Where and when to surf in the UK

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The Independent Travel
Surfing doesn't just happen in Newquay in August when the sea is usually flat and the sunny beach is crowded with all the right looking people. It happens on any coastal corner of the British Isles, on any day, however dark, windy and freezing it may be. British surfers are known to the world as some of the hardiest there are, and the quality and power of Britain's waves are not to be underestimated. The best locations are those which face large, stormy stretches of water like the North Atlantic, or the North Sea.


From the mouth of the River Severn around to the Lyn Peninsula on Wales' western shores, surfable swells occur regularly. The Gower Peninsular and Pembrokeshire are famous for their powerful waves which break on offshore reefs and sandy beaches. Wales has a substantial and fiercely proud surfing community and has produced some world-class surfers who have a reputation for gutsiness and skill even in Hawaii's giant waves. Mumbles on the Gower Peninsular is a surfing town, through and through. Swells come from storms to the South and West of the British Isles, most consistent September to March.


The South and West coasts of Ireland are considered by many to have the most consistent and powerful waves in Europe. Low pressure systems which track across the North Atlantic generate strong swells which batter Ireland's ragged coastline providing wild, empty surf for the few locals and for the increasing number of visitors from abroad. Ireland's most populated surfing area is around Bundoran in County Donegal. September to May are the most surfable months.

Scotland's West Coast

Like Ireland, this is rugged coastline battered almost continually by swell from storms in the North Atlantic. Cold, wild, and difficult to get to, it hides many magical spots. Best September to May.

Scotland's North Coast

Again, famed for it's endless number of high quality breaks - both reefs and beaches. Thurso is known worldwide for it's 'perfect' waves. Hardcore surf trippers around the world put this high on their list of places to visit. Swells from the West, North and North East, all year.

Scotland's East Coast and North East England

Another area of hidden treasures. The water in the North Sea is much colder than the Atlantic , so very thick wet suits, boots, hoods and gloves are needed. Swells funnel down from storms west of Norway and break with immense power on the rock reefs and sand beaches. Pollution (industrial, sewage etc.) is a major problem, though crowding is not - although there is an ever growing surfing population. September to June best months.

England's South Coast

The Channel is not a large enough body of water to generate substantial surf, though occasionally swells from storms outside the Bay of Biscay will track up as far as the Isle of Wight. Kimmeridge, Dorset is a favourite spot. Winter and spring are best.

Devon and Cornwall

Both south and north coasts take the brunt of Atlantic low pressures, though the north coast usually catches more. Newquay is the busiest of the spots, but not the only one. There are plenty of uncrowded, wild places to surf, if you know how and when to find them.Tip: July and August not usually the best months.

Best Reading: Stormrider Guide to Europe, Second ed. Low Pressure Publishing (0181 960 1916).