What do you love to do at the beach? Play in the waves? Lounge on the sand? Explore the tide pools and look for sea creatures? On an island, it might feel like a real challenge to pick a favorite beach. But it depends on what you love on a beach. Ireland’s beaches range from family-friendly, sandy idylls where kids can splash and make sandcastles to dramatic cliffs to remote natural havens where you might be the only person around.
One standard that can guide you whatever your criteria for the perfect beach is – the Blue Flag awards. More than 80 Irish beaches won a Blue Flag for the 2018 season, so you are spoiled for choice. The Blue Flag awards confirm that a beach has achieved a high enough standard of water quality, safety, environmental education, information provision, and site management.
If you have children in tow, you can’t go wrong with a beach where they can wade, make sandcastles and eat ice cream. The sunny southeast coast of Ireland is fantastic for families. Courtown in County Wexford and Dunmore East in County Waterford are two classic Irish beaches for families. Both are on the edge of charming seaside villages. Courtown offers a few choices of sandy beaches, while Dunmore East is gorgeous but has just one main beach. Courtown also boasts a delightful woodsy trail, a seal rescue that welcomes visitors, and crazy golf. Dunmore East features a good playground to keep the little ones entertained, and it is not far from Hook Head Peninsula with its iconic lighthouse.
Surf and Water Sports
The wild Atlantic has the waves for surfing! Ireland’s most popular beaches for riding the waves are in the northwest, particularly in County Donegal and County Sligo. Bundoran, County Donegal is known as the surfing capital of Ireland and it has a Blue Flag beach. Donegal boasts ten Irish Surfing Association schools altogether and 13 Blue Flag beaches. Sligo’s Enniscrone, Strandhill, and Easkey are great beaches for surfing, but Rosses Point is the only Blue Flag beach in Sligo. You can, however, find lessons in stand-up paddle boating, sea kayaking, snorkeling, and other water sports in Sligo.
The Cliffs of Moher are one of the most famous coastal sights in the world. They are astonishingly beautiful. The cliffs are not a beach per se. They’re pretty far from the water! But County Clare is home to many lovely beaches. Fanore is a lovely Blue Flag beach a bit north of the cliffs, and the dunes there are protected by the European Habitat Directive. Sitting at the edge of the Burren, Fanore has a bedrock of limestone. If you take the time to look closely, you can find fossils there.
What’s more romantic than the sun setting over the ocean? If you’re looking for romantic walks on the beach as the sun sets, you’ll find them on the west coast of Ireland. Galway Bay is stunning. Stroll along with the Claddagh in the evening and ponder the rich symbolism and history of the traditional ring that is named for this former fishing village. Or get away from it all on the Aran Islands. Despite their popularity with tourists, these rugged islands are utterly devoid of hustle and bustle.
Slán go fóill