You are currently viewing Discover the Best Beaches in Ireland
beach swimming

Discover the Best Beaches in Ireland

  • Post category:Blog

How to Find Best Beaches on Wild Atlantic Way

If you are interested in surfing in winter, fossil hunting in spring,  swimming in summer or diving in autumn there is a beach for you on the Wild Atlantic Way. I  But, how do you find the right beach?  The Atlantic Way Explorer app will guide you to your perfect choice including well-known Blue Flag beaches as well as secret coves .

Ireland has a magnificent coastline, dotted with beautiful sandy bays, and  rocky headlands with crashing waves. There are many different types of beaches too.  Choose from beaches with caves to explore, or magnificent surf breaks You can even find the perfect beach to watch seals hauling out of the bay or terns diving off shore.  The Wild Atlantic Way has it all captured in the free Atlantic Way Explorer app , and you can choose to explore the beaches with sea stacks or historic castles.

Blue Flag Beaches

When we put together the Atlantic Way Explorer App, beaches were high on the priority list.  The app currently features 47 blue flag beaches covering the entire west coast.  We uploaded the Blue flag beaches so they are easy to find and enjoy.  When you visit a blue flag beach, you have the assurance that you will be swimming in clean safe waters

The Blue Flag is an international certification given to beaches by the Foundation for Environmental Education (FEE). A beach that has been awarded the blue flag means the beach meets extremely high standards in environmental management. These standards are for water quality, safety, and public environmental education. In addition, a blue flag is only awarded for a season, which means that standards have to be kept high.

The criteria for this award are strict and gives the visitor great assurance.  These factors include:

  • Environmental information and education
  • Water Quality
  • Safety and services
  • Environmental management

Blue flags are normally considered a big tick for swimming and more often than not there is a lifeguard in the summer. Another advantage of the app is that it will let you know which beaches have lifeguards on duty during the summer.


Personal Favourite Beaches on the  Wild Atlantic Way

I have my own personal list of favorite beaches including Dunfanaghy beach in Donegal, Streedagh beach on the Sligo coast, the beautiful Keem Beach on Achill Island in Mayo, Renvyle Beach Galway, Fanore Beach in County Clare, Ballybunion Beach in the Kingdom county of Kerry and finally the picturesque Barleycove in  Cork. Most are Blue Flag but not all, either way, all are beautiful for swimming and walking. But loads more can be found on the free app Atlantic Way Explorer.

Dunfanaghy Beach, Donegal 

Dunfanaghy Beach is a typically beautiful Wild Atlantic Way beach in North Donegal. It has a gorgeous long wide white stretch of sand with shallow waters. It is 1.2km long and is truly vast on a low tide. It is good for walking,  swimming, and horseriding. The presence of the three headlands enhances the view from shore. A Blue Flag Beach lifeguard patrolled during the bathing season (lifeguard times can be found displayed on the noticeboard at the beach).  It isn’t far from Dunfanaghy village where there is a selection of pubs and cafes for lunch or dinner.

Streedagh Strand, Sligo

Streedagh Strand in Sligo a sandy beach that stretches for 3km with a cobble-rich upper shore. The view from the Streedagh includes the mountains of Donegal, Inishmurray monastic island and majestic Ben Bulben mountain. This beach is located on the northwestern shore of a sandbar linking Streedagh Point to an area called Connor’s Island. The sandbar is backed by sand dunes with an estuary and lagoon to the east side and the Atlantic Ocean to the west.  The unprotected beach together with reef offshore creates ideal surfing conditions. This beach is good for surfing all year round, particularly for inexperienced surfers. It is also an excellent beach for fossils, perhaps the best on the Wild Atlantic Way. The underlying bedrock is layers of sedimentary rocks rich in fossils. Many of the fossils are of coral and others clearly show what look like large aquatic organisms up to 40cm in size long since extinct. A fascinating way to spend the day

Keem Beach Achill Island Mayo

Keem beach was recently listed as one of the ten most beautiful beaches in the world. It is a remote horseshoe-shaped beach located at the far western end of Achill Island. The cliff drive there is fairly hair-raising but worth it with fantastic views of the ocean, Galway and Mayo coast and islands to the south. Achill is an easily accessible Island as there has been a bridge between it and the mainland since 1887 and the most recent was put in place in 2008. It is called the Michael Davitt Bridge and is inspired by the shape of a Basking Shark rib cage. Keem Beach is a beach that is safe for swimming and is a designated ‘Blue Flag’ beach with lifeguards present in July and August.

