If you’re in search of the best beaches in West Cork, you’ve landed in the right place.
While there’s an almost endless number of things to do in West Cork, it’s the regions beaches that always have me coming back for more.
From well know spots, like Barleycove, to lesser-known gems that you’ll discover below, West Cork is home to some of the finest beaches in Cork.
Our favourite beaches in West Cork
The first section of this guide tackles our favourite beaches in West Cork. Now – remember, caution is required before you ever consider entering the water in Ireland.
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!
1. Barleycove Beach
Barleycove Beach was created back in 1755 when a Tsunami was recorded near Lisbon, causing 15ft high waves to hit the area where one of the best beaches in West Cork now sits.
This sandy beach is nestled between the headlands on the Mizen Peninsula. It’s an ideal beach for families as it’s lifeguarded on weekends during bathing season.
The beach is designated as a Special Area of Conversation under the European Habitats Directive, with a floating bridge in place to help reduce impact on the natural surroundings and an extensive dune system.
2. Garrettstown Beach
Garretstown Beach is south facing and gently sloping, nestled between rocky cliffs on both sides. You can get some excellent views of The Old Head of Kinsale from the beach.
The beach is great for swimming, bathing or going for a long ramble along the nearby cliffs (caution: there’s a blow hole here so please be vigilant).
Car park and toilets are close to the beach too. There is a surf school at the beach or, if you don’t fancy learning, you can alternatively hire a paddle board or kayak to play with.
3. Inchydoney Beach
Once voted one of the best beaches in Ireland by Tripadvisor, this expansive golden strand is a 10 min drive from the photogenic fishing village of Clonakilty.
The shimmering blue water and sea vistas make Inchydoney Beach feel like you are on a tropical holiday… unless you visit when the rain is blowing sideways, that is!
As is the case with many beaches in West Cork, there’s a surf school here, also, if you fancy hitting the waves.
4. Allihies Beach
Next up is arguably one of the most overlooked beaches in West Cork – Allihies Beach! You’ll find the town close to the tip of the Beara Peninsula, where it offers mighty coastal views.
The white quartz sand is a fine spot for a ramble and the beach is the perfect spot for a pre-dinner paddle.
There is also a protected area for kids (ask locally) to swim in and public toilets are available near the beach as well.
More mighty West Cork beaches
The next section of our guide is packed with several more brilliant beaches in West Cork that are well worth a visit.
Below, you’ll find everything from the often-missed Red Strand and the gorgeous Ballyrisode to many more sandy stretches.
1. Red Strand Beach
You’ll find Red Strand Beach a stone’s throw from Clonakilty and Rosscarbery. This is a flat, sandy beach that’s nestled in a small bay near Dunowen Head.
As is the case with many beaches in West Cork, this place gets busy during the warmer months, and grabbing a place to park can be tricky.
Those that visit will be treated to clean sand and crystal clear water that’s so pristine it’s often frequented by snorkelers.
2. Ballyrisode Beach
Ballyrisode Beach forms part of a Special Area of Conservation, so there is a lot of protected habitats and wildlife in the area.
The secluded beach is only a 15 min drive west from the lovely village of Schull, and a short, 20-minute drive from Mizen Head.
Ballyrisode is home to two separate strands, however, only one is visible during low tide (it’s the one closer to the car park). The other is less sheltered but is much larger and tends to be more popular.
3. Owenahincha Beach
Located 7 miles from the lively village of Clonakilty is the stunning Owenahincha Beach (props if you can pronounce it!).
Owenahincha is fairly long, and a good chunk of it is backed by sand dunes. If you head to the northeast corner of the beach, you will find the start of the Warren Beach Cliff Walk.
You’ll be treated to stunning views throughout and it’s a nice, short stroll. Owenahincha is also only a few minutes from Castlefreke woods, which you can explore when you finish up on the sand.
4. Tragumna Beach
This small Blue Flag beach is located in a rural area close to the tiny village of Tragumna (around 6km from Skibbereen).
The marsh-backed beach overlooks the tiny island of Drishane and Lough Abisdeally, and it tends to be a popular spot with birdwatchers.
Tragumna is flanked by cliffs and rocks that provide some shelter from prevailing winds. It’s lifeguared during the summer months and there’s a handy car park right next to it.
5. Sherkin Island Beach
Sherkin Island boasts three brilliantly sandy beaches to enjoy, the most popular being Silver Strand, which is often the go-to place for sunbathing, swimming or surfing.
As this is an island and it’s slightly off-the-beaten-path, the chances of you having this place all to yourself during the quieter months of the year are pretty high.
One of the biggest draws to visiting Skerkin Island is that, as you walk along the shore, you have the possibility of seeing seals, otters, dolphins or even porpoises.
FAQs about the best West Cork Beaches
We’ve had a lot of questions over the years asking about everything from the best beaches in West Cork for swimming to which ones are best for surfing.
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.
What are the most beautiful beaches in West Cork?
Allihies Beach, Inchydoney Beach, Garrettstown Beach and Barleycove Beach are, in our opinion, the most stunning of the many West Cork beaches.
What West Cork beaches are best for swimming on?
Warren Beach, Garretstown, Inchydoney and Barleycove are all great places to swim. Just make sure to use caution, obey any warning flags in place and, if in doubt, keep your feet on dry land.
What are the most overlooked beaches in West Cork
I’d argue that Silver Strand on Sherkin is the most overlooked. However, the likes of Warren Beach near Rosscarbery tends to be missed by many, too.