Narin / Portnoo Beach is an absolute beaut and it’s arguably one of the best beaches in Donegal.
Though Portnoo Beach is situated on County Donegal’s wild Atlantic coast, its sheltered location inside Dunmore Head gives it a handy break from the wind.
That’s made Portnoo a popular spot, though the soft sands and beautiful surroundings help too!
In the guide below, you’ll find info on everything from parking and swimming to where to visit nearby! Dive on in!
Some quick need-to-knows about Portnoo Beach
Although a visit to Narin Beach is fairly straightforward, there are a few need-to-knows that’ll make your visit that bit more enjoyable.
Portnoo Beach looks out towards Gweebarra Bay on Donegal’s west coast with the ancient Inishkeel Island just 250 metres from the mainland. It’s a 10-minute drive from Ardara, a 30-minute drive from Killybegs and a 40-minute drive from Donegal Town.
A popular spot (especially in the summer), there’s plenty of parking at Portnoo (here on Google Maps). You’ll find a large car park in the small nearby village of Narin (An Fhearthainn). The car park also has toilets and disabled access to the beach.
Portnoo is a Blue Flag beach and swimming is possible, though obviously give it a miss if the weather conditions are bad. Lifeguards are on duty in July and August every day between 12pm and 6:30pm, while a first Aid kit is also available at the Beach Lifeguard Hut during these hours..
4. Blue Flag
Donegal boasts the highest number of Blue Flag beaches in Ireland and Narin Beach is one of them! To claim Blue Flag status, the beach must achieve the highest quality in water, facilities, safety, environmental education and management.
5. Water safety (please read)
Understanding water safety is absolutely crucial when visiting beaches in Ireland. Please take a minute to read these water safety tips. Cheers!
About Portnoo / Narin Beach
Approximately 2km long, Portnoo Beach is a sheltered cove beach backed by an extensive sand dune system with a well-defined primary dune ridge.
I mentioned earlier that Inishkeel Island is only 250 metres from the mainland, and is actually reachable by foot at low tide!
The tide allows you around an hour to visit the island, before walking back again (DO NOT cross however, if you’re unsure about tide times).
If you do visit, check out the island’s 6th-century Christian church ruins, holy wells and exquisitely decorated stone slabs.
And if you’re a golfer, there’s even better news as the nearby Narin and Portnoo links course is one of Ireland’s most picturesque courses.
Over in Narin village, you’ll find shops, bars and restaurants within walking distance and three well-maintained caravan sites nearby.
Things to do at Portnoo Beach
There’s a handful of things to see and do in and around Narin Beach, if you’d like to make a morning out of your visit. Here are some suggestions:
1. Grab a coffee from Pirates of the Coffeebean
Ok, so ignoring the slightly silly (but also pun-tastic!) name, Pirates of the Coffeebean is a cracking place to kick off your time at Portnoo Beach.
You’ll find them towards the western end of the main car park (look out for the hut with the grey slanting roof).
Inside you’ll find all the usual coffee and tea options, as well as hot chocolates generously topped with marshmallows (this could be a winner in the colder months!).
There’s also a mouthwatering selection of sweet treats and other options such as apple strudels and fruity breakfast bowls.
2. Then head for a ramble (and soak up panoramic views)
Once you’ve got your coffee sorted, make your way down to the long sandy beach at the entrance next to the disabled parking spots and go for a saunter while taking in some beautiful views along the way.
In the immediate foreground, you’ll get clear views of Inishkeel island while further beyond you’ll see the estuary of the Gweebarra River and the southern edge of the Rosses.
As this is quite a sheltered cove, don’t hesitate to kick off your shoes and go for a paddle in the gentle waters rolling in and out of Narin Beach!
3. Followed up with dinner with a view at Carnaween House
In the mood for dinner with a view? With its outdoor deck for summer and floor-to-ceiling windows for the colder months, you’ll be treated to amazing panoramas throughout the year at Carnaween House!
The food is excellent here too, with a ton of cracking seafood dishes and other classics to choose from while you enjoy the scenery.
While there are tender sirloin steaks and hearty fish pies on offer, we’d perhaps go with their fresh seafood board featuring mussels, crab claws, chowder and grilled mackerel. End the evening by washing it down with a glass of wine or a creamy pint!
Places to visit near Portnoo Beach
One of the beauties of Narin Beach is that it’s a short spin away from many of the best places to visit in Donegal.
Below, you’ll find a handful of things to see and do a stone’s throw from Portnoo.
1. Doon Fort (5-minute drive)
Bizarre and beautiful, Doon Fort is an Iron Age fort on an island in the centre of Loughadoon. It’s one of those places that could only have been built in this part of the world!
Though because of its odd location, you’ll need to rent out a little boat from nearby to reach it. Ask locally if you’re unsure.
2. Glengesh Pass (25-minute drive)
Glengesh Pass is a meandering road that snakes its way between the small towns of Glencolmcille and Ardara, and in doing so provides one of Donegal’s most iconic views!
Head to the small viewing point on the Ardara side – there’s room for 6 or 7 cars, so get out and take in the views of the pass with the green hills rising either side.
3. Assaranca Waterfall (30-minute drive)
Looking like it should be in Game of Thrones or Lord of the Rings, Assaranca Waterfall is a magical spot that’s really easy to find too! Just a half-hour drive south from Portnoo Beach, you can pretty much park up right next to it (making it ideal for travellers with low mobility).
4. Caves of Maghera (30-minute drive)
Another fascinating natural sight close-by the waterfall are the Caves of Maghera at Maghera Beach. With more than 20 caves, 8 arches, and 5 tunnels, there’s plenty to explore however DO NOT attempt to enter the Maghera Caves without checking the tide times in advance.
FAQs about Narin Beach
We’ve had a lot of questions over the years asking about everything from ‘Where do you park?’ to ‘Where is there to see nearby?’.
In the section below, we’ve popped in the most FAQs that we’ve received. If you have a question that we haven’t tackled, ask away in the comments section below.
Can you swim at Narin / Portnoo Beach?
This is a popular swimming spot but keep in mind that lifeguards are only on duty during the summer months. Only enter the water if you’re a capable swimmer.
Is parking a hassle at Narin Beach?
For the majority of the year, no, however, when the summer arrives and people flock to the area, it can be a struggle to nab a space next to the beach.