Ireland is a small, but beautiful country with many wonderful beaches. But where are the best beaches in Ireland to be found.
The coastline of this westerly island off the coast of Europe boasts spectacular scenery, with rocky cliffs and sandy beaches.
To help you find your perfect Irish beach, let's explore all that Ireland's coastline and beaches have to offer.
Table of Contents
- Does Ireland have nice sandy beaches?
- Are the beaches better on the west coast or the east coast of Ireland?
- Best Beaches in Ireland - A Guide to the Coastline
- Knockalla or Port Salon Beach, in County Donegal
- Strand Hill, County Sligo
- Keem Bay, Achill Island, County Mayo
- Carrowmore Strand, County Mayo
- Lahinch Beach, County Clare
- Inch Beach, Dingle Peninsula, County Kerry
- Barley Cove Beach, West Cork
- Inchydoney Beach, County Cork
- Tramore Beach, County Waterford
- Morriscastle Beach, County Wexford
- Kiliney Beach, County Dublin
- Which county in Ireland has the best weather for days at the beach?
- Where are Ireland's best beaches for swimming?
- Are the best beaches in Europe in Ireland?
- Honorable Mentions
- To finish up - where is the most beautiful coastline in Ireland?
Does Ireland have nice sandy beaches?
Ireland does indeed have some of the best sandy beaches in Europe! With its westerly location, Ireland has a temperate climate and it's coastline is home to many peninsulas and bays. This means that some of Ireland's beaches are exposed to a lot of evening sun, with long daylight hours during the summer months.
Ireland boasts more than 6000 km (3700 miles) of coastline with plenty of sandy shores. There is no shortage of beautiful beaches but there can be a scarcity of beautiful sunny days to enjoy all that Ireland's coastline offers.
Be prepared for rain, and be pleasantly surprised if the sun shines. Wet suits come in handy when taking a dip on the west coast.
The most popular beach in Ireland is Broad Strand at Tramore, which attracts about 500,000 sun lovers a year.
If you're looking for sandy beaches that are more secluded and quieter, then check out the rest of this post, where we'll explore some of the many amazing beaches in Ireland.
Some people wonder if Ireland's beaches have sand, or is it all rocks.
Ireland has a mix of sandy beaches with the occasional bit of rock to break up the vastness of sand. There are also lots of little coves and inlets that provide shelter for those looking for some privacy.
Are the beaches better on the west coast or the east coast of Ireland?
Ireland's west coast is well known for its rugged, dramatic scenery and wild Atlantic coastline. The soft sandy beaches are more sheltered on the east coast which offers a better chance of sun!
Ireland has some stunning stretches of beach perfect for long walks, surfing or just watching the waves come in, but it can be difficult to decide where your favorite spot might be.
Luckily a beach is never very far away in Ireland, and some of the most spectacular coastal scenery in the world is found on Ireland's western shoreline. But the east coast does not disappoint. Long stretches of sandy beaches are found all along the shoreline of the Irish sea, which separates Ireland from Great Britain.
No matter where you are in Ireland, there will be some great stretches of beach perfect for sun bathing and a dip, if the sun agrees to shine
The most popular Irish beaches tend to be those with sandy shores and not too much seaweed, but everyone's favorite spot varies according to personal preference.
On Ireland's west coast there is more exposure to wind and rain than on the east coast. If you want a sandy beach that's going to be perfect for a picnic then head east where the waves of the Irish sea gently lap at sandy shores.
In today's post I've compiled a list of some of my favorite beaches in Ireland to help you decide which ones are worth adding to your itinerary.
Best Beaches in Ireland - A Guide to the Coastline
Which are the top beaches in Ireland?
Ireland has over one hundred amazing sandy beaches so it's hard to say which ones are the absolute best, because there really isn't any one beach that stands head and shoulders above all the rest.
That said, here are my top picks if you want to spend your days on Ireland's shoreline. Let's dive in.
Knockalla or Port Salon Beach, in County Donegal
This beach is located in County Donegal on the Wild Atlantic Way and has a sandy coastline with some rocks towards the coast which are great for exploring.
