hotel here.
Murder Hole Beach, Boyeeghter Bay, Donegal
Murder Hole Beach, Donegal is one of the most beautiful beaches in Ireland. Located on the Melmore Head Peninsula, Murder Hole Beach is actually two small, isolated beaches that are separated when the tide is out by Rough Island (about 15 meters from the shore). The beaches are sandy with stunning cliffs and dunes, and are dotted with small caves that you can enter.
Murder Hole Beach has no direct road access. You can only access the beach via private farmland. Ask the farmer’s permission first and be aware of signs on the gates (which you must close after you, as you will be crossing a field that contains cows and/or sheep). At certain times of the year, access is strictly forbidden during mating season as the field will contain a bull. And no dogs are allowed to enter the field.
However, should you be able to make the short, 15-minute hike across the land, you won’t be disappointed. This is a natural gem with no facilities, so bring a picnic but ensure you leave no trace. Swimming is not advised due to the tidal currents.
The name of the beach is rumored to have come from the 1800’s when a young woman reputedly fell from a cliff near the beach. Or was she pushed? The name may also come from the aggressive tidal currents around the beaches and island. If you are doing an extended Wild Atlantic Way trip, starting in Northern Ireland, then make sure to put this stunning Irish beach on your itinerary.
GPS location: 55.2405, -7.80588
Best places to stay near Murder Hole Beach – Letterkenny is just a 50-minute drive from Murder Hole Beach, so check out the hotels for Portsalon above for this beach.
Picture Credit: Bangor NI
Narin Beach, Portnoo, Donegal
If you are looking to visit one of the most beautiful beaches in Ireland, then you should visit Narin Beach, Donegal. A Blue Flag beach which has been voted in the top 10 beaches in Ireland in the past, Narin Beach, also known as Portnoo Beach is a 2km long sheltered cove beach with golden-white sands.
Listed as one of the discovery points on the Wild Atlantic Way, visitors enjoy swimming, walking, kite flying and surfing and the beach is dog-friendly. Facilities at the beach include parking, toilets, recycling and there is a café next to the beach. The beach is family-friendly and kids love it.
At low tide, you can walk to the island of Inishkeel where you will find 2 ruined churches and a graveyard. Just be careful not to get stuck out there.
While the area around Narin and Portnoo is broken down and not the best, the beach is worth visiting.
GPS location: 54.84179, -8.44633
Best places to stay near Narin Beach – Consider staying in Dungloe, just a 30 minute drive from this beach. The Donegal Wild Atlantic Hostel has both dormitory and private rooms available and is budget-friendly. Click here for prices and availability. Another option is the Radharc an Oileain B&B. See this accommodation choice here.
In the most southerly town in Donegal, you will find the Main Beach and Tullan Strand of Bundoran. The Main Beach is a sandy beach facing Donegal Bay with views across to Benbulbin on a good day, and is also a Blue Flag Beach is backed by a promenade. Visitors enjoy swimming and surfing on this family-friendly beach. There is a pay-and-display car park and you will find public toilets and lots of cafes and restaurants along the promenade.
Tullan Strand is 3km of sandy beach backed by cliffs and rocks. Places of interest nearby include the Wishing Chair and Fairy Bridges. This beach is only suitable for walking along and swimming in not recommended, although experienced surfers enjoy the waves here. There are no facilities on this beach. Tullan Strand is a discovery point along the Wild Atlantic Way.
GPS location: 54.48427, -8.27848
Best places to stay near Bundoran – We recommend staying in Donegal town and travelling the 25-minutes south to the beach. For a budget-friendly stay, book The Gap Lodge B&B. See latest prices and availability here. For a mid-range hotel, we recommend the Mill Park Hotel. Check prices and availability for this hotel here.
Picture Source: Discover Bundoran
Keem Bay Beach, Achill Island, Mayo
Keem Bay, Achill Island is often voted one of the top beaches in Ireland. Achill’s most remote Blue Flag beach, and close to the town of Keel, Keem Bay beach holds the honour of being a signature point along the Wild Atlantic Way. You will find gleaming white sands backed by grassy slopes and it is sheltered by cliffs.
