Table of Contents
- 1 Cork Beaches
- 2 Best Beaches in Cork
- 3 Most Popular Beaches in Cork
- 4 Inchydoney Beach
- 5 Barleycove Beach
- 6 Garretstown Beach Kinsale
- 7 Beaches near Cork City
- 8 Fountainstown Beach
- 9 Myrtleville Beach Cork
- 10 West Cork Beaches
- 11 Garrylucas Beach
- 12 More Beaches in Kinsale Area
- 13 Warren Beach
- 14 Silver Strand, Sherkin Island
- 15 Garnish Beach
- 16 East Cork Beaches
- 17 Inch Beach Cork
- 18 Garryvoe Beach
- 19 Youghal Beach
- 20 General Information about Irish Beaches
- 21 Beaches in Ireland
County Cork is the largest county in Ireland and it is fair to say that the beaches Cork has to offer are beautiful and varied.
Long sandy strands, pebble beaches, rock bays and hidden inlets dot the roughly 2000 km long Cork coastline to the Celtic Sea, which is a part of the Atlantic Ocean off the south of Ireland.
Discover some of the best beaches in Cork, from the well known popular ones, to those a little more under the radar.
The beaches in west Cork are well known and popular destinations during the summer in particular.
That is not to say that the beaches in east Cork, which are typically not as hyped are not worth visiting as well!
This beach guide covers multiple locations along the Cork coastline from the East Cork beaches (such as those in Youghal), to the closest beach to Cork City and one gem of a beach at the far end of the Beara Peninsula.
Bonus Tip: Staying in Cork? Do you want some great ideas for day trips from Cork? Our guide is full of great ideas!
Best Beaches in Cork
Google Map of some of the best beaches on the Cork Coastline. Beaches near Cork (green pins), beaches in west Cork (blue pins) and beaches in East Cork (orange pins).
With so many beaches to choose from across the area of County Cork, it can be hard to pinpoint which are the best beaches in Cork.
The following beaches show off some of the best of Cork’s coastline and are certainly among the most popular. By reading the highlights below, you will be able to see why!
- Inchydoney Beach
- Barleycove Beach
- Garretstown Beach
- Fountainstown Beach
- Myrtleville Beach
- Garrylucas Beach
- Warren Beach
- Silver Strand Beach
- Garnish Beach
- Inch Beach
- Garryvoe Beach
- Youghal Beaches
Most Popular Beaches in Cork
Inchydoney Beach, Barley Cove Beach and Garretstown Beach are frequently mentioned as the best beaches in West Cork.
They also happen to be some of the most popular beaches in Cork County.
Distance to Cork City: 55 km or 34 miles
Time to Drive from Cork City: ca. 60 minutes
Awards: Blue Flag Beach and Green Coastal Award
There are two beaches at Inchydoney, near Clonakilty in west Cork.
While there are several beaches in Clonakilty and the surrounding area, these are probably considered to be the best beaches near Clonakilty that you will experience.
Inchydoney East Beach and Inchydoney West Beach are long expansive beaches that are separated in between by a headland.
To the back of the Incheydoney West Beach there are sensitive sand dunes.
This ecologically sensitive habit is a European designated Special Area of Conservation so please stick to the designated areas.
The soft, sandy beaches are south facing and are great locations to catch the evening sunlight.
On a windy day, it is good to know that the Inchydoney West Beach is a little more exposed.
The beaches are perfect for long walks, games of frisbee and volleyball and even surfing.
Surf lessons are available from the nearby surf school, located behind the Inchydoney West Beach.
Inchydoney Beach Parking:
Parking is available near the beaches, but it gets very busy here in summer and there is a one way system in place on the road.
Inchydoney Beach Information:
During the summer bathing season there are lifeguards on duty during the day. Be sure to only swim in the designated areas, as there are some dangerous currents in the area.
Public toilets are available nearby and no dogs or cars are allowed on the beach.
Distance to Cork City: 120 km or 75 miles
Time to Drive from Cork City: ca 2 hours
Barley Cove Cork Awards: Blue Flag Beach and Green Coast Award
Barley Cove Beach is definitely one of the top beaches in Cork (many describe it as the best beach in Cork, but we’ll leave that decision up to you!)
The extensive sandy beach is backed by sand dunes and it is set in a very picturesque location in West Cork, not far off Mizen Head (the most southerly part of the island of Ireland). It is also one of the most popular beaches near Bantry and Skibbereen.