Other names for Knockalla include Ballymastocker Bay and Port Salon.
The water is shallow with lots of sand at low tide making it perfect for children to play as well as being safe for swimming.
It's also quite close to the Giant's Causeway which is a UNESCO World Heritage site and well worth visiting for its spectacular views.
You can take a photographic tour of this amazing spot here.
Strand Hill, County Sligo
Strandhill is a small coastal village in Co. Sligo, Ireland. It has acres of sand and sand dunes. Plus there are plenty of activities on offer including surfing lessons, diving and fishing trips, as well as horse riding along the coastline.
This beach has great white sand dunes that you can climb. The many nooks and crannies of these sand dunes make it perfect for those looking to get away from crowds.
The water can be shallow towards the waters edge, making it perfect for families with small children. However, further out from shore, amazing waves make this a favorite spot for surfers.
There are also plenty of amenities near the beach including a car park, toilets and refreshments.
This beach could be considered one that offers something for everyone. It's easily accessible by public transport, has easy access to toilet facilities, lots of sand dunes to explore, and is not too busy.
Keem Bay, Achill Island, County Mayo
Keem Beach is a small and picturesque strand lying at the foot of rugged hillsides covered in wild grasses. This amazing beach offers clear blue water backed by green hillsides.
It's an amazing stop on Ireland's Wild Atlantic Way tour route. Once you catch a glimpse of this strand below you as you drive, the scenery will entrance you.
Achill Island's beaches are popular with locals and tourists alike, because they offer such a wide range of water activities as well as scenic beauty. They're simply hard to beat.
Keem Bay, County Mayo has long been considered one of the best beaches in Ireland for swimming and offers some good surfing opportunities too!
Its close proximity to other beaches also means there's plenty more family fun waiting just around the corner.
Carrowmore Strand, County Mayo
Carrowmore Strand located near the town of Louisburgh, is a low, flat and windswept sandy beach, set between a rocky outcrop.
It's etched in to a small bay off County Mayo's amazing Clew Bay.
From this amazing location you'll find spectacular views of Clew Bay, Clare Island and Achill Island. Carrowmore Hill rises above the beach, sheltering it with steep cliffs.
Carrowmore Beach is a long stretch of sand. But be warned! It’s not always the best place to swim as there are many hidden currents in this area.
The sand dunes and grasslands of this amazing piece of Ireland's coastline form a habitat rich in birds, plants and insects.
Lahinch Beach, County Clare
Lahinch in County Clare is a Blue Flag beach which means that water quality is regularly monitored.
The great thing about this spot on the west coast of Ireland is that it has a good reputation for being safe. It's also a favorite spot for surfers all year round.
With lifeguards on duty, Lahinch Beach offers great protection from the elements and with facilities nearby including cafes restaurants and shops, you'll never be bored. Plus it's not far from the world famous Cliffs of Moher.
Inch Beach, Dingle Peninsula, County Kerry
Inch Beach on the Dingle Peninsula in County Kerry boasts a wide expanse of golden sands and shallow waters that make it perfect for people of all ages to explore.
The beach has been awarded the European Blue Flag which means you can be sure it will meet high standards for water quality, safety and environmental awareness. These beaches are also regularly inspected by an independent company so customers know they have made a good choice when visiting.
This beach is a popular spot for tourists and locals because of its stunning views, and beautiful coastal walks. Sunsets on Inch Beach can be simply breathtaking.
Ryan's Daughter, an Irish film by David Lean, was shot on location here. The film crew even built an old Irish village in the location, which unfortunately no longer exists.
The summer waves are usually not too big at Inch Beach, so it's perfect if you're looking for somewhere safe to explore with children with a vast expanse of sand. It's also loved by dog walkers who head out along this stretch every day.
Barley Cove Beach, West Cork
Barley Cove is a sandy beach on the Mizen Peninsula in West Cork. It's an unspoiled and remote spot with incredible views of the surrounding countryside.
You can enjoy stretches of sand that wrap around a flowing stream and grass covered dunes, or go for a swim in one of its beautiful sea pools.
