Ireland is an island with a myriad of seaside delights just waiting to be discovered.
Ireland is essentially a small island off mainland Europe, making the Irish a bunch of islanders, who are very proud of the fact. As such, we have a strange affinity with the sea and are extremely enamored with our beaches and breathtaking coastline.
Many people who have grown up in Ireland have spent their childhood summer vacation in a cottage by the beach in Clonakilty, County Cork, or in a caravan in Bundoran, County Donegal. I guarantee that these were magic holidays and they continue to be perfect spots for a family getaway.
The wonderful thing about a seaside resort – Irish seaside resorts, at least – is that you have the comfort and entertainment of easy access to lively towns while your family members have the freedom to indulge in water sports, golf or just long walks along some of the most stunning beaches in the world.
Although you’ll most likely not be spending days sunbathing by the beach (thanks to Ireland’s weather!), in the villages you are sure to find the ‘craic agus ceol’ (fun and music) that Ireland is famous for in the form of lively bars with live traditional music. You’ll also have the chance to sample the local cuisine in some of Ireland’s most idyllic spots.
Enniscrone, County Sligo
This small seaside town is renowned for its long, beautiful sandy beach. Located on the Atlantic Ocean, it is quickly becoming one of the best spots for learning to surf in Ireland. The village is just five miles from Ballina, County Mayo, but there is plenty to do in Enniscrone itself, whether it’s a walk on the beach, a round of golf or soaking in the seaweed baths.
Bundoran, County Donegal
Bundoran is probably the best known holiday spot in the northwest, now a haven for both serious surfers and the mere fledglings among us, this is a seriously fun and lively town during the summer season. Filled with great bars, restaurants, nightclubs, and even funfairs and a water park, this is an excellent spot to entertain the family.
Lahinch, County Clare
Lahinch town sits above a one-mile stretch of spectacular golden beach that makes the town such a popular resort. The town has wonderful scenery, entertainment, sports and good choices in accommodation.
Clonakilty, County Cork
Known by the locals as simply "Clon," this town is bustling with life and is just two miles from the beach. It is situated in the postcard-perfect West Cork, is lively, welcoming, and steeped in history. Clonakilty suffered greatly during the Famine and was the hometown of Michael Collins. Also, West Cork is Ireland’s food capital and you are sure to eat very well.
Tramore, County Waterford
Tramore is the southeast’s top destination for holidaymakers and is jam-packed with amenities, from top-class accommodation to Splashworld, surfing, fishing, hiking, horse riding, golf and even an amusement park. In addition to the wonderful surroundings and the great outdoors, there’s a huge amount to do.
Strandhill, County Sligo
This beautiful town in the heart of Yeats country is officially a Mecca for surfers – miles of untamed beach, beautiful rocky exposures. It is located at the foot of Knocknarea, just a few miles from Sligo town. Strandhill is also a great spot for golf and seaweed baths and has some great pubs and restaurants.
Clifden, County Galway
Located in the northwest of County Galway in the heart of Connemara this small seaside town feels untouched, despite its popularity with tourists. The town is packed with its own entertainment, but Clifden is also a great spot to use as a base when exploring the area. Some top things to check out include the Beach Road walk, Connemara National Park, and Derrygimla Bog.
Cape Clear, County Cork
This spot is a bit different but definitely worth the extra effort. Cape Clear is an island, just a 45-minute boat trip from Schull in West Cork. It is Ireland’s most southern island and has a population of just 120. The island is 1.5 miles wide and 3 miles long. This is a natural paradise and actually has a slightly better climate than the rest of Ireland.
Dungarvan, County Waterford
Nestled beneath the Comeragh Mountains in Waterford is a thriving seaside market town, Dungarvan. The town overlooks the beautiful Dungarvan Bay and is a wonderful spot to spend some time while exploring the beauty of the southeast coast.
Curracloe, County Wexford
Although Wexford’s coastline is peppered with wonderful beaches, Curracloe has a great reputation as a safe bathing spot. The area has been developed around the beach as a spot for visitors to enjoy. There are also great activities surrounding the beach, such as horse rides along the shore, fishing, and water sports. Just north of this beach is where the opening scenes of “Saving Private Ryan” were shot.
* Originally published in 2013. Updated in 2021.
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