Ireland’s coastal towns are arguably some of the country’s prettiest places. This article takes a look at the best coastal regions in Ireland from the colorful streets of Doolin to the culinary haven of Kinsale. Ireland is often defined by its bigger cities like Dublin and Galway but the Emerald Isle has so much more to offer.
If you are looking to venture off the beaten path, the country boasts a number of idyllic coastal towns that stretch across the Atlantic Ocean. From stunning cliffs to quaint towns and medieval castles, there’s a lot to explore.
When planning a trip to this beautiful country, consider adding these coastal towns to your itinerary.
The Best Coastal Towns in Ireland
Ireland’s coastline spans over 1450 km and offers some incredible views of the ocean and beyond. Each town is a reflection of the country’s storied past with iconic sites that depict Ireland’s fantasy folklore and make for great visits even if you are planning just a mini-break in Dublin.
Here are the best coastal towns in Ireland to add to your list:
Carlingford is a charming seaside village located in the East of Ireland. The history of this town dates all the way back to the 13th century when King John built his castle by the coastline, which remains standing till today. The town is bustling with activity throughout the year and is frequented by many locals and tourists.
Carlingford is the birthplace of the famous author C.S Lewis and rumor has it that he found his inspiration for the famous novel Narnia in this very town.
Enamored with a stunning coastline and medieval structures, this seaside town is straight out of a fairytale.
In addition to its scenic beauty, Carlingford has a lot to explore. Make a stop at King John’s Castle, a ruin that overlooks the coastline and a major attraction in the town.
Follow this with a journey into Ireland’s fairytale folklore, The Leprechaun and Fairy Underground Tavern claim to have housed the last leprechaun of its kind.
You can end your day with some breathtaking views of the coastline at the Slieve Foye, Carlingford’s highest peak.
See Related: 10 Best Sites Like Skiplagged
Dingle is one of the most picturesque towns in Ireland with colorful streets surrounded by mountains and a rugged coastline.
The coastal village is located on the southwest coast and sits on the edge of the Dingle Peninsula. It is a true haven for art enthusiasts and perfect for a getaway with your pals.
The charming town has a lot to offer from its surrounding islands to a bustling nightlife where you can enjoy the ultimate Irish pub experience.
A drive down the Dingle Peninsula that leads to Dingle is said to one of the most scenic routes in the country.
If you are craving those stunning coastal views that Ireland is known for, take a drive down the Slea Head and Connor Pass loops. The Slea Head drive stretches over 26 miles and is a pure slice of heaven.
If you are looking to stay active, you can even cycle down this path. For some truly spectacular views, the Connor Pass will take you to Castlegory which is the highest mountain pass in Ireland.
You can even take a day tour of Dingle and Slea Head to explore everything this region has to offer.
One of Ireland’s best coastal towns is the fishing village of Dunfanaghy. The picturesque town is located in the northern region of Donegal county and offers a much-needed escape from big cities.
From the quaint streets to the hospitality of the locals, Dunfanaghy is a stop you need to make during your travels to Ireland.
The Donegal county where Dunfanaghy is located was deemed one of the coolest places by National Geographic. The 4.5-mile loop takes in the vast expanse of the Atlantic Ocean that stretches out of the surrounding islands to the allure of the town. The movie Star Wars: Episode VIII was also filmed here.
After a drive around the coast take a walk down Killahoey beach or Dunfanaghy beach to enjoy the cool coastal breeze. You can even take a boat tour of the Donegal Coast. The town has a number of places to grab a bite such as Muck ‘n’ Muffins or Patsy Dan’s where you listen to some traditional Irish music.
End your day at one of the town’s many pubs like molly’s or the Oyster Bar.
See Related: Booking.com Review
Known for being one of Ireland’s prettiest coastal towns, Adare is a heritage town that sits on the River Maigue. The town was built in the 13th century and is known for its medieval cottages and picturesque ruins. The best way to get around Adare is on foot so you can take in everything this enchanting destination has to offer.
The focal point of Adare is the Desmond Castle that features a ring fort built in the 13th century. This castle was once a fortress during the war but now stands alone as a stunning ruin. Visitors can also take a tour of the Adare castle.
From there you can take a short walk to the Trinitarian Abbey, a monastery that once housed monks from Scotland. Since then, it has been converted to a Roman Catholic Church.
Once you’ve had your dose of the town’s history, head to the downtown Adare to explore the colorful streets. Little stone homes painted in bright colors dot the streets of Adare.
This walk will take you to the town’s River Bank that serves up some incredible views. End your day with a meal at restaurants such as The Good Room or The Wild Geese.
See Related: Best Castles to Visit in Wales
Lahinch is considered one of the best coastal towns in Ireland because the town has a lot to see and do. From cliffs to waterfronts and an array of gastronomy, Lahinch has it all.
Water sports enthusiasts can head to Lahinch beach for a surf lesson with the pros. It is one of the most popular surfing destinations in Ireland. The town also has a rich history that is reflected in fortresses and ruins that surround the city.
Head to the Doolin cave, the longest free-hanging structure in the Northern Hemisphere that was built in 1952. The trail took nearly 70,000 years to form and is one of Ireland’s natural wonders.
The tour takes your through the cave and ends with a beautiful view of farm animals and fauna. Follow this with a trip to the Lahinch Art Gallery where you can learn about traditional Irish garb.
