10 of the best Irish beaches in Donegal for surfers to families

The Wild Atlantic Way Ireland has no limits when it comes to fabulous beaches. Some of the best Irish beaches can be found in Donegal. From Blue Flag swimming and surfing beaches at Tullan Strand to wild surfing and yes scuba diving.

Donegal’s gorgeous beaches are a sight to behold. The wild rawness of the crashing Atlantic surf on rocky shores often hides beautiful stretches of golden sand that rival anything in the Caribbean or other shores.

The lack of tourist bustle, sunbeds and bars give you a feeling of being alone in the world and the raw natural beauty binds your heart to this stunning shore. These are my favourite Irish beaches, but there are many more for you to explore when you tour the WAW.

10 of the best Irish beaches in Donegal for surfers to families

Planning your first dream trip to Ireland you need to read this, everything you need to know 

You can discover why National Geographic proclaimed the Wild Atlantic Way’s Donegal region to be the coolest place to visit in 2017. If you want a beautiful romantic experience book a stay at a Castle hotel the Solis Lough Eske is one of the best in the area.

Want to put together a Wild Atlantic Way Itinerary – here are the best sites to see on the WAW

Best surf spots in County Donegal

In the southern part of Donegal County, you will find Donegal Bay, this is where surfing in Ireland was born and the main surf area in the County. The best time to surf Donegal Bay is from November to April. The best surf spots in Donegal County are Rossnowlagh, Bundoran, Culdaff, Magheroaty, Gweebarra, Bloody Foreland, North Malin, Pollan Bay, Rosapenna, Gweebarra and Loughros Beg.

10 of the best Irish beaches in Donegal for surfers to families
Bloody Foreland

10 of Ireland’s Best Beaches

1. Tullan Strand Bundoran

Tullan Strand one of the many Irish beaches to explore

Tullan strand is one of the best beaches in Ireland for surfing; it is two miles long with gorgeous walks across the cliffs. The beach has an extensive network of sand dunes and is framed by the Sligo-Leitrim Mountains.  Don’t forget to check out the Fairy Bridges and the Wishing Chair they are signed from Roguey’s Walk and have been a Bundoran attraction and are subject to legends and stories dating back to the 1700s and probably further.

10 of the best Irish beaches in Donegal for surfers to families

The bridges are sea stacks hundreds of years old, locals believed them to be haunted by the fairies with the result of the name “The Fairy Bridges”. The area is also home to a memorial to Canadian airmen who crashed here in 1944. The town of Bundoran has its own website where you can learn more about the area, surfing and its history.

2.  Rossnowlagh Beach

In 1988 Rossnowlagh Surf Club opened the first purpose-built surf clubhouse and the country’s first surf shop and from there surfing in Ireland took off.

10 of the best Irish beaches in Donegal for surfers to families

Stretching from the cliffs at Coolmore, to the rock outcrop at Carrickfad and is renowned as one of Ireland’s main surfing beaches. Rossnowlagh beach is immensely popular with families both locals and visitors. I wouldn’t hesitate to say this is the best beach in Donegal, perfect for families with small children and surfers looking for a great wave.

10 of the best Irish beaches in Donegal for surfers to families

Rossnowlagh is around 3.5 km long and is home to many surfing competitions. It is another one of the many Irish beaches that have a Blue Flag designation the beach with its soft yellow sand is fantastic for swimming. Want to learn more about surfing the beaches of Ireland? Then check out Discover Ireland and  Magic Seaweed for details on all the best spots.

10 of the best Irish beaches in Donegal for surfers to families

3.  Magheroarty Beach

This is one of the best Irish beaches for surfing and it has been voted one of Ireland’s top 10 beaches. A glorious stretch of golden sand on the one side views of Inishbofin and Tory Islands and on the other Horn Head. You can also grab a ferry to the Islands from the pier here.

10 of the best Irish beaches in Donegal for surfers to families

4.  Culdaff Bay

The stunning Culdaff Beach is located on the Inishowen peninsula county Donegal in the northwest of Ireland. This is a long sandy beach that is only around 50 yards away from the village and there are two beaches the ‘small beach’ and the ‘big beach’, which get very busy during the summer months.  The coastal area of Culdaff is designated a Special Area for Conservation and there is a lifeguard here in the summer months.

