Being an island, Ireland has a lot of coastline. It also has a lot of villages – many of which are on the coastline. But how to choose which villages to visit?
Never fear – this guide will help you narrow down the list to visit the very best coastal villages of Ireland!
The medieval town of Carlingford is snug up against the wondrous Carlingford Fjord, which is the natural border between Ireland and Northern Ireland. Mixing both colourful houses with sombre medieval ruins, Carlingford is a town steeped in history. Not too far from the childhood home of C.S. Lewis, Carlingford Fjord was an inspiration to him in creating the world of Narnia (though mainly from the Northern Irish coastline). Lewis even went so far as to say, “That part of Rostrevor which overlooks Carlingford Lough [Fjord] is my idea of Narnia.”
Although Ballintoy has always been a charming place, the TV series Game of Thrones has immortalised Ballintoy. Fans will quickly recognise the similarities between the real-life Ballintoy Harbour and the on-screen Lordsport on the Isle of Pyke of the Iron Isles. In our rapidly changing world, the sleepy village of Ballintoy is a final holdout to what life was once like in the quiet and remote Irish fishing villages.
See the real-like Game of Thrones in Ballintoy Harbour and walk along the Northern Irish coastline on our hiking trip, Hike the Causeway Coastal Route & Donegal.
The lovely (if unpronounceable!) seaside village of Dunfanaghy hugs the northern County Donegal coast in the shadow of Muckish Mountain. According to National Geographic Traveller, Co. Donegal is rated the #1 Coolest Place – and it certainly lives up to its reputation! Not only is Dunfanaghy both chill and picturesque, but it’s also only a stone’s throw away from Glenveagh National Park, a desolate landscape of castles, peaks, loughs and glens. Lovely as it is, Dunfanaghy is but one of many cool coastal villages in Co. Donegal.
Explore Dunfanaghy and more in the coolest region of Ireland on our hiking trip, Hike the Causeway Coastal Route & Donegal.
At the tip of the Coolera Peninsula (which is as cool as its name implies!) is the surfing village of Strandhill – one of Ireland’s best coastal villages. Close enough to Sligo town yet just far enough away, Strandhill boasts great surfing waves as well as great eateries to refuel once the surf is over. Visit the ancient tombs at nearby Carrowmore then walk along the dunes behind the tiny Sligo Airport – you might even be lucky enough to watch a plane land! End your coastal walk at the picturesque ruins of Killaspugbrone Church, where St Patrick is said to have lost a tooth.
Clinging to the edge of County Galway’s northern coastline is the quaint village of Roundstone. At the foot of Errisbeg Mountain, Roundstone is the gem of the Connemara region. Colourful boats bob in the harbour, and equally colourful houses hug the shore. Less than an hour from Connemara National Park, Roundstone is located in the beautiful backcountry of northern Galway – a great place for an outdoor adventure in the Connemara region!
Why not check out our Hike the Mountains of Connemara & Mayo?
A centre for traditional Irish music, the little clifftop village of Doolin is lovely in itself – but what’s even cooler is that from here, you can take the cliffside walk along the Atlantic Ocean to the north end of the Cliffs of Moher – skipping the crowds that tend to congest around the central Visitor’s Centre. The area around Doolin is also very intriguing. It has ferry access to the Aran Islands and has maintained close ties with them – including a strong Gaeltacht identity – until quite recently. Doolin is also ideal for visiting the Burren National Park.
Visit coastal villages like Doolin, the Cliffs of Moher and more on our Hiking & Island Hopping – Ireland’s West Coast. If you prefer two-wheeled travel, visit Doolin by bike on our Bike Trip – Biking the Burren & Aran Islands.
Spilt in two by the narrow Sneem River, the charming Sneem village is nestled between the mountains of the Ivearagh Peninsula (more commonly known as the ‘Ring of Kerry’), and the roaring waves of the Atlantic Ocean. To make the best of it, explore Sneem and its rugged region either by foot or by bicycle – the surrounding terrain is magnificent. The greater region is noted as a foodie haven and places like Sneem are renowned for using local products and ingredients in their cuisine.
Explore Sneem and the Ivearagh Peninsula by bike on our Coast to Coast Bike Tour of the Southwest.
Further down the coast on the Mizen Peninsula, another of the wonderful coastal villages in West Cork is Schull (pronounced like Skull). Remote and off the beaten path, Schull village is a great base for exploring the wild peninsulas of West Cork – Mizen, Sheep’s Head and Beara Peninsulas. The area is steeped in archeology, myth and history. Stories like the Hag of Beara – the witch of the winter – still shape the region. Schull is also a point of depart for certain islands like Cape Clear and Sherkin Island.
Check out our Hiking and Island Hopping in Cork & Kerry to get here yourself!
Far from its American twin, the village of Baltimore is a quaint, little harbour at the very bottom of Ireland. Baltimore has a troubled past – in 1631, a motley group of Moroccan, Algerian, Turkish and Dutch pirates attacked the town and captured, kidnapping between 100 and 200 people during the terrible Sack of Baltimore. Today, Baltimore enjoys Ireland’s mildest climate, and is the gateway to explore the lovely surrounding region – like Roaring Water Bay, the Baltimore Beacon, or any of the outlaying islands, including Cape Clear and Sherkin.
Visit Baltimore, the islands and other coastal villages on our exciting Hiking and Island Hopping in Cork & Kerry adventure!
This artist and foodie haven, Kinsale is a funky, fun place. Full of quirky places to eat, lively art galleries and unique shops, Kinsale is a colourful town just south of Cork city in the south of Ireland. From Kinsale, there are plenty of coastal walks that will take you along rugged coastline and past old forts – and the Old Head of Kinsale is lovely! Though less off the beaten path than Baltimore, Kinsale has a fun attitude that just can’t be missed.
Get your fill of quirky Kinsale on our Hiking and Island Hopping in Cork & Kerry adventure!
Be the first to hear about new trips, locations and activities with our monthly newsletter