The best beaches you must visit in West Cork

In this blog I list 14 of the most stunning beaches in West Cork, Ireland. When the weather is nice there is honestly no better place in the world than Ireland. The saying goes among locals “if you could put a roof over Ireland it would be the best country in the world”. So, for those nice or even not-so-nice days here are the best beaches for you to visit.

In fact one of the best things to do in West Cork is to go in search of stunning beaches!

14 of the Best Beaches in West Cork, Ireland

West Cork is well-known for having the best beaches in Ireland. From the surfing beach of Garrettstown to extraordinarily long Inchdoney beach, there’s certainly a beach in West Cork for everyone.

P.S I’m a Cork girl, so my locals guide on what to do in Cork may be handy too!

1. The Warren beach, Rosscarbery

A family enjoying the gorgeous Warren beach in West Cork
A family enjoying the gorgeous Warren beach!

The Warren Beach just outside Rosscarbery town is a small-ish sandy beach backed by sand dunes. The area around the beach has been designated as a Natural Heritage Area. It’s a popular swimming and walking spot and even has a pitch and putt course looking over the strand.  There’s also a lovely loop cliff walk here.

There’s a narrow road out to the beach from the main road and it is often full of parked cars on either side (esp. during Summer). So, be careful, there’s a car park at the end of this road if you can manage to find a space.

There’s a lifeguard on duty during the Summer months. There are public toilets and showers in the car park as well as a coffee truck during the busier months.

Getting to The Warren Beach from Cork City: will take you 1 hour 13 minutes (65 km) via the N71

2. Barleycove beach, Schull

blue skies at Barleycove beach in West Cork
Blue skies all-round at Barleycove beach!

Often named by the media as the ‘most beautiful beach in Ireland’. Located a 20-minute drive from the town of Schull, and backed by numerous sand dunes – Barleycove is certainly a spectacular beach.

These sand dunes were thrown up in the tidal wave that swept Europe after the earthquake in Lisbon in 1755. They are classed as European designated Special Areas of Conservation.

Grab a pint or some food at the Barleycove Beach Hotel or even spend the night here – it sure is a stunning location for a hotel!

Getting to Barleycove Beach from Cork City: will take just under 2 hours and follows the N22; N40 AND R586

3. Inchydoney beach, Clonakilty

A lady walks her dogs at Inchydoney beach in West Cork
A lady walks her dogs at Inchydoney beach!

A whopping seven miles in length, Inchdoney is especially popular with overseas visitors. It’s the perfect spot in West Cork for a nice long beach walk. The popularity of this beach is probably due to the stunning Inchydoney beach hotel which overlooks the beach. I highly recommend spending the night here if you can if not there’s a fab restaurant at the hotel that welcomes outside guests!

It’s only a 10-minute drive from the cute town of Clonakilty! The waves here are some of the best in the country so why not check out the surf school on the beach

Getting to Inchydoney Beach from Cork City: will take you just under an hour via the N71

4. Garrettstown beach, Kinsale

wild atlantic way west cork
On the walk to Garrettstown beach!
Looking down on Garrettstown beach on a sunny day!

A popular surf beach, you can try your hand at surfing with G Town Surf School . Garrettstown is also very popular with local families, as it is one of the closest beaches to Cork city. Grab some food and refreshments from the food trucks along the beach or walk to Stranded Cafe for a sit-down lunch. It’s one of the best free things to do in Cork, without a doubt!

There are two beaches for the price of one here, the “first beach” aka Garrettstown beach is popular for surfers, it’s where most of the food trucks are located too. It’s more sheltered than Garrylucas beach next door. Garrylucas or “white strand” has calmer seas and is popular with families. It’s not as sheltered though so I don’t recommend going here on a windy day.

Getting to Garrettstown Beach from Cork City: under 50 minutes via the N71

5. Red Strand beach, Clonakilty

red strand beach on a windy day
Red Strand beach – look at those waves!

About a ten-minute drive from Clonakilty lies one of Cork’s most underrated and less-visited beaches. Which is a pity as the views from the beach include the iconic Galley Head lighthouse. And the water here is exceptionally clean!