10 of the best Irish beaches in Donegal for surfers to families

5.  Marble Hill Beach

Marble Hill is located on the north-northwest coast of Donegal, this is a long sandy beach set far from any villages or towns. The beach is situated in Sheephaven Bay, which has stunning views, and the dunes here are home to many species of birds and flowers.

this Irish beach called Marble Hill is a beautiful clean soft sandy family beach

6.  Fintra Bay

10 of the best Irish beaches in Donegal for surfers to families

Fintra is a sheltered sandy beach that does get a lot of tourists during the summer months and is also enjoyed by the local community.  Fintra beach is a beautiful sandy beach a couple of kilometres outside of Killybegs and near Donegal’s secret waterfall.  There is a pretty steep road down to the beach but the views from here are incredible. You can see as far as Sligo with the remarkable Benbulben Mountain from the top of the hill.

7.  Maghera Beaches and Caves

the Maghera Caves and beach don't get caught when the tide comes in

Just outside Ardara are the Maghera Caves and the gorgeous waterfall Eas a’ Rance (Assaranca). The road is quite a long way in but keeps going and eventually, you will spot the waterfall. Around a kilometre from the falls is the Maghera Caves, which are underneath the Slievefooey Mountain. The caves are accessible from the beach at low tide but you have to be very careful of the tides, as they have trapped several people. There is a car park and the caves are a short 400-meter walk from the parking lot.

10 of the best Irish beaches in Donegal for surfers to families

Old stories tell of a time when there was a massacre in these caves as local people hid from Cromwell’s troupes, but the truth is they never came this far North and it is more likely the story dates back to Viking times.

These are the top 46 must do and see in Donegal

8.  Coral Beach St. John’s Point

Coral Beach the perfect hidden Irish beach for a summers day

Just outside of Dunkineely on the road to Killybegs you will spot a sign for St. John’s Point here you will find one of the best beaches in Donegal. The Point is around 7 miles long and is one of the longest peninsulas in Ireland. Driving down into the point you will see holiday homes and the crashing Atlantic on either side it is a dramatic drive and a great place to rent a cottage for holidays.

Towards the end of the Point, you will spot a small curve of a beach, which is called Coral Beach. The sand is very pink and the area is almost deserted, divers seem to like the area off the beach and there is usually a scuba boat parked in the small bay. St. John’s Point is also one of the great places in Donegal to shore dive you will be able to spot dolphins, seals, migrating fish, crab and more. Take along an underwater camera with you and enjoy the dive experience of a lifetime.

10 of the best Irish beaches in Donegal for surfers to families

Further down from the beach, you will see a sign that points to private land, you can drive down this road and head out towards the end of the Point to see the St. John’s Lighthouse, which is open for tours in the summer months.

9.  Muckross Head Irish Beaches

Muckross Head Beach a view from the hills

There are two beaches near here trá na nglór in Irish, or “beach of the noise” and the Trá Bán means “white beach”. trá na nglór has a wicked riptide coming in from both sides but it is very popular with surfers. White Beach is a very popular family beach and has parking and facilities for summer visitors. The Muckross Crag is a very popular climbing area and the headlands are home to some neolithic walls which appear to have been used for defences. Don’t forget when in this area you see a sign that says Trá it means beach in Gaelic.

10.  Ballymastocker Bay

10 of the best Irish beaches in Donegal for surfers to families

The Donegal beach at Ballymastocker on the Fanad peninsula was named as one of the most beautiful Irish beaches in the world.  It extends for miles from Knockalla Hill all the way to Portsalon and the views from Knockalla across the miles of sandy beach are truly stunning.

10 of the best Irish beaches in Donegal for surfers to families

Want to check out more beautiful places to visit in Donegal? Take a look at the Wild Atlantic Way article for loads of fascinating information and visiting tips.  You can read lots more stories on Ireland here on my site and if this inspires you, please pin it for later.

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  • Faith was born in Ireland raised in Canada and has lived in over 10 countries in Europe including England, Ireland, Scotland, France, Spain, Northern Ireland, Wales, along with Mexico, Antigua, the US and has slow travelled to over 40 countries around the world. Graduating with a degree in Anthropology and Women's Studies Faith is a student of history, culture, community and food and has written about these topics for over 40 years.

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