In the west of Ireland lies a region known as Connemara. It isn’t a county in its own right, but simply an area strongly associated with traditional Irish culture.
Stretching from Galway Bay in the south to Killary Harbour in the north, Connemara is a beautiful seaside town and a place of savage beauty, containing some of Ireland’s most unspoiled beaches and dramatic scenery.
Key Take Aways:
Connemara is a region in western Ireland that is known for its traditional Irish culture and unspoiled beaches.
We describe ten of the best beaches in Connemara, including Glassilaun Beach, Silver Strand Beach, and Gurteen Beach.
Visitors to these beaches should take note of weather conditions, water quality, and restrictions on water activities and plan accordingly.
The 10 Best Beaches In Connemara
#1 Glassilaun Beach
There are few beaches in the world quite as picture-perfect as Glassilaun Beach. Situated close to the southern entrance of Killary Fjord, its white sands form a horseshoe bay, beyond which the crystal clear waters shimmer invitingly.
In the distance stands the majestic Mweelrea Mountain, from which the landscape cascades down to the ocean in a series of rolling green hills.
The beach slopes gently down to the sea, making it an ideal spot for a quick dip. There aren’t any lifeguards on duty, though, so caution is required. Although the sea is usually calm enough for a swim at low tide, conditions can change quickly, and you should seek out up-to-date local information before taking to the water.
Few can resist a scenic stroll along this crescent-shaped beach, especially when the tide is low enough to reveal its numerous rock pools.
If you want to get even closer to the marine life, ScubaDive West is a two-minute walk away and offers recreational diving and snorkeling experiences.
Getting to Glassilaun Beach is simple enough, and the drive from the picturesque village of Clifden takes just 30 minutes. The car park is situated on the edge of the beach, making it easily accessible for those with limited mobility or small children.
#2 Silver Strand Beach
Situated on the outskirts of Connemara, this horseshoe-shaped beach is a 15-minute drive from Galway and is considered one of the most beautiful beaches in Ireland. It’s the perfect place to enjoy a picnic, build sandcastles, and soak up the sun.
The glittering waters are too enticing to resist, and the sheltered bay makes it a safe place to swim when the conditions are right. The waves also attract surfers who enjoy the challenge of catching a wave while avoiding the reefs below.
Silver Strand isn’t as easy to access as Glassilaun Beach, and you’ll need to tackle some steep steps if you want to feel the sand between your toes.
Fortunately, there’s a coffee shop just 100 m from the cliff top, where you can refuel with a cake or sandwich while gazing at the spectacular views.
#3 Gurteen Beach
Gurteen Beach is in the south of Connemara and lies opposite Dog’s Bay, with a sandy spit or tombolo separating the two. Gurteen Bay faces south towards the headland that protects it from the ravages of the Atlantic Ocean.
Although there are no lifeguards on duty, Gurteen Beach is a popular place to swim and indulge in other water-based activities, like kitesurfing and windsurfing.
If you prefer to simply lay back, and soak up the sun’s rays, you can do that too, and enjoy breathtaking views of Errisbeg Mountain and its rolling foothills.
The sand at Gurteen Beach was formed out of the remnants of tiny seashells, rather than limestone, which gives it its distinct white hue, while the surrounding grasslands consist of rare machair vegetation that’s unique to coastal habitats in Scotland and Ireland.
Gurteen Beach has few facilities beyond a small car park, but its natural beauty makes it well worth a visit.
#4 Dog’s Bay
On the other side of the tombolo lies the sandy expanse of Dog’s Bay, where the soft white sands and clear blue waters create an almost tropical vista on a sunny day.
When the weather’s not ideal for swimming, it’s still worth taking a stroll along this one-mile stretch of beach, from where you can gaze out over the Connemara coastline.
The white sands of Dog’s Bay are made from crushed shells, while the surrounding vegetation is so important that the bay has been declared a Special Area of Conservation.
Dog’s Bay is a popular family destination and attracts kite surfers and photographers, although it has very few facilities.
There might be a few temporary toilets there during peak season, but the rest of the year all you’ll find is a very limited car park and a series of narrow lanes that make alternative parking tricky to find.
#5 Renvyle Beach
Renvyle is arguably one of the best beaches in Connemara, if not the whole of Galway. It’s quiet, secluded, and surrounded by jaw-dropping scenery.
From Renvule Beach, you can see the islands of Clare Island and Inishturk poking their heads up between the waves or turn back toward the mainland for views of Mweelrea Mountain.
Situated on the Renvyle Peninsula on Ireland’s west coast, Renvyle Beach is one of the best places to watch the sun go down and enjoy the colorful display it creates as its sinks into the ocean.
The water here is quite shallow, so more suited to paddling than swimming, although it’s safe enough for a quick dip, even though there are no lifeguards around.
In fact, there’s very little of anything in this remote spot, and even the beach car park is only just big enough for 12 cars, so you should arrive early to avoid disappointment.
If camping is part of your plan, why not pitch your tent at Renvyle Beach Caravan and Camping Park, and save yourself the hassle of finding a parking spot?
#6 Trá an Dóilín
This Blue Flag beach is sometimes referred to as Coral Strand because it’s made of rare coralline algae that have been crushed up by the waves. This gives the beach an unusual texture and appearance.
Trá an Dóilín isn’t very big, so it’s not ideal for runners, but it does have a selection of rocks that the more adventurous will enjoy exploring and clambering over.