A horseshoe bay, Keem is a little gem. A secluded, rural beach which is popular in summer with beach goers who enjoy swimming and other water sports. Local surf schools often use Keem Beach. In winter the beach and cliff-tops are popular with walkers and hikers.
Keem Bay Beach was once voted one of the best beaches in the world by Big 7 Travel Media Company. There is a small car park and in summer there is often an ice-cream van but that is it where facilities are concerned.
Keem Bay was a popular area for fishing of basking sharks in the 1950’s and 1960’s. If you are lucky, there is a viewing lay-by on the road as you come towards Keem, pull in and take time to see if you can spot any basking sharks in the waters.
GPS location: 53.96716, -10.19289
Best places to stay near Keem Bay Beach – You could stay in Westport and drive the 1 hour and 15 minutes to Keem. Achill Island has lots of B&B options. See the Achill Island accommodation options by clicking here.
Dog’s Bay and Gurteen Bay, Connemara, Galway
Dogs Bay in Galway, along with Gurteen Bay are some of the best beaches in Galway. Located close to the village of Roundstone, Dog’s Bay lies back-to-back with Gurteen Bay. These horseshoe shaped bays with over 1.5km of pure white, sandy beach and crystal clear waters are actually made from seashell fragments rather than limestone.
The two beaches are separated by a thin stretch of grassy dunes and both are sheltered from currents making them popular for swimming, windsurfing and kitesurfing. There is a car park near the beaches but be warned, the narrow road that leads to the beaches can become very congested during summer as holiday-makers come to enjoy the calm waters.
These two hidden gems are family- and dog-friendly but have no facilities. So, bring a picnic.
The area is of great ecological, geological and archaeological importance, so respect the signs which say not to access/climb the dunes.
GPS location: 53.3809, -9.9633
Best places to stay near Dog’s Bay – You can either stay in Clifden or Galway City if you are visiting this beach. In Clifden, we recommend the Connemara Sands Hotel & Spa. See latest prices and availability here. In Galway, a great budget-friendly place to stay in Galway is the Jury’s Inn Galway Hotel. Click here for latest prices and availability. Or if it is luxury you want, check into the G hotel, a short 20-minute walk from Eyre Square. Check latest prices and availability here.
Coumeenoole Beach, Kerry
Of the best beaches Ireland has to offer, Coumeenoole Beach in County Kerry is one of the best. Found on the Dingle Peninsula, this is a popular stop along the Slea Head Drive and is part of the Wild Atlantic Way. It has some amazing views of the Blasket Islands.
This beach was made famous as a filming location for the film Ryan’s Daughter, one of the best movies set in Ireland. It is a golden, sandy beach which is one of the best sandy beaches in Ireland. It is secluded and backed by jagged cliffs, and at high tide the sea comes all the way to the cliffs, so check the tides before visiting.
Swimming is not advised due to the currents and rip tides. Visitors come to enjoy walking and photography. The beach is also popular with experienced surfers. There is a small car park on top of the cliffs but the road to it is narrow, so take care when driving. There are also no facilities at Coumeenoole beach, Ireland.
GPS location: 52.1099, -10.4653
Best place to stay near Coumeenole Beach – For this beach, stay in Dingle, just a 30-minute drive away. We recommend the Dingle Harbour Lodge Hotel. See this hotel and latest prices here.
Inch Beach, Kerry
Inch Strand, Kerry is not only one of the best beaches in Kerry, it is also regularly featured in the top 10 beaches in Ireland. A Blue Flag beach comprising 5km of a long sand spit and dune system extending to Dingle Bay, and has great views of the Iveragh Peninsula and the MacGillycuddy Reeks on a good day.
Inch Beach, Kerry is popular with families who enjoy swimming, walking, and camping nearby, while water sports enthusiasts enjoy surfing, windsurfing and kayaking. There is a rental place on the beach for wetsuits and surf boards. Cars can drive onto the beach, just be careful not to get stuck, and there is also a car park, toilet facilities and there is a beach cafe, Sammy’s, which can provide snacks and light meals. It even has free WiFi.
The dunes that surround the beach have scattered shipwrecks and also ruins of Stone and Iron Age settlements. The beach is also popular with film-makers and films which have featured Inch Beach include Ryan’s Daughter, Excalibur and Far and Away.
