The best places to go surfing in Scotland

Coastal, Watersports, The Great British Outdoors

Posted by Ruth on 18th May 2022

Surfing in Scotland

Don’t let the cold water put you off – Scotland is a brilliant place for surfers of all levels, where the amazing Scottish beaches boast stunning coastal scenery, powerful swells from the Atlantic Ocean and the North Sea and, unlike their southern counterparts, perfectly uncrowded peaks.

You can surf in Scotland all year round, but October is the best month for it as this is when the powerful groundswells really get going. However, this is also when the already chilly sea temperatures get chillier still, hovering around the 10-degree mark, so make sure you pack as much neoprene as you can muster and have a flask of something hot ready for when you’re all surfed out. New to surfing? Find out why you should give surfing a go this year. 

It's also important to be aware of how to stay safe in the water - you can read our guide to beach safety for some top tips. 

Of course, you could always line up a cosy coastal cottage ready for warming up in after your cold-water surf. Take a look at our collection of Scotland cottages below for some inspiration, or read on for our favourite surf spots in Scotland.

Scottish coastal cottages

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10 surfing spots for beginners

Pease Bay, East Lothian

With long, peeling right-hand waves over sand and cobble at the south and a left sandbar at the north end, the wave at Pease Bay is slow but fun. Waves are accessible and consistent, and being the closest surfing beach to Edinburgh, the beach is often busy. Pick a day with a south-westerly wind for the very best conditions.

Stay nearby: Old Manor, Coldingham | sleeps 8

Discover more incredible surfing sanctuaries around the UK where you can learn the skill or tackle big waves. 

Belhaven Bay, East Lothian

This beginner-friendly beach has weaker waves, perfect for novice surfers. There is also a reef section that offers a slightly more consistent break. This is one of the most accessible surfing beaches, with easy parking and a surf school nearby, but despite that, it’s rarely crowded.

Stay nearby: Blue Spruce Cottage, Edinburgh and The Lothians | sleeps 4 + 1 dog

If you're planning some time on dry land, try venturing out along one of these Scottish coastal trails.  

St Andrews West, Fife

With mellow, slow-breaking peaks, St Andrews West is great for beginners. This break is best suited to longboarding and the best waves occur in winter when the storms from the North Sea bring in some larger swells, so pack your biggest board and your thickest wetsuit!

Stay nearby: Bruntshiels Byre, St Andrews | sleeps 6 + 2 dogs

Westport, Argyll

Westport offers right-handers formed by a sandbar at the north end of Machrihanish Bay. It’s a temperamental wave but when it’s good, it’s really good. There is a surf school on the beach which offers lessons, equipment hire and friendly advice, plus there are plenty of pubs nearby for a post-surf pint.

Stay nearby: Rothmar East, Campbeltown | sleeps 10 + 2 dogs

Where are the best beaches in the UK? Read our guide to the UK's top surfing spots

Glenbrittle, Skye

Glenbrittle is a gorgeous beach on the Isle of Skye with a backdrop of the Cuillin mountain range and offers a large, open beach break facing south west. Accessed by a long, winding lane, it may seem desolate, but the headlands provide a bit of shelter. Keep your eyes peeled for the waterfalls near the headland – we’re not sure there’s a more picturesque surf spot!

Stay nearby: Sulaire, Isle of Skye | sleeps 6 + 2 dogs

Dunnet Bay, Caithness

Dunnet Bay is a fairly reliable beach break which offers decent surf at any stage of the tide and at any time of year due to the mix of groundswells and windswells it receives. Nearby is a right-hand reef break for more advanced surfers too – just watch out for rips. Only 12 miles from John o’ Groats, this is proper cold-water surfing; warm up afterwards with a wee dram at the Dunnet Bay distillery.

Stay nearby: Bulchatton Cottage, Lybster | sleeps 4 + 2 dogs

Banff Beach, Banffshire

With a huge stretch of sand at the mouth of the River Deveron as it enters the Moray Firth, Banff Beach is pretty exposed meaning the surf can be fickle. However, when it’s working, this beach break offers good waves at low tide towards the harbour end of the beach. See if you can spot dolphins and porpoises when you’re sat out the back.

Stay nearby: Balai House, Banff | sleeps 4 + 2 dogs

Staffin Bay, Skye

Another surf spot on the Isle of Skye, this time at the north end of the island, Staffin Bay works best on a big northerly swell coming down the Minch. Time your visit for mid to low tide for the very best waves at this beach break, although if the surf isn’t good, you can always seek out the dinosaur footprints on the beach instead.

