There are dozens of beaches dotting the Donegal, Ireland shoreline. There are so many that it’d be impossible to visit them all! So instead of popping by each and every one of the beaches in Donegal, we’ve compiled a list of twelve of the best.
1. Five Fingers Strand
Five Fingers Strand is one of the most unique beaches in Donegal. This special stretch of shoreline is bordered by 30-metre sand dunes, which are some of the largest sand dunes in all of Europe!
As if that wasn’t already cool enough, this wonderful beach has even more to boast about. Five Fingers Strand is named after the five beautiful offshore rock formations found at this beach. You’ll definitely want to snap a couple of pictures of them.
While Five Fingers Strand is gorgeous from the shore, you don’t want to get in the water. There are strong riptides that make the water very dangerous.
*Pro Tip: Since Five Finger Strand is quite popular, the parking situation can get packed. To avoid getting stuck between all of the other cars, park near St. Mary’s Church and walk down to the beach instead.
2. Murder Hole Beach
We know. With a name like Murder Hole Beach, you already don’t want to go to this beach. But trust us on this. It definitely deserves its spot on this list of the best beaches in Donegal. (If it helps, you can call it by one of its official names, Boyeeghter Bay or Boyeeghter Bay, instead).
Murder Hole Beach has a sort of rugged beauty to it. This strip of shoreline is surrounded by dunes, cliffs, and caves. If you happen to visit at low tide, you can visit the stunning sea cave at the south end of the beach. Simply put, there are just so many hidden gems to discover! You can easily stay entertained at Murder Hole Beach for hours on end.
It is important to note that you should NOT get in the water at Murder Hole Beach, due to the strong rip currents.
3. Silver Strand Beach
So far on this list of the best beaches in Donegal, we’ve mentioned two jaw-dropping beaches where you can’t swim. But Silver Strand Beach is both stunning and swimmable.
Silver Strand Beach, also known as Malin Beg, is arguably the most family-friendly beach in the county. Due to the beach’s horseshoe shape and ideal positioning, you don’t really have to worry about strong currents or large waves. In other words, it’s the perfect place for you to go for a lovely swim.
*Pro Tip: As you make your way down to the beach, keep an eye out for sheep grazing in the grass!
4. Portnoo/Narin Beach
Everyone loves Portnoo/Narin Beach. When you visit, you’ll likely see everything from kids flying kites to yogis testing their skills. And you can enjoy Portnoo/Narin Beach too!
Portnoo/Narin Beach is also a fantastic Donegal beach for swimming. The Dunmore Head promontory helps to protect this beach from the worst of the Atlantic’s currents and waves.
But one of the coolest parts of Portnoo/Narin Beach is the fact that you can walk to the nearby Inishkeel Island during low tide. While there, you can explore some old church ruins. But be sure to head back to shore before the tide rises again! (You can usually stick around for about 30 minutes.)
5. Ballymastocker Beach
You’d be hard-pressed to find a list of the best beaches in Donegal that doesn’t include Ballymastocker Beach – and for good reason!
Also known as Portsalon Beach, Ballymastocker Beach was voted the second most beautiful beach in the entire world by Observer Magazine. Considering all of the stunning beaches in the world, that’s quite a compliment for this Irish beach.
There are a few different reasons why Ballymastocker Beach is believed to be one of the best beaches in Donegal. First, this beach is one of the longer ones in the area. With two kilometres of pristine shoreline, it’s picture-perfect.
To add to the photogenic nature of Ballymastocker Beach, this beach is also home to the Pollet Sea Arch. This natural stone arch weathers the wind and the waves, while simultaneously seeming to defy gravity!
6. Kinnagoe Bay
Like Ballymastocker Beach, Kinnagoe Bay is on just about every list of the best beaches in Donegal. And that’s because there’s a hidden gem at this wonderful shoreline.
