Ireland is rightly famous for its variety of beautiful beaches, from vast sandy strands to hidden rocky coves. This raises the question: which is it longest beach? Read on to find out, the answer may surprise you…
Before I give the answer I just want to mention the criteria I used: firstly I measured each beaches using Google Maps satellite photos, as I didn’t measure super accurately there may be variations depending on the state of the tide etc, secondly I only considered continuous stretches of sand or pebbles, measuring along the sand until interrupted by outcrops or river mouths or the sand ends.
The longest beach in Ireland
By quite some distance, Curracloe Beach in Wexford is Ireland’s longest beach. Its golden sand runs south continuously for approximately 28km from Cahore Point to the mouth of the River Slaney. Now some people may be surprised that the country’s longest beach isn’t on the west coast, on the Wild Atlantic Way, but the sheltered low-lying coastline of County Wexford has a huge number of long beaches with great potential for long-distance beach walking or cycling.
Curracloe is huge, more than double the length of the next longest beach in the county. It would take a long day to walk it from end of end. There are dozens of access points to the beach and it’s very popular during the summer but thanks to its size it’s still possible to find a quiet patch. It famously served as a stand-in for Omaha Beach, Normandy in the film Saving Private Ryan.
Just to the south, on the other side of the Slaney Estuary, is a sequence of long beaches that are only separated by very short sections of land. From Rosslare Harbour the sand runs around to Carnsore Point with few interruptions before a continuous 16km stretch that ends in Kilmore Quay. On the other side of the fishing village is Ballyheigue Burrow, another magnificent, remote beach that runs for 10km.
There are a few mentions online of the Slí Charman, the South Wexford Coastal Path, and there are even some fading signs along the coast but it seems to have fallen by the wayside in recent years, which is a pity, but since most of it follows public beaches there is nothing to stop it being walked as it stands. However, a bit of marketing and a few signs can go a long way towards encouraging visitors, the Wild Atlantic Way has proved that beyond all doubt.
The longest beach on the Wild Atlantic Way
The spectacular, exposed headlands of the Wild Atlantic Way are usually home to small coves rather than vast stretches of sand for these you need to look to the river mouths and estuaries where calmer water has formed long sandy beaches. The longest continuous stretch of sand on the Wild Atlantic Way is on the north coast of the Dingle Peninsula. Fermoyle Stand runs 11.5km from the mouth of the Owenmore River near Cloghane to the end of the Maharees Peninsula, the tombolo that juts out into Tralee Bay.
This is a windswept and often stormy beach in contrast to Curracloe which faces the more benign Irish Sea. It’s popular with surfers and other watersports enthusiasts as well as walkers looking for a gentle ramble with Brandon Mountain serving as an impressive backdrop.
The east side of the tombolo has an even longer beach, but it doesn’t quite meet the criteria of being continuous as it’s interrupted by a number of small streams discharging into the sea. Nevertheless there is a continuous stretch of 7.4km running from Camp to Derrymore Island.
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The longest beach in Northern Ireland
The coast of Northern Ireland is a little lacking in any really long beaches with the exception of Benone which is by far and away the longest in Northern Ireland at 13.2km. Stretching from the inside of Magilligan Point at the entrance to Lough Foyle the sand runs east to meet the mouth of the River Bann beside Castlerock village. The beach forms the western end of the Causeway Coast and is only a short distance across Lough Foyle from the Wild Atlantic Way.
The western end of the beach is wild and remote, backed by any extensive area of sand while the eastern end is more sheltered with some interesting sights including Mussenden Temple and the Downhill Demense.
Other beaches of note
The east coast is home to another long beach, the 17.8km stretch of sand and pebbles that runs from Greystones to Wicklow Town. For much of the way there is a track slightly inland that is much easier going than the sometimes steeply sloping pebble beach. Read an account of cycling this beach here.