Donegal’s beautiful beaches
Incredible Portsalon Beach, also known as Ballymastocker Strand, is one of the country’s most breathtaking beaches. Stop at the lookout on the road down and gaze at the golden strand laid out in all its glory. Once voted the second most beautiful beach in the world, Portsalon in Donegal draws visitors from far and wide and its views of the Inishowen Peninsula are simply unrivalled.
If you can, plan your journey for evening time and catch an amazing sunset from your perch on the sand dunes. Stay overnight in a cosy hillside yurt at Portsalon Luxury Camping and wake up to the sound of peaceful Lough Swilly.
The landing into Donegal Airport has been voted one of the most scenic in the world, further recognition for this county, and it’s no surprise thanks to the stunning views of Carrickfinn Beach and Gweedore Bay. With its crystal clear waters and soft white sand, a trip to Carrickfinn is not to be missed. Go for a stroll to see the gorgeous displays of wildflowers that bloom along the grasslands during spring and summer, and then enjoy a blissful swim.
If you’re into water sports, visit Rossnowlagh Beach. Experience the thrill of kitesurfing or book in with the local surf school and learn how to stand up on a surfboard. Spend the evening walking along the powdery white sand and soaking up mesmerising views of Donegal Bay and the magnificent Slieve League sea cliffs.
Later in the evening, spin into nearby Donegal Town for a bite to eat in one of the excellent restaurants.
Surfing and swimming in Sligo
With its dramatic swells and clean breaks, Strandhill Beach is one of the best spots in the country for surfing. Stop by Strandhill Surf School in Sligo and choose from beginners or intermediate classes or bring your friends and try a group lesson. For something a little different, book a 'Mind Body Surf' clinic with Rebelle Surf and experience a form of moving meditation.
After all that activity, you’re sure to be hungry so drop into Shells Café, right on the seafront. Pair the calamari bites with their organic prosecco and freshly baked bread, you’ll never want to leave.
While Strandhill is a must for surfing, Streedagh Beach is pure paradise for avid swimmers. Make a break for the clear, blue waters and soak up the salty sea air. The calm conditions here are also ideal for stand up paddle boarding, giving you an opportunity to explore Sligo’s stunning coastline.
Take an evening stroll at low tide and you might glimpse the remains of three Spanish Armada ships that came aground in 1588.
Best beaches in Mayo
6. Keem Beach
Go swimming in the Atlantic Ocean, wander along one of the best beaches in Ireland and discover the Keem Bay Loop. The 5.6km walk brings you along a route dotted with local landmarks. There are incredible views around every turn so pack your walking boots and don’t forget your camera.
Travel to Louisburgh in Mayo and stumble upon a little slice of heaven at Silver Strand. The sheltered strand is ideal for swimming, take a dip and marvel at the gorgeous views of Inishturk and Inishbofin Island.
With its rocky headlands and rolling waves that stretch for miles, locals say that the sunrise and sunset views from Silver Strand are some of the best in Ireland. You’ll have to visit and see for yourself.
Galway’s glorious strands
8 & 9. Dog’s Bay and Gurteen Beach
Near the pretty village of Roundstone in Galway, discover Dog’s Bay and Gurteen Beach. Separated by a sand spit, the sparkling turquoise water captivates all who visit. Drive up to Dog’s Bay and admire the expansive stretch of white sand made from crushed seashells. Take a stroll along the golden strand or simply sit and relax in this beautiful setting.
10. Kilmurvey Beach
Find Kilmurvey Beach on Inishmore (Inis Mór), the largest of the three Aran Islands. This beach is a popular spot for swimming with a lifeguard on watch during the summer months. Several rare birds call the beach home and close by, you’ll find the Kilmurvey Seal Colony. Stop for a while and watch the friendly mammals relax in the shallow waters. Bring your bike or hire one from Aran Bike Hire and see all the sights as you tour the island.
11. Trá an Dóilín
Marvel at the fine white coral sand, take a dive into the clear blue waters, or bring your snorkelling gear and discover the underwater sea life. Visit early in the morning or late in the evening and you might just get the beach all to yourself.
Coastal views in Clare
12. Spanish Point
On a sunny day, Spanish Point Beach is one of the best places in the world. Five minutes outside the pretty town of Miltown Malbay in Clare, you’ll find this gorgeous golden beach. Build sandcastles with the kids, walk along the soft sand and if time allows, stay overnight at the Spanish Armada Hotel and have dinner looking out at the majestic Atlantic waves.
If you love sea swimming, plan your holiday around one of Snamhai Sasta’s group swims. Seasoned sea swimmers get together to brave the waves and after, enjoy a spot of music with a warming cup of coffee. The craic is ninety and the tribe lives up to their name of ‘happy swimmers’.
Scenic beaches in the Kingdom
13. Rossbeigh Beach
Visit Kerry and find Rossbeigh Beach just two miles from the picturesque village of Glenbeigh. Stroll along this spectacular strand where views of towering mountains and peaceful waves take your breath away.
Go surfing with a group of friends and master the magnificent swells or take a sunset horseback ride with Burkes Beach Riding and watch as pink and red hues fill the sky. With a colourful playground nearby and heaps of golden sand for the kids to get creative with sandcastles, it’s the perfect beach for some family fun.
