Northern Ireland is home to some of the most spectacular beaches in Europe. The naturally stunning formations of the coastline provide long stretches of golden sand and impressive sand dunes.
So whether you’re looking to book the perfect staycation for the family this summer or simply get ideas for the best days out, with its Ten Blue Flag Beaches and Two Blue Flag Marinas, Northern Ireland’s beaches offer a truly unforgettable experience.
Ballintoy Harbour Beach
Referred to as the ‘raised beach’, Ballintoy Harbour is situated near the picturesque village of Ballintoy, 17 miles north-east of Coleraine and five miles west of Ballycastle. Made famous as a filming location in Game of Thrones®, fans will recognise it as Lordsport Harbour, Pyke and the Iron Islands.
Located along the Causeway Coastal Route and backing onto Ballycastle Golf Club, Ballycastle beach is five minutes from the coastal town centre of Ballycastle where you will find no shortage of things to do and discover. Approximately 1.2 kilometres in length, the beach is predominately sand with some shingle and has a promenade at the western end.
With a children’s play area on each end of the beach and adjacent to Ballyholme Yacht Club, there is something for every member of the family to enjoy at Ballyholme Beach in Bangor. This sandy beach is approximately 1.3 km in length and is backed by a seawall and promenade.
Five miles south east of Magherafelt, Ballyronan Marina is ideal for any watersports enthusiast. With watersports, walks and picnic area, this picturesque marina also incorporates a park with play, outdoor games and beach areas. Awarded Blue Flag status in 2016, Ballyronan is a great place for an adventure packed break or day out.
With seven miles of sandy shoreline from Downhill to where it meets Magilligan Point, Benone Beach forms part of one of Ireland’s longest beaches. This Blue Flag beach is a firm favourite throughout the year for families, activity enthusiasts and those looking for a leisurely stroll. On a clear day visitors can take in the great views of Binevenagh Mountain whilst exploring the sand dunes.
A Blue Flag beach, Castlerock is a 1km (0.7 mile) long stretch of beach between the sea cliffs of Downhill to the west and the Lower River Bann estuary known as the Barmouth to the east. The beach and dunes are designated as a Special Area of Conservation (SAC) and an Area of Special Scientific Interest (ASSI).
Popular with family and water sport enthusiasts alike, Cranfield beach can be found in an idyllic location at the mouth of Carlingford Lough. With the majestic Mourne Mountains offering a dramatic backdrop, it is a picture perfect beach and was awarded Blue Flag status again in 2016.
Crawfordsburn Beach is one of two beaches located within the grounds of Crawfordsburn Country Park offering wooded headlands, meadows and quality walking trails all within 20 minutes of Belfast. This Blue Flag beach offers a range of activities for the family to enjoy.
Downhill Beach is situated within the Bineveagh area of outstanding natural beauty and is set against a backdrop of cascading waterfalls, towering sand dunes and the stunning Mussenden Temple. Downhill - part of an 11km stretch of sand and surf – offers a wealth of activities including water sports, scenic walks and family-friendly facilities, making this Blue Flag beach an ideal place to explore.
Murlough National Nature Reserve
Murlough National Nature Reserve is a fragile 6000 year old sand dune system owned by the National Trust and is an excellent area for walking and bird watching due to its spectacular location at the edge of Dundrum Bay and the Mourne Mountains. With its shingle beach and four mile Blue Flag strand, there are nature trails to explore, activities for kids, and wildlife to discover.
Stunning limestone cliffs and recognisable headlands such as the Wishing Arch, Elephant Rock and the Lion’s Paw have made Portrush Whiterocks Beach a must see destination for local and international visitors. With its amazing waves, this Blue Flag beach is a regular hotspot for surfers and body boarders riding the surf.
Maintained by the National Trust, Portstewart Strand is an area of stunning natural beauty and of scientific interest. It holds the prestigious Blue Flag award and is perfect for family fun holidays and picnics. It is also a favourite for visitors wishing to take part in activities such as surfing, swimming and horse riding.
Rathlin Island is the most northerly inhabited island off the Irish coast and is one of Northern Ireland’s Special Areas of Conservation due to its large bird colony. From its sandy shoreline, visitors are rewarded with breathtaking views of the Causeway Coast and can enjoy many of the walks the Island has to offer. With accommodation available on the Island, April to July is a great time to visit as it’s puffin season: so don’t miss the opportunity to see them along with lots of other sea birds.
The award winning Tyrella beach and dune conservation area is a small, enclosed complex within Dundrum Bay, Downpatrick, County Down. It is a wide, flat, sandy beach two kilometres long and backed by 25 hectares of mature dunes. Awarded the prestigious Seaside Award annually since 1997, it has also maintained the Blue Flag award since 2011.
West Strand, Portrush
West Strand Beach is flanked on either side by the busy harbour port of Portrush and a well used pedestrian / cycle promenade going around the coastline of this coastal town. Due to its close proximity to shops, amusements and restaurants, this Blue Flag beach resort is a family favourite throughout the holidays.
Book A Beach Break to Northern Ireland
With beach front accommodation ranging from caravans, bed and breakfasts and self catering cottages available, as well as a selection of hotels and guest houses, why not book a short beach break or staycation to Northern Ireland this year. We’re closer than you think!
For more information, visit discovernorthernireland.com