The coastline of Ireland is a rich, 6,200 kilometre-long stretch of amazing sights and beautiful destinations. Ireland’s shoreline is a beachgoer’s paradise, with quiet coves known only to a select few and long stretches of golden sand that are lovely destinations in their own right. Although Ireland has countless glorious beaches to spend your long-awaited summer days upon, Blue Flag beaches set themselves apart from the rest.
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This year, a total of 93 Irish beaches and marinas have been awarded Blue Flags, a new record. Beaches, marinas, and sustainable boating tourism operators must meet a set of criteria relating to water quality, information provision, environmental education, safety, and environmental management to be awarded Blue Flag status.
All of these blue flag beaches will be packed with sun worshippers and swimmers galore during the summer when the weather is at its best, all of whom adore the Irish coast as much as we do. We’ve taken on the task of whittling it down to Ireland’s seven best and most beautiful Blue Flag beaches.
Inch Beach, Dingle, Co. Kerry
This 5km-long sand spit that stretches into Dingle Bay is one of Ireland’s most well-known beaches, appearing in blockbuster films such as Excalibur and Ryan’s Daughter. While these films give viewers a peek of the beach’s vast grandeur, you have to feel your toes in the sand to truly realise what a magical part of County Kerry this Blue Flag beach is.
It faces west, which means it has exceptional surf – in the summer, local surf schools will be busy teaching people how to stay up on the waves, which can reach 3 metres in height at times. If surfing isn’t your thing, Inch is also a great place to go birdwatching, but it’s more about a lovely stroll and a day in the water.
Curracloe, Co. Wexford
Are you looking for Ireland’s greatest beach? This award-winning and popular beach follows the coast for 11 kilometres and may grab that top spot. It is not only breathtakingly gorgeous but it was also used as a filming site for Saving Private Ryan. So, if it’s good enough for Tom Hanks, who can deny that it’s not a great beach?
Banna Strand, Ballyheigue, Co. Kerry
Locals from Tralee and the surrounding area flock here on summer weekends – or whenever it isn’t raining – to walk the whole 6km of beach, making it one of Ireland’s largest. Swimming here isn’t madness, thanks to the Gulf Stream’s warm waters, especially on those glorious September days when the sea has been softened by a long summer. Still, even if you don’t fancy getting in the water, the 10m-high dunes offer some stunning views – look southwest to take in the glory of Mt Brandon and the Dingle hills.
Keem Bay, Achill, Co. Mayo
This quiet stretch of golden sand on Achill Island’s western coast is perhaps the most garlanded Irish beach. You have to walk down a steepish pathway to reach the beach proper, hemmed in on three sides by cliffs that are part of the jagged Croaghaun Cliffs – Ireland’s tallest. Even with the unpredictable weather and the dark, cold Atlantic, Keem Bay is one of Europe’s most beautiful seaside locations, with its Blue Flag title hardly doing justice to the breath-taking scenery found there.
Brittas Bay, Co. Wicklow
Brittas Bay, is just a short jaunt south from Dublin, making it very popular with Dubliners, and making it one of the most frequented blue flag beaches by residents of the capital during the summer. The powdery sands and beautiful dunes will make you feel as if you’ve landed in paradise. This beach, which has a long stretch of white sand, is highly popular in the summer, although many people choose to visit all year round due to the calm waters during the bathing season.
Killiney Beach, Co. Dublin
As far as city beaches go, this one in the Killiney area of south Dublin is an absolute delight, having just recently received a Blue Flag for the first time since 2016.
The long stoney beach is backed by some of Dublin’s most exclusive addresses, including the homes of some of the city’s biggest celebrities, like Bono and Enya, who have unrestricted views of Killiney Bay, which is said to bear more than a passing resemblance to the Bay of Naples – hence the Italian names of many of the streets nearby. The beach is popular with swimmers, hikers, and families on a day out: you’ll be in good company on a lovely day as the walk from end to end is one of Dublin’s best.
Dunmore East, Co. Waterford
With its curving, golden sand beach, Dunmore East is the preferred choice for those who want a family day out and a swim among Waterford’s enviably rich array of beautiful beaches. The little village of Dunmore East, a genuine fishing village, caters to tourists in full holiday mode.
Surfing is good in Tramore and Ardmore, the county’s more well-known sites, but Dunmore’s sheltered setting in a protected, tranquil cove makes it the swimmer’s pick. Dunmore is best visited at low tide as you’ll have a lot more beach to stroll, run, or relax on, with high tide covering much of the beach. However, you are offered the option of jumping off Pegs Rock into the beautiful Irish Sea.
So there you have it, our list of Ireland’s most incredible and stunning Blue Flag beaches. Given that there are 93 stunning Irish beaches to select from, it was difficult to narrow it down. Nonetheless, these seven locations are genuinely unique.
Whether you’re looking for a location to go surfing, a stunning beach to photograph, a place to hang out with friends, a family picnic venue, or simply a fantastic location to spend some time alone, one of these top seven blue flag beaches will satisfy your needs.