GPS location: 52.1422, -9.9813
Best place to stay near Inch Beach – Inch Beach is just a 25-minute drive from Dingle town, so we recommend the Dingle Harbour Hotel as detailed above for Coumeenoole Beach.
Whitestrand Beach, Kerry
Another one of the best beaches in Kerry is Whitestrand Beach, also known as Cahersiveen Beach. A Natural Heritage Area, An Trá Bhán, to give it its Irish name, is a Blue Flag beach which lies just off the Ring of Kerry, part of the Wild Atlantic Way. It has great views of Begnis and Valentia Islands.
As one of the best beaches in Southern Ireland, Whitestrand is 500m of scenic, near-white sandy beach which is sheltered, making it family-friendly. The beach is reached down a narrow country lane and has a small car park and toilet facilities. Visitors enjoy swimming and kayaking and there are points of interest nearby including the ruins of Ballycarbery Castle, and the stone forts of Cahergal and Leacanabuaile.
Whitestrand was also the landing point for a transatlantic telegraph cable laid in 1857, but it never worked.
GPS location: 51.9451, -10.2759
Best places to stay near Whitestrand Beach – Whitestrand Beach is located on the Ring of Kerry and Killarney is the best base for exploring this region of Ireland. So we recommend staying there. For a budget-friendly, comfortable stay we recommend the Killarney Oaks Hotel. Click here for prices and availability. For mid-range budgets, why not stay at the Killarney Towers Hotel. Check latest prices and availability here.
Barleycove Beach, Cork
One of the best beaches in west Cork is Barleycove. At Barleycove, Cork you’ll find long stretches of golden sand accessed by a long boardwalk and pontoon from the car park on the Crookhaven Road on the Mizen Head Peninsula.
Crystal clear waters in the sandy cove are backed by huge pristine sand dunes which were formed by a tidal wave after the 1755 Lisbon Earthquake. This makes the dunes a Special Area of Conservation due to the variety of wildlife and interesting habitats in the dunes.
Visitors to one of the best beaches in Cork can enjoy swimming in a safe bathing area where the stream flows down to the sea. Fishing is another activity enjoyed at Barleycove. As well as a car park, the beach is served by toilets with showers in the car park and there is a hotel nearby for snacks and meals.
GPS location: 51.4685, -9.7790
Best places to stay near Barleycove Beach – Barleycove is a 45-minute drive from Bantry, a great town in West Cork. For a budget-friendly option, stay at the Maritime Hotel. See this hotel and latest prices here. Or for a slightly more pricey option, stay at the Seaview House Hotel. Check the latest prices and availability here.
Inchydoney Beach, Cork
Another of the beaches in Cork which often features in the top 10 in Ireland is Inchydoney Beach, Cork. Located near Clonakilty, Inchydoney is considered one of the best surfing beaches in Ireland. This Blue Flag beach has an expanse of white sand dunes backed by gentle rolling countryside.
While Inchydoney is family-friendly it is popular with surfers, both beginners and experienced. There is a surf school at the beach offering lessons and boards for rent.
The car park can have limited spaces but there are toilet facilities at the beach. During the summer you can find coffee and ice-cream vans but if you want more substantial meals, or even spa treatments, then head to the nearby hotel.
GPS location: 51.5970, -8.8625
Best places to stay near Inchydoney Beach – Inchydoney Beach is located just 10-minutes drive from Clonakilty, so you could stay at the Clonakilty Park Hotel. See this hotel and prices here.
Dunmore East, Waterford
When it comes to nice beaches in Ireland, Dunmore East Strand in County Waterford is one of the nicest. Dunmore East is a collection of sheltered and secluded coves with the two most popular being Councillors and Lawlors. Other beautiful secluded coves include Stony, Ladies, Mens and Badgers Coves.
Councillors Cove is a Blue Flag beach which is a south facing cover between lofty red sandstone cliffs. It is family-friendly and has a car park, toilets and a bar with a terrace. Lawlors cove is right in the village and backs onto the fishing village of Dunmore East.
