Yes, the best beaches in Ireland are just as magnificent as any in Thailand.
To some, Ireland might not seem like a place that’s home to some of the world’s best beaches. After all, it’s places like Thailand that are known for dreamy palm trees, golden sandy beaches and secluded coves.
However, there’s no end to the number of stunning beaches that are dotted around Ireland’s coastline, many of which are just as mighty as any in Southeast Asia.
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!
The best beaches in Ireland
From well-trodden Blue Flag beaches to secluded coves tucked away on beautiful peninsulas, there’s plenty of coastal areas to satisfy your desire for a seaside paradise in Ireland.
Below, you’ll find a handful of the best beaches in Ireland that we believe are just as incredible as any that you’d find anywhere else in the world.
1. Keem Bay, Achill Island
Standing on the golden sand beach of Keem Bay and looking towards the crystal-clear blue water, you could easily mistake it for a beach in Thailand.
However, the green cliffs hugging this every-so-slightly off-the-beaten-path cove will remind you that you’re definitely still in Ireland.
Out of Achill Island’s five Blue Flag beaches, Keem Bay is a secluded paradise. It’s tucked inside the western end of the island, not far from Dooagh town.
If you head for a ramble along the sand at Keem (especially around sunset), you’ll be under no illusions as to why this is one of the best beaches in Ireland!
2. Murder Hole Beach, Donegal
Although the name of this Donegal beach sounds pretty sinister, it’s definitely worth a visit. Murder Hole Beach is the nickname for this spectacular hidden beach of wind-swept rock formations and golden sand at the northern end of Rosguill Peninsula.
It’s said that the name ‘Murder Hole’ comes from the incredibly wild and untamed North Atlantic sea and wind sculptured hollows in the rocky coastline.
You have to walk across a field to reach the beach, but the stunning sight is worth the effort. It’s best to visit during low tide when you can access more of the sand.
Plan on visiting? Read this: Up until a few years back, Murder Hole was one of the lesser-known beaches in Ireland.
However, in recent years, it has been attracting a lot of footfall. If you visit, please be respectful of where you park and the land you cross to reach the beach.
3. Coumeenoole Strand, Kerry
Coumeenoole Beach is a popular slice of coast at the western end of the Dingle Peninsula. The golden strip of sand lies beneath towering jagged cliffs and green fields with beautiful views across the sea to the Blasket Islands.
The beach changes in size depending on the tide level, but there’s a road that winds down to the edge of the western side which is accessible at all times.
There’s parking at the top of the cliffs above and a few nearby cafes in Coumeenoole Village.
4. Dogs Bay, Galway
Dogs Bay’s spectacular white sand and crystal-clear azure water could easily be somewhere in Thailand, or perhaps even Australia. It’s certainly one of the most beautiful beaches in Ireland.
The impressive horseshoe-shaped bay is tucked inside a sheltered part of a peninsula on the coast of County Galway.
It has a stretch of white sand extending for nearly 2km and backs onto another beautiful beach on the opposite side of the peninsula, Gurteen Bay.
Traveller tip: Dog’s Bay Beach is just a short drive from Roundstone village, which is a handy spot to drop into if you fancy a bite to eat.
5. Five Finger Strand, Donegal
Towards the very northern tip of Ireland, the golden beach of Five Finger Strand sits right at the edge of towering sand dunes.
The secluded shore stretches across the northern entrance of Trawbreaga Bay, south of Malin Head.
Go for a wander along the beach and enjoy the spectacular sand dunes that are considered some of the highest in Europe or take a dip in the peaceful waters at sunset. It’s surprisingly quieter than you might expect.
Traveller tip: To get the view above, type ‘Wild Alpaca Way’ into Google Maps. You’ll be taken to a little car park where you can soak up aerial views of one of the best beaches in Ireland.
6. Barleycove, Cork
At the other end of the country, this long stretch of beach sits in the curve of a bay near the mighty Mizen Head in County Cork.
It’s a popular place to visit during summer vacations with calm waters and plenty of sandy space to enjoy with kids.
There are various coastal walks in the area to take in the sea views and nearby restaurants just a short drive away.
7. Portsalon Beach, Donegal
Portsalon Beach on the western side of Lough Swilly is considered one of the most beautiful in Ireland.
The golden sand stretches far into the distance along the entire bay. It’s backed by rolling green hills and coastal towns at either end of the beach.
It’s a certified Blue Flag beach and it’s claimed that it was once runner up in the world’s most beautiful beaches listed in Observer Magazine.
8. Portstewart Strand, Derry
Between the coastal town of Portstewart and the mouth of the River Bann, this long beach has dramatic sand dunes as it’s backdrop on the northern coastline.
It’s a naturally striking place with its Blue Flag beach and calm waters lapping at the dunes. It’s also one of a handful of beaches in Ireland that still allow vehicle access onto the sand.
So, you can park up and have a picnic right by the water. There’s plenty of great places to eat and stay a stone’s throw from the water.
9. Trá Bán, Kerry
You’ll find Tra Ban beach on the Great Blasket Island in Kerry, the largest island off the westernmost point of Europe.
The beach here, as you can see above, is out of this world. It’s made all the more special by the fact that it’s well and truly off-the-beaten-path (you’ll need to hop on a ferry from Dun Chaoin Pier to reach the island).
You can spend time relaxing on the sand or swimming in the clear calm waters. It’s also a great spot to enjoy the marine life of the area with Grey Seals often sharing the sand with you.
10. Annagh Bay, Mayo
One of the most remote beaches in Ireland, Annagh Bay on Achill Island is worth the adventure to reach.
You can only get to this beach on foot or by boat on the north side of the island. It may not have the prettiest golden sand, but this secluded spot makes up for it with dramatic green landscape and a freshwater lake sitting just behind the coastline.
The hike can take up to two hours to reach the bay, but the incredible scenery of this remote coastal region is worth every step.
11. Whiterocks Beach, Antrim
Whiterocks Beach is more easily accessible than Annagh Bay, but it doesn’t let up with its natural beauty.
You’ll find it at Portrush just off the Causeway Coastal Route. The stunning coastline here is dominated by limestone cliffs with hidden caves and bright turquoise waters.
The beach is popular for water sports from surfing to kayaking as well as other activities like horse riding and walking. The sand stretches right around the coastline, so there’s plenty of room to share with the summer crowds.
The most beautiful beaches in Ireland: where have we missed?
I’ve no doubt that we’ve unintentionally missed out on many other incredible beaches in Ireland.
If you have a beach that you’d like to shout from the rooftops about, leave a comment in the comments section below!
Elisha is a freelance writer, content creator and blogger and her work can be read in Lonely Planet, Remote Lands and Matador Network. You’ll usually find her travelling in offbeat places or hiking wherever there are mountains; always with a camera in hand.