The subject of the best beaches in Donegal is one that can fire up a fine bit of debate.
After all, Donegal is home to many magnificent beaches, and it’s only natural for people, especially those living near a particular spot, to have their favourites.
County Donegal is home to many of the best beaches in Ireland, with a handful of the county’s sandy stretches looking like something from a land far more tropical.
In the guide below, I’m going to show you my favourite beaches in Donegal – if I missed one that you’re particularly fond of, let me know in the comments below!
Water safety warning: Understanding water safety is absolutely crucial when visiting beaches in Ireland. Please take a minute to read these water safety tips. Cheers!
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The best beaches in Donegal
The breath-taking county of Donegal is home to no end of natural and man-made attractions, from waterfalls to castles and everything in between.
However, anyone that’s flicked through our guide to the best places to visit in Donegal will know that beaches contribute hugely to this county’s wonder. Dive on in below!
1. Kinnagoe Bay
The stunning Kinnagoe Bay is hands-down our favourite of the many Donegal Beaches. One of the highlights on the Inishowen 100, this sandy beach is home to a lot of beauty and history.
Kinnagoe Bay is the resting place of La Trinidad Valencera, a shipwreck from the Spanish Armada in 1588 (look out for the plaque).
The wreck attracts many fish including pollack, bass, flounder and wrasse which can be caught by fishing from the rocks and beach. It’s also a popular for surfing.
2. Ballymastocker Bay
Also known as Portsalon Beach, the incredible Ballymastocker Bay is an idyllic 2km stretch of pure white sand.
Once voted “second most beautiful beach in the world” by Observer magazine, this beach will delight you from the minute it creeps into view until the moment you leave.
While you’re there, take the short walk to see Great Pollet Sea Arch, one of the most impressive in Ireland.
This is one of the best beaches in Donegal if you’re visiting with someone who has restricted mobility – you’ll get a great view from the parking area here.
3. Downings Beach
The beach at Downings is, in my opinion, one of the most overlooked beaches in Donegal by those visiting the county.
Located a stone’s throw from Na Dnaibh (Downings village), Downings Beach is popular with windsurfers and dog walkers.
With clean Blue Flag waters and lifeguard service during the summer, it has good facilities including a car park and toilets. On a windy day, enjoy the view from the Harbour Bar nearby.
4. Five Finger Strand
Bordered by dunes up to 30 metres high (some of the highest Miram grass dunes in Europe, as it happens), Five Fingers Strand is named after the 5 sea stacks just offshore.
Park near the whitewashed St Mary’s Church (one of the oldest Catholic churches in Ireland) and walk to the sandy beach.
Riptides make it extremely dangerous for swimming, so please keep your feet on dry land – you’re better off exploring on foot.
Fiver Finger Strand, like Portsalon Beach, is another of the best Donegal beaches for soaking up a view from afar – aim for this spot and you’ll be treated to the view above.
5. Malin Beg/Silver Strand
Silver Strand Beach (aka Malin Beg) is another of the many beaches in Donegal that doesn’t receive half the credit that it deserves.
Simply put – Silver Strand is an unspoiled gem. This is a horseshoe-shaped beach that can be found just down the road from the little town of Glencolmcille.
Whether you kick-back with a picnic on the grass above and gaze down, or head for a stroll along the sandy shore, this beach is guaranteed to delight.
6. Tra na Rossan Beach
Irish folk will know that “Tra” means “beach” and this one is well off the beaten track on the glorious and often-missed Rosguill Peninsula.
Surrounded by wild coastal scenery, Tra na Rossan Beach is good for sandcastles, surfing and swimming. You might even spot seals bobbing just offshore.
If you fancy a walk with a view, aim for the hill at the far end of Tra Na Rossan (the hill just behind the hostel). The views from up near here are out of this world (just be careful).
7. Magheroarty Beach
One of the best beaches in Donegal for surfing, Magheroarty Beach is also popular with families and walkers looking for a lungful of Atlantic air.
Situated to the Wild Atlantic Way, it has Blue Flag waters and golden sand with frothy surf crashing onto the beach and rocks.
The horseshoe-shaped bay offers views of Inishbofin and Tory Island and you can catch a ferry to them from the pier.
8. Fintra Bay (Fintragh Bay)
Fintra Bay is another of the many beaches in Donegal that get missed by lots of those that visit (which means you’ll often have it all to yourself).
Backed by dunes and rolling hills, it’s a peaceful spot for families to enjoy sandcastle-building and ball games.
The best place for getting your feet wet is in the shallow lagoon at the opposite end of the beach to the car park.
9. Marble Hill Beach
Close to the lively village of Dunfanaghy on Donegal’s north coast, Marble Hill Beach is a sandy bay with two rocky landmarks at the east end.
The sand dunes are home to many wildflowers and nesting birds including the corncrake which has a grating call.
This is one of many beaches in Donegal that has lifeguards in place during the busier summer months.
10. Portnoo / Narin Beach
Stroll along the Strand at beautiful Portnoo Beach or enjoy a swim in the chilly but sheltered Atlantic waters that are protected by Dunmore Head.
Backed by dunes, the golden sandy beach stretches for over a mile in a scenic Natural Heritage Area (NHA).
At low tide, you can walk across to Inishkeel Island (please be careful and check tide times in advance) with its historic church, holy wells and carved stone slabs.
11. Rossnowlagh Beach
Situated around 8km south of the historic town of Donegal, Rossnowlagh Beach will (quite literally, at times…) take your breath away.
This beach is popular with surfers, locals and tourists alike and, with over 4km of pristine beach to saunter along, it’s perfect for early morning strolls.
12. Carrickfinn Beach
The Carrickfinn Beach is arguably one of the best beaches in Donegal. Edging the runway at Donegal Airport, it’s Carrickfinn that’s to thank for Donegal Airport being crowned the most scenic in the world.
Carrickfinn Beach has extensive white sands and turquoise waters that would not look out of place on a Caribbean island on a sunny day.
Backed by sand dunes covered with machair grass, this scenic area is home to many rare plant species which provide an unforgettable carpet of blooms in spring and summer.
13. Boyeeghter Bay
Boyeeghter Bay is arguably the most unique of the many brilliant beaches in Donegal (it’s the most off-the-beaten-path, anyway).
Interestingly nicknamed ‘Murder Hole Beach‘, Boyeeghter Bay is an absolute dream to explore, once you visit during the quieter months.
Why? Well, as you’ll discover in this guide, parking can be impossible (literally) to find. Located on the Melmore head peninsula next to Downings, the views from the hills above the bay are out of this world.
14. Culdaff Bay
Our round-up of the best Donegal beaches ends with the golden Culdaff Bay on the stunning Inishowen Peninsula. Culdaff boasts two beaches, imaginatively named “Small Beach” and “Big Beach”.
The two are separated by the headlands of Black Rock and Lady’s Rock. This popular sandy beach offers safe swimming thanks to Blue Flag waters.
FAQs About Donegal Beaches
We get a lot of questions about what sandy stretches in Donegal are worth a visit. Below, I’ve tried to tackle the most frequently asked questions we receive.
If you have a question to ask, or a beach in Donegal to recommend, pop a comment into the comments section below.
What are the best beaches in Donegal?
- Portsalon Beach
- Five Finger Strand
- Carrickfinn Beach
- Boyeeghter Bay
What are the best Donegal beaches for surfing?
- Falcarragh Beach
- Marble Hill Beach
- Rossnowlagh Beach
- Tullan Strand Beach