Sunday 1 February 2015

10 Best: Wild Atlantic Way beaches


Beach and waves at Slea Head, Iveragh Peninsula, County Kerry, Ireland
Coomeenole, Co. Kerry: Coomeenole sits right at the tip of Slea Head, watching out over the Blasket Islands. Many will recognise it from Ryan’s Daughter (1970), but a new generation of visitors are more intent on surfing than the silver screen. It's a stunner.
Dog's Bay, Connemara: Just a couple of kilometres from the village of Roundstone on the Ballyconneely Peninsula you'll find two of the sweetest beaches on the Wild Atlantic Way. Dog's Bay and Gurteen Bay lie back to back, and both are great for walking and swimming, but it's the snow-white sands of the former that do it for us.
Keem Bay, Achill Island: Five blue-flag beaches would be an impressive tally anywhere, let alone on a single island. But that’s Achill for you. Keem Bay is a Signature Discovery Point on the Wild Atlantic Way, and for good reason... its breathtaking beauty inspired artists like Paul Henry and Graham Greene, and continues to wow visitors today.
Tullan Strand, Co. Donegal: Stretching from the north end of Bundoran to the Erne estuary, surfers rank Tullan as one of Ireland's most consistent beach breaks. But there's far more than surfing to it, as our photo illustrates... including horse-riding in the dunes.
Portsalon, Co. Donegal: Portsalon is under the radar due to its remoteness. But if you make the trip to the western shores of Lough Swilly, you'll be rewarded with a mile of golden sands, safe swimming, floury dunes and even a secret surfing spot under Knockalla Mountain.
Fanore, Co. Clare: Often passed over in favour of Lahinch and Spanish Point, Fanore is arguably more beautiful than both. Backing onto the Burren, bookended with large, tufty dunes and home to a super little surfing school, Fanore is covered in sand that assumes an almost terracotta glow in the evening light.
Barley Cove, Co. Cork: Set near the southwesternmost tip of Ireland, Barleycove is one of the most remote Blue Flag beaches in the country. It’s a model Irish dune system, topped with whispering mops of grass (watch out for the floating pontoon bridge designed to manage visitor access), and a perfect stop on your way to or from Mizen Head Signal Station and its awesome bridge.
Old Head, Co. Mayo: Old Head is a locals' favourite set about 20 minutes beyond Westport off the Louisburgh road. It's got a little something for everyone... sand to lie on, rock pools to explore, a pier to jump off and smashing views of Croagh Patrick. Bring your snorkel, too - it's one of five new Irish Blueway trails.
Inchydoney, Co. Cork: This spectacular strand was voted best in Ireland in TripAdvisor's Travellers' Choice Awards 2014. It's far from a secret, but the strand never ceases to amaze, no matter how many times you visit. The island is connected to the mainland by two causeways, and its beach is a fantastic, sloping swathe of sand, perfect for paddling, swimming and surfing.
Silver Strand, Co. Donegal: Of the several silver strands scattered around the Irish coastline, this one is stashed way out west on the Slieve League Peninsula near Glencolmcille. Snorkelling, swimming and sunbathing are all gorgeous here, and the remote location means you'll only have to share it with crowds on the sunniest of summer days.

The 2,500km touring route has no shortage of super beaches... but which are the best? Here's our pick. Let us know yours!

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