A land full of striking scenes, hidden gems and must-see sights, some of the most beautiful places in Ireland can be found along the Irish coast. From crystal clear waters to wave-battered cliffs, each coastal town offers a different adventure, and there’s no limit to the plethora of places to explore. To help you plan your own Irish exploit, we’ve picked some of the most exciting coastal settings the Emerald Isle has to offer. A voyage of discovery awaits.
Take a drive along West Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way and you’ll find Doolin, a picture-perfect town in beautiful County Clare. Set in the limestone landscape of the Burren, it’s a place of historical wonder – full of archaeological sites, rolling hills and castle ruins. Rooted in heritage, the iconic Doonagore Castle dates back to the 16th century and is still in superb condition today, while the spectacular ruins of Ballinalacken Castle offer stunning views of Galway Bay below. Perfect for exploring, the rugged coast holds the old Doolin caves, best known for its famous Great Stalactite. Formed from a single drop of water over thousands of years ago, it’s the longest of its kind in the Northern Hemisphere, and now measures in at a mammoth 23 feet.
There’s something for everyone in Kinsale, County Cork. One of the most picturesque places the south-west coast of Ireland has to offer, its harbour is a buzzing metropolis of shops, gourmet restaurants and arts and crafts shops. The calmer tides here provide the perfect climate for yachting and sea angling, and you can catch a glimpse of the local marine life with dolphin and whale watching tours. Aside from its charming, colourful cottages, family-friendly beaches and lush golf grounds, this coastal town has plenty of historical attractions. Perhaps one of the best-known is Charles Fort, located just beyond the small town of Summercove and one of the few surviving examples of a 17th-century star fort. Open all year, the guided tours are a must, where you can see much of its original construction, along with panoramic sea views.
An hour’s drive from Donegal’s popular Rossnowlagh beach is Dunfanaghy, a small fishing town along the Wild Atlantic Way. Full of Blue Flag beaches, it’s a place surrounded by beauty, with white sandy shores on one side and the lofty Derryveagh Mountains on the other. Within the village, there’s much to be enjoyed too, from the Workhouse Museum to its numerous art galleries. The 18-hole golf course was built in 1905 by six-time British Open winner Harry Vardon, and offers spectacular views of the idyllic Sheephaven Bay. A great way to explore the town’s rugged terrain and isolated beaches is on horseback – the nearby stables offer regular trail riding excursions for all abilities. Finally, the magnificent Horn Head Loop is not to be missed. This colossal rock face is almost 200 metres tall, and showcases the unspoilt appeal of this Irish coastal town.
Found along a wonderful stretch of the west coast of County Kerry, Ballybunion is a scenic seaside town with an internationally renowned golf club. Set against the craggy coastline, the spectacular Cashen Course is full of undulating greens and steep sand dunes while the illustrious Old Course has some of the most formidable inclines in Ireland. With its warm Atlantic waters and hidden tidal caves, the town’s beaches are a must-visit. The shore is split up into two sites – the ‘Men’s Beach’ and the ‘Ladies Beach’ – so called because men used to bathe separately from women and children, though this practice is not observed today. A popular surf site, the Ballybunion Surf School offers training for all ages and abilities, while the beachside bars and restaurants offer sumptuous, freshly-caught seafood.
If you’ve been inspired to see more of this wonderful country, check out our guide to Ireland.