Fancy getting away? Taking a stroll along a white sandy, even a coral, beach on the shore of the Ocean? No, not the Caribbean. We’re talking about Mannin Bay, in Connemara, County Galway.
The beach is known for its coarse light-colored grains of sand that could resemble calcareous pieces of coral. Although most people refer to these beaches as coral beaches, coral, unfortunately, prefers much warmer waters.
These amazing sands on Mannin Bay are known as maerl. This is composed of calcareous pieces of coralline algae. Essentially the sand in the area is made up of coralline seaweed and the skeletal remains of barnacles, mollusks, and sponges.
The bay is located in the heart of Connemara, an area of Galway probably best known for its Gaeltacht (Irish speaking area). The scenic district, though not well defined, roughly stretches from Killary Harbour as far as Cashel and east as far as Cong.
Mannin Bay Beach is just a few miles from Dog’s Bay, which is probably better known for its white-colored beach. While Mannin Bay is harder to access, it’s a great place to visit for those who want to see something unusual.
The beach is part of the Mannin Bay Blueway, a network of water trails including activities such as kayaking and snorkeling in a controlled environment. Snorkeling in the area is a treat as rocky pools provide safe havens for sea life. You’ll also see the reddish colored coralline seaweed, which makes up some of the beach. The 4.5-mile kayaking trail stretches along the rocky shoreline, from Mannin Bay to Truska Beach. The white sand and clear waters make it a perfect way to see marine life.
Each beach along the Connemara coast has something different to offer. The Coral Strand at Ballyconneely is noted for its golden coral sand. There you might also find warmer waters for swimming. Then a few miles before Roundstone, you’ll find the beaches Dog’s Bay and Gurteen, two dramatic beaches which lie back to back. In Renvyle, you’ll find the beach Glassilaum, which some might recognize from the movie "Tristan + Isolde," starring James Franco.
Mannin Bay is located southwest of Clifden and if you’re going to spend time in the area this town has everything you could need. Often referred to as the “Capital of Connemara,” this picturesque town with a population of about 2,500 is located on the Owenglin River and makes an ideal base to explore the region.
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* Originally published in 2016. Updated in 2023.