Beaches in Northern Ireland
We love a nice beach and luckily for us Northern Ireland, where we live, has some of the finest beaches in the world. Even if we don’t get to lie out on them sunbathing as much as we would like they still provide us with beautiful walks at any time of year. This is just a selection of some of the best beaches that we have been to recently. There are many other beaches which could have been on the list so hopefully we will get to them in the near future … Castlerock, Ballycastle, Cranfield, Tyrella and Cloughey etc you were not forgotten!
White Park Bay
White Park Bay has a relatively small car park and no facilities so come prepared! The beach is reached via steps and a pathway down the hillside which some people might find a struggle especially coming back up but it is well worth the effort. This long wild beach with its crystal clear water and occasional washed up driftwood is a photographers paradise. If you’re very lucky you might even bump into some very cool sunbathing cows actually on the beach! They literally wander from their field behind the beach down to the waters edge to chill out. Obviously they can leave ‘presents’ during their visits so beware of brown ‘cow frisbees’!
Situated between the small villages of Ballintoy and Portbradden on the Causeway Coastal Route or Antrim Coast Road as it is also known.
At the far end of the beach towards Ballintoy it is sometimes possible, if the tide is out, to walk around to join the amazing pathway to Ballintoy Harbour. The rock formations along the pathway are very unusual and the area provided a filming location for Game of Thrones.
Benone Strand is 7 miles/ 11km of golden sand and sand dunes. At one end it is overlooked by Mussenden Temple and at the other end the mountains of Donegal provide the backdrop. Parking on the beach is allowed in certain areas. There are numerous camping opportunities available close to the beach if you want a cheap getaway!
Situated on the A2 just west of Castlerock close to the entrance to Downhill Demesne.
If possible try to combine a visit to Benone with a visit to Downhill Demesne. The view over the beach from Mussenden Temple is one of the best views you could see anywhere in the world.
Benone Strand , Photo with horses courtesy of Art Ward at Bespoke Equestrian Ireland
One of our favourite beaches in recent years which we like to combine with a walk along the cliff top path at the far end round to the Giants Causeway. Park at the large free car park just past the harbour at Portballintrae and follow the path down to the River Bush where a bridge leads you across to the sand dunes. If the tide is in there is a wooden boardwalk to the right which follows the river at first before you take a left turn onto a path behind the dunes. A narrow gauge railway track also runs alongside the path which is operational in peak season. If possible walk along the beach as it is one of the most beautiful wild beaches you can see. Often used by surfers due to its large Atlantic waves it is not safe for swimming as it also has rip tides. There is a small store in the car park at Portballintrae for emergency provisions and there are also bathrooms at the car park.
In Portballintrae, a short distance from Bushmills, on the Causeway Coastal Route (Antrim Coast Road).
At the far end of the beach is Runkerry House which is the starting point for a spectacular cliff top path round to the Giants Causeway. There is a shortcut back from the Visitor Centre at the Giants Causeway. If you follow the road down to the small railway station and then follow the tracks back towards Portballintrae.
By no means as spectacular as the other beaches we have mentioned but it’s our home beach, literally ten minutes walk from our home. Surprisingly the city of Belfast is just a little over 15 minutes drive away and the seaside town of Bangor is just under a 10 minute drive. Helens Bay beach and the neighbouring Crawfordsburn beach provide welcome relief on a hot summers day … yes they do happen occasionally! It can get busy in peak season whenever there is nice weather. There are toilet facilities at the car park at Helens Bay but there are no facilities to purchase food or drink. Nearby Crawfordsburn Country Park has a cafe however. See a video of Helen’s Bay Beach here.
On the A2 between Holywood and Bangor close to Crawfordsburn village.
A short walk around the coast path there is Grey Point Fort which was a coastal defence fort during World War II. It has a small museum and two large 23 feet long guns! It is one of the best preserved forts in the British Isles. Opening times vary depending on the season.
The main car park on the left hand side heading from Dundrum has limited facilities during peak season so probably safer to bring food and drink with you! Wooden boardwalks lead you through heather and fern clad sand dunes to the long beach which stretches all the way to Newcastle. When the tide is out it REALLY goes out and it can take a few minutes to reach the sea. However whenever the tide is in it comes right up to the stones at the top of the beach which can make walking along the beach difficult…rarely an issue. If you walk along the beach to the left the beach curls around into a small inlet on the left. We love to walk to the end of the inlet and up steps which leads you onto beautiful meadows with lots of wildlife. From there you can walk back to the boardwalk or the main road if you keep walking towards Slieve Donard, our highest mountain. See a video of Murlough Bay here (it’s one of our early ones, as you will notice).
Look out for Murlough Nature Reserve between Dundrum village and Newcastle in County Down. There is ample car parking on both sides of the road though we tend to park on the wide footpath just before the entrance.
If you have time stop off at nearby Dundrum to visit its castle dating back to the 13th century. There are also some very impressive views from the castle across Murlough Bay to the Mourne Mountains.
Murlough Nature Reserve
Another stunning two mile long beach backed by sand dunes with beautiful views of Mussenden Temple on a nearby cliff top and the distant hills of Donegal. There is a popular restaurant, Harry’s Shack, at the beach entrance and the facilities of Portstewart town are all within easy reach. The beach was also used recently to film episodes of Game of Thrones. Sometimes I’m expecting them to film an episode in my garden as they seem to have been just about everywhere else!
Not surprisingly it’s on the edge of the town about a 15 minute walk from the town centre. Parking is allowed on the beach but there is a £6 charge as it’s owned by the National Trust (free to National Trust members). There is limited free on street parking in the vicinity.
At the far end of the beach there is a relic from World War ll with what was known as a pillbox. There were a number of these concrete guard huts built along the coastline.
Whiterocks Beach (East Strand)
Beaches don’t get much better than this. Officially called Portrush East Strand many people refer to it as Whiterocks beach as the far end of the beach away from town lies under towering white rock cliffs. Sand dunes tower above you the whole length of the beach and if you’re feeling energetic you should climb to the top of one for the incredible views. The famous Royal Portrush Golf Club, where the Open Championship will be held in 2019, lies just over the back of the dunes and a short distance off shore are the Skerries islands. It always amazes us that for a beach this large there is rarely so much as a pebble on it. There is car parking available at either end of the beach as well as bathroom facilities. The beach is very popular with surfers and surf schools are mainly held at the Whiterocks end of the beach.
Located in Portrush Town with another entrance on the Dunluce Road, just below the Royal Court Hotel.
Walk the length of the beach for the ultimate beach walk. If someone can drop you off at one end and pick you up at the other it will save you walking quite so far but it’s an unforgettable experience especially if you get to do it at sunset.
We hope that you have enjoyed our guide to some of our favourite local beaches. Please feel free to leave a comment about your experiences at our beaches and as always we are only too happy for you to share our articles. Talk to you all again soon!