Barley Cove Beach Highlights:
In summer, there is a temporary floating walkway from the small parking area to the beach.
This pontoon stretches over the sandy tidal area that becomes flooded when the tide comes in.
(Please be aware that it has been damaged by poor weather in the past and may be closed at short notice.)
Did you know?
It may come as a surprise to some, but Barley Cove Beach and the great earthquake that struck Lisbon in 1755 (and measure 8.4 on the Richter Scale) are connected.
According to local legend, the sudden appearance of the sand dunes and beach occurred shortly after the quake and were a direct result of the tsunami waves triggered by the earthquake.
Other areas around the west coast of Ireland were also damaged, including the famous Spanish Arch in Galway.
Recent scientific investigations into the origin of the sand dunes lead by Dr. Anthony Beese and colleagues, appear to confirm the long standing local legend as to the origins of the sand dunes and the beach at Barley Cove.
Barleycove Beach Parking:
To the rear of the beach, there is parking in a designated car park. Typically most of the year it is quiet here, however, during good weather, this reasonably sized car park can fill up quickly.
Barley Cove Beach Information:
Lifeguards are stationed on the beach during the summer bathing season.
Please take note that there are dangerous rip currents in the area, so extra caution is advised near the water.
Public toilet facilities are provided at the location. No dogs and cars are allowed on the beach.
Tidal times and summer bathing quality are available here.
Garretstown Beach Kinsale
Distance to Cork City: 39 km or 24 miles
Time to Drive from Cork City: ca 50 minutes
Awards: Blue Flag Beach
Garretstown Beach (or Garrettstown, as it is sometimes known) is a sandy strech of beach that has rocky outcrops at either side.
The long, sandy expanse ensures that even on the busiest of summer days that people can spread themselves out and not feel too crowded.
Garretstown Beach Cork Highlights:
Surfing is the main watersport on this beach.
When the conditions are right, it is one of the best surfing spots close to Cork city and it is ideally suited to beginner and intermediate levels.
It can be a little wild on this beach from time to time due to its exposed south facing direction and in fact, the nearby beach of Garrylucas is a famed windsurfing spot!
This is a popular spot for beach walkers and the occasional angler too.
Garretstown Beach Parking:
There are plenty of parking opportunities located behind the beach area and some more are located further along the coast.
Garretstown Beach Information:
During the summer bathing season, lifeguards patrol the designated swimming areas of the beach during the day.
Before you head to the beach, it might be worth checking out the local conditions such as the bathing water quality reports (which are regularly updated during the summer months), as well as the high and low tide information.
Public toilet facilities are available at Garretstown Beach. The beach is designated dog and car free.
Beaches near Cork City
The River Lee flows through Cork City in to Cork Harbour. This harbor is one of the deepest natural harbors in the world.
Close to the mouth of Cork Harbour there are some great beaches. These are within easy reach of Cork City.
Distance to Cork City: 20 km or 13 miles
Time to Drive from Cork City: 30 minutes
Awards: Blue Flag Beach and Green Coast Award
Fountainstown beach is a sandy, but also stoney beach with a gentle slope and a slipway on one side. There is a rocky cliff that stretches alongside the beach, which is where there is a small cliff path.
(Keep an eye out and watch your step on this uneven terrain.)
This protected beach with Blue Flag Status is especially popular with families.
Fountainstown Beach Highlights:
Fountainstown is one of the easiest beaches to get to in Cork, it is also probably the nearest beach to Cork City.
Not only is it only a short distance away from Cork city by car. It is also one of the stops on the 220x bus route from Cork to Crosshaven.
Fountainstown Beach Parking:
To the rear of the beach, there is ample parking. Most of the year it is quiet here, except for the sunniest days in summer when it can get a bit busy.
Fountainstown Beach Information:
In summer time, there are lifeguards at this beach.
For summer bathing water quality reports and tidal information for Fountainstown Beach, please check here.
At the back of the car park, there are public toilet facilities. It is good to know that dogs and cars are not allowed on the beach.
Myrtleville Beach Cork
Distance to Cork City: 20 km or 13 miles
Time to Drive from Cork City: ca. 30 minutes
Myrtleville is a sandy beach with many large rocky outcrops and stoney patches.
These provide plenty of rock pools to keep younger ones entertained for hours. The area can sometimes be a little weedy.