Barley Cove is a lovely family beach that has only been in existence for a few centuries. You can learn all about how its sands were washed up onto the West Cork shoreline after a storm in the 1700's in this post.
I recommend Barley Cove, not just because it is the favorite beach of my Irish childhood, but because it's one of the best beaches in Ireland.
The beach has lifeguards on duty during the summer months so you can enjoy it safely too!
But be aware there can be a strong current on Ireland's Atlantic shoreline, so never stray too far from shore when swimming.
On the Wild Atlantic Way you'll find yourself surrounded by unspoiled beauty that's hard to come across anywhere else on earth.
Inchydoney Beach, County Cork
Inchydoney is a sandy bay backed by limestone cliffs. The rocky coastline around the headland offers spectacular views over to Mizen Head and Crookhaven Head on clear days.
This area has become popular with surfers since it was recognized internationally in 1999 as one of the best surfing beaches in the world.
Inchydoney is a great spot for families to explore with its sheltered bay, and gentle surf zone perfect for swimming, paddling or building sandcastles on the beach.
Crystal clear waters are perfect for long days of family fun. Plus it's not far from the thriving, bustling town of Clonakilty with an abundance of Irish pubs and wonderful restaurants.
Tramore Beach, County Waterford
This beach is often declared to be Ireland's best beach and it definitely is one of its most popular strands.
Tramore Beach, County Waterford is located on the south coast and near the mouth of the River Suir estuary.
Boasting a massive stretch of sandy shoreline over 5 km in length, the name of this beach and nearby town comes from the Irish words for Big Strand.
Trá (pronounced thraw) means beach or strand in the Irish language, and mór (pronounced more) is the word for big.
This spectacular beach draws crowds from Waterford City, especially during summer weekends, but there' no shortage of room to spread out on this expansive beach, with sandy stretches offering views out over the Atlantic ocean.
Close to the town of Tramore, you'll also find a promenade and various amusements. Further away from the town the beach becomes less busy and quiet, and there you'll find a beautiful backdrop of sand dunes. A spectacular tidal lagoon known as Back Strand lies just over the dunes.
Morriscastle Beach, County Wexford
Morriscastle Beach is one of Ireland's best sandy beaches. It is sometimes referred to as the "Golden Mile" even though it is much longer than just a mile. It may even be Ireland's longest beach, but that title is often given to a sister beach in County Wexford called Curracloe Beach.
This beach has lovely sandy shores with no rocks in sight making it perfect for families, or those looking to swim as there are lifeguards on duty during the summer months. The views are really lovely - especially on a clear day with blue skies.
The sand on this Wexford strand is golden and fine, making it soft for little ones' bare feet. It's a perfect beach for building sand castles, with sand dunes providing shelter to the west.
Film and movie buffs might recognize this beach as the location where the D-Day landings were filmed for the movie Saving Private Ryan.
Sometimes, if you're lucky you can even spot some seals swimming near the shore. It's also a favorite spot for anglers.
And best of all it's a Blue Flag beach, making it a stunning, family-friendly, clean beach for any outing to the shore.
Kiliney Beach, County Dublin
Kiliney Beach is located in south County Dublin, about forty minutes away from Dublin's city center. The beach stretches for over one kilometer with plenty of sand and clear water making it ideal for swimming.
It's also a great place for stand up paddle boarding all year round!
Dalkey Quarry one of the best-known rock climbing spots in Ireland is close by, as is Killiney Hill, which offers great views of Dublin Bay.
As one of the most popular beaches in Ireland's capital city, it can get quite busy during summer months when Dubliners flock to visit. It's easy to access this beach, since the Dart or commuter train line in Dublin will take you there.
Which county in Ireland has the best weather for days at the beach?
Some of Ireland's best beaches are located on the west coast in Counties Cork, Kerry, Clare, Galway, Mayo, Sligo and Donegal.
On the east coast the beaches of County Wexford are stunning. Many Dubliners escape the city during the summer months to enjoy all that Wexford has to offer.
The weather is generally wetter on the west coast of Ireland than the east coast. It can get relatively hot all over Ireland during the summer months (June-August).