The beach is small and there are no restaurants or hotels within walking distance. There are public toilets, however.

Getting to Red Strand beach from Cork City: 1 hour 7 minutes via N71 and R589

6. Owenahincha beach, Rosscarbery

rock pools at owenahincha beach west cork
The rock pools at Owenahincha beach!

Backing onto sand dunes, this wide and open beach is not far from the village of Rosscarbery.

Owenahincha is also a great surfing spot, however, the sea can get quite rough at times and is therefore not suitable for beginner surfers. There is a public car park and toilets facilities are provided and there is a lifeguard on duty during the Summer.

There’s an excellent campsite near the beach.

Getting to Owenahincha from Cork City: 1 hour 4 minutes via the N71

7. Tragumna beach, Skibbereen

sunrise at tragumna beach west cork
Sunrise over Tragumna beach!

Tragumna Beach, West Cork is located just a few miles from Skibbereen town. Tragumna is a favourite small swimming spot with stunning views over the tiny Drishane Island, just 100 metres offshore. This is a popular spot for families!

Top tip – visit the nearby Lough Hyne for kayaking and easy hikes.

Getting to Tragumna from Cork City: 1 hour 30 minutes via N71

8. Long Strand beach

sunset at long strand west cork
Sunset at Long Strand!

A gloriously wild beach between Rosscarbery and Clonakilty. There’s sand dunes, glistening ocean and the Galley Head lighthouse in the distance. The waters here are beloved by surfers (lots of big waves!) but it’s not so safe for inexperienced swimmers. There is a lifeguard on duty during the Summer!

Be sure to pay a visit to the Fish Basket for some awesome fish and chips. Also, nearby is the beautiful Castlefreke Woods a great place to walk off the aforementioned fish and chips!

Getting to Long Strand Beach from Cork City: 1 hour 7 minutes via N71

9. Shelly beach, Mizen Head

shelly beach mizen head cork
Shelly Beach next to Mizen Head!

Shelly beach is the secret spot locals don’t want you to know about! Only adding to its charm is the trek to get there – hike through fields and down a narrow boreen. Pretty white shells dot the sand here and the views are spectacular! For some reason, this beach reminds me of something from The Chronicles of Narnia.

Of course whilst here you must visit Mizen Head the most Southwesterly point in Ireland. Catching the signal station at sunrise or sunset is sure to make for an exceptionally pretty photo!

Tour tip – you can join this guided tour from Cork City to Mizen Head which also includes a stop in the colorful town of Bantry. It’s 9 hours in duration and costs just 58 euro!

Getting to Shelly Beach from Cork City: 2 hours via R586

10. The Dock Beach, Kinsale

The small but lovely Dock Beach in Kinsale!

Possibly the smallest beach on the list – the Dock Beach is favored among Kinsale locals. Being a walk from the charming town and accessed by the sandy pathway next to The Dock pub. Walk if you can as it is incredibly difficult to find parking here. It’s well-sheltered and a safe place to swim and has views over Kinsale Harbour.

Tour tip – this full-day guided tour includes stops in both Blarney Castle and Kinsale, and costs from 79 euro pp.

Getting to The Dock Beach from Cork City: 39 minutes via R600

11. Silver Strand, Sherkin Island

silver strand sherkin island cork
Silver Strand at Sherkin Island!

The stunning Sherkin Island is home to this hidden gem of a beach! It’s hard to reach making it even more appealing and wild-like and is accessible only by ferry from Baltimore. Silver Strand is a 40-minute walk from where the ferry drops you off on Sherkin Island. (FYI – the ferry is €12 per adult and takes only 15 minutes)

It’s a beautiful sandy beach with magnificent views of Cape Clear Island and the Atlantic ocean. This is one of Cork’s most remote beaches and the wildness of it and the sense of isolation you feel here can’t be beaten!

There are two restaurants on the island – Sherkin House & Jolly Rogers. Plus, if you fancy staying the night you can choose from Sherkin House (with its 21 ensuite bedrooms).