Myrtleville Beach Highlights:
Myrtleville beach has a prime location with impressive views of Roche’s Point Lighthouse on the other side of the Cork Harbour.
It is a great spot to watch the small boats and larger vessels entering and leaving the Port of Cork. This beach is also the closest beach to Cork City.
TIP: Combine your visit with when the big cruise liners are leaving Cobh and you will get a birds eye view!
This beach is also only a short drive from Fountainstown Beach so it is easy to fit them both in on the same trip.
Myrtleville Beach Parking:
Parking at Myrtleville Beach can be tricky, especially when it is busy.
There is no designated car park and the beach is located in a small residential village.
Keep an eye out for the double yellow lines, which indicate where parking is not allowed. People have been known to get parking tickets here when it is busy!
Myrtleville Beach Information:
There are no lifeguards and limited facilities available at this beach. Some shower/tap rinsing facilities are available.
West Cork Beaches
West Cork is breathtaking for many reasons. The multitude of superb beaches is just one of the reasons why this area of Ireland attracts so many visitors each year.
Distance to Cork City: 40 km 25 miles
Time to Drive from Cork City: ca. 50
Awards: Blue Flag Beach
The gentle sloping, sandy shores of Garrylucas Strand are well known to kite- and windsurfers.
This is also a popular spot for walkers and anglers too. Many families with kids head to this beach on good summer days.
The main stretch of beach is sandy and on either side there are rocky areas.
Garrylucas Beach Highlights:
Garrylucas is only a short distance from the Old Head of Kinsale and Kinsale Town (ca. 15 minute drive) and it is located to the south east of Garretstown Beach.
Garrylucas is a famed kite and windsurfing location, with people coming from all over Ireland, when the weather is right.
Garrylucas Beach Parking:
Public parking can be found stretching in the Garrylucas Beach Car Park, as well as along the roadside.
Garrylucas Beach Information:
Lifeguards are on duty during the day at Garrylucas during the bathing season (1 June to 15 September).
For information about the summer bathing season water quality and tidal times, check out the following website.
Toilets are available near the beach and the strand is designated as a dog free and car free area.
More Beaches in Kinsale Area
Kinsale in West Cork is the starting or finishing point of the Wild Atlantic Way, depending on what direction you travel.
There are many stunning areas around Kinsale that are well worth checking out.
For a more in depth overview of the beaches near Kinsale, we have created a Beach Guide in Kinsale and the surroundings.
This guide to Kinsale Beaches West Cork includes, Rocky Bay Cork, Howe Strand, Nohoval Cove and Robert’s Cove Cork.
Distance to Cork City: 65 km or 40 miles
Time to Drive from Cork City: ca. 70 minutes
Warren Beach, located a short distance outside Rosscarbery, is a sandy beach with a gentle slope.
It is south-east facing so best to head there a little earlier in the day if you are planning a trip.
To the west of the beach, there is a small channel where water from the Rosscarbery Bay enters and exits. Please take note of signs warning of dangerous currents around this area.
Warren Beach Highlights:
There are protective boulders to the back of the beach that can provide some protection from the wind on a blustery day.
If you are lucky, you can see some horses on this beach. It is a popular riding spot.
It is also possible to reach Owenahincha Beach (or Little Island Strand) via a fenced off cliff top walk from Warren Strand.
This route offers particularly scenic views of the area and the possibility to observe some marine wildlife if you are really lucky!
Warren Beach Parking:
There is a large car park located behind the beach. Plenty of spaces are available, but on busy days this can fill up with vehicles.
Warren Beach Information:
This beach is patrolled by lifeguards during the bathing season in the summer.
If you want to plan your visit to Warren Beach, you can find the bathing season water quality and information about the tide times on this website.
There are toilet facilities available at this beach. No cars are allowed on this beach. Dogs are permitted on Warren Beach, but they must be on a leash.
Silver Strand, Sherkin Island
Distance to Cork City: ca. 100 km or 62 miles
Time to Drive from Cork City: ca. 90 minutes to Baltimore plus ferry to Sherkin Island and 40 mintues walk to the beach
Awards: Green Coast Award
It requires a bit of time and patience to get to Sherkin Island, but when you do it is worth the effort.
Silver Strand, which is also known as Snáithe Airgid, is a breathtaking location, just a little off the beaten track. To get there, you must take a ferry from Baltimore and walk for about 40 minutes to get there.
Silver Strand Highlights:
The soft sand and stunning scenery with views of Cape Clear make this beach one of the most stunning in the area.
