Best surfing beaches in the UK (11 spots)

Best surf beaches uk

The UK is home to a stunning and rugged coastline. Along its many bays and inlets there are 1,500 fantastic beaches with many that produce brilliant surfing waves.

There is a beach for all seasons, skill levels, and weather conditions. From the hotspots of Cornwall and Devon to clean breaks in Northumberland and wild Atlantic swells in Ireland or the remote beaches of Scotland.

Choosing the best surfing beach in the UK can be a challenge given what’s on offer. You can use these beaches we’ve listed as a starting point for your first surf adventure before heading off in search of your own favourite surf spots on the British coast.

Every beach has its day, where the stars align and you have the perfect session. There are hundreds of beaches that could be ‘the best’ depending on the conditions and your ability, but to get you started, here is inspiration for some of the best surfing beaches here in the UK.

Where do you surf in England? 11 surf UK beaches

Saunton Sands

Location: North Devon, England

Difficulty: All levels

Wave Type: Right or Left Beach Break

Nearest Town: Braunton

Extra Tip: Fairly mellow waves – Great for intermediates

Saunton Sands Surf

We’ll start with a beach that is probably a great shout if its your first surf trip here in the UK. It’s not too extreme, parking is easy and there is a rental shop right on the beach.

North Devon contains some of the best surfing beaches in the UK. The waves are consistent all year round, and the weather is surprisingly temperate thanks to the gulf stream.

Woolacombe, Croyde, and Saunton Sands are all situated along this section of the coast, one bay after another. Positioned in the glorious North Devon AONB, the surrounding heathland undulates into magnificent sand dunes before dropping towards crisp waves that roll into the beach.

Croyde is popular for its cool surfer town and its wide variety of intense breaks. However, the surfing area is much smaller than the 3-mile beaches at Woolacombe or Saunton Sands. This means you may be competing with other surfers for space in the water.

Saunton Sands is a huge beach with glorious flat sand and long, slow waves. It is a great place to cruise along the waves without many other people around. The break is consistent and marks a good place for beginners and intermediates to surf.

Thurso East

Location: Caithness, Scotland

Difficulty: Experienced

Wave Type: Right-hand Reef Break

Nearest Town: Thurso

Extra Tip: The best waves are in the Autumn

So we’ve gone from the mellow Saunton to the extreme Thurso in Scotland. Thurso East is a highly coveted surf spot in Europe. Word has spread that there are incredible barrel waves to be caught in a stunning and wild section of the Scottish coast. The beach is overlooked by the ruins of Thurso Castle and the looming cliffs create a dramatic atmosphere for anyone in the water.

Thurso East is fed by big groundswells from the northwest. The waves reach their prime around mid-tide when the tide is on the rise. Surfers should take care not to get rushed onto the rocks that litter the bay.

The water is frigid, there’s plenty of rain, and should anything go wrong, there aren’t many people around to help you out. Waves can reach 6-foot peaks as the swell pulls you towards a rocky shelf. This is undeniably a place for experienced surfers looking for a challenge. The reward for such an endeavour will be riding one of the best right-hand breaks anywhere in the UK.


Location: North Yorkshire, England

Difficulty: Beginner-Intermediate

Wave Type: Right or Left Beach Break

Nearest Town: Saltburn-by-the-Sea

Extra Tip: Best surfing is from September to November with fewer crowds around

Saltburn Surf

People don’t often associate the north coast of England with good waves. Nor would they think the Victorian town of Saltburn-by-the-Sea is a hotspot for surfers. How misinformed they are! Saltburn Beach is a great place for newbie surfers to find their feet or for intermediate surfers to catch a few chilled waves.

The swell that comes in from the North Sea isn’t particularly powerful but that shouldn’t deter you from visiting. There are 8-miles of fabulous remote waves to be explored. There are surf shops and cafes by Saltburn Pier (check out Saltburn Surf School or The Seaview Restaurant), but once you head further up the beach, you’ll find the place truly your own.

The large cliffs and headland at Huntcliff block a good deal of wind making the weather surprisingly calm for a surfing destination. The north-facing beach means any time there’s a big weather system in the North Sea, it’s sure to pick up some good swell. Penny’s Hole is a popular break, as is Saltburn Point, but don’t be afraid to move around and find your own perfect break!


Location: Gower Peninsula, Wales

Difficulty: Intermediate

Wave Type: Right or Left Beach Break

Nearest Town: Llangennith

Extra Tip: Come here if there’s no swell to be found elsewhere in Wales

Llangennith surf

The Gower Peninsula was the first AONB in the UK to be announced. It has some spectacular wild sections of coastline with incredible natural features like the Worm’s Head. The Gower also has no shortage of excellent surf beaches.

