My favourite Irish beach: Six celebs on why sand between your toes can be so good for your soul

After being cooped up for months, six strand fans explain why sand between your toes can be so good for your soul, and what they love about their own favourite local beaches
My favourite Irish beach: Six celebs on why sand between your toes can be so good for your soul
There's nothing better to clear your head than the skies, the sea, and the sand beneath your feet at beaches such as at Garylucas beach, Garretstown, Kinsale, Co Cork.
Sinéad Kennedy visited the Dock Beach in Kinsale as a child and during her teenage years — and has found the place a live-saver during lockdown.
Sinéad Kennedy visited the Dock Beach in Kinsale as a child and during her teenage years — and has found the place a live-saver during lockdown.

Fresh from RTÉ One’s magazine show, Summer at Seven, presenter Sinéad Kennedy says The Dock Beach in Kinsale was her “tiny saviour” during lockdown.

“It’s just behind The Dock Bar. It’s like a little hub cut off from the rest of the world. It’s so small and sheltered, with not much in the way of waves, a lovely place to go in for a swim or play a bit of beach ball.

“I’ve been going there since I was a kid.

As teens, when we were able to drive, we’d spend days there, having picnics, eating ice cream. 

"It became such a vital part of my day during lockdown, walking there, listening to the waves crashing on the shore — the calm that comes with that.” 

Tracy Clifford with her friend Anita on Coumeenole Beach. The 2FM presenter adores the "stunning" spot on the Slea Head Drive in Co Kerry. 
Tracy Clifford with her friend Anita on Coumeenole Beach. The 2FM presenter adores the "stunning" spot on the Slea Head Drive in Co Kerry. 

RTÉ 2FM’s Tracy Clifford had to postpone her May wedding to her fiancé Mark due to the lockdown. 

“It was terrible for anybody who had to do this, but we’re fine,” says the presenter, who adores Coumeenole Beach on Slea Head Drive.

It’s 10 years since I first came across Coumeenole, down a twisty, turny drive. 

"There’s a part where you can just stand and see the stone walls, old cottages, green fields, the amazing blue wild ocean with the waves crashing in. There’s a little waterfall just above on the cliff that trickles down. It’s stunning.

“Last December, Mark and I went for an early-morning swim in Coumeenole. It was absolutely deserted. 

"We were screaming, getting knocked down by waves — horrendous, but fabulous at the same time. Back on the beach, getting changed, a fish fell out of Mark’s shorts. It was one of the best things ever!"

PJ Gallagher has fond childhood memories of Bull Island — and found the place a godsend during lockdown. Picture: Ruth Medjber
PJ Gallagher has fond childhood memories of Bull Island — and found the place a godsend during lockdown. Picture: Ruth Medjber

Comedian, DJ and Young Offenders star PJ Gallagher grew up in the Marino/Clontarf area of Dublin, with Bull Island on his doorstep.

“Bull Island’s the only place where you can see Dublin Bay in its entirety. Look out to Dún Laoghaire and you’re in the heart of Dublin Bay — you can see Howth Head and Killiney Hill. 

I’ve fond memories of being a child there. Every dog I’ve had became my friend walking up and down that beach.

“My dad died 21 years ago this month. Hill 16 and Bull Island are the two places where I still feel very connected to him. The first time I drove a car was sitting on his lap on the beach at Bull Island — you’d never be allowed do that now! 

"I have a picture of me and Dad getting ice cream from a van at that beach.

“It was ok for kids to be in the nude on the beach back then, and there’s a picture of me without a stitch on, except for an armband, and my dad’s in his full suit, shirt, and tie, dying of the heat. That’s how it was in the 1970s/‘80s.

“It was great to have Bull Island during lockdown. I was so lucky I could walk there from the house and have this place to clear my head. Even within the 5km limit, I still had nearly half the beach to myself.” 

  • Catch PJ & Jim on the breakfast show, Wake Up Happy! on Classic Hits 4FM Monday-Friday from 6am to 10am.
Mary Kennedy loves revisiting Inishmore at any time of year, including this New Year's trip.
Mary Kennedy loves revisiting Inishmore at any time of year, including this New Year's trip.

Former Nationwide presenter Mary Kennedy is currently doing a series of podcasts for a project spearheaded by Senior Times.

“I can’t wait to go back to Kilmurvey Beach on Inishmore, a two-minute walk from my sister Deirdre’s home. 

"It’s a lovely beach, kind of in a semi-circle. On a fine day, you can see all the way over to Connemara. About 12 of us — all family — went for a swim there last New Year’s Day to mark the new year.

“As kids, we always went to Portmarnock Beach. My mother, aunt, a neighbour on the road and all the children would pile onto the bus, first into the city centre, then another out to Portnarnock. 

I absolutely adored it, running down the dunes and having the picnic. 

"First thing we’d do is put up the wind-breaker! We always had banana sandwiches on white bread with sugar and flasks of tea. 

"When my own children were small, we did the same on Rosslare Strand, another gorgeous beach.”

Waves or no waves, occasional surfer Dave McArdle has come to love Inch Beach in East Cork.
Waves or no waves, occasional surfer Dave McArdle has come to love Inch Beach in East Cork.

Dave McArdle, programme manager at RedFM and presenter of Dave Mac's Drive on weekdays from 4pm to 7pm, loves Inch Beach in East Cork.

I surf, maybe five times a year, but even if there are no waves, it’s a wonderful walk up over Power Head with amazing views. 

"You can scramble down to the caves and do some exploring. 

"You have this view eastwards towards Ballycotton, and you can see the island off it in the distance. Your view is over Cork Harbour, across to Myrtleville.

“If, as a county, we were able to develop a cliff walk around Cork Harbour and back into the city, we’d have one of the biggest tourist attractions — a dramatic, wild walk with sea views.” 

A bit before Gavin O'Connor's time — August 1953 to be precise — but Claycastle beach in Youghal, Co Cork, has long been a place where children's memories were made. Picture: Irish Examiner Archive
A bit before Gavin O'Connor's time — August 1953 to be precise — but Claycastle beach in Youghal, Co Cork, has long been a place where children's memories were made. Picture: Irish Examiner Archive

Actor, writer, and producer Gavin O’Connor plays Murphy in The Alienist: The Angel of Darkness, which recently started on TNT in the US.

“My favourite beach is Claycastle in Youghal. It curves all the way around to Redbarn — such a glorious, spacious beach. I’ve so many childhood memories of it.

"I learned to swim there — I can still remember the colour shorts my dad wore when he taught me. It’s so vivid I later put it in a scene I wrote.

“My nan had a summer place around the corner, so we went there a lot. I played tennis and football on that beach. 

"The abandoned Cork-Youghal railway line snakes up the back of Claycastle Beach. The kids would walk up that, all the way to Perks Funfair — our parents would’ve given us a couple of bob. 

They were such simple times — we’re talking the 1980s. 

“Claycastle has beautiful golden sand, clear water. It’s over 20 years since I’ve been. I’ve lost family members associated with that beach, and I’d like to go back, relive some of the memories.” 

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