We do like to be beside the seaside... Tanya Sweeney checks out 10 Irish coastal spots that have been enjoyed for generations.
Many's an Irish childhood has been marked with sand-filled sambos, walks among sand dunes, long golden beaches and the simple, delicious taste of adventure. And, as the summer draws to a close, there's still some time left to create some childhood memories for the whole family...
Here's our summer round-up of Ireland's best-loved seaside spots.
Tramore is a perennially popular weekend destination.
Spend an afternoon on its glorious Blue Flag beach, about seven kilometres from Waterford City, before repairing to the Tramore Amusement Park (tramoreamusements.com) on the seafront. There you'll find no shortage of old-school fun: twisters, waltzers, skydivers and dodgems are among the offerings that should serve up a healthy dollop of nostalgia.
Little ones aren't left out of the action, either. Aside from a host of kiddie rides, visitors can enjoy mini golf and pedal boats, too. Top it all off with that most time-honoured of amusement park traditions: a helping of candyfloss on the Ferris Wheel. If the Irish weather is doing its usual uncooperative thing, there's always Splashworld Leisure Centre (051 390 176, splashworld.ie), where the whole family can enjoy their extensive gym and massive swimming pool.
Situated on the stunning Sligo coastline, Enniscrone has long been a popular destination.
At the beach, adventurous types can sign up to the Seventh Wave Surf School (085 738 5399, surfsligo.com), where lessons are on offer for all ages and abilities. Those with a taste for something a little more tranquil can sidestep the waves and head to the Kilcullen Sea Baths instead (096 362 38, kilcullenseaweedbaths.com).
For something the whole family can enjoy, try the Waterpoint Aqua Park. Kids can test their mettle on the 65-metre flume waterslide, while adults can unwind in their health suite, complete with Jacuzzi, sauna and steam room.
Up in Donegal, the buzzing town of Bundoran has long had a starring role in many great childhood memories. From surf to amusement arcades, there's plenty to do in this much-loved seaside resort. Over at the Donegal Adventure Centre (071 984 2418, donegaladventurecentre.ie), visitors can choose from a vast array of activities: surfing, climbing, abseiling, hill walking, archery and canoeing.
If that's not action enough for the family, the nearby Bundoran Adventure Park (071 983 3006, bundoranadventurepark.com) offers up zorbing, go-karting and an amusement park packed with the usual much-loved rides.
Arguably, Lahinch in Co. Clare is the surfing capital of the West, and located on the promenade, Lahinch Seaworld (065 708 1900, lahinchseaworld.com) has been helping summer holidays go off with a bang for many years with indoor water zorbing and a daily rock tour of the beach. Elsewhere, tee up at the Lahinch Golf Club (065 708 1003, lahinchgolf.com).
With a lush green that overlooks the Atlantic Ocean, the club has already been frequented by Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson. Lahinch Adventures (086 844 8622, ahinchadventures.com) are also on hand for anyone who wants to try their hand at surfing, archery, cycling, kayaking, rock climbing or cave exploration.
Less than an hour from Dublin, Brittas Bay in Co. Wicklow is another Blue Flag beach worth checking out. Suitably enough for the Garden Of Ireland, the scenery is worth the trek alone; think sand dunes and acres of fern and grassland. Brittas Bay Surf School ( 086 739 6010, brittasbaysurfschool.com) offers a friendly, safe and fun introduction to surfing and paddleboarding.
School days are just around the corner, so it's no better time to get a head start in history and hit the Castletimon Heritage Trail (visitwicklow.ie). Located about a mile down the road from Brittas Bay, the trail is an archeologically rich area with habitation that dates back to the Bronze Age.
The Wild Atlantic Way has been gaining plenty of attention, and deservedly so. Among its highlights are the rugged Achill Island stretch, which has long been steeped in history and culture. The island has two Blueway water trails - Doogort and Keem - both of which are picture perfect and offer a host of activities like kayaking and snorkelling.
Achill Surf & Kayak School (086 804 7043, achillsurf.com) bring visitors on a unforgettable kayaking experience between Golden Strand and Silver Strand in Doogort village, or to investigate colourful underwater life on a snorkelling afternoon at Keem Beach. Over in Westport, the Adventure Islands (theadventureislands.com) offer packages for families, stags and hens.
Soak up the last of the summer sun in the harbour towns of Skerries and Balbriggan, and enjoy an afternoon of history and culture to boot. For generations, Dubliners have visited Ardgillan Castle & Demesne Park (01 849 2212, ardgillancastle.ie), a magnificent 18th century estate (the Rose Garden and its café are worth a visit alone).
Elsewhere in the area, the recently restored Skerries Mills Complex (01 849 5208, skerriesmills.org) is one of the town's true gems. It's not every day you get to visit two perfectly preserved wind mills and a fully operational water mill. There's also a sunlit tea room and craft-shop onsite for some welcome R&R.
A childhood on the Wexford coastline was a childhood well spent: head to the glorious Curracloe beach, where kids for generations have played hide-and-seek in the beach's deep sand dunes. The 5-kilometre long Raven Nature Reserve is replete with rare plants and animals. North of Curracloe is Ballinesker beach, best known as the stunning backdrop for Steven Spielberg's wartime epic Saving Private Ryan.
Make your way to the wild and unswept west of Ireland, where the coral beaches of Mannin Bay are waiting to be discovered as part of Clifden's Blueway trail. The rocky pools are alive with marine creatures, making it perfect for a spot of snorkeling. On this Blueway trail, Real Adventures (085 146 2526, realadventures.ie) provide myriad outdoor activities: kayaking, coasting, snorkeling, rock climbing, abseiling and surfing. Keep an eye out for bottlenose dolphins, too.
If you venture a few miles from the market town of Clonakilty in West Cork, you'll see just why Inchydoney's reputation as a world-class beach is wholly deserved. Quiet and unspoiled, the coastline at Inchydoney is still a hive of activity, from great food and markets to quaint craft shops; all the ingredients, in other words, for a perfect relaxing weekend break.
For more suggestions, see discoverireland.ie