Lahinch has a number of restaurants with cuisines from different parts of the world like Randaddy’s and Tasty Station. The town is just a short trip from the Cliffs of Moher so you can even take a 5-day tour to explore the entire Southwest region.
See Related: 14 Best United Kingdom Beaches
The seaside town of Clifden is located just a short drive away from Galway. It is located in the western region of Connemara. Given Clifden’s central location, the town is nestled between the Twelve Bens mountains and the Atlantic Ocean, offering spectacular views of the land and sea.
The town is known for its relaxed vibe and is a refuge from Ireland’s bigger cities.
The best way to enjoy Clifden’s incredible views is to stay at one of the town’s many houses. The Sea Mist House, the Dolphin Beach House and the Mallmore country house are great places to stay. While Clifden does not offer too much in the way of sightseeing, the stunning views are the main highlight.
Head to the harbor to take in the view of the ships sailing across the calm blue sea with a backdrop of the Twelve Bens mountains.
You can even take a drive or walk down Sky Road for panoramic views of the Clifden Castle and Downtown Clifden. End your day with a meal at restaurants like Darcy Twelve or Mannions and a pint of beer at Central Bar.
The town of Kinsale is located in Ireland’s Cork County. This small town only has a population of 5,500 but attracts numerous tourists all year round.
The town is known for its harbors lined with sailboats that flow into the River Bandon. With narrow streets and colorful houses, people visit Kinsale for the authentic Irish experience.
If you consider yourself a culinary fiend, Kinsale has some of the best gastronomy in the country. The town hosts the annual Kinsale Gourmet Festival that features some of Ireland’s delicacies.
In addition to the stunning sites, you also get to satisfy all your cravings on a trip to Kinsale.
On a trip to Kinsale, make sure to visit The Charles Fort, a 17th-century fortress built during the Spanish invasion. The ruin now juts out into the sea and creates a magnificent view of the land and sea in harmony.
Other sites of interest include the Kinsale Regional Museum and Black’s Brewery where you can try a wide range of IPAs. You can even take a 3-day tour of Kinsale and its surrounding regions. While there a lot to do in Kinsale, keep in mind that it is not a budget-friendly destination.
See Related: Cheap Castle Hotels in Ireland
Cobh is one of Ireland’s best coastal towns and is known for its picturesque views, the Deck of Card houses being the most famous one. Colorful houses are stacked up a hill with a gothic church serving as the backdrop.
The town also holds significance to the famous Titanic because it was the last port of call before the ship set sail. In those years, Cobh was a major port for Irish immigrants.
Given its historical significance, the coastal town of Cobh offers a lot to explore. Learn about the history of the town at the Heritage Centre that history of migrants making their way to the New World in search of fortune.
From there you can head to Spike Island to see a military fort that was transformed into a prison to house inmates from Australia. The town also offers a Titanic Experience so visitors can learn all about the famous shipwreck.
End your day with dinner at one of the town’s many restaurants like The Quay’s Bar or Gilbert’s Bistro. You can even get a drink at one of the locale pubs and watch the people of Cobh go about their lives.
Consider taking a 3-hour tour of Cobh to learn more about the culture and history of the town.
See Related: How to Cruise the Grand Union Canal
Waterford is Ireland’s oldest city located in the Southeast region. The city is known for its more relaxed vibe and is great for a quick away from the hustle and bustle of Dublin. The town was once a Viking settlement that is reflected in many of its attractions like the Quay Reginald’s Tower and the Waterford Medieval Museum.
Waterford was also a major hub for glass manufacturing but while it no longer holds this title, you can learn about the Irish artistry at the Waterford Crystal Factory. A tradition that was established over 200 years ago, a tour of the factory will take you through the manufacturing facilities and the retail store.
The Waterford crystal is well-known around the world and was even featured in the Oscars and The Ellen DeGeneres Show. You can buy a crystal to take home as a souvenir.
The city of Waterford is a 2.5-hour bus ride from Dublin. Make sure to stay at a hotel near the Quay as this is the focal point for all the attractions. It’s a great spot to visit once you’ve covered all on all of your Dublin bucket list.
See Related: Top Party Cities in Europe
The enchanting town of Doolin is just a short trip away from the famous cliffs of Moher and while there are only so many things to do in the coastal town, its scenic beauty makes a stop at this town worthwhile.
The town features vast expanses of green trough with the Allie River that flows through the town and into the Atlantic Ocean.
The city has a lot to offer, both on and off land. Your first stop in this idyllic town has to be the iconic Cliffs of Moher that offers some of the best coastal views in the world. Hike to the edge of the cliffs and enjoy the calming salty breeze. Follow this with a walk down the rocky terrain of Burren or the Burren National Park.
Doolin also offers a rich dose of Ireland’s history so make sure to visit the Aran Islands which a short ferry ride from the mainland.
A magnificent shipwreck and medieval castles are the highlights of this town. End your day at one of the many Irish pubs that line the streets of Doolin.
Travel through Ireland’s coast to explore the best of the country. From magnificent cliffs to historical ruins and an array of culinary delicacies along the way, Ireland is the perfect escape for every type of traveler.
We hope this list of the best coastal towns in Ireland will help you plan the perfect trip to the Emerald Isle.