Ireland's top 25 beaches
GO IRELAND:We’re lucky to live in a country with more than its fair share of gorgeous shores and silken strands. SANDRA O'CONNELLrounds up 25 of our favourites across the country
BEST FOR PICNICS
DOLLAR BAY, Wexford
This aptly named beach has real live buried treasure under its fine golden sands. Spanish gold was buried here by mutineers from a gold-laden vessel sailing from Tenerife to London in the 1700s. Guaranteed to bring a frisson to your sand-castle building. Even if you’re not lucky with the treasure, the scenery is pure gold.
SILVER STRAND, Wicklow
A little gem of soft sand sheltered on three sides by steep cliffs. On a sunny day this beach, accessed via a privately owned campsite just south of Wicklow town, is like being on a Greek island. Just don’t bring too much paraphernalia, it’s quite a hike back up to your car.
INCHYDONEY, Clonakilty, Cork
A great family-friendly swimming beach with lifeguards on duty in summer, Inchydoney is also well known for the hotel resort of the same name that perches on the base of the spit of land that divides the beach in two. It has two-night BB packages, including a two-hour surf lesson, from €250 pps.
Waves break long before hitting the crescent-shaped expanses of Rossnowlagh, the dramatic 4km long beach north of Sligo town. The resulting endless roll of white horses galloping ashore is a wonderful sight and no doubt part of what attracted Hong Kong’s Emily Browne when she moved here, buying the Smugglers Creek Inn that overlooks it three years ago. Check it out for yourself with an overnight stay from €70 pps.
CORAL BEACH, Carraroe, Galway
Reckoned to be Ireland’s only coral beach, the strand at Carraroe is one of the most picturesque beaches in the country, but it’s hard on feet so don’t forget your sandals. Great for snorkelling with plenty of rock pools to explore.
BEST FOR SCENERY
SILVER STRAND, Malinbeg, Co Donegal
If you’re from Donegal, there’s only one Silver Strand and that’s the horse-shoe shaped one near Glencolmcille. To be fair, this one is even more stunning visually, with the land circling the sea like a torc. Be prepared for loads of steps here too. Rest up at Malinbeg Hostel a couple of hundred metres up the road, where family rooms start from €14 per person.
INCH STRAND, Kerry
This piece of sandy heaven is still remembered as having stolen the show, or rather the movie, Ryan’s Daughter. Terrific for swimming, surfing and sea angling or just for sitting back and watching others swim, surf and sea angle from the comfort of the enormous deck of Greene’s Cafe Bar Bistro which overlooks it.
BALLYMASTOCKER, Lough Swilly
This one has been adjudged by overseas press as not just one of the best in Ireland, but in the world. How it was ever pipped by some old Seychelles beach is beyond us. Ballymastocker is divided in three, like a golden-sanded triptych that catches your breath as you round the bend on the Knockcalla coast road overlooking it. It is also just up the road from Rathmullan House which is offering three-night midweek specials for July.
Few vistas in Ireland are as gorgeous as Clew Bay and at Bertra, 12km west of Westport on the Louisburgh Road, you’re right in the middle of it. The beach sits on an arm of land extending out into the bay with great views of Clare Island.