Don’t let its rainy reputation fool you—Ireland is full of beautiful beaches. Visitors are spoiled for choice because of Ireland’s island setting, which boasts beaches around literally every corner as you drive along the twisting coastal roads.
While some of Ireland’s rocky beaches offer dramatic Atlantic scenery at the base of sheer sea cliffs, others seem almost tropical with impossibly blue water and white sand.
Whether you want to surf along the Irish coast or hike through some of the most unique grassland dunes in the world, there is an Irish beach to suit every taste.
Keem Bay, Co Mayo
The white sand and aquamarine water of Keem Bay on Achill Island ensure it tops the list of Irish beaches. Awarded a Blue Flag for its pristine conditions, the County Mayo beach looks like it could be set somewhere tropical. Sheltered from the elements on the eastern side of Ireland’s largest island, the bay is popular in the summer when a lifeguard is on duty to keep an eye on swimmers. The cliff-top drive approaching the beach from Keel also offers spectacular views.
Inch Beach, Co Kerry
The Dingle Peninsula in County Kerry has some of the most picturesque points along the entire Wild Atlantic Way, including Inch Beach. The expansive sandy beach is picture-perfect but the calm waters and predictable tides also make it one of the most popular surf spots in all of Ireland.
Dog's Bay and Gurteen Bay, Co Galway
These mirror-image bays set back-to-back in County Galway offer two of the prettiest seaside settings in all of Ireland, a short walk from each other. The currents are too strong for serious swims, but the natural setting is lovely. The rare grasslands here only exist in parts of Ireland and Scotland and the white sand is also unique because it is made up of the hard shells of itty bitty sea creatures known as foraminifera.
Sandycove, Co Dublin
Looking for a beach near the city? Hop on the DART to one of Dublin’s favorite beaches—Sandycove. The sheltered beach is a mix of big stones and sand with shallow water that is good for children. Its most famous landmark is the Martello Tower, where James Joyce once spent a week, and the opening scene of his famous novel "Ulysses" is set here. This is also where you’ll find the Forty-Foot bathing spot, which is still used year-round for those brave enough to dip in the Irish waters.
Strandhill, Co Sligo
Five miles outside of Sligo town, the sleepy seaside village of Strandhill is home to one of the best beaches in the country. Unfortunately, the sandy beach is not safe for swimming, but when the tide is just right, it attracts Ireland’s most devoted surfers. The setting at the foot of Knocknarea mountain is gorgeous and is a popular place for walks and picnics.
Rossbeigh, Co Kerry
Rossbeigh is the ideal spot to stretch your legs while road tripping around the Ring of Kerry. With miles of sandy beach, the idyllic spot is popular with families because of its playground and the sea here is calm enough for water sports in summer. Glenbeigh village is about two miles away and has plenty of pubs to pop into after a day spent by the water.
Rossnowlagh, Co Donegal
For a day of sea and sand, it is hard to beat the Blue Flag beach at Rossnowlagh in southwest Donegal. The west-facing beach is more than 2.5 miles long meaning there is plenty of space for long strolls or picnics under blue skies. The location also means that Rossnowlagh has wonderful views out towards Slieve League, the highest sea cliffs in Europe.
Murlough Beach, Co Antrim (Northern Ireland)
Set on the northern coast of Northern Ireland, looking out towards the Scottish isles, Murlough Bay offers a gorgeous but remote beach. The Blue Flag beach is a mix of sand and pebbles leading up to dunes covered in heath, which are part of a protected National Nature Reserve. The scenery is so spectacular that it was used as a "Game of Thrones" filming location, serving as Slaver's Bay in the Seven Kingdoms. The water is usually calm in summer when lifeguards are on duty to help swimmers.
Curracloe, Co Wexford
If Curracloe looks familiar, that might be because some of the scenes in "Saving Private Ryan" were filmed among the dunes. Despite the dramatic history, the beach is one of the most tranquil on the Emerald Isle and is suitable for summer swims and even surfing. The soft sand is some of the finest sand in Ireland, and the beach stretches for a full seven miles.