Two miles from Roundstone, Co Galway, on the road to Clifden, are two of the finest beaches in Ireland. Gurteen Beach and Dog’s Bay lie back to back forming a tombolo jutting out into the Atlantic Ocean.
Gurteen Beach is the larger of the two beaches and is located closer to Roundstone village. The water here is crystal clear and it's used for swimming and other water based activities including windsurfing and kitesurfing. The beach is naturally protected by the headland which it faces to the south and this is a very popular destination for holidaymakers in the summer with wonderful walks and it's a great place to collect sea shells.
Dogs Bay and Gurteen Bay make up one of the finest stretches of coastline in Connemara with uncompromising views of Errisbeg and the surrounding countryside. The beaches were formed by a sand spit and tombolo which now separates the two bays and their beaches.
The area has international importance for its rare and interesting ecological, geological and archaeological features. The sand and grassland habitats are of particular interest as the sand on Gurteen Beach was not formed from the local limestone but rather from fragments of seashells of tiny sea creatures known as foraminifera. It is these seashells that give the sand a pure white colour. The grasslands, made up of machair vegetation are considered rare and found only on the west coast of Ireland and Scotland. The name Gurteen derives from the Irish Goirtín meaning 'small plot' or 'small field'.