Ireland boasts endless coastal cities and towns, their streets salty and charming, the people resilient and warm. Carved by the Atlantic Ocean, these places are littered with stretching beaches, sharp cliffs, weathered castles, and quaint main streets. If you’re struggling to choose which coastal towns to include on your itinerary, this list is here to help.
Located along the stunning coastline of Donegal Bay, Bundoran is a town known for its long, sandy beaches. With only 2,000 permanent residents, this area is a popular vacation destination, especially during the warm summer months. There, you’ll find natural swimming pools, cliff walks, and some of the best surf breaks in the country.
If you ever wondered where C.S. Lewis found inspiration for the fictional world of Narnia, head to Carlingford. The famous author grew up near this scenic town and attributes much of his inspiration to the area. The town itself is tucked into green hills that shoulder the Carlingford Lough, which perfectly blends medieval architecture and stunning coastal scenery. Who knows, you might just spot Aslan during your visit.
If the colorful streets of Dingle aren’t enough to draw you in, the rugged coastline and lush surrounding hillsides may do the trick. Dingle boasts a long list of activities — from island tours to pub hopping. The Dingle Peninsula is also one of the nicest driving routes in Ireland, making the journey to the town that shares its name well worth it.
Just a few miles north of the famous Cliffs of Mohers is the town of Doolin, a place tagged as the traditional music capital of Ireland. The Allie River runs through the town before spilling into the Atlantic Ocean, making Doolin the perfect starting point for boat tours to the nearby prehistoric sites and ruins that lie on the Aran Islands. Or, stay on the mainland and explore Doolin Cave, the Cliffs of Moher, and Burren National Park.
The former fishing port of Dunfanaghy is located in County Donegal — an area that National Geographic Traveler deemed the coolest place of 2017. Dunfanaghy is the ideal seaside escape, far from city lights and noise, but with just enough pubs and activities to keep things interesting. Another point of interest is its proximity to Glenveagh National Park, the country’s second largest national park and home to the famous Glenveagh Castle.
Although occupied by a predominantly Gaelic-speaking population, English can still be heard in Gweedore, a town of roughly 4,000. Immensely proud of its preserved culture, Gweedore boasts a true Irish experience that includes numerous noteworthy attractions. Stop by the Church of Ireland or St. Columba’s Church, the latter of which is where it’s believed an epic Celtic battle once took. While strolling Magheraclogher beach, try spotting Mount Errigal — one of Ireland’s most iconic peaks — in the distance, as the town is close to Glenveagh National Park. For hiking info about Mount Errigal, check out our guide.
Lahinch is a town bursting with things to do and see. For starters, visitors can enjoy the walkable waterfront area, where a variety of cafes and restaurants can be found. There is also the captivating Lahinch beach, which was recently turned into a popular surfing destination (grab your wetsuit for a lesson!). And rounding out the list is a collection of castle ruins and hill fortresses, the latter of which suggests the area was inhabited during ancient times.
Roughly 30 minutes from Cork, you’ll find Kinsale. This vibrant fishing town hugs the country’s southern coast, its shorelines bobbing with boats of all colors and sizes. This town is known for its streets packed with quaint and quirky shops and restaurants, but there are plenty of landmarks to check out as well. During your visit, be sure to stop by Charles Fort, Desmond Castle, and the Courthouse and Regional Museum, too.
Although the population of Strandhill hovers around only 1,600, the town is packed with adventures. With mesmerizing beaches to watch Ireland’s most beautiful sunsets from and some of the best seafood around, Strandhill is a place you’ll want to add to your itinerary. The town also boasts a number of nearby walking and hiking trails that offer unforgettable views of the surrounding land and seascapes. Don’t forget your camera!
The piece of coastline that Tramore sits on is nothing short of spectacular. The town’s Blue Flag beach stretches for three miles (five kilometers), drawing in visitors from around the world who flock to its magnificent coastal features. Built on a steep hill, Tramore is also a popular locale for rock climbers and other water sport enthusiasts.
Header image by Gareth Wray.