14. Banna Beach
Discover Banna Beach, a short spin from the vibrant holiday town of Tralee in Kerry. Banna is a popular swimming spot with lifeguards on duty during high season as hardy sea swimmers take to the roaring Atlantic Ocean. Make time for a leisurely walk along the 6km stretch of sand and gaze up at mesmerising Mount Brandon, looming majestically in the distance.
15. Inch Strand
Inch holds beloved memories for many holidaymakers and as soon as you spot its gorgeous golden strand, you’ll feel instantly at ease. With 5km of sweeping sands, Inch Beach in Kerry has unrivalled views of Dingle Bay and the Macgillycuddy Reeks.
Budding surfers can book in with Offshore Surf School and afterwards, drop into Sammy’s Restaurant for a coffee and watch the bustling activity on the beach. Extend your break with an overnight stay at one of the charming holiday cottages, and wake up to the sound of the ocean.
16. Derrynane Beach
Close to the village of Caherdaniel on the Ring of Kerry, Derrynane is one of Ireland’s most breathtaking beaches. It’s the perfect place for a secluded swim, set against a backdrop of rolling green hills and sheltered sand dunes.
See the ruins of 6th century Derrynane Abbey from the beach and spend some time at Derrynane House, the birthplace of famous Irish political leader, Daniel O’Connell.
Great days at the beach in Cork
17. Inchydoney Beach
Bring the kids to Inchydoney for a fun-filled day at the beach. Book into Inchydoney Surf School to learn a new skill or watch advanced surfers take on challenging crests. If you want some down time, visit Inchydoney Island Resort with its stunning sea views and enjoy a relaxing afternoon at the spa.
One of Cork’s most famous towns, Clonakilty, is just a short spin away and it’s a treat for foodie fans. Order the seafood pie in An Súgán or the poached monkfish in The Whale’s Tail and after, head to De Barras to watch a lively trad session.
18. Barleycove Beach
For a peaceful dip in clear blue waters, plan a trip to Barleycove in glorious West Cork. With breathtaking views of the Mizen Peninsula, this secluded beach is a special find. It’s a great place for swimming and with stunning scenery of green hills and rolling waves, make time for a wander along the beach.
After, travel on to Mizen Head and cross over the arched bridge. Look down and spot dolphins, seals and humpback whales in the deep waters below.
19. Garrylucas Beach
The town of Kinsale is one of the most picturesque places in Ireland and Garrylucas Beach is just a short spin away. Explore its pristine white sands and run into the glittering blue sea to set yourself up for the day, or bring your sun lounger and relax in this scenic setting.
If time permits, park at the beach and take on the 6km walk to the Old Head of Kinsale, where a 17th century lighthouse stands guard over the spectacular Cork coastline.
Best beaches in Waterford
20. Tramore Beach
Enjoy fun days at the beach on a trip to the seaside town of Tramore. Go swimming, try sea kayaking, or book in for a sailing lesson along the Waterford coast. It’s popular for anglers too, cast your rod and reel in bass, pollock or whiting.
Stop by Tramore Surf School and plan your staycation for summer to attend public surf lessons on Tramore Beach. Later in the evening, soak up the holiday atmosphere with a walk along the scenic prom, ice-cream in hand.
21. Bunmahon Beach
Continue your visit to the Copper Coast with a trip to Bunmahon. This gorgeous strand is sheltered by sand dunes and soaring sea cliffs.
Take a rejuvenating sea swim, let the kids play in the outdoor park and drop by the Copper Coast UNESCO Global Geopark to learn more about the history of Waterford’s coastline.
Wonderful waves in Wexford
22. Curracloe Beach
Did you know that the opening scenes of Saving Private Ryan were filmed on the golden sands of Curracloe in Wexford? Walk along the hilly dunes and listen as the waves lap softly against the shore. Spellbinding Curracloe is undoubtedly one of the best beaches in Ireland.
With a shop and surf school beside the beach, Curracloe is a great beach for family fun. Book in for a lesson at The Surf Shack and if you’re visiting during the summer months, check out the weekly surf camps.
23. Duncannon Beach
When in Wexford, plan a beach day at Duncannon. The sheltered strand makes for ideal swimming conditions and there’s a lifeguard on duty during the summer months.
Relax with a book as the kids play in the sea and after, take a stroll to nearby Duncannon Fort. Explore the maritime museum, stop into the art gallery, and have a coffee in the café overlooking the beach.
Best beaches in Dublin
Visit the aptly named Velvet Strand in North Dublin, where a carpet of soft golden sand reaches for 5km. Walk barefoot along Portmarnock Beach and gaze out at Lambay Island and Ireland’s Eye in the distance.
The beautiful strand is popular with families and dog walkers all year round and it’s a truly special spot to enjoy a sunrise or sunset over Howth Head. Plan a trip to the pretty coastal town of Portmarnock next time you’re in the capital.
25. Killiney Beach
Venture to Dublin’s southside and head to Killiney Beach. Take the DART out to the coastal village of Killiney, where you can sit back and enjoy the glorious views of towering sea cliffs and colourful houses dotted among green hills.
Go for a swim or a stroll and look out to Bray Head and Dalkey Island. On a clear day, you might even see the majestic Sugar Loaf mountain in the distance. After your trip to the beach head up Killiney Hill, the views from the summit are simply outstanding.
From Dublin to Donegal and Kerry to Wexford, experience glistening blue waves and gorgeous golden sands. Head over to our Coastal Escapes page now and discover more incredible beaches.