The coolest part of Kinnagoe Bay may be the La Trinidad Valencera shipwreck. This Spanish armada ship sank near Kinnagoe Bay in 1588.Now, La Trinidad Valencera is a top-notch snorkelling and scuba diving spot. While there, you’ll be able to see loads of colorful fish! But be sure to check the swimming conditions before you dive in the water.
7. Magheraclogher Beach
If you liked the shipwreck at Kinnagoe Bay, you’ll definitely want to check out Magheraclogher Beach as well. This beach is home to the Bád Eddie (Eddie’s Boat) shipwreck, which you can easily see from the shore. As a matter of fact, during low tide, this shipwreck is in the middle of the sand, so you can walk right up to it!
Despite the fact that Bád Eddie has been weathering the wind and the waves since the 1970s, it’s still in relatively good condition. This shipwreck has become quite a popular spot for photos and videos – for both novices and professionals alike. There have even been a few music videos shot at this iconic location, and it’s even graced the cover of Vogue magazine!
8. Fintra Bay
Fintra Bay, also spelled Fintragh Bay, is another fabulous, family-friendly beach. With its calm waters, it’s the perfect place for your little ones to splash around in the ocean or build a sandcastle on the shore.
Fintra Bay is already worth a visit all on its own. But to add to the appeal, there are loads of hidden gems near this Donegal Beach. Find the secret Largy Waterfall, admire the Slieve League Cliffs, and devour a delicious plate of fish and chips at Hughie’s Bar.
9. Culdaff Beach
Culdaff Beach, also known as Culdaff Bay, is actually made up of two separate beaches: Big Beach and Small Beach. These two gems are separated by Black Rock and Lady’s Rock.
Big Beach is ideal for beach strolls, swims, and surfing. You can easily spend hours just enjoying the beauty of Big Beach.
But if you’re looking for a little more seclusion, head to Small Beach instead. This beach typically has fewer people and more protection from the wind than Big Beach. That said, both of them can become quite packed later on in the day.
10. Downings Beach
Downings Beach may be one of the most underrated beaches in all of Ireland. First of all, the water is very calm. This makes it an ideal spot for swimming, windsurfing, and other watersports.
But sunset is when Downings Beach really gets its time to shine. Due to the beach’s positioning, the sun sets behind the water and Muckish Mountain, creating one of the most unique sunsets in the area.
*Pro Tip: Consider pairing your trip to Downings Bach with a visit to the adorable town of Downings. Grab a bite to eat at Fisk Seafood Bar Downings, get a drink at the Harbour Bar, and say hello to the friendly animals at Gáinne Mór Alpacas.
11. Marble Hill Beach
Marble Hill Beach is one of the most popular beaches in Donegal. It’s absolutely picture-perfect with its bright blue water, blooming wildflowers, and friendly birds!
While many people visit Marble Hill Beach just for the scenery, others opt to visit because of the prime swimming conditions. As you’ve probably noticed from the other beaches on this list, many Donegal beaches have strong rip currents or large waves that aren’t ideal for swimming. Marble Hill Beach has neither of those. In other words, it’s a great place to go for a refreshing swim in the ocean.
12. Rossnowlagh Beach
Calling all surfers! Rossnowlagh Beach is for you! Rossnowlagh Beach is widely known as one of the best surf spots in all of Ireland. Swells can reach up to 6 metres high at this stretch of shoreline!
Since Rossnowlagh Beach has such amazing surf conditions, it often hosts surfing competitions, including Ireland’s Inter-Counties Surfing Contest and the Irish National Junior Surfing Championships. If you happen to be in town during one of these events, you’ll definitely want to make time to go and watch.
Even if you’re not a surfer, you’ll still enjoy a visit to Rossnowlagh Beach. You can take a relaxing stroll along the four kilometres of golden sand. Along the way, you can take in the incredible blue water, the clear skies, and the gorgeous sea cliffs of the Slieve League. Doesn’t that sound absolutely magical? And last but certainly not least, Rossnowlagh Beach is a fantastic beach for swimming!
There you have it! The best beaches in Donegal, Ireland. Are there any that we missed? Let us know in the comments!