Highest temperatures usually do not go above 28 degrees Celsius or 82 degrees Fahrenheit in summer. Some summers however, the temperatures may remain in the 60's, with only occasional warmer days.
And remember Ireland's coastline is exposed to the vast Atlantic ocean with swirling winds and gusty gales. Always take a jacket, even if a day seems very sunny in the morning.
Luckily there are some areas that do have more sun and less wind! County Wexford is known as the sunny southeast and boasts some amazing sandy beaches.
Where are Ireland's best beaches for swimming?
For the best beaches for swimming, head to County Clare. You'll find sandy shores with fewer rocks and some sheltered locations that offer great opportunities for snorkeling and fishing as well.
Plus you'll find little villages tucked away along the County Clare coastline where you can find everything from pubs to restaurants, fishing trips to surf boards, warm welcomes and plenty of smiles.
Irish beaches come in many shapes and sizes. Now unfortunately there can be a shortage of beautiful sunny days to enjoy what this coastline offers - come prepared for bad weather and you won't be disappointed. Wet suits are highly recommended for swimming in the colder Atlantic waters.
All of the beaches on this handy list are good for swimming. But always be wary of the ocean. As my granny used to say, 'never trust the Atlantic and always be wary of wild waves and currents.'
But be sure not to miss any coastal gems while exploring the Emerald Isle, whether it's lazing under palm trees or catching waves at one of Ireland's best beaches.
Yes I did say palm trees. Believe it or not palm trees grow exceptionally well in Ireland's wet climate and can be found dotted around the south and east of the island. They were brought to the Emerald Isle from New Zealand as early as the 1800's.
Are the best beaches in Europe in Ireland?
Ireland boasts some of the best beaches in Europe with sandy shores and rolling waves. There are over 100 named beaches in Ireland, and all have something different to offer.
The sun may not scorch Ireland's shores, like it does the beaches of the Mediterranean, but if you're looking for spectacular scenery then Ireland definitely is home to some of the best beaches in Europe.
Mainland Europe may be for sun worshippers, but for those who wish to connect with nature, experience the power and majesty of the Atlantic ocean, or simply get away from it all, then Ireland's beaches are the very best in the world.
Perhaps your favorite beach missed my list of top ten Irish beaches, and undeservedly so. There are many, many glorious sandy spots along the Irish coastline that derserve a mention. Here are a few more to check out.
Portmarnock Beach - on the northcoast of Dublin, the golden sands of this city beach are often called the Velvet Strand.
Dog's Bay - a horseshoe shaped beach on the County Galway coastline, is simply spectacular and a wonderful spot to visit on warm summer days. Gurteen Bay, which lies right beside Dog's Bay, is also a magnificent part of Ireland's coastline.
Trá Bán - pronounced as traw bawn, means white beach. It's found on the Blasket Islands off the coast of County Kerry. Tourists can reach these remote islands by ferry from Dunquin Pier, on the Dingle Peninsula. However, the ferry only runs to the Great Blasket during late spring and summer.
Whiterocks Beach - lies near Portrush, County Antrim. With large, golden sand dunes it's a gorgeous family retreat. Plus it's not far from Dunluce Castle if you like to explore a little history.
To finish up - where is the most beautiful coastline in Ireland?
What a question to ask! Ireland is a country surrounded by water on all sides with a coastline full of sandy shores, and an abundance of inlets and coves. I could start the next great feud in all of Ireland, by trying to nominate a winning spot.
Those from Donegal will swear their county has the most amazing bathing spots, while those from the southern coastline will claim the Kingdom of Kerry owns that claim to fame.
I'm not even going to try to answer that question, because Ireland's beaches are all simply amazing.
The best beaches in Ireland are all different and they each offer something a little bit unique. Hopefully this article has helped you decide which Irish beach to visit next, and will help you as you plan your next trip to Ireland.
Which is Ireland's best beach in your opinion? Comment below and let me know which amazing spot should be added to this post.
Slán agus beannacht,
(Goodbye and blessings)
Mairéad -Irish American Mom
Pronunciation - slawn ah-gus ban-ock-th
Mairéad - rhymes with parade