Llangennith is a fantastic surf spot along the 3-mile sweeping Rhossili Bay. Llangennith receives swells direct from the Atlantic and makes for adrenaline-inducing surfing. It’s home to the Welsh Surfing Federation and there are many surf schools (Llangennith Surf School) and campsites (Hillend Camping Park) nearby. This makes it an easy area to access and there are plenty of other keen surfers to be found.

The powerful swell can make it difficult to paddle out and there is often a bracing wind, but this only adds to the wild wonder of the area. Those looking for a less-powerful break should target the southern section of Rhossili Beach where the waves are slightly smaller.

Freshwater West

Location: Pembrokeshire, Wales

Difficulty: Intermediate

Wave Type: Beach Break

Nearest Town: Castlemartin

Extra Tip: Visit in early May to watch the Welsh National Surfing Championships

Freshwater West Surf

Freshwater West is remote and beautiful. Situated in the southern section of the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park, this beach really gives meaning to the word rugged. There are hardly any facilities or shops nearby and most surfers come to Freshwater purely for its isolation. However, if you want somewhere to stay, the Gupton Farm Campsite is popular with surfers.

The waves are strong with big rip tides, so it is an area recommended for intermediate to experienced surfers. However, the coves to the south end of the beach do provide smaller walls that are good for beginners.

The waves are consistently good all along Freshwater West and there are plenty of peaks punctuating the bay. This allows surfers the independence and freedom to claim a spot all on their own. If you want to find some more of the best surfing beaches in the UK, head over to Newgale or Marloes Sands, both along the Pembrokeshire Coast.

Kimmeridge Bay

Location: Dorset, England

Difficulty: Intermediate

Wave Type: Right-Hand Reef Break

Nearest Town: Kimmeridge

Extra Tip: Watch out for the submerged rocks littered across the beach

Kimmeridge Bay Surf

The wonderful Purbeck Heritage Coast is known for its iconic limestone rock features such as Old Harry Rocks and Lulworth Cove. However, this area of the Jurassic Coast also has some glorious surfing spots.

Kimmeridge Bay has a range of breaks for all experience levels. There are three main waves to attempt on K-Bay. The Ledges, which is for beginners – although accessed through a boulder-rutted section of the beach. The Bay is a central section of the beach with long rides and smooth peelers for intermediates. Then there’s the Bench which is a tough reef section for experienced surfers.

The surf is mostly flat during the summer but keep your eye on the weather forecast for offshore winds from the north. Kimmeridge Bay is fed by both groundswells and wind swells with good surfing to be had when the swell is from the southwest. Aim for high tide when picking your moment. If you want somewhere to surf on the south coast outside of the busy hotspots in Devon and Cornwall, Kimmeridge is it!

Fistral Beach

Location: Cornwall, England

Difficulty: Intermediate

Wave Type: Left-Hand Beach Break

Nearest Town: Newquay

Extra Tip: Look out for a south easterly wind to fuel the best beach break.

Fistral Beach

Fistral is a big name in Cornwall and it’s undoubtedly one of the best surfing beaches in the UK. In fact, many claim it’s the surfing capital of the country due to the British Surfing Association, Newquay Boardriders Club, and Newquay Surf Life Saving Club all being based in the area. There’s also the famous Boardmasters surfing and music festival that’s held in Fistral each summer.

Newquay is the closest town and it’s a major hub for cafes, bars, and the general surfing lifestyle. Newbie surfers and those wanting to get lessons at a surf school often opt for Watergate Bay or Newquay Beach for its accessibility. However, those who venture across the headland to Fistral Beach will be rewarded by a more exposed section of the coast that’s slightly out of town.

Fistral is home to one of the most famous big waves in England: The Cribbar. This wave strikes the north of Fistral, just off the headland. It is a massive wave that forms from a deep swell and should only be attempted by experienced surfers.

All in all, Fistral Beach is a big name in the surfing community and its waves are well known. The town of Newquay is one of the easiest access points in Cornwall which means people flock from all over the UK to get there in summer. Fistral is a great location, but best-kept-secret, it is not. If you’re looking for a quiet break, head somewhere else.

Porthleven Beach

Location: Cornwall, England

Difficulty: Experienced

Wave Type: Right-Hand Reef Break

Nearest Town: Porthleven
Extra Tip: Watch out for the riptide and rocks

As expected, another Cornish contender on the best surfing beaches in the UK. This is a legendary spot for surfers due to the powerful reef break that occurs outside the harbour walls.

