Tips and guidance for exploring the Irish coast and spending time outdoors sustainably.

Ireland has approximately 7,500 km of rugged and spectacular coastline. This unique zone, made up of both land and sea, includes some of the most varied and best loved scenery; towering sea cliffs, rocky shores, rockpools, beaches, sand dunes, salt marshes, coves, and bays as well as some of our most fascinating wildlife. The value of the coast is different for everyone. It offers a diverse range of habitats for us to enjoy and a multitude of water and land-based activities.

This dynamic environment is at the forefront of rapidly changing weather patterns, subject to battering by wind and sea, and driving rain and fog. Equally it can transform into a clear, calm, and tranquil setting. It is these interactions that have shaped and continue to shape the Irish coastline.

Our reasons for using the coast are as diverse as our values. We enjoy the coastal zone for physical pursuits and activity, to provide us with an immersive experience, to socialise with other visitors, for cultural experiences or often, a combination of interactions. Exploring new seascapes steeped in history and culture and participating in sports and coastal events, give many of us a sense of satisfaction. These experiences broaden our minds and provide a connection to a place, giving a sense of freedom from everyday stresses and bring us closer to nature.

Our experiences are personally satisfying but they can have a negative impact on the environments we visit and the animals we observe. Despite its stark appearance, the coastal zone is fragile and sensitive to human disturbance and activity, with biodiversity loss and erosional processes being of key concern.

At the heart of Leave No Trace are seven principles for reducing the damage caused by outdoor activities. They are based on an abiding respect for nature, culture, and people. Leave No Trace depends more on attitude and awareness than on rules and regulations.

This summer, help protect and enjoy our coast and apply the Leave No Trace Principles to reduce impacts.

Sand Dunes:

Our sand dunes provides natural protection from coastal flooding and winds during storms, protecting areas and communities behind them from the impacts of climate change. Our sand dunes are protected areas, and provide a unique habitat for rare plants and animals to thrive.

Due to the sensitive nature of our sand dunes, walking or climbing on them can cause them to quickly erode and collapse. Walking through the dunes easily can create trails through the marram grass, but these trails are not on durable ground. When the marram grass becomes trampled, it destabilizes the vegetation holding the sand together, and the dune begins to erode. When the marram grass is compromised by human erosion, it also means that the dune is at further risk from the elements and coastal erosion too.

Just as sand dunes help to protect us, we can help to protect sand dunes. Follow the Leave No Trace Principle: “Travel and Camp on Durable Ground” to reduce the impacts from human erosion.

  • To maintain their stability, don’t walk or run on sand dunes. Instead travel on durable surfaces such as pathways or boardwalks or have a walk along the beach instead.
  • Don’t engage in other activities on the sand dunes, such as climbing, camping, BBQs, or sliding down them, as these also have negative impacts on the dunes’ stability.
  • Where dogs are allowed, keep your dog on a lead near sand dunes, to prevent them from walking or running on the dunes.
  • Show care and respect to the local communities and landowners, and their efforts to preserve these vital natural features, by following any local signs.

Leave No Trace Ireland are a member of the #ProtectOurDunes awareness campaign working group which is supported a fantastic group of people from different organisations bringing with them expertise in sand dune conservation, community engagement and communications.

Visit the CARO website, and their “Sand Dunes – They Protect Us, Let’s Protect Them” resources for more on how we can protect our sand dunes,


Did you know, that approximately 10 million tonnes of litter will end up in the ocean and seas each year? In terms of plastic litter, these items take hundreds – even thousands – of years to degrade. But when plastics break down, they degrade into microplastics, which are harmful to our ocean’s ecosystems and marine life. Research has shown the presence of microplastics in 90% of Ireland’s protected marine areas. Marine litter is a direct result of human activity, but by acting responsibly, we can reduce the amount of litter entering Irish waters.

A great way to Love This Place this summer and to help reduce marine litter, is following the Leave No Trace Principles, “Plan Ahead and Prepare” and “Dispose of Waste Properly”.

  • Bring rubbish bags with you to keep all your rubbish together.
  • Why not bring gloves with you too, and use the rubbish bags to do a #2minuteBeachClean? Leave the coast even better than you found it.
  • Check in advance if dogs are allowed at the destination you plan to visit, as not every beach or coastal site allows dogs.
  • If dogs are allowed, pack dog waste bags with you. When it comes to dog waste, always bag it, bin it, or bring it home.
  • To reduce the amount of litter on the coast, bring a zero-waste lunch, using reusable containers.
  • Dispose of your waste in nearby bins if available.
  • If the available bins are full, bring your rubbish with you and dispose of it at home.