5 of Our Favourite Beaches Along Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way
Many people associate Ireland with trips to Dublin – pubs, good company, a bit of shopping and then its back on the plane. We had been there done that, but then my husband and I wanted to do things differently next time. Friends shared with us that there was a trail on the other side of Ireland that offered a completely different holiday experience. Westsern Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way offers the longest uninterrupted coastal route in the world.
Photo courtesy of wildatlanticway.com
As RVers and beach obsessives, the sound of a road trip up Ireland’s Atlantic coast seemed like our perfect holiday so we booked two tickets to Cork Airport in the south, reserved an RV and planned our journey.
⦁ Barleycove Beach, Cork
My favourite part of the trip was West Cork and the Balleycove Beach was the one that really caught my eye. My ancestors were from this part of Ireland so I felt a real sense of kinship on this part of the tour and seeing the barleycove landscape really blew me away.
It’s a two hour drive from Cork airport which is where we set off on our RV trip. As you get deeper and deeper into West Cork the roads became smaller and very bendy! Not ideal when you are getting used to a rented RV but we survived! The scenery also becomes more and more like the Shire in Lord of The Rings as you venture further west. Flowing hills and green everywhere! Another thing you will notice is that strangers will consistently wave to you in the countryside here…everyone’s a friend!
Once I saw the beach itself I knew we had made the right decision to see this side of Ireland! Soft white sand, clean air, good weather (They tell me that’s rare!) and big Atlantic waves – everything you could want. My brave husband even got the bodyboard out so I was thankful to see lifeguards on duty. I could tell from the lifeguards and the general cleanliness that there is a real sense of professionalism and pride on this beach and it was no surprise to learn that Barleycove is a blue flag beach.
We found the best views could be seen from the local hotel which overlooks the coastline. Eat some fish and take in the views, and if you have time, head across to the nearby village of Crookhaven where the locals relax in the evenings with a few pints of Guinness!
⦁ Derrynane Beach, Kerry
The mountainous terrain of the Ring of Kerry certainly gave us our most picturesque driving experience as many of the country roads are woven into the cliffs overlooking the Atlantic. There were also many contenders for our best beach on this leg of the trip. Derrynane beach in Caherdaniel was the winner for me though as the stretch of white sand in every direction is something I had not seen elsewhere.
Football fields of white sand coupled with a sheltered bay and calm water made for a very peaceful setting and the perfect to relax after hours of rocky RV country road driving! For all you Star Wars fans they also do tours from Derrynane Harbour of the Skellig Islands where the Force Awakens was shot a couple of years back.
⦁ Fanore Beach, Clare
This hidden gem was not on our radar as we travelled up the West coast of Ireland. After asking for directions to Galway from another friendly passerby, he told us to make a quick pit stop at a place called Fanore for its surrounding beach. Translating from Irish, Fanore means ‘Golden Slope’. There is no doubt they were talking about the beach when they named this town – golden sand is spread across hills and dunes and interspersed with small rock pools.
The rocks are worth the trip alone – thousands of years of Atlantic waves has eroded them into bizarre shapes! There is also a local surf school where we rented kayaks – the surfing lessons looked too intense for me!
⦁ Easkey Beach, Sligo
I have chosen Easkey as our recommended surf beach on this list. While neither of us surf (my husband’s bodyboarding doesn’t count I tell him) we did speak to many surfers on our travels, and many of them were full of praise for the conditions at this beach located next to the very quaint seaside village of the same name.
This beach is known for its year round surf and for its attraction to professional surfers due to the presence of reef breaks which brings faster waves. From observing surfers in action, it didn’t look like a place for beginner lessons! Some of the falls these guys were taking looked nasty – especially with rocks around! The village was also a great experience, a very tight knit community. A local woman came to our RV with cups of tea and biscuits – a traditional way to welcome guests in Ireland which we duly accepted happily!
⦁ Ballymastocker Strand, Donegal
As one of the last stops on our Wild Atlantic Way adventure, I had high expectations for Ballymastocker Strand as I had read in my pre-trip research that it had been voted the 2nd most beautiful beach in the world at one time or other. Thankfully this wasn’t hyperbole.
This place was in pristine condition (another blue flag holder) and you could see how it has gained its well earned reputation. There wasn’t one piece of trash along the whole stretch of beach. This was one of the best swims I had on the tour as well ( I needed a wetsuit though – very cold!). As a bonus, a horse was being trained on the beach as we took in the views. A majestic animal and a majestic setting!
So the next time you are planning a trip to the Emerald Isle of Ireland, don’t limit your trip to Dublin as your only destination. There is so much more to discover on this scenic island. Be adventurous, be wild, check out the Wild Atlantic Way!
About The Author – Sandy Rose of www.portableadvisor.com, is wife to Rick, mom of three and travel enthusiast! Rick and I have been RVing since the mid-nineties after embracing the boondocker way of life. We now practice what we call the ‘Portable Lifestyle’ – the ability to ‘get up and go’ and explore new places throughout the year while maintaining our income.