Ireland has many qualities to offer the discerning visitor, but it has never claimed to be a destination for sun worshipers. Notwithstanding tales of having four seasons in one day, in reality Ireland actually has a mild climate many countries would die for. The country rarely suffers weather that is either too hot or too cold. It’ does not experience tornadoes, arctic conditions or hurricanes. Snow plows are not seen on Irish roads. It does get regular quantities of ‘soft’ rain, nothing torrential. And it often has a grey sky.
The Wild Atlantic Way on Ireland’s west coast has become a widely known scenic route of circa 1600 miles. The west coast of Ireland is the wettest part of the country. But did you know that this route boasts some of the finest beaches to be found on the continent of Europe?. And on a fine summers day in Ireland, with temperatures in the region of 25 centigrade there is no better place to be. The sound of the Atlantic waves, the lack of large crowds, the cleanliness of the environment and the stunning scenery all combine to make those beaches a very special experience.
Over a number of years touring with visitors along the Wild Atlantic Way, the writer has had an opportunity to experience many of the beaches on this route. Recently I was asked to compile a list of my favorites. This was not something I had considered in detail before. The list I compiled are all beeches I certainly found striking when there. Of course the list is not exhaustive and it is subjective. Without question many other beaches deserve to be on the list. But these are my personal favorites and I hope it will give some guidance to any visitors thinking of spending time on the Wild Atlantic Way. Here we go –
County Cork:
(1) Garretstown Beach. Situated within easy reach of Kinsale Town, this beach is a definite favourite with the locals and visitors to the area.
(2) Inchydoney Beach. My personal favourite in County Cork. A beautiful beach located a few miles outside the lovely town of Clonakilty. Very popular with people from Cork City many of whom have holiday homes in the area, this beach has an adjoining excellent hotel with restaurant and bar facilities.
(3) Crookhaven Beach. Situated on the Mizen Peninsula on the western edge of County Cork. Very scenic and attractive beach in a very scenic area.
County Kerry
(1) Derrynane Beach. Just off the Ring of Kerry in an area with jaw dropping scenery. This is a lovely beach which does not attract the bus loads of tourists on the Ring of Kerry route. Be sure to visit the island cemetery just off the beach which is still in use.
(2) Rossbeigh Beach. Again just off the Ring of Kerry. A magnificent beach on Dingle Bay. If you are up for a walk you can walk to the end and come back via the back strand. You will feel fresh after it!.
(3) Inch Beach. On the Dingle Peninsula and nearly touches Rossbeigh Beach from the other side of Dingle Bay. Long and breathtaking.
(4) Ventry Beach. On the Dingle Peninsula outside Dingle Town. Another beach favored by locals. Not unusual to see horse riding on this beach.
(5) Coumeenoole Beach. Again on the Dingle Peninsula towards Slea Head. A small beach compared to Inch but it has fantastic views of the nearby Blasket Islands. This beach featured in the film ‘Ryan’s Daughter’.
(6) Ballybunnion. Situated in North Kerry and adjoining Ballybunnion Golf Club, this is a very popular beach in the town of Ballybunnion. Well worth a visit.
(1) Kilkee. Situated in the town of Kilkee, this beach is very attractive to those from nearby Limerick City. The majority of homes in this attractive coastal town are owned by Limerick residents who decamp to Kilkee for the summer. A lovely area to spend a while.
(2) Spanish Point. Further up the County Clare coast, a fine beach in area with two good hotels for some food and refreshment.
(3) Lahinch. Situated in the town of Lahinch, a very popular recreational town for people from County Clare. Like Ballybunnion it has an adjoining top class Golf Club. Located very near the Cliffs of Moher.
County Galway.
(1) Salthill (pictured on top). A lovely beach area within the boundaries of Galway City and located on Galway Bay. This is an area where you can expect larger crowds, locals and visitors to Galway City.
(2) Spiddal. Further west on Galway Bay and not as crowded. A lovely beach for a walk with plenty of facilities nearby.
(3) Mannin Beach. Situated in west Galway on the road between Clifden and Roundstone. With Caribbean like sand, no crowds and located in an area of outstanding natural beauty this would be one of my top three beaches in Ireland.
County Mayo
(1) I have one favourite beach in County Mayo, Keem Bay on Achill Island. A fantastic beach that in my view has no equal in the county of Mayo. And Achill is a really special place to visit.
County Sligo
(1) Strandhill. Sligo is one of those areas in Ireland which really has an awful lot to offer, and could certainly do with more of a push. Strandhill is a magnificent beach in a lovely village just west of Sligo Town. Well used by the locals it really is a lovely area to spend some time. An undiscovered gem for visitors to Ireland.
(2) Mullaghmore. Situated  further north on Donegal Bay, Mullaghmore Beach adjoins to lovely seaside village by the same name. Beautiful views of Benbulben Mountain which dominates the landscape in this area. Awesome scenery.
(1) Rossnowlagh. Situated in south Donegal just north of Ballyshannon, this beach is one of my top three beaches in Ireland. Huge and magnificent, it really is something special. For a special view visit the Smugglers Inn which has commanding views of the beach, and is a lovely bar/restaurant.
(2) Narin/Portnoo. Personally and without doubt my number one beach in Ireland. Situated in West Donegal, spending a few hours here is a delightful experience. Situated in an area not generally visited by international tourists, this is a beach the Irish like to keep secret.
(3) Kincasslagh. Pictured above and further up the Donegal coast this is a lovely beach in a lovely area. Certainly one for those who want an area almost to themselves.
Donegal prides itself on its beaches. I have only mentioned three, but there are many more in this most beautiful county.
Classic Ireland Guided Tours provide multi day private tours on Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way. For information email: