Ireland’s beautiful beaches

Sure, the temperatures are a little ‘softer’ than the Caribbean. But Ireland’s beaches compete with the best in the world...and often the only footprints in the sand are your own

Whitepark Bay, County Antrim

Think of Ireland, and beaches don’t exactly spring to mind. But that’s just how we like it. It means these deserted portions of paradise are rarely – if ever – crowded. And while Ireland doesn’t often enjoy the balmy temperatures of a sun holiday hotspot, it can boast several thousand kilometres of craggy coastline, and a thrillingly rich variety of coves and strands.

Coastal creativity

There are grand, sweeping affairs like Inchydoney in West Cork. There are natural wonders like Whiterocks Beach in Portrush, County Antrim, with its limestone cliffs and hunting hawks. It’s just one on a long list of features – including the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge and Dunluce Castle – that prompted New York Times best selling author Patricia Schultz to list the Causeway Coast as one of her “1,000 Places to See Before You Die”.

Bundoran, County Donegal

Surprises in the sand

It’s the diversity that gets you. Think of remote, end-of-the-earth discoveries like Silver Strand, basking beneath the hump of Mweelrea in County Mayo. Ask for directions in Louisburgh, and they’ll give you a disconcertingly simple answer. “Keep driving, ‘till there’s no more road’.”

Coumeenole was one of the locations in Ryan’s Daughter (1970), which won an Oscar for its cinematography. Coincidence? We think not. Ballinesker, County Wexford, is another movie star beach. It’s where Stephen Spielberg filmed the opening scenes of Saving Private Ryan.

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Natural retreats

Rock pools, precipitous cliffs and rolling sand dune ecosystems harbour all sorts of life. Take Derry-Londonderry’s Portstewart Strand near the mouth of the River Bann. The Blue Flag beach is managed by the National Trust, overlooked by the Mussenden Temple, braided with nature trails offering excellent views of the Northern coastline and bordered by the wildlife reserve of Barmouth.

Similarly, when walking between Templetown and Shellinghill on the Cooley Peninsula, watch out for tiny holes in the cliffs – they’re home to sand martins (when they’re not wintering in South Africa).

Europe’s cold-water Indonesia

The stunning natural formations of Ireland’s coastline cater for more than swimmers, too. Word is spreading on the surfing at beaches like Lahinch in County Clare, Portrush in County Antrim, and Tullan Strand in Bundoran, County Donegal.

Bundoran was recently voted one of the World’s 20 Best Surf Towns by National Geographic. “Europe’s cold-water Indonesia”, they called it.

Well, we did tell you the temperatures were ‘soft’.

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