This bay is also good for snorkeling with clear waters and abundant marine life. A lovely way to spend a few hours is shifting through the sands at Keem looking for Amethyst.  There is an exposed seam of this purple semiprecious stone exposed on the cliffside and small amethyst stones can often be found on the beach.

The Beach was not always a fun place for holidaymakers. In the 1940s, a basking shark fishery was started in Achill based at Keem. This was, at its peak, the world’s largest basking shark fishery and caught a total of 12000 individuals between 1940 and 1964. The population, unsurprisingly, collapsed and the fishery closed. Basking sharks are still occasionally seen at Achill although nowadays bottlenose dolphins are a more common sight in the area. They are protect now and add an element of excitement to the area when chose to visit.

Renvyle Beach, North West Connemara (Galway)

Renvyle Beach is a beautiful white strand beach safe for swimming throughout the year. An excellent beach for walking or to simply admire the stunning views.   It has fabulous views of Mweelrea mountain (at 830m the highest mountain in Connaught), Croagh Patrick, Clare Island, Inishturk and in the distance Achill island.

Midway down the beach there is a rocky outcrop with a shellfish midden on top of periwinkle shells dated to 6000 years old where people ate and disgaurded shells in ancient times. . It is hard to imagine that here is where people lived, in the mesolithic times, hunting and gathering living on fish, periwinkles, seaweed, and maybe the odd deer if they were lucky enough to catch it. The beach is quiet for 10 months of the year but on a sunny day expect a full car park mid-summer. Download the free Atlantic Way Explorer app to find your way there easily.

Fanore Beach, Clare

Fanore Beach is a  golden splash of color against the grey Burren hills that back it. The contrast of its blue sea and sky with bright orange sands, and black limestone bedrock exposed, on the beach, is striking.

It is a wild beach with crashing waves, backed by a high sand dune system protecting the land. The Burren, being a limestone region, the rocks erode easily and rivers all disappear underground leaving a dry exposed rock landscape. The Caher River flows out onto the beach at Fanore; it is the only surface river in the  Burren. All the rocks within the river are coloured white from being coated with limestone deposited out of the water.

It is a good place to see fossils, and easy to pick out crinoids, brachiopods and corals in the black limestone. These rocks were formed in a shallow tropical sea over 330 million years ago.

Fanore is also a great place for diving and was recently (2019) voted as one of Europe’s top 10 dive sites. This is because it has a natural reef with a semi-circular cavern that contains a myriad of little pockets in the rock, which are home to an abundance of fish and seaweeds.

Ballybunion Beaches, Kerry

The north and south beaches at Ballybunion are Blue Flag beaches and are safe for swimming, surfing, and other water sports. The beach is framed by rocky headlands and high cliffs as well as a prominent castle close to the village centre. Both beaches are divided by an  outcrop on which stands a ruined castle. The beach to the left of the castle is called the “Men’s Beach”, and the one to the right the “Ladies Beach” because in the past the men swan separately from the women and children. The Men’s beach (South beach) is recognised as one of north Kerry’s best surf spots and is suitable for all types of surfer from beginners to advanced.

Barleycove, Cork

Barleycove is one of the most stunning beaches in West Cork and a safe place to swim. It is a pristine and beautiful beach that was formed after the Lisbon tsunami of 1755. The beach is south facing but shielded by cliffs from the south-westerly breeze, making it very popular with holidaymakers. It retained a “Blue Flag” in  2020 which is an indicator of safety for swimming. It is lifeguarded on weekends during the bathing season. Do take notice of the rip current sign at the far end of the beach and be careful.

Barleycove Beach is part of a magnificent ecosystem of dunes, saltmarsh and lagoon. It straddles a 10km stretch of coastline from the Barley Cove inlet to Ballyrisode Point at Toormore Bay. The walk to the beach is over the sand dunes, a wooden walkway and over a floating bridge to facilitate access and reduce the impact on the natural surroundings. Stunning.

Easy to find and enjoy using Atlantic Way Explorer App

All these sites and more are available on the app. There are over 200 sites on the App. Once you have the app- free to download you can simply choose your location and go exploring All the Blue Flag Beaches are free to access on the app  It is geolocated so once you find the beach you are looking for ask the app to take you there and it will using google map technology.

So don’t hestitate download it for free today…easy peasy lemon squeezy …..