The clear waters make it perfect for swimming and, in the summertime, there are always lifeguards on duty, making it a safe place to frolic in the waves. The visibility also makes it popular amongst snorkelers and scuba divers wanting a glimpse of life beneath the waves.
#7 Trá Mhór
Trá Mhór is beautifully sheltered and boasts white sands and clear blue seas, making it a popular swimming spot, although lifeguards are only on duty during the peak summer season.
Situated just outside the village of Inverin, it enjoys breathtaking views over the Burren and, on a clear day, all the way to the Cliffs of Moher.
This is a rural beach, but there’s a spacious car park and public toilet facilities available all year round.
Trá Mhór is also a dog-friendly beach, which is worth noting if you travel with a canine companion.
#8 Trá Mhaírois/Moyrus Beach
This is one of Connemara’s hidden gems – a peaceful beach of white sands and incredible scenery complete with islands and mountains.
Although there aren’t any lifeguards on the beach, it is considered a safe spot for swimming, and the sea is usually relatively calm.
If you feel like stretching your legs a little, there’s a stunning 5km walking trail that takes you through meadows, past old cottages, and along the beach itself.
#9 Sellerna & Cleggan Beaches
Sellerna is a sandy beach situated just outside the village of Cleggan on the Aughrus Peninsula. Although it’s quite exposed, it’s a pleasant and safe spot to swim, with soft sand underfoot and a gently sloping beach.
Cleggan Beach is stonier than Sellerna, but when the tide drops, more sand is exposed, making it more appealing. It’s also more sheltered than Sellerna and arguably safer.
The most popular way to explore Cleggan Beach is probably on horseback, and a nearby riding center offers a low-tide trek to Omey Island and back. Sounds like the stuff of dreams!
#10 Lettergesh Beach
This long, sandy beach is the perfect place to relax, stroll, or dive into the refreshing waters that lap the golden shores. No Connemara beach is complete without a backdrop of mountains, and with Mweerlea Mountain looming in the background, Lettergesh surpasses all expectations.
Lettergesh Beach is easy to get to and has a decent-sized car park.
There aren’t any other facilities here, but nearby Letterfrack has numerous cafes and restaurants where you can refuel after visiting the beach.
Frequently Asked Questions about Beaches in Connemara
A. What is the best time to visit the beaches in Connemara?
Local holidaymakers flock to the beaches in Connemara during the summer. The moment the sun comes out, the beaches fill up, and so do the car parks!
If you want to avoid the crowds but still get a chance of good weather, the best time to visit the beaches in Connemara is either in Spring (March to May) or Autumn (September/October).
B. Are there any restrictions for swimming at the beaches?
You can swim at almost any of the best beaches in Connemara, assuming it’s safe. Weather conditions can make swimming in the Atlantic Ocean dangerous, especially when there are no lifeguards on duty, so caution is always required.
Some beaches, including Clifden, have been closed in the past due to poor water quality, so that’s something you should check out before donning your bikini!
C. Are the beaches in Connemara suitable for children?
Children love spending time on Connemara’s beaches! The soft sand, gentle slopes, rock pools, and shallow waters are all wonderful attractions on a sunny day. The best beaches for children include Dog’s Bay, Renvyle, and Glassilaun.
D. Are there any facilities available at the beaches, like restrooms and showers?
Very few beaches in Connemara have permanent facilities, though many provide temporary restrooms during the summer.
E. Can one camp at the beaches in Connemara?
Although wild camping is banned on many beaches in Connemara, there are plenty of caravan and campsites nearby to accommodate campers.
F. Are there any water sports activities available at the beaches?
You can scuba dive and snorkel at several beaches in Connemara, including Glassilaun and Trá an Dóilín, while kitesurfers and windsurfers should try out Gurteen Beach, although such activities could become restricted in the future.
Draft legislation drawn up by Galway County Council proposes banning all leisure activities other than swimming on all the beaches in County Galway, so you should check the status of those bye-laws before planning your holiday.
G. Is it possible to rent equipment at the beaches?
There are very few options for renting equipment of any kind at the beaches in Connemara. In fact, you’ll be lucky to find a public restroom at most of them!
H. Are there any restaurants or cafes near the beaches?
Most of the beaches in Connemara are just a stone’s throw from an idyllic village or town where you can get a quick bite to eat or sit down to a leisurely meal.
I. Are the beaches in Connemara accessible by public transport?
There are a few beaches you can access using public transport, such as Silver Strand, but many are only accessible by car due to the narrow lanes.
J. Are there any beaches that are dog-friendly in Connemara?
Glassilaun, Gurteen, Dog’s Bay, and Lettergesh are all dog-friendly, although you must keep your dog on a lead and clean up after it.
The beaches of Connemara have everything their more famous European counterparts are known for. White sands, crystal clear waters, and gently sloping beaches are set against a background of breathtaking views. What more could you want?
Connemara’s weather means it’s not ideal if all you want from a beach holiday is a tan, but if you want to stroll, swim, scuba, or explore, there’s no better place for it. Not all beaches have facilities, but in my mind, that just adds to their charm and authenticity.
"Like many so-called Brits, I have a bit of Irish and a bit of Scottish in my blood, which is possibly where the red hair comes from. I’ve been fascinated by the history of Ireland for years, since I discovered the story of the Irish Pirate Queen, Grace O’Malley.