When the waves are good, they are fantastic curling, tubes. When the waves are too good, they breach the 30-foot harbour walls! Paddling out is challenging and once you catch a wave, you’re in for a dicey ride. But for experienced surfers, that’s all part of the fun.

However, even despite its difficulty, the water can get busy with surfers. The swell is pretty flat during the summer with the southwestern groundswell bringing the best waves. Surf conditions are often good in April with fewer people crowding the water.

This is a good beach to head to out of the busy summer holiday season. You’ll find Cornwall to be a lot more peaceful, the waves more impressive, and the beach all to yourself.

Sennen Cove

Location: Cornwall, England

Difficulty: All Levels

Wave Type: Right or Left Beach Break

Nearest Town: Sennen Cove

Extra Tip: The best waves are at the North Rocks section of the beach.

Sennen Surf

Down in the bottom corner of Cornwall, facing out towards the ominous Atlantic Ocean, you’ll find the golden sands and turquoise waters of Sennan Cove. This beach has the fortune of being struck by swells from both the north and south and often has good waves at most times of the year.

Surfers say Sennen Cove is the place to go if all other English beaches are flat. That’s how consistent and reliable the waves are. There is a range of breaks for a mix of abilities making it a topflight location for any surfer. It also has the benefit of being further along the coast than Newquay and Polzeath meaning there are fewer crowds.

The village of Sennen Cove is tiny so don’t expect the roads to be bustling with high-end cafes and upmarket shops. However, there are the fantastic surf schools of Smart Surf School and Sennen Surfing Centre right on the beach. In general, this is a wonderfully secluded location in a magnificent part of the country which makes it one of the best surfing beaches in the UK.


Location: County Antrim, Northern Ireland

Difficulty: Beginner-Intermediate

Wave Type: Right or Left Beach Break

Nearest Town: Portrush

Extra Tip: Head to the East Strand for stronger waves and fewer people in the water

Portrush Surf

Portrush is a surfing haven for the Irish. The town is brimming with surf schools ready to introduce fresh faces to the salty waves (check out Portrush Surf School and Troggs Surf School). Fortunately, Portrush is still developing and is less crowded than some of its Cornish counterparts which is a big part of the allure. However, the word is spreading and Portrush gets busier every summer.

Part of the Causeway Coast, Portrush has surprisingly mild weather with warm, temperate summers. The North Atlantic Current consistently delivers predictable swells to this area of the Irish coast. Waves vary from 2-6 feet in the summer and are much larger in the winter.

The beach can be surfed on all tides with the best waves produced from a northern swell. The waves are suitable for all abilities, but experienced surfers may want to find somewhere more challenging during the summer months.  


Location: Munster, Ireland

Difficulty: All Levels

Wave Type: Point Break

Nearest Town: Lahinch

Extra Tip: For a daytrip, head north to the Cliffs of Moher to see the North Atlantic swell battering the sea cliffs.

Lahinch Surf

The wild Atlantic coastline of Ireland brews some monstrous waves for keen and adventurous surfers to explore. People often overlook Ireland due to its rainy climate and cool weather, but there are plenty of beaches here for surfers to sink their teeth into.

The range of beaches will depend on what county you visit but Lahinch in County Clare is a popular location. One of its most attractive features is the variety of breaks on offer. The surf is ferocious in winter but cleaner and more enticing during the summer.

A big draw to Lahinch, as opposed to some of the more remote beaches in Ireland, is the atmosphere in town. Lahinch is known for having fantastic pubs with live music and a cosy post-surf atmosphere.

Bracing salt waves followed by a fireside pint of Guinness, what could be better? There are plenty to choose from along the seaside avenue but some of the most popular are Kenny’s Bar, The Cornerstone Bar and Restaurant, and Danny Mac’s.

Final Advice

There’s plenty of competition for the best surfing beaches in the UK. The options are varied, and surfers can easily select a new beach in another part of the country to fit every season and still not run out of places to go.

Don’t be afraid to surf out of peak season, some of the best swells are in autumn or winter. Keep a keen eye on the forecast and be open to changing plans if the waves look better somewhere else. Go with friends, go alone, join a camp, head to a festival – but most of all, get stuck into the wonderful waves in Britain.

You could spend a lifetime searching for the best surfing beaches in the UK without ever deciding on your favourite. So, there’s no time to be wasted. Wax your board, hose down your wetsuit, fill up your van, and hit the coast, there are waves to be surfed.

You might like to read our article on how to start surfing in the UK

About the author

Watersports Pro is managed by Ollie, who has been in the industry since 2007. A paddleboard and advanced windsurfing instructor, Ollie has travelled the world teaching these sports.

Now based on the South Coast of England, he shares his experience and knowledge on

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