On sunny days, the crystal clear water on this south west facing beach here makes this secluded gem particularly inviting!
Silver Strand Parking:
Most people who travel to Sherkin Island do so on foot or by bicycle via the ferry that lands on the north-east side of the island, so parking is not typically required for this location.
Silver Strand Information:
There are limited facilities at this beach and no lifeguards are on duty during the summer months.
The Environmental Protection Agency provides updates on the bathing season water quality during the summer months, which can be found here. Tidal information can also be found on the same site.
Dogs are permitted on Silver Strand when they are placed on a leash.
Distance to Cork City: 145 km or 90 miles
Time to Drive from Cork City: ca. 2 hours 20 minutes
Awards: Green Coast Award
Close to the end of the Beara Peninsula, not too far from the wonderful Dursey Island, lies Garnish Beach.
This sandy bay with rocky outcrops on either side, is a delightful beach that is not as well known as many others.
Garnish Beach Highlights:
As well as being a superb, gentle sloping, sandy beach, this area offers great views over Garnish Bay Cork and the surrounding landscape.
Garnish Beach Parking:
Some parking is available at this location, but it might be a bit tricky to get a spot on the nicer, sunny days.
Garnish Beach Information:
There are no lifeguards on duty here during the official bathing season.
Facilities at the beach include wheelchair access toilet facilities and changing rooms. There is also a baby changing area.
Information about bathing season water quality and tidal times for Garnish Beach can be found here.
Cars are not permitted on Garnish Beach. Dogs on a leash are allowed.
Bonus Tip: While on the Beara Peninsula, it may also be worth checking out Allihies Beach.
This unusual beach is man made and the sand is actually made of fine quarts debris that was produced during the copper ore process.
Don’t get confused with Garnish Island near Glengarriff in West Cork. This island is known as the Garden Island and is in a completely different location!
East Cork Beaches
The beaches of East Cork are sometime overlooked in favor of their more famous counterparts in the west of the county.
However, it is far to say that there are some great sandy beaches along the east Cork coastline as well.
Why not discover surfing on Inch Beach or go for a long walk on the newly installed Youghal beach boardwalk to find out more!
Inch Beach Cork
Distance to Cork City: 36 km or 22 miles
Time to Drive from Cork City: ca. 40 mintues
While Kerry is known for its famous Inch Beach, few people are aware that there is also a fantastic Inch Beach in Cork too. Located in East Cork and not too far from Cork City and only about 10 minutes drive from Midleton, this sandy beach is a popular spot with families.
Inch Beach Highlights:
This gentle sloping beach is a good location for paddling and surfers also take to the water here.
A stream is found at either side of the beach and there are some rocky outcrops and small cliffs on the headland side of the beach.
In summer, it is possible to rent boards and surfing gear from the Swell Surf School located beside the beach.
They also offer individual and group surfing, SUP and coasteering activities.
It is possible to walk towards the headland at Power Head along the paved road. This is a popular saunter on long summer evenings.
Inch Beach Parking:
There is limited parking on the side of the road at both sides of the beach. During the summer time or on warm evenings, it can sometimes be a bit of a challenge to find a parking spot here.
Inch Beach Information:
There are very limited facilities available at this beach. No lifeguards are on duty during the summer bathing season.
Please keep in mind that Inch Beach has no public toilets or changing facilities.
Information about the summer bathing water quailty and the estimated tidal times is available via the Environmental Protection Agency website.
Distance to Cork City: 38 km or 24 miles
Time to Drive from Cork City: ca. 40 minutes
The stoney and sandy beach at Garryvoe is located not too far from Cork City. It is also within easy reach from Midleton town.
This south-east facing beach can get a bit wild from time to time and is great for blowing away the cobwebs!
Garryvoe Beach Highlights:
Even when the weather is not ideal for going out and about, it is possible to park near enough to the beach to get a good sea view of the Ballycotton Bay area including the Ballycotton Lighthouse.
It is a great family beach, with a children’s playground located nearby for when children get tired of playing on the beach.
Garryvoe Beach Parking:
There is public parking available along the beachfront.
Garryvoe Beach Information:
Lifeguards are stationed on this beach during the summer bathing season.
Information about the tidal times and summer season water quality can be found here.
Public toilets are available at this location, as are litter bins and recycling facilities.
Dogs on leashes are allowed on Garryvoe Beach.
