Surfing at sunset is stunning
© Mats Andreassen Grimsæth

The UK’s best surf spots

Want to catch a wave but don’t know where to go? From expert reef breaks in Scotland to beginner-friendly peaks in Cornwall, we’ve got you covered.
Written by Ellie Ross
6 min readPublished on
With 11,000 miles of coastline, the UK is blessed with some epic surf spots. There’s everything from sheltered beach breaks to powerful barrelling waves to choose from up and down the country. From Scotland to Cornwall, there is a spot for you to catch the perfect wave – no matter your ability. On the right day, the waves here can be as good as anywhere else in the world – albeit a little chillier.
So grab a board, wetsuit and a sense of adventure and head to one of these great surf spots around the UK...

1. Croyde, North Devon

Andrew Cotton seen during a training session in his hometown Croyde, United Kingdom on March 16th, 2015

Andrew Cotton in his hometown Croyde

© Richie Hopson / Red Bull Content Pool

Devon’s best performance wave is arguably found at Croyde, where skilled shortboarders dominate steep, powerful peaks on big swell days. Conditions are best at low tide, but the water can get crowded so make sure you look out for, and respect, other surfers. Backed by rolling sand dunes and the Devon countryside beyond, Croyde bay sits between two headlands, with Woolacombe and Saunton Sands beaches on either side. Longboarders and beginners should head to Saunton Sands, where gentle Atlantic rollers combine with a long stretch of soft sand for a more relaxed surf spot.
Best for: Beginners to experts

2. Thurso East, North East Scotland

Big swell in Thurso East, Scotland

Thurso East in Scotland

© Screenshot / Red Bull

Thurso, the British Isles’ most northerly town, boasts one of the best waves in Europe. So good, in fact, that Hawaiian big-wave pro Love Hodel has described this spot on the rugged Caithness coast as “pretty damned perfect”. The waves break over a shallow reef, against a backdrop of the Thurso Castle ruins, so are not suitable for beginners. But for advanced surfers, this walling right-hander can hold surfable waves of triple overhead in a big north west swell. Little wonder this beach hosts competitions that attract top surfers from around the world.
Best for: Experts

3. Fistral Beach, Cornwall

Cornwall has more than its fair share of surf spots, but Fistral Beach has something to offer everyone. In summer, the smaller, gentle rollers are perfect for learning and for longboarding, while winter swells bring steep, powerful waves that are ideal for experts. A number of international surf contests are held here, including the British National Surf Championships.
There is a surf centre offering lessons right on the beach, as well as restaurants and bars to refuel post-surf. When the swell is huge, with perfectly clean, double overhead-sized waves, the big wave spot, The Cribbar, works, and big wave surfers ride the massive waves breaking off the rocks.
BUCS surf championship Fistral Beach

BUCS surf championship Fistral Beach

© Mark Roe

Best for: Beginners to experts

4. Portrush East Strand, County Antrim

Portrush has a number of decent surf spots to choose from, including East Strand, which is one of the best beaches for beginners because it tends to have smaller waves thanks to its sheltered position by the headland. On stormy days when everywhere else is battered by the wind from the north west, this is often the only surfable spot as it’s more protected. That’s also when you’ll find some fast, exploding left and right barrels to keep advanced surfers happy. In winter storms it can be impossible to paddle out, so pros run around the Arcadia and leap off the rocks.
Best for: Beginners to experts

5. Saltburn, North Yorkshire

Keshia Eyre at Saltburn Open 2013

Keshia Eyre at Saltburn Open 2013

© Will Bailey

One of the original centres of the north-east surf scene, Saltburn is a friendly spot with mellow waves either side of the pier that are ideal for honing your board skills, from perfect paddling to practising your turns. There’s also a good choice of lessons, too – located above the beach, Saltburn Surf School has been operating since 1983 and are the go-to people for advice on boards and conditions. Further down the coast, Cayton is a quiet and unspoilt bay with excellent year-round surfing for everyone from beginners to experts.
Best for: Beginners to experts

6. Llangennith, Gower Peninsula

Bikepacking Gower Peninsula

Sun sets on the Gower Peninsula

© Wild Things Publishing

The Gower has always been the heartland of the Welsh surf scene – and Llangennith is its most popular spot for good reason. Beach breaks roll in all along this three-mile stretch of gold sand beach, making it popular with all types of surfers from pros to complete beginners who come here for surf lessons. It may get busy when conditions are good, but it’s pretty consistent and if you’re prepared to walk along the beach with your board you should be able to find some quieter peaks. The long sandy beach makes it an ideal place to learn in safety, but watch out for rips, which tend to be worse when the swell is bigger and the tide is pushing in.
Best for: Beginners to experts

7. Porthleven, Cornwall

When the wind, swell and weather line up, this scenic spot on Cornwall’s south coast is hard to beat. The best waves are found to the west of the harbour – short, right-hander barrels that get super shallow so are only for expert surfers to tackle. This is Cornwall's best reef break, so it can get busy with locals and photographers. Take extra care at high and low tide because of the rocky bottom.
Best for: Experts

8. Kimmeridge Bay, Dorset

Sitting pretty amidst the fossils of the Jurassic Coast, Kimmeridge – nicknamed “K-Bay” – is one of the best places to surf on the south coast of England with its long, fun, mellow reef breaks. There are three main spots to pick from: “The Ledges” is good for longboarding, “The Bay” has some great rides and is sheltered on big swell days and “The Bench” for the truly hardcore who want to surf up to 12 foot waves. Make sure you watch out for rocks and check the surf forecast before you go, as this spot needs perfect wind and wave conditions to get decent surf.
Best for: Intermediates to experts

9. Dalmore Bay, Isle of Lewis

If you’re after an adventure that involves driving to the best surf spots, head to the Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides. Its jagged coastline is home to quiet coves, beaches of pale sand and turquoise water. Dalmore Bay, on the north coast, is a great place to start and you’ll find the waves far less crowded than on the mainland. It’s a well-formed beach break that is fun when conditions are small. In sizeable conditions it can get rippy, so is best suited for experts. This is also a great spot for some wildlife spotting and you could spot everything from dolphins to orcas as you paddle.
Best for: Beginner to experts