Best Beaches in Ireland

Must-Visit Ireland Beaches 2024

When in Ireland, you are never more than 80 miles from the sea and a coastline offering golden sandy beaches, dramatic cliffs, hidden harbors and bays. You’ll find beautiful secluded coves as well as larger beaches with windsurfing, sailing, canoeing and swimming. Shore angling and deep sea fishing facilities are available in most coastal villages.

Galway Beach Vacation

The city of Galway, folk capital of the west, has a vibrancy and hedonism that make it unique. People come here with energies primed for enjoyment – the music, the drink, the “crack” – and it can be a difficult place to leave.

University College Galway guarantees a high proportion of young people in term time, maintained in summer by the attractions of the city’s festivals. This youthful energy is an important part of Galway’s identity, and the city’s mix of culture and fun attracts not only disaffected bohemians from other areas of Ireland but folksy young Europeans who return each year with an almost religious devotion.

Galway sees itself in many ways as the capital of Gaelic Ireland, where traditional aspects of Irish society, primarily music and language, are most confidently and colorfully expressed.

Probably the nicest of the sandy beaches immediately west of Galway city is the small one at Silver Strand, nestling beneath a grassy headland about three miles out of the center. Here, in a small inlet backed by a copse, is also the area’s most pleasant campsite, signposted Hunters.

The Twelve Pins pub, around a mile west of the site, is renowned for seafood. Galway’s other special beach is Ballyloughrun, east of the city; this, too, has a campsite alongside and can be reached by taking the public footpath along by the railway line, or by either the Renmore or the Merlyn Park bus from the station.

Kilkee Beach Vacation

Kilkee, over on the Atlantic coast and eight miles northwest of Kilrush, is a small, busy, seaside holiday town with all the amenities you’d expect: cheap cafes, restaurants, amusements and nightlife.

Popular with the bucket-and-spade brigade, the town comes as a healthy piece of normality if the offbeat romanticism of the west coast has become too much.

The westerly tip of the town’s magnificent golden beach, set in dramatic cliff scenery, meets an apron of laminated rock strata known as the Duggerna Rocks, which protects it from the ravages of the Atlantic. Here, when the tide is out, deep, clear pollock holes form, filled with colorful marine life.

The area is a favorite for scuba diving and snorkeling, but even without equipment, exploration is rewarding.

There are exhilarating walks for miles along the cliffs both to the north and, more spectacularly, to the south round Loop Head, where you can walk for sixteen miles along the cliff’s edge past stack rocks, puffing holes (where the sea spouts up through crevices in the rock) and the natural Bridges of Ross.

Wexford Beach Vacation

Apart from the Viking legacy of narrow, quirky lanes, Wexford town retains few traces of its past, and only the quays suggest that it was once an important trading center. In fact, the harbor, in business from the ninth century, has now silted up, and Wexford has lost its trade to its old rival Waterford.

That’s not to say, though, that the town’s history stopped with the fall of the Vikings. Settled by the Normans in the twelfth century, it became an English garrison town, brutally taken by Cromwell in 1649 (who had 1500 Wexford citizens put to death). In the 1798 Rebellion, the town saw brave, rebel fighting against the English Crown (backed by a mainly Protestant yeomanry), which was fearful that the port might be used as a landing place by the French.

The uprising lasted longer in Wexford than in most places, but the rebels were finally put down, and the Crown was quick to exact retribution. Wexford, though, plays down its contribution to Republicanism and has emerged as a positive, forward-thinking place. It is internationally famous for its prestigious Opera Festival , while a more mainstream draw are the town’s estimated 93 bars, reason enough to give Wexford at least a night.

Within a few miles of Wexford lie plenty of attractions to justify staying around for a day or so.

The southeast has more sunshine than any other part of Ireland, and as the entire coastline of the county to the north of Wexford town is made up of safe and sandy beaches, the region is a popular spot in summer for families and caravanners.

From Curracloe, five miles northeast of town (take the R742), superb, sandy dunes stretch away into the far distance, and it was here that Steven Spielberg shot the epic World War I film Saving Private Ryan. Curracloe makes a good point from which to access the Wexford Coastal Path. Though the little villages roundabout are overloaded in July and August, the sands themselves aren’t. Unfortunately, without your own transport you’ll be reliant on the Bus Eireann services from Wexford to Curracloe, which run highly infrequently.

Roughly six miles southeast of Wexford is the huge sandy beach at Rosslare, the county’s other main seaside resort, not to be confused with Rosslare Harbour, another five miles further south. Right on the edge of the beach, the best hotel in the southeast, Kelly’s, has excellent sporting facilities, outdoor hot tubs, and an impressive collection of Modern Irish art. Campers can pitch their tents among the caravans at Burrow Holiday Park (mid-March to early Nov.).

Wicklow Beach Vacation

There’s nothing much to Wicklow, seventeen miles south of Bray, but it is the first place that wholly escapes the influence of Dublin as you go down the coast.

It’s a pleasant, ramshackle town with plenty of entertainment, one or two good, cheap places to eat, a couple of smarter places on the fringes of the town, and walking and swimming, too.

It has none of the presence you might expect of a county town and comes across as a happily disorganized kind of place, full of people chatting on pavements, cars parked on double yellow lines and solidly built houses in bright marine pastels.

Just outside town on the seaward side, a knoll encrusted with some knobbly piles of stone constitutes all that’s left of Black Castle: one of the fortifications built by the Fitzgeralds in return for lands granted them by Strongbow after the Anglo-Norman invasion of 1169, and all but demolished by the O’Byrnes and O’Tooles in 1301.

Wicklow Head really is spectacular, and you can walk all the way round (there are two tiny swimming beaches) accompanied by exhilarating views of the open sea and, northwards, the weird silhouettes of the Great and Little Sugarloaf mountains. There’s also sociable, if unglamorous, swimming near the harbor breakwater closer to the center of town.

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