Ireland should be better known for its beaches.
Yes, it’s well-established that we don’t enjoy the balmy sunshine of other famous sandy locations, like Spain or the Seychelles. But what we lack in guaranteed sun, we make up for with stunning vistas, unusual landscapes and rich variety (in everything from sand quality to landscapes to wave size).
This being an island, the country has no shortage of truly beautiful beaches. And, as you might expect from a place with such abundance, some slip under the radar.
We’re in the business of finding places, of course, so we’ve found some little gems (pearls?) off the beaten track – beaches with character that you might not have heard of…
What a delightful name! Baginbun is sometimes overlooked because it’s surrounded by several popular seaside spots.
It sits on the east side of the Hook Peninsula, sheltered and secluded. Depending on the weather, the water is usually calm enough for swimming, and some locals and tourists have been known to kayak here.
When it’s clear, you can see the cliffs in the distance. And if the breeze is blowing in the right direction, you’ll be sheltered from the wind by the cliffs behind you.
Like many beaches on this list, parking is limited. So, if possible, try to get here early in the morning. On a good day, you might have the whole place to yourself.
Murder Hole, Donegal
Don’t let the name put you off. It’s more of a cove.
Only accessible by foot, and at low tide, Boyeeghter Bay, aka Murder Hole Beach, is a handsome corner of the country. It’s flanked by sand dunes and rocky hills, and boasts clear blue waters, mysterious caves and white sand.
Many visitors pack a picnic for this journey, and chow down atop these hills, which are conveniently flat in places and offer humbling ocean views.
Sands Cove, Cork
This little treasure is easy to miss, which might be why visitors typically pass it on their way to the better-known Red Strand nearby.
For those who do make the trip to Sands Cove, they’re given a feast for the senses; wildflowers in abundance, sea views that seem infinite and plenty of wildlife. Indeed, lucky sightseers might catch a glimpse of dolphins, seals or even a basking shark.
It’s also a fabulous fishing spot.
Stradbally Cove, Waterford
This “V”-shaped cove is surrounded by lovely ash, oak and hazel trees. The sand stretches quite a distance to the sea when the tide is out, but that gives visitors a welcome feeling of space and remoteness, as the generous space is perfect for walking, playing or (weather permitting) sunbathing.
Because it’s in the shadow of hills on either side, Stradbally Cove can feel like your own little secret, a glimpse of what Ireland looked like before the arrival of concrete and cars.
Trá Bán, Great Blasket Island, Kerry
Many of the beaches on this list are tricky to get to, meaning that they’re often free of crowds and the trappings of modern life.
That’s especially the case for Trá Bán on Great Blasket Island.
Uninhabited, at least by humans, since the 1950s, Trá Bán (meaning “white beach”) is a short ferry ride from Dingle. Visitors can expect white beaches, a chance to see sunbathing seals, a glorious view of the Atlantic and maybe a glimpse of the area’s most famous resident, Fungie the Dolphin.
White Strand, Clare
White Strand, in Milton Malbay, is not far from two better-known Clare villages, Lahinch and Kilkee. It’s a little stony, but often secluded. And its location, facing northeast, means that it’s often protected from the wind. Then there’s the added shelter of the low cliffs on either side.
It’s also a Natural Heritage Area, so you never know what you might see. And White Strand is a Blue Flag beach, meaning it’s suitable for taking a dip.
Annagh Bay, Mayo
A hidden, unblemished beach, Annagh Bay has Ireland’s lowest corry lake, neighbouring the sea. The views are something special, with rolling hills on one side and ocean on the other.
The steep hills and cliffs on three sides do a great job of separating you from the outside world. Accessible only by foot or by boat, this feels truly like one of Ireland’s best kept secrets.
To be Shore, to be Shore
One of our favourite things about Ireland is its hidden treasures. Even though it’s a small island, and civilization is encroaching across many of its corners, there are still plenty of places to escape, to take a breath and – in the case of these beaches – sometimes take a dip.
OSI has everything you need to help you find those special corners of the country.