Cars are not permitted to drive on the beach.
This beach also has wheelchair access.
Distance to Cork City: 46 km or 29 miles
Time to Drive from Cork City: 45 minutes
Youghal in East Cork has four beaches located in the close surroundings.
The Mall Beach is a small sandy stretch located in the town itself.
The Front Beach and Claycastle Beach are just a short walk outside the main town and a little further along the coast there is Redbarn Strand.
A boardwalk has been built along the coast that now allows pedestrian access from Redbarn all the way to Youghal town.
Youghal Beach – Front Strand
Located on the western side of the town, The Front Beach is an ideal spot to pass away for a couple of hours on a sunny day.
The soft, sandy beach has been awarded the Blue Flag Award. A promenade stretches along the back of the beach and some erosion protection measure have been put in place.
Youghal Beach – Front Strand Information
Parking is available near the Front Strand. During the summer, lifeguards patrol the designated area on this beach.
It has easy access to all of the necessary amilites, including toilets, shops and cafes, as well as public transport routes.
Dogs and cars are not allowed on the beach. Water quality and tidal time information is available from this website.
Youghal Beach – Claycastle Blue Flag Beach
This large, sandy blue flag beach is a great area to go for a long walk or a swim during the summer.
There is also an extensive boardwalk that is suitable for people with limited mobility, wheelchairs and buggies.
Along the route, there is also seating and some shelters at regular intervals.
Youghal Beach – Claycastle Beach
There is ample parking available near the beach and also disability access for people with mobility issues.
During the summer summer bathing season (1 June to 15 September) there is a designated lifeguard zone on the Claycastle.
Toilets are available for public use at this location. Please keep in mind that both dogs and cars are not allowed on the beach.
More information about the bathing water quality and tidal times for the location is available online.
General Information about Irish Beaches
Regardless of what time of year you visit the beaches in Cork, water safety should always be a priority.
While it is safe to swim on some beaches, lifeguards are only present on some beaches during the summer. Local weather and water conditions can make swimming hazardous on these designated swimming beaches, even for strong swimmers.
Check locally about swimming conditions and caution is always advised near the water.
More information about swimming in Ireland can be found on the water safety website.
Public Toilets at Irish Beaches
It is worth keeping in mind that some of the public toilets may not be open all year round.
Some portable toilets are only temporarily in place for the summer months, while the toilet facilities of some other beaches are unfortunately locked during low season.
Waste Disposal on Irish Beaches
Rubbish bin facilities are also not available all year round at some of the beaches.
If there are no bins, then please bring your waste home with you and keep the beach clean and tidy for the enjoyment of everyone.
Are dogs allowed on beaches in Ireland?
The rules regarding whether dogs are permitted on beaches in Ireland depends on the beach.
Dogs are not allowed on many beaches in Ireland, while on some beaches dogs are permitted once they are kept on a leash at all times.
Walking a dog on a beach can be a really enjoyable experience for both the dog and the owner. However there are some issues with dogs on beaches that should be kept in mind.
While most dog owners do clean up after their dogs, unfortunately not everyone does and this dog foul pollutes the beach and the water quality for everyone.
Not everyone is comfortable around dogs, especially children.
When dogs eagerly approach strangers or children on a beach, it can be a distressing or overwhelming experience, even if the dog is completely friendly and means no harm.
Many beaches are located in ecologically sensitive areas, designated special areas of conservation and natural heritage areas. Birds and other wildlife can easily be disturbed by dogs running and barking on beaches.
Depending on the species and the time of year (for example the breeding season, preparation for migratory routes etc.) constant disturbance can have a very negative impact on the survival of animals.
Some of these species are already under threat and designated as protected species under EU law.
Please be a responsible dog owner and think of others and the environment around you.
Beaches in Ireland
For some more scenic beaches in Ireland, why not discover some of the best beaches in Connemara, County Galway!
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(Irish Nature Expert and Celtic Enthusiast from Ireland)
Emer Walker, founder of LetsGoIreland.com, is a Cork native with profound expertise in Irish nature and ecology. Holding a PhD in Restoration Ecology and backed by extensive research in ecological sciences, she’s delved deep into Ireland’s natural wonders, from its rugged landscapes to its serene beaches. Emer’s passion also encompasses Celtic art and traditions. As a true authority on Ireland’s natural and cultural heritage, she invites readers through LetsGoIreland.com to immerse themselves in the authentic Irish experience.