Stay nearby: Sealladh Beinn Edra, Uig | sleeps 4 + 1 dog

Balnakeil Bay, Sutherland

Durness is a long stretch of exposed, west-facing beach, where the conditions aren’t too badly affected by the strong northerly winds due to the headland that provides some shelter. The waves are average but if you forget about the chilly temperatures, you could imagine you’re surfing on a tropical island, such is the colour of the water.

Stay nearby: 54 Sangomore, Durness | sleeps 10 + 2 dogs

Melvich, Sutherland

Melvich has two options for surfers: the left-hand reef at high tide for short rides and low-tide sandbars in the river mouth. There is ample parking nearby too and the waves are fairly reliable making this a great spot for an intermediate surfer – just watch out for the strong rips as the tide is dropping.

Stay nearby: Thorhaven, Thurso | sleeps 4 + 2 dogs

Great British Coast

10 waves for experienced surfers

Lunan Bay, Angus

Lunan Bay is a beautiful beach break with shifting peaks, perfect for longboarders. The waves rarely get bigger than 5ft and work in many conditions. However, this area can have bad rips, especially on the dropping tide near the river mouth, so be careful. Another unusual hazard is unexploded World War II bombs, however, many years have passed since the last one was found.

Stay nearby: Yew Cottage - Dunninald Castle, Montrose | sleeps 2 + 1 dog

Coldingham Bay, Berwickshire

Coldingham Bay on Scotland’s east coast has a hollow beach break which doesn’t really get going unless there’s a large north-easterly swell. Despite this, the area can get busy at weekends giving it a good atmosphere that continues in the village pubs. Watch out for underwater rocks and a few rips.

Stay nearby: The Hideaway, Eyemouth | sleeps 6 + 2 dogs

Sinclairs Bay, Caithness

This beach break offers high-quality waves which appear before you from the road approach. The River of Wester joins the bay here and provides good sandbanks in the middle of the beach, while the south end is a better bet on windier days. Visit on an easterly swell for the best conditions.

Stay nearby: Sunny Cottage, Brora | sleeps 8

Machir Bay, Islay

This powerful beach break provides fairly consistent waves along the huge bay – although there are some rips. The break offers both lefts and rights all year round, although the best conditions are on a westerly swell. Islay is very exposed so feels the benefits of the huge swells from the Atlantic, and it’s also famous for its whisky – a perfect combination in our books.

Machrihanish, Argyll

While being fairly exposed, Machrihanish is protected from south-west gales at the south end. Look out for the right-hand point break below the pub, although there is also a beach break and a river mouth break to try out too. Time your visit with a rising tide for the best conditions.

Stay nearby: Rothmar East, Machrihanish | sleeps 10 + 2 dogs

The Maze, Tiree

The Maze offers both a beach break and heavy reef, perfect for advanced surfers to get their teeth into. This long bay, close to Kilkenneth, has been the site of the British windsurf nationals and also benefits from big Atlantic swells due to its exposed island location.

Thurso East

Thurso East, Caithness

Thurso is to Scotland what Newquay is to England and offers perfect barrelling waves on a good day. As such, this right-hand reef break can get crowded. The best conditions are from October to April when cold-water surfing gets that much colder, and the barrel is at its hollowest on a north-west swell. Pack a hood!

Stay nearby: Quarryside Farmhouse, Castletown | sleeps 6 + 2 dogs

Eoropie, Lewis

This beach break offers consistent and fast waves with long right-hand barrels in a northerly swell and south-east wind. The peaks can reach 15 feet in size but can get rippy, so be careful. There are also both left and right-hand reef breaks but despite the quality of this spot, it’s rarely crowded.

Outer Hebrides cottages

Dalbeg, Lewis

Another quality wave on the Isle of Lewis, Dalbeg is protected by long jutting headland to the north and is usually smaller than further down the island. Here you’ll find fairly reliable, hollow peaks with both left and right-handers, that are best in the summer swells. The shifting sandbars produce strong rips and there are also some submerged rocks.

Cliff, Lewis

The furthest south of these Lewis surf spots, Cliff is an exposed beach break with reliable and fast waves that barrel at low tide. The peaks can reach 18 feet and become dangerous, with many hazardous rips appearing so this is really a break best reserved for the pros.

Scotland's best surf spots on a map

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Stay with us in Scotland

If you’re stoked on a Scotland surf session, take a look at our range of coastal cottages in Scotland to find your perfect beach house. Check the waves from your window, wander down for a dawnie and return to your cosy home from home to warm up in front of a roaring fire after an epic session in the cold water.

Scottish coastal cottages

Disclaimer: Whilst every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information at the time of writing, please ensure you check carefully before making any decisions based on the contents within this article.