Surf's up in the UK

Get suited for a swell time on the coast

Whether you're a seasoned surfer or simply keen to try a new sport, the UK offers some of the best conditions for hitting the waves.

And you don't have to travel far to catch some decent waves – there are plenty of top surfing hotspots around the coast, many of which can be found in the west of the country.

So if the weather is ripe, and the beaches are bare, what are you waiting for?

Watergate Bay, Cornwall

Just outside Newquay, this surfing mecca boasts more than two miles of sandy beach and consistent waves. There are professional surf schools catering for beginners as well as those who want to improve their skills.

Fistral Beach, Cornwall

Llandudno

One of the most popular surf spots in the UK, Newquay attracts hordes of dedicated and wannabe surfers as well as hen and stag parties. A short drive from Watergate Bay, this thriving town boasts an abundance of surf schools and surf shops, as well as a vibrant nightlife. Best for intermediate surfers, the waves hold some challenges even for the experienced.

Sennen Cove, Cornwall

Another beautiful, exposed Cornish beach perfect for surfing, Sennen offers decent waves and tuition for all abilities. Sennen's Beach Restaurant is also legendary, offering tasty home-cooked food and some stunning views.

Polzeath, Cornwall

Autumn is a great time to enjoy the good groundswells here, as Polzeath can be uncomfortably packed during the summer months. An ideal place to learn surfing in the UK.

Porthleven, Cornwall

This sandy beach next to a harbour is for expert surfers only. The breaks are extremely powerful and the reef is shallow and rough.

St Ives, Cornwall

St. Ives

The best beach around St Ives for surfing is Porthmeor, on the town's north coast. Ideal for beginners and intermediate surfers and popular with families, the beach is manned by lifeguards throughout the summer. The beach is also very close to town and overlooked by the Tate St Ives.

Saunton Sands, Devon

This beautiful big beach on Devon's north coast is the ideal place for beginners to get their first taste of surfing, thanks to its slower breaking waves. It's also popular with longboarders.

Croyde, Devon

Surfer

The north Devon coast offers great variety for surfers of all abilities. Not far from Saunton, Croyde offers greater challenges for intermediate or experienced surfers. The waves are powerful so this is no place for beginners, although tuition is available for those who want to improve their skills.

Woolacombe, Devon

Further north, Woolacombe tends to be quieter. The gently sloping three-mile beach makes this a safe spot for beginners. However, it can also provide challenging surf for the more experienced or those wishing to hone their technique.

Saltburn, Cleveland

St. Ives

A gently shelving sandy beach means that this spot has been used by surfers since the 1960s. There is good UK surfing to be had by beginners and intermediates on either side of the pier – and beginners can take advantage of the surf school.

Thurso East, Scotland

For serious, experienced surfers only, this beach offers some of the best waves in Europe. The sea here is cold and the warmest waters can be enjoyed in September. The slate reef can be unforgiving and this is an isolated spot, but the rewards can be great if you are looking for a challenge.

Pease Bay, Scotland

This is a safe beach that lends itself well to surfers of all levels. Nearby facilities are good and this is also one of the closest surfing beaches to Edinburgh. When the weather is particularly rough, this beach is better suited to experienced surfers.

Freshwater West, Wales

Considered by some to be the most consistent surf spot in Wales, this is a vast beach and offers challenging surf. Strong currents and powerful waves make this a no-go area for swimmers and can mean it's a tough paddle out.

Caswell Beach, Wales

Saunton sands

This beautiful Blue Flag beach close to Mumbles village provides ideal UK surfing for beginners – its small, safe waves and soft sandy beach are great for those learning to surf. There are lifeguards on patrol during peak season, and nearby facilities are good.

Porth Neigwl, Wales

Known as Hell's Mouth, this vast and popular surfing beach is around 4 miles long and offers consistent surf. More experienced surfers head for the northern end of the beach.

Spanish surf

Santander

If you want to go a little further afield then there are some great surfing beaches in northern Spain, a mere ferry ride away; don't forget AA members enjoy discounted ferry travel and more. The following areas offer great surfing spots and are only a short drive from Santander or Bilbao:

  • Cantabria
  • Galicia
  • Euskadi
  • Asturias

Read our invaluable advice on European driving, and don't forget to organise AA European breakdown cover and travel insurance before you set off. Plus, check out our Spanish phrase books and maps.


Updated May 2014