There’s no shortage of stunning beaches in Cork. Surrounded by wild, windswept coves with plunging cliffs and meadow-tipped mountains, the landscapes are so ruggedly beautiful that it’s easy to forget you’re close to Ireland’s second-largest city.
Boasting some of the best beaches the country has to offer, the southwestern coast is also the sunniest side of Ireland, resulting in fairer weather and less drizzle. From sandy bays ideal for swimming to secluded coves made for exploring, here’s our guide to the best beaches in Cork.
Cork’s coastal trail snakes from Kinsale to Clonakilty, all the way down to Baltimore. Some beaches are located a shell’s throw from the city centre, whilseothers are blissfully secluded, reached only by car or sea. On the edge of west Cork, the hidden cove of Crookhaven isn’t easily accessible, but that’s precisely why it’s so beautiful. A sandy bay lapped by the clear Atlantic Sea, it’s a recipient of a Green Coast Award, a national prize for the best-preserved beaches in Ireland.
Easily the most popular beach in County Cork, Garryvoe claims Blue Flag status, meaning pristine waters and unblemished nature. A craggy blend of shingle and rock, Garryvoe is great for families – it has a lifeguard, and refreshments are available at the Garryvoe Hotel just off the beach. Garryvoe lies on the R632, a short drive away from Shanagarry.
Fringed by sand dunes and hillsides of amber tussock, the Warren is a lovely Blue Flag beach located in a Natural Heritage Area. This sandy stretch of coastline with great facilities, including a cute little café, also has a lifeguard in the summertime, making it ideal for families and children. The beach is reached by car, a 15-minute drive from Clonakilty.
Stunningly beautiful, with a long crescent-shaped bay flanked by sand dunes, this Blue Flag beach is family-friendly and excellent for watersports. A popular spot for surfing, Inchydoney Beach is located on an island of the same name, a few miles away from Clonakilty. There are several amenities nearby.
Garrylucas translates as “white strand” in Celtic, and this beach certainly lives up to its name. The sand is clean, with the consistency of granulated sugar – and the water is beautifully clear. Located near the Old Head of Kinsale, this is a prime spot for surfing and watersports. But if you’re not feeling adventurous, it’s also a great place for swimming, paddling and sunbathing.
An enchanting hidden cove nestled in the coastal cliffs of West Cork, Shelly Beach is the place to live out your Robinson Crusoe fantasy. Composed of white shells and fine sand, this is a truly secluded spot – be prepared to venture over meadows and country lanes to get here. Located a few miles east of Mizen Head, you’ll need a car to reach it.