10 Best Beaches of Galway – Wild Atlantic Way
Best Beaches of the Wild Atlantic Way – Galway
All the beaches in Co Galway are on the Wild Atlantic Way including the area of Connemara world-famous for its wild natural beauty. Salthill, the first beach listed is in Galway city. All Ireland’s beaches have free access and most have parking, though many have limited facilities. The national standard for cleanliness used is the Blue Flag and those beaches which have achieved this status are noted in the text. Some of the beaches listed are on islands and you have to take a ferry or walk to the island at low tide to get to the beach. Directions to the beaches, with descriptions and activities offered, are listed here.
The author’s favourite beaches are:-
- Salthill is the only city beach in Ireland you can swim or dive off before breakfast.
- The most stunning beach is Dog’s Bay or Lettergesh, among the most beautiful in the world.
- Lettergesh Beach is ideal for horse riding or riding a local Connemara pony.
- Inishbofin Island is my favourite island beach accessed by ferry and Omey Island for a beautiful island beach accessed at low tide.
The beaches are listed as you travel west along the north coast of Galway Bay and into Connemara. Beaches on the south side of Galway Bay are listed with Best Beaches of Clare. Some beaches need ferry access – so look at the blog on the ferry services of the Wild Atlantic Way. Talk to local people for advice on Omey Island as it is tricky to access. Be safe and do not swim alone or take a kayak or SUP out at night as the currents in Galway Bay are very strong. Some beaches are more suited to families with children or teenagers and some are ideal for a romantic getaway. Enjoy them and send us your favourite photo. This does not include all the beaches in Connemara – just the best ones to enjoy.
The Connemara area is a Gaeltacht (Irish Speaking area) from just west of the city at Bearna. Gaeilge (Irish) is the first language of the area in villages, schools and community, so we have listed the Irish names of each beach first with a translation of the meaning as well as the English name for the beach. Signposts along the road may be in Irish, English or both, but if you get lost just ask and we will answer you in English. If you have a cupla focal (few words) why not use them.
1.Salthill, Galway City
Lat 52.2564 Long 09.0887. For teenagers and young adults
To the west of Galway city, about 1km from the city centre, is the suburb of Salthill with a 900m long blue flag beach. Access is by the frequent city bus service or you can park on the Salthill promenade as the beach is made up of several small sandy stretches and some pebbly areas. Easy access from the many car parks along the main road and the main beach has a lifeguard in the summer season. This blue flag beach is popular with city residents and the multi level concrete diving stand juts out into Galway Bay. Suited to all ages with a sandy beach for the children and diving at different heights for those with diving skills. If you stay in Salthill accommodation, you can have a swim before breakfast.
2. Trá na gCeann/ Barna Strand
Lat. 53.2496. Long. 09.1265. Family Friendly
Just west of Galway city on the R336 is Trá na gCeann or Silver Strand, a small 1/4km beach with parking for over 50 cars. This beach is quieter than Salthill and suited to young families. The Blue Flag beach has lifeguards in summer and has great views of Galway Bay.
Check the tides as Trá na gCeann as the sand is almost covered at high tide and a safe swimming beach at mid or low tide
3.Trá na mBán, An Spidéal/ Ladies Strand, Spiddal
Lat. 53.2430 Long. 09.3580. Family Friendly
Just before the village of An Spideal, west of Galway city on the R336 is Trá na mBán (Ladies’ Strand). The beach car park is beside the road at Furbo. This short beach is suited to swimming at low tide but does not have a Blue Flag. This is a busy beach with the main road nearby, not the most relaxing for young families,
4. Trá Mór Indreabhán / Inverin Beach
West of Spidal on the R336 from Galway is An Trá Mhór ( big strand), before Inverin. The beach is a sandy 130m long stretch with lifeguards on duty during the summer season. This Blue Flag Beach is suited to swimming and as it’s in the Gaeltacht you may hear Irish being spoken locally! Small but a lovely beach for families.
5. Trá Inish Mór, Oileán Arainn/ Cill Mhuirbhigh, Aran Islands
Lat 53.1309 Long 09.7501. To get to Trá Inish Mór take the Ferry from Rosamhíl to Inish Mór (Large Island), the largest of the 3 Aran Islands. The Ferry can be pre-booked and takes 50 minutes to get to the island. On the island you can walk or hire bikes to get to Cill Mhurbhigh, a 250m Blue Flag sandy beach on the eastern, sheltered side of the island. The campsite is nearby and the whole area is famous for the rare plants and rich wildlife found on this limestone island. The beach is suited to swimming, the island ideal for walking, cycling and exploring the ancient heritage. It’s worth spending a night on the island to enjoy the music and craic.
6. Trá an Doilín, Ceathra Rua/Carraroe Beach,
Trá an Doilín is south-west of the village of Carraroe on the R434. From Galway city take the R336 to Spidéal and then the R343 for Ceathrú Rua. This Blue Flag beach is also known as Coral Beach due to the very fine and rare coral algae known as maerl. The clear blue water and fine coral sand make this a great beach for swimming and has a lifeguard during the summer season. It is a beautiful beach for a day of family fun or a romantic walk along the coast.
7. Trá na Madraí/ Dog’s Bay Beach
Over 60km west of Galway and 3km West of Roundstone on the R341 are two beaches, Gurteen and Dog’s Bay. The two beaches are built on a sandspit of seashells with Gurteen on the eastern side of the headland. There are a caravan and camping site at Gurteen.
A 1/2 km west of Gurteen is Dog’s Bay with a lane to a horseshoe bay of sand with a carpark beside it. A large sand and grass habitat separates it from the west-facing Dog’s Bay in a horseshoe of golden sand looking towards the Atlantic Ocean. The beach is great for swimming, water surfing and other water sports.
8. Trá Inish Bó Finne/ Inishbofin Island Beach
Inish Bó Finne (Island of the White Cow) is 10 km off the Galway coast, in north-west Connemara. Access to this 12 sq km island with a population of under 200 is from the beautiful fishing village of Cleggan, west of Clifden and is 88 km west of Galway city.
The ferry to Inishbofin from Cleggan takes 30 minutes. The beach is a pearly white soft sand and the clear waters have gentle waves in summer. Walk the island and enjoy the high cliff walks to the west, a blowhole, and a bird sanctuary. Suited to teenagers and adults who want to get away from hustle and bustle of the mainland.
9. Lettergesh Beach
This beach has been described as one of the 50 places to see before you die – in the world. Lettergesh beach West Connemara is between Leanaun and Renvyle in north-west Connemara, nor far from Kylemore Abbey and Connemara National Park. Take the R ….off the N59, passing Lough Fee to Gowlaun and the Lettergesh car park. You are no longer in the Gaeltacht at this beach. The beach is at the entrance to Killary Harbour, a long narrow inlet of water and Ireland’s only fiord. The spectacular beach of long golden sand stretches before you.
Great for swimming and dolphins are often seen swimming off the shore. Nearby are the Twelve Bens mountain range and Connemara National Park as well as beautifully situated Kylemore Abbey. Stunning beach.
10. Omey Strand
Lat 53.3415. Lon 10.1475. Close to the village of Claddaghduff and Letterfrack is Omey Island, accessed by foot at low tide and as remote as you can get. You’ll have a magical day, not to be forgotten, if you plan your trip well. Check the tides, the weather and bring a picnic and drinks. A remote island and great for swimming, with the added excitement that you are stuck on the island until the tide recedes and you can return to the mainland. Make sure to bring the camera to get the wide views of the Wild Atlantic waves and the emptiness of the island, one thing I forgot on a magical day on Omey Island.