Beaches in Mayo
Mayo’s hundreds of pristine Ireland beaches, from small sheltered coves to vast expansive strands, are some of the best in the country, if not the world.
Beaches in Ireland, particularly here in Mayo, are well-known for their beauty, as well as their suitability for a variety of water sports, including surfing, windsurfing, kitesurfing, kayaking and many more.
Of all the things to do in Mayo, a visit to a Blue Flag beach is one of the best options for a family outing. Blue Flag beaches meet 32 strict criteria for water quality, management, safety and environmental education.
Green Coast awards are based on natural beauty and excellent water quality, without the focus on built infrastructure in the Blue Flag standard.
Landscape and ecology
The coastline in Mayo, like much of the northwest coast of Ireland, is notable for its machair, a sandy grassland habitat formed from a mixture of glacial silicious sand and calcareous sand from shellfish shells. It is protected under EU law, because of its rarity and its biodiversity. The variety of plant life attracts a variety of insect life, which in turn, attract feeding and breeding birds.
A small selection of Mayo’s best beaches
Beaches near Westport
Bertra Blue Flag beach
Near the foot of Croagh Patrick, 12 km (7 miles) west of Westport on the Louisburgh Road (R335), Bertra beach is one of the best beaches in Ireland for walking and bird-watching, as well as kite-surfing and windsurfing.
Walk along the wide strand, on a mixture of sandy or occasionally rocky stretches, or along the sometimes narrow paths in the dunes. This Blue Flag beach has a lifeguard in the summer months, and there are toilets. The northeastern point of the beach, farthest away from the carpark, is a popular spot for shore-angling.
More information on the Mayo County Council website
Old Head Blue Flag beach
For a picturesque beach, Ireland offers very few to beat Old Head, 16 km (10 miles) west of Westport on the Louisburgh Road (R335). Overlooked by a woodland to the west and Croagh Patrick to the south and east, this Blue Flag beach has beautiful rock-pools that are exposed when the tide is out.
The beach is sheltered from the south and west and is therefore well-suited for swimming. Lifeguards are on duty through the summer months, the beach is accessible for wheelchairs, as are the toilets. There is a pier at the western end of the beach, sheltering a small anchorage popular with local sailors and fishermen.
Carrowmore Blue Flag beach
1.5 km (under 1 mile) from Louisburgh, 25 km (16 miles) west of Westport, lies Carrowmore beach, overlooked by cliffs where various seabirds nest. There are lifeguards in the summer, as well as toilets, though there are no ramps or other facilities for disabled people. There is a pier at the west end of this Blue Flag beach, while the eastern border is the mouth of the Bunowen River.
Clare Island Blue Flag beach
A short ferry ride from Roonagh Pier, 10 km from Louisburgh, leads to Clare Island, where the sandy blue flag beach lies adjacent to the pier. While there is no lifeguard, there is life-saving equipment available, so the beach is suitable for swimming.
Carrowniskey Green Coast beach
Carrowniskey, noted for its surf and considered one of the best beaches in Mayo for learning to surf, lies about 29 km (18 miles) west of Westport and 7.5 km (4.7 miles) west and south of Louisburgh. The beach is wide and sandy at low tide; at high tide, the water reaches the rocks. There is a surfing school that offers lessons and rents surfboards and wetsuits. There are lifeguards in the summer.
Unusually for beaches in Mayo, foot protection in the water is advised, because of weaver fish.
Mulranny Blue Flag beach
Across the road from the Park Inn, on the west end of Mulranny village, a causeway and wooden bridge across Trawoughter Bay lead to Mulranny beach, which has picnic facilities and toilets, as well as a lifeguard during the summer months.
Inland from the beach is a rare large saltwater marsh, with typical species such as thrift, sea plaintain, saltmarsh grass, rushes and sedges, sea pimpernel with glassword and annual seablite further down towards the sea. The marsh also features various shorebirds, including curlew, widgeon, grey plover, godwits, oyster-catchers, dunlins, sand pipers, terns and gulls.
There is also a small carpark at the beach. To reach the carpark, take the first left after the village and continue less than a half a kilometre to the entrance, following the signs.
Beaches on Achill island
The five Blue Flag beaches on Achill island, a 45 minute drive from Westport, add considerably to Achill’s attraction as a day trip from Westport.
Dooega Blue Flag beach, just 8 kilometres from Achill Sound, is Camport Bay. Parking is available, and there is an access ramp, as well as life-saving equipment on the beach, but no lifeguard.
Keel Blue Flag beach, also known as Trawmore Strand, is approximately 4 kilometres long. It is well signposted in the village of Keel, on Achill island. There is a lifeguard in the summer; swimming areas are clearly marked, to avoid strong undersea currents in places. The beach is very popular for water sports, and surfing instruction is readily available.
Though the approach from the ample carpark is relatively flat, making wheelchair access to the beach reasonably easy, there are no wheelchair-accessible toilets at the beach. There is one at the adjacent campground.
Keem Blue Flag beach is 10km (just over 6 miles) west of Keel village on Achill island and is one of the moset famous in Ireland. The road ends at the carpark after a spectacular winding drive overlooking the Atlantic. The beautiful horseshoe bay is overlooked by Croaghaun Mountain to the northeast and Moyteoge Head to the southwest. There is a lifeguard in the summer and a fairly steep ramp down from the carpark, but no wheelchair-accessible toilet.
Dugort Blue Flag beach, also known as Pollawaddy Strand and Silver Strand, lies in the shadow of Slievemore Mountain, next to Dugort village on Achill island. There is a lifeguard in the summer. Grassy areas behind the beach provide shelter, and there is a parking area with a picnic tables.
Golden Strand Blue Flag beach is about 3 km (just under 2 miles) east of Dugort village on Achill island It has a lifeguard in the summer. Behind the pebble-strewn upper limit of the sandy beach, the dunes host a variety of native plants and wildlife. There is a carpark, but the beach is not wheelchair-accessible.
Beaches on The Mullet peninsula
Elly Bay Blue Flag beach
9 km (5.5 miles) south of Belmullet town on the Mullet Peninsula lies Elly Bay, with its Blue Flag beach. It is also part of a designated Natural Heritage area, noted for the dune grassland and machair landscape, as well as the number of breeding birds and wintering migratory waterfowl. The beach is well-sheltered, making it suitable for bathing, as well surfing and other water sports. There is a lifeguard in the summer months, and the beach is wheelchair-accessible.
Mullaghroe Blue Flag beach
Mullaghroe Beach is 9.7 kilometres (6 miles) south of Belmullet town on the Mullet Peninsula on a sheltered bay, with views across Blacksod Bay. It is home to many species of birds, sea grasses and other plant species, with its pristine dunes and adjacent salt marshes and inlets. Mullaghroe has a small car park, a short way from the beach, but there are no wheelchair-accessible ramps.