Tour tip – this Fastnet Rock Lighthouse and Cape Clear boat tour is highly recommended, It costs just 54.50 per person!

12. Allihies, Beara Peninsula

allihies village county cork
The colorful Allihies village!

The Beara peninsula may just be Ireland’s best-kept secret. The rugged and rocky coastline is apparently too rocky for much sand to accumulate or so you would think. The beach at Allihies is more of a small wind-sheltered inlet with golden sand. It offers stunning views of the Atlantic. If you’re a keen walker or hiker there are lots of great walks all around the Ring of Beara.

Allihies village is colorful, tiny and very photogenic. Some of the best things to do here include walking the Allihies Copper Mine Trail, drive the Beara Way and visit the neighboring village of Eyeries. Restaurants in this small village include O’Neills; The Lighthouse Bar and Jimmys Bar. As you can see they’re all pubs too – so they’re great spots for a few drinks to take in the stunning scenery.

When you’ve come this far, why not spend the night at Allihies Seaview is a wonderful 3-star option with 10 ensuite bedrooms as well as self-catering cottages.

Getting to Allihies from Cork City: 2 hours 20 minutes via R585 and R572

13. Garnish Strand, Beara Peninsula

Garnish Strand is located just over 10km from Allihies village.  It sits at the very tip of the Beara Peninsula. The beach forms an inlet within the larger Garnish Bay area and is a white sandy beach with beautiful views over Dursey Island and Garnish Bay.

Getting to Garnish Strand from Cork City: under 90 minutes via R585

14. Galley Cove

galley cove lighthouse cork
Galley Cove lighthouse near the beach!

Galley Cove beach is located on the eastern side of the Mizen Head Peninsula in West Cork, approx. a mile (1.5km) from the little village of Crookhaven. It’s a gorgeous golden sand beach and is backed by a rolling hill – very Irish! The beach is sheltered as it’s east-facing.

You’ll find picnic tables on higher ground behind the beach which offers stunning views.

Getting to Galley Cove Beach from Cork City: under 2 hours via R591

Where to stay in West Cork

  • The luxurious Kinsale Hotel and Spa has great views over Kinsale and the harbour and is a few minutes from the town
  • A firm favorite with locals and tourists the stunning Inchydoney beach hotel overlooks the very long Inchydoney beach and is a short drive from Clonakilty
  • Allihies Seaview is a wonderful 3-star option with 10 ensuite bedroom as well as self-catering cottages. It is located in the colorful little village of Allihies on the Beara Peninsula
  • The Atlantic Apartments in the village of Schull overlooks the sea and is a great family-friendly option
  • Originally an old farmhouse Rolfs Country House in Baltimore that is quaint and family-run since 1979. It’s a great place to stay for access to Sherkin Island

Thanks for reading my blog, Aimee x

Garrettstown Cork Ireland

Thanks so much for reading. I hope this guide has helped you find an awesome beach in West Cork! If you found this blog helpful, be sure to browse around some more! I have guides on Blarney Castle, Ballyhoura, as well as tips for moving to Ireland and so much more!

P.S if you’re planning a move to Cork I’ve written a detailed blog post about renting in Cork that you may find helpful!A lot of the tips in it can be applied to Ireland as a whole so if you’re moving anywhere else in Ireland it will be handy too.


West Cork is well-known for having the best beaches in Ireland. From the surfing beach of Garrettstown to extraordinarily long Inchdoney beach!
West Cork is well-known for having the best beaches in Ireland. From the surfing beach of Garrettstown to extraordinarily long Inchdoney beach!

4 replies on “The best beaches you must visit in West Cork”

Wow! Ireland does have some lovely beaches & your pics are gorgeous. Living in Sydney, Australia I’m surrounded by beautiful beaches but I’d love to visit West Cork’s beaches, especially Shelly Beach & Long Strand! Thanks for sharing!

I think my favorite beach is #12 with the Crayola Crayons house colors. So pretty. Great post. I hope to visit Ireland in 2022!

Wow – these beaches are gorgeous, I’m dying to visit Ireland, and now I’ll have to add some beach time into my itinerary! Thanks for a great post.

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