Where are the best surfing beaches in the UK?

Coastal, Watersports, The Great British Outdoors

Posted by Ed on 26th May 2022

Guide to the UK's best surfing beaches

There’s no need to travel to California, Hawaii or Australia; Great Britain boasts some incredible surfing beaches that are only a short drive away. As an island nation, we are surrounded by sea which forms the county’s largest adventure playground.

Surfing, in Great Britain at least, began in Cornwall in 1929 when Lewis Rosenberg took to the waves in Newquay – now one of the best surfing spots in the UK. Since its humble beginnings, the sport has become widespread throughout the UK – with surfers of all abilities found from Thurso in Scotland, via Yorkshire and Wales to its home in Cornwall. And now, our country is home to one of only 12 World Surfing Reserves: North Devon

Whether you want to learn to surf (it’s advisable that you can swim around 50 metres and have brushed up on the top beach safety tips) or you’re seeking out the best surf spots for an incredible ride, you’ll find your perfect surfing beach among our choices across Great Britain. And if you want to be as close to the waves as possible, why not take a look at our coastal cottages collection and find your perfect beach house?

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Watergate Bay, a top surfing beach at Newquay in Cornwall, UK

Watergate Bay, Cornwall

Watergate Bay in Cornwall is one of the best for surfing in England and has a whole 2 miles of beach at low tide - the perfect place to learn to surf. Borrow a board from a hire centre or book a lesson with the local surf school; either way, it won’t take long until you’re standing up and catching small waves. You’ll be surrounded by learners of all ages, so there’s no need to feel intimidated. Watergate Bay has a friendly atmosphere and you can share your achievements with those around you!

  • Lifeguard cover May-September
  • Parking and toilets nearby
  • Shops, bars and restaurants nearby

Newquay cottages

Rest Bay, a top surfing beach in Porthcawl, South Wales, UK

Rest Bay, South Wales

Suitable for all abilities, including those learning to surf for the first time, this beach at Porthcawl in South Wales offers a sandy beach break. In the right conditions, the break can run for a staggering 100 metres - experienced surfers will enjoy the breaks at the south end during mid-tide.

  • Lifeguard cover June-September
  • Parking and toilets nearby
  • Cafe/bar next to beach, other facilities in town centre

Porthcawl cottages

Croyde beach, a top surfing beach in North Devon, UK

Croyde, Devon

No matter how experienced you are, Croyde always manages to throw up a challenge. Master surfers will gravitate to Down End at the southern reaches, filtering through to novices in the middle of the beach. With a mostly sandy bottom, the rocks at both ends ensure a good swell in most weathers. There’s even an excellent point break past the south end for the particularly athletic. There’s no end to the surf schools and shops to buy or rent the apparel from. The dune systems here and at Saunton Sands are some of the best around too. 

  • Lifeguard cover April-September
  • Parking and toilets nearby
  • Shops, bars and restaurants nearby

Croyde cottages

Thurso, a top surfing beach in North East Scotland, UK

Thurso, North-East Scotland

Thurso is one of the northernmost points on the Scottish mainland and offers world-class barrels and perhaps the best right-hand reef break in Scotland, exposed to enormous Atlantic swells. Its strong winds and cold waters mean Thurso tends to only attract the more serious surfers, though it can become crowded in the summer. In the past, Thurso has held the Scottish Surf Championships and the O'Neill Coldwater Classic, meaning it offers plenty of challenges even for experienced riders.

  • No lifeguard cover
  • Parking nearby and in town centre, toilets in town centre
  • Shops, bars and restaurants in town centre

Highlands cottages

Great British Coast

Sennen Cove, a top surfing beach in Cornwall, UK

Sennen Cove, Cornwall

This is the place to go when everywhere else is flat. Sennen has fairly consistent surf most of the time, given its exposed location, and holds good-sized waves, even on a quiet day. There’s a great surf hire centre right on the beach offering lessons and equipment hire, as well as BSA courses and group sessions. Get a group of friends together and hit the waves!

  • Lifeguard cover April-October
  • Parking and toilets nearby
  • Shop, cafe and pub nearby

Sennen cottages

Bantham Beach, one of the top surfing beaches at Bigbury in South Devon, UK

Bantham Beach, Devon

This South Devon beach picks up more swell than any other in the local area and is ideal for intermediate riders - just keep an eye out for the rip on the east side. Locals say it’s a lot friendlier than many of Devon’s other breaks and there’s not a problem asking the resident surfers for a few tips.

  • Lifeguard cover May-September
  • Toilets and parking on-site
  • Shop and pub next to the beach

Kingsbridge cottages

Llangenith beach, a top surfing beach on the Gower, South Wales

Llangennith, South Wales

Home to the Welsh Surfing Federation, Llangennith is the ideal place for intermediate surfers, although it's popular with surfers of all abilities. Picking up all available swell, you'll never be short of good waves, although when the waves reach above head height, the paddle out can be difficult. This 3-mile sandy beach right in the heart of the Gower, South Wales, has a friendly vibe and the locals are always keen to help out other surfers. 

  • No lifeguard cover
  • Parking and toilets next to beach
  • Shops, pubs and restaurants around 200m away

Llangennith cottages

Porthleven, a top surfing beach in Cornwall, UK

Porthleven, Cornwall

A legend of British surfing! Porthleven is well known for the reef just beyond the harbour walls and, on a good day, creates fantastic tubes, and waves often crash over the harbour wall which stands at 30 feet high. Again, only paddle out if you know what you’re doing. Porthleven gets busy on a day with decent swell and the pro surfers won’t appreciate looking out for novices. If you don’t fancy braving it, there’s some spectacular viewing to be had!

  • Lifeguard cover July-September
  • Parking at Porthleven harbour, toilets in town centre
  • Shops, pubs, cafes and restaurants in town centre

Porthleven cottages

Best UK surfing beaches map

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Surfing holidays across the UK

Looking to catch some of these renowned waves or perhaps discover your own? Book one of our beautiful holiday cottages by the sea and discover more about the UK’s best surfing beaches.

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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.