The Cliffs of Moher. Kylemore Abbey. Newgrange. The Blarney Stone. When you start listing the things Ireland is known for, the things you definitely want to see, the word beach probably doesn’t come up often. Or at all, really. The phrase “Wild Atlantic Way” doesn’t exactly conjure images of strolling on a long sandy beach. But you know what? You can!
Gems of Ireland
Ireland is heavy with history; laden with ancient sacred sites, Medieval castles and abbeys, and Celt and Viking origins. The island is also rich in natural beauty, from the famous Cliffs of Moher and Giants Causeway, to the rolling hills and valleys of the Boyne River Valley. Weaved among the history and beauty is Ireland’s renowned culture. These are the jewels of Ireland, and we will highlight some of the nation’s gems in this ongoing series.
Introducing Inch Beach
The Dingle Peninsula is gorgeous, with rolling green pastures dropping over dramatic cliffs that tumble to the roaring Atlantic Ocean below. There’s a reason the region is called the Wild Atlantic Way.
As improbable as it may seem, the Dingle Peninsula also features one of the best beaches in Ireland: Inch Beach (often called Inch Strand or, in Irish, An Inse). In fact, there are several notable beaches on the Peninsula. So what makes Inch Beach the best of the bunch?
For one thing, it’s a Blue Flag Beach (more on that later), which means it’s reliably clean and accessible. In summer months, the beach is patrolled by lifeguards, and several surf schools offer lessons and rental equipment on the beach. Add clean restrooms and a convenient restaurant, store, and inn, and you’ve got a great beach break destination. The beach features a long and scenic strand of soft sand to sink your toes into and, to top it all off, it faces west for beautiful Irish sunsets.
Ireland’s Blue Flag Beaches
Blue Flag is an international distinction given every year to about 4000 beaches and marinas in 49 countries. To qualify, a location has to meet stringent water quality standards, as well as safety and access related criteria. In Ireland, the water must maintain the Excellent Standard of the 2006 EU Bathing Water Directive. In other words, it’s wonderfully clean.
To be considered for Blue Flag distinction, you need more than clean water: Restrooms must be clean, and “porta-potties” don’t count. Trash and recycling containers must be available and maintained, and the beach must be clean of debris (except for natural debris like algae and seaweed). There must be clean drinking water available, as well as first aid equipment. In short, the beach is actively managed (though only June through September), which sets the Blue Flag beaches apart from equally pretty beaches around the island.
Although it’s our favorite, Inch Beach is not the only Blue Flag beach in Ireland. The nation is admirably eco-conscious, so it’s no surprise that there are 80 beaches, and eight marinas, that earned the award in 2019. A full list of Ireland’s Blue Flag beaches is maintained by Discovering Ireland.
Making Inch Beach even more special, it is a designated Special Area of Conservation, and natural heritage area. The extensive dune system harbors several species of flora and fauna. Also, Inch is one of the most handicap-accessible of Dingle’s beaches, with designated parking and toilets, and easy access.
Dingle Peninsula Beaches
It turns out, the Dingle Peninsula is a veritable beach blanket bingo! There are a few large public beaches, and smaller sandy coves and landings, mostly on the north and south shores. In no particular order, other notable beaches include:
- Ventry Beach
- Ventry, known as Ceann Trá in Irish, is another Blue Flag Beach, and is not far from Inch Beach on the south side of the Peninsula. It’s proximity to Dingle town makes it the most popular in the area. Similar to Inch Beach, there is handicap parking, facilities, and access.
- Magherabeg (The Mahrees)
- North of Castlegregory is an extensive strand and dunes system where you’ll find Dingle’s third Blue Flag Beach, with surf schools and rentals available during the summer. Magh’s is part of a Special Area of Conservation, and has handicapped accessibility and restrooms (but no designated handicap parking).
- Brandon Bay
- At the foot of Brandon Mountain, the curve of beach popular with swimmers and anglers is Brandon Bay. Though not as easy to get to as Inch or Ventry, it rivals them in sheer beauty.
- Béal Bán and Wine Strand
- On the north side of the peninsula, near the village of Ballyferriter (Irish Baile an Fheirtéaraigh) are the neighboring beach areas Wine Strand and Béal Bán, best known for impromptu horse racing on the beach in June. You don’t get much more Irish than that!
Getting to Inch Beach
Inch Beach is on the southern side of the Dingle Peninsula, between Dingle town and Castlemaine, on R561. There are several routes from Killarney, which is about 42km away. The most direct follows R563 to N70 going north, turning onto R561 at Castlemaine and driving west to Inch Beach. Expect to spend about an hour getting there; longer if your immunity to Ireland’s ample photo ops is low.
If you’re coming from Tralee, it’s easiest to follow N86, turning south at St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Camp. (There are no signs pointing towards Inch Beach – or anything – here.) The unmarked single-track road over the Slieve Mish Mountains is the Conreecaher Scenic Route, named for the remains of an Iron Age fortification. The road meets R561 about 1km east of Inch Beach. The 31km drive will take at least 30 minutes.
Bus service is available to Inch from both cities. The stop at Inch is on the Killarney-Dingle route (Bus 288). If you’re traveling from Tralee, you’ll have take Bus 275 to Dingle first, then backtrack to Inch on Bus 288.
When You Go
- Bring your swimmers…and your sweats! Average summer highs in western Ireland are around 64F/18C.
- There is a restaurant and small store (Sammy’s) at Inch Beach.
- Lodging options at Inch Beach include The Strand, Inch Beach House B&B, and Sammy’s Camping. There are more lodging options on the north side of the Dingle Peninsula in the vicinity of Brandon Bay, Castlegregory, and the Mahrees.
- There is a car park at Inch Beach, with public restrooms.
- Fuel is available in Dingle town, and also in Camp, but if you’ve filled up in Tralee or Killarney, you probably won’t need to refuel.
- Inch Beach has hard packed sand that you can actually drive on. You’re sure to see a few cars out there, or tire tracks along the beach. Be aware that most rental agencies frown on the practice, and driving off road may violate the terms of your agreement.
- If you’re a hiker, the Dingle Way passes near all of the beaches we’ve mentioned on its 180km route. The gentle but picturesque terrain is home to many trails, detailed in Dingle Peninsula: A Walking Guide.
Have You Been?
If you’ve taken a beach break on the Dingle Peninsula, we would love to hear about your experience. If you haven’t visited, have we inspired you to include a stop at one of the Dingle Peninsula’s beaches? Either way, please let us know your thoughts in the comments! Feel free to ask any questions; if we don’t know the answer, we can find it! If you enjoyed this post, consider signing up for our updates (All wham, no spam!) or sharing with your friends on Facebook, Pinterest, or Twitter with the buttons below. (A million thanks in advance!)