Visitors can enjoy swimming, snorkeling and kayaking at these coves. However, it is best to check the tides before you visit as these coves disappear at high tide.
GPS location: 52.1558, -6.9911
Best place to stay near Dunmore East – Dunmore East and its beautiful cove beaches are located just 25-minutes drive from Waterford where you could stay at the Waterford Castle Hotel and Golf Resort. See this hotel and prices here.
Curracloe Strand Beach is one of the best beaches in Ireland. This is the longest beach in Ireland and stretches from Raven Point to Ballyconiger near Blackwater. 11km long, Curracloe never feels over-crowded, even in the height of summer.
Soft white sands and gentle surf are backed by dramatic cliffs, rich woods, dunes and marshlands. It is a Blue Flag beach and has three entrances; Ballinasker (the wheelchair access entry point), white Gap (the largest entrance) and Culletons Gap.
Visitors can enjoy swimming and sunbathing at this very family-friendly beach which is one of the best beaches in Wexford. Even the four-legged member of the family is welcome. There are car parks for this beach at the entrances, toilets nearby and an on-site shop/café. There is also a surf school and waterskiing is another water sports enjoyed at Curracloe.
Curracloe Beach, Wexford has also featured in films. It became Omaha Beach in the opening scenes of the film, Saving Private Ryan. And there is also a lovely walk to the beach through the Raven Forest Walk.
GPS location: 52.3882, -6.3621
Best places to stay near Curracloe – Curracloe Beach is a 20-minute drive from Wexford where you could check into the affordable Clayton Whites Hotel. See latest prices and availability here. Or why not stay in a castle at the Killiane Castle House and Farm. See this option and latest prices here.
Brittas Bay, Wicklow
One of the nicest beaches in Ireland has to be the beach of my childhood, Brittas Bay in Wicklow. As one of the best beaches in Ireland for swimming, Brittas Bay is one of the most frequented beaches by Dubliners in summer, my family included. It is 4km long, has beautiful white sand which are protected by sand dunes which create a natural barrier to the road that runs parallel to the beach.
A Blue Flag beach, Brittas Bay has 2 car parks, toilets, a small shop and in summer, an ice-cream van. The two main car parks are payable but there is a smaller, free car park at the southern end of the beach. Visitors come to Brittas to enjoy swimming, walking, sailing and my father used to fish off Brittas Bay many years ago. It is one of the most popular beaches in Wicklow.
It is designated a Special Area of Conservation and has ecological importance and habitats of interest in the sand dunes, ferns and grasslands.
If you are in Wicklow, or even fancy a day trip from Dublin, why not add Brittas Bay to your itinerary.
GPS location: 52.8731, -6.0638
Best place to stay near Brittas Bay – Why not stay just 35 minutes away at the luxurious Powerscourt Hotel. See this hotel and latest prices here.
Killiney Beach, Dublin
Of all the beaches in Dublin, Killiney Strand Beach is one of the best. This Dublin beach is a mixed stone/sand beach with beautiful views of Bray and the Sugarloaf Mountain in Wicklow. I spent many a summer day with my cousins at this beach, as they lived quite close to Killiney Beach. Dublin city centre is also just a 30-minute ride on the DART train line.
This part sand, part rock beach is sheltered and close to public transport as mentioned. There is paid parking close to the beach and there are public toilets at the train station car park.
Visitors come to enjoy swimming and sunbathing, and during winter it is popular with walkers. However, if you choose to swim here be aware that the water can become very deep quickly, so stay within your depths.
GPS location: 53.2554, -6.1117
Best places to stay near Killiney Beach – Check into the luxurious Fitzpatrick Castle Hotel. See latest prices for this hotel here. Or you could stay anywhere in Dublin City Centre and get the DART out to visit this beach. Check for Dublin accommodation here.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this list of amazing beaches. Many of these Irish beaches have a tropical feel to them in summer, while some are quite rough and wild in winter. Some of the ones featured in this article are also some of the most famous beaches in Ireland thanks to the films that have been shot at their location. But I think you will agree that these are the best beaches in Ireland. Now the question is, which one will you visit first?
Cath is an Irish expat now living in Portugal. She regularly returns to Ireland to explore more of the wonderful island with her family.