North of Portmarnock, on the east coast of Ireland to the east of Dublin, is a short stretch of coastline with abundant exposures of Carboniferous rocks in foreshore platforms, containing beautifully preserved crinoids, bryozoans, bivalves, corals and brachiopods. The cliffs and platforms are protected, but many pebbles are washed out from the exposures along the coastline between Malahide and nearby Portmarnock.
♦ Access is from various points along Coast Road by sets of steps.
♦ Head southeast from Malahide or north from Portmarnock, along the R106 Coast Road. Park in one of the plentiful free parking spaces on Coast Road which runs alongside the cliffs and coastal footpath. The exposures are situated from the south of Malahide to the Martello tower north of the Portmarnock seafront.
♦ You can get onto the beach and foreshore platforms by steps at various points along the coastal path. There are occasional cliff paths, but they are unmarked, unmade and sometimes unsafe. We do not advise their use.
♦ NT 27940 88479, 53°26’38.2″N 6°07’31.8″W
FIND FREQUENCY: ♦♦♦♦ – This is one of the best locations in Ireland to see excellently preserved Carboniferous limestone fossils in situ. The exposed platforms are highly fossiliferous and contain large corals and crinoids. Hammering is not permitted, but highly fossiliferous, loose pebbles can easily be found on the beach and collected. Larger loose rocks can be hammered if necessary.
CHILDREN: ♦♦♦♦ – This is suitable for children, provided they are carefully supervised, as the foreshore platforms can be uneven and slippery, with large, loose boulders.
ACCESS: ♦♦♦♦♦ – From the car parking spaces along Coast Road, it is a short walk to the beach, access to which is by a moderate flight of steps. The beach consists rocky foreshore platforms with sandy shingle in between, and can be uneven and slippery.
TYPE: – Fossils are found in the foreshore exposures of Carboniferous limestone. Excellent weathered fossils are easy to spot on the surface. They are also found loose and in the pebbles on the beach.
There are a large number of well-preserved fossils to see and enjoy in the foreshore exposures. However, collecting should be limited to the plentiful loose fossils available on the beach. Pebbles containing coral, bryozoa and crinoid can all be found along the length of the shoreline.
The coast around Malahide is composed of rocks from the Malahide Formation of the Fingal group of rocks, which were formed approximately 348mya during the Courceyan Stage (Tournaisian stage) of the Dinantian (Lower Carboniferous).
Common sense when collecting at all locations should always be used and knowledge of tide times taken into account. The sea does reach the cliffs at high tide, so collecting should be done on a falling tide. Care must also be taken getting down from the embankment, as the steps may be slippery or dangerous in wet weather. There are occasional cliff paths, but they are unmarked, unmade and sometimes unsafe. We recommend that they are avoided.
No equipment is necessary, other than a bag or container to hold your finds from the foreshore. You may wish to take a chisel hammer to split larger loose rocks, but you may not hammer the bedrock, as it is protected.
This site is an area of scientific interest (ASSI). This means you can visit the site, but hammering the bedrock is not permitted. For full information about the reasons for the status of the site and restrictions contact The Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs.