Irelands Best Beaches

Irelands best beaches are not a secret, pick a beach, any beach at all and feel free to claim it as your own. Always a favourite with children and adults, whenever we are lucky enough to have the sun to go with them! 2013 & 2014 were both crackers and if the weather the last few weeks is anything to go by 2015 will be another. When my children were young, as well as treasure hunting in castles, we used to go beach combing. It was not unusual to find coconuts from the Caribbean or fishing buoys from New England on the West Coast or lumps of coal from Wales on the East Coast. And if you were really lucky, some blue glass beads washed up from one of the many Spanish shipwrecks off the South Coast of Ireland. Fortunately, we have never lived far from the sea, as is the case with most of Ireland, it being an island, dah... you are never more than a 100 kms from the sea. In fact, we regularly boast of having possibly the most spectacular coastline in all of Western Europe with the Wild Atlantic Way which runs the entire length of the Western seaboard being marketed as the longest defined coastal route in the world at 2500kms. There are no ‘costas’ in Ireland, the weather isn't reliable enough, thank God, however on a ‘pet’ (unseasonably warm) day in May or September you could easily be forgiven for thinking you were in Greece, should you find yourself on a deserted white sandy coral beach, lapped by turquoise waves with only a couple of cows or sheep to keep you company....

Keem Bay, Achill Island, County Mayo

Irelands best beaches on the East coast are much busier due to their proximity to the capital, Dublin city, with the added bonus of being able to buy a 99 (ice cream in a cone with a flake) or a coffee nearby. In the sunny South East, miles of uninterrupted beaches such as Curracloe in Wexford have doubled as Normandy landing beaches in WW2 movies. Whereas on the West coast of Cork, Kerry, Mayo and definitely Donegal, the beaches can be pretty isolated, which is fabulous if you fancy a bit nudey sunbathing or skinny dipping....
But be warned, even with the Gulf Stream warming the water the temperature never rises much above 6 degrees celsius . And of course, never, ever swim alone it can be very, very dangerous no matter how inviting it looks, with hidden currents and undertows. There are approx 70 Blue Flag ie water tested to determine Irelands best beaches for water quality, throughout Ireland many of which have lifeguard stations, although these are only manned during the summer months. And while there are literally dozens of beaches, in fact I reckon Donegal must have one for everyday of the year, the following is my (geographically spread short) list of just ten, with a few extras thrown in for good measure! As always, ask locally for recommendations but don't be surprised if you get a guarded answer as sometimes we want to keep the best ones to ourselves!

Malin Beg, County Donegal

Irelands Best Beaches are....

1 Bettystown County Meath miles of safe sandy beach it is where the Tara Brooch was discovered in a sandbank. Hotels, shops, cafés, golf course and tennis courts. The only approved beach in Europe for horse racing, there is a special event held each September which is very popular with the locals.

2 Skerries originally a small fishing village, great safe beach on the South Strand with an island with a Martello tower that you can walk out to at low tide but be very careful the tide turns quickly and you could get cut off. The Rockabill lighthouse is off out in the distance, very pretty harbour with great pubs and restaurants.

3 Dollymount strand a traditional favourite with Dubliners and the Brent Geese who fly in from Canada to spend the winter there. It is backed by very pretty St Annes Park, if you get tired of sand in your sandwiches. Just up the road is Howth, a really lovely village with a large fishing harbour and marina and lots of great seafood restaurants

4 Brittas Bay County Wicklow is very popular beach in the summertime, though you can always fine a nice private spot for yourself up in the sand dunes. Daily rate €4 for car parking, toilet facilities. Wicklow is known as the garden of Ireland so there are plenty of nice scenic drives inland to enjoy in this area also.

5 Baginbun Head County Wexford or the Sunny South East as it is known here for reputedly having the most sunny days in Ireland. Happy childhood memories of this beach, cooking sausages skewered over a drift wood bonfire, while holidaying in Fethard-on-Sea. Visit Hook Head Lighthouse and Tintern Abbey close by. Further West is the Copper Coast drive in Waterford which has many beautiful small bays and white sandy beaches. Ditto magnificent West Cork and on out to Mizen Head and Barley Cove which has been spoiled a tad with all the holiday homes.

And while I possibly should have included any and all of the beaches on the Ring of Kerry including Glenbeigh and Derrynane, you will easily find them for yourselves, ditto....

6 Inch Strand Dingle, County Kerry if you fancy yourself as ‘Ryan's Daughter’ find yourself a Robert Mitchum lookalike and get swept away on this vast beach. You can't miss Coumceenole on the Slea Head drive either or if you go over the Connor Pass, Kilcummin is another one of Irelands best beaches with a stunning backdrop of the Brandon Mountains.

7 Fanore County Clare, from Fáinne an Óir (Irish for ring of gold) aptly describes this small yet exquisite beach with golden sand. Great Atlantic breakers, so a surfing and kite flying hotspot. Other noteworthy beaches in Clare, Kilkee, Spanish Point and Lahinch.

Dog's Bay, Roundstone, County Galway is smashing too, but tends to get crowded in the summertime.

8 Thallabawn Killadoon, County Mayo (Irish for Silver Strand) possibly the windiest and most beautiful you will encounter in Ireland, but not the only Silverstrand by a long mile that you will come across in Ireland, there are loads of them along the Western seaboard so take your pick.....

9 Ballymastocker Bay on Fanad Head, County Donegal, dare I say it yet another breathtaking beach (and my own personal favourite) you will most likely have all to yourself, apart from the odd cow? well worth going the (long) distance.....

Also noteworthy in Donegal, Malinbeg or the Beach with 100 steps, magnificent Kennigoe Bay on the Inishowen Peninsula and Magheroarty, a spectacular crescent shaped beach where the ferry leaves for Tory Island.

10 Benone Strand a seemingly endless ( 7 mile) stretch of beach beneath Binevenagh Head and the famous Mussendun Temple part of the Downhill Demesne between Derry & Coleraine in Northern Ireland. Another fantastic beach in the area is Whiterocks with its limestone cliffs, caves and arches stretching from Portrush to Dunluce Castle.

Cow Strand, Sherkin Island, County Cork

And that's not even counting the islands which have some serious beaches, Keel and Keem (top photo) are legendary on Achill Islands, also the beach at Dugort with a back drop of Slievemore which is much quieter than either of the other two in July and August. Sherkin Island has Cow Strand and another Silverstrand and the Great Blasket's Trá Bán (White Stand) where you can watch the seals play in crystal clear water. In fact I have written an ebook guide to Ireland's Islands if you want to check it out? in fact, I would strongly encourage anybody coming to Ireland to make a visit to at least one of our offshore islands as they offer an experience unequalled on the mainland, in terms of peace and quiet, fantastic unspoiled scenery and beaches. By the way, if you are planning a Trip to Ireland this year or looking for inspiration re Things To Do and Places To See in Ireland? perhaps you would like to check out my Irish Travel Guides on the only Irish Travel Guides written and researched by an actual Irish person, living, working (and sunbathing) in Ireland, you can read up about me at the following link, Susan Byron

Irelands Best Beaches with Blue Flag status