The REAL top ten beaches in Ireland (all in Cork, naturally!)

A recent Lonely Planet article listed its top ten beaches in Ireland - with none in Cork. Scandalised by this snub, here The Echo comes up with ten great Rebel beaches
The REAL top ten beaches in Ireland (all in Cork, naturally!)

PARADISE FOUND: Ballydonegan Bay on the Beara Peninsula makes our list of top beaches in Cork/Ireland. Picture: John Eagle

LAST week, we comprehensively ‘debunked’ the Lonely Planet’s scandalously inaccurate article entitled Ireland’s Top Ten Beaches.

This week, we bring you the real list of Ireland’s Top Ten Beaches, which has been painstakingly curated to ensure it is unbiased and fair. You will be delighted, but probably not that surprised, to learn that all are in Cork.


Stunning, wide, sandy beach with crystal clear water that has won more accolades than it drums up waves. Perfect for ball games, swimming and sand castle building on such an industrial scale it would put a Dubai developer to shame. Nearby surf school, nice public toilets and savage grub in the four-star hotel to boot.


Along with the mind-blowing beauty of its location at the tip of the Beara Peninsula, this gently sloping beach has uniquely gorgeous sand that was excavated from nearby Allihies copper mine two centuries ago. You could swish it through your toes all day. Nip up to the village for a toasted special and a creamy pint of stout afterwards with a spectacular view of the Atlantic below.

Harbour View

A real off-the-beaten-track beach with powdery sand, calm blue water, and well-sheltered from prevailing winds, this gem of a place is great for families — plenty of space for big games of hurling and seaside barbecues, and with its long shoreline shallows and gentle waves, it’s ideal for splash-mad smallies.


The twin sisters of Cork’s endless list of iconic beaches comes in two distinct halves: Garretstown is a surfer’s paradise where the Atlantic rarely fails to conjure up excitement for adrenaline junkies, while bigger, but equally beautiful, Garrylucas is the more serene, family-friendly option with an exquisite view of the Old Head of Kinsale.

ICONIC: Seven Heads viewed from Garretstown, Co Cork. Picture: Larry Cummins
ICONIC: Seven Heads viewed from Garretstown, Co Cork. Picture: Larry Cummins

There are only two words you could use to describe these two beaches: ‘Un’ and ‘real’. A toasted special or some fresh seafood up the road at The Speckled Door will put the icing on a day you’ll never forget.

The Warren

Popular with locals for good reason, this almost preposterously pristine beach ticks every box on the list, even when the sun isn’t shining. Nearby, Rosscarbery has some of Cork’s best eateries where you can compare your lobster sunburn patches while eating the real thing.

Long Strand

If it’s tee roar of the Wild Atlantic you’re after, then look no further than the huge expanse of Long Strand and it’s alluring sandy dunes, long suspected of being the result of a 18th century tsunami caused by an earthquake in Lisbon.

Overlooked by the magnificence of Castle Freke, built around 1750, and nearby woods this is a truly unique location. And with the arrival of the amazing Fish Basket café, Long Strand is now arguably Ireland’s top beach, ticking every box and more for discerning beach lovers.

Blind Strand

Probably, our favourite Cork beach, this is Ireland’s best off-the-beaten-track. Few Corkonians beyond Courtmacsherry and the Seven Heads know about this pearl of perfection, which is just a short drive from the village at the end of an east-facing cul-de-sac. Along with a picturesque hill and farm to the south, it is sheltered from prevailing south-westerly breeze and the whims of the Atlantic.


This elegant sandy beach is about 2,500 miles long. At least it seems that way when you turn around and realise you’ve been so captivated by its sandy charm, blue-flag standards and lured by the view of Ballycotton island dazzling in the distance, that you haven’t noticed you’ve been happily walking for hours.


A place so majestic and picturesque, that first timers may find themselves having some sort of religious or spiritual conversion when the full splendour of Barelycove becomes apparent.

MAJESTIC: Barleycove beach in West Cork. Picture Denis Minihane.
MAJESTIC: Barleycove beach in West Cork. Picture Denis Minihane.

We’ve even heard that, since the pandemic normalised working-from-home, most smartphones now just automatically google ‘houses for sale near Barleycove’ after you pay Barleycove a visit — big data knows what everyone who visits here is thinking. They’re not wrong.

Robert’s Cove

This beach is a small, low-key player among Cork’s celebrity superstar beaches. Quiet and unassuming, it lies at the end of a dreamy harbour overlooked by a big rolling green hill on one side and a tiny village on the other, making its serene waters a swimmers’ paradise.

While the Hollywood-esque status of Cork’s other high-profile beaches can draw huge crowds on sunny days, despite its relative proximity to the city, this gorgeous strand, is somewhat mysteriously, overlooked by many beach-bound Corkonians, possibly because it gets covered in seaweed from time to time. These days, the green stuff is no longer seen as waste from the sea, but as a delicacy.

One of Cork’s Michelin star chefs, Miyazaki, uses seaweed to make sushi, which posh Corkonians shell out serious coin for. So Robert’s Cove is basically part beautiful beach, part all-you-can-eat award-winning restaurant. How unreal is that?

NEXT WEEK: We count down another great top ten beaches... all of them in - yep, Cork, boy!

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