The United Kingdom doesn't quite have the same ring to it as Bali or Hawaii, but that's part of what makes surfing here so special. Trade boardshorts for wetsuit booties and palm-tree-covered hills for rocky cliffs, and you have one of the most rugged and unique surf destinations in the world -- the U.K.
Clayton Bay -- England
A large part of the joy of surfing is enjoying the serenity of the ocean, and there are few places better for taking in the peacefulness of the sea than at unspoiled Clayton Bay. Home to three locally-famous surf spots, Pump House, the Point, and Bunkers, the area has been known to provide quality waves year round -- even when other nearby beaches are flat. The picture-perfect bay is located just three miles south of the seaside resort town of Scarborough, and is home to one of the oldest surf schools in the U.K. Whether you're catching your first waves near the shoreline or splitting a peak at Bunkers with your best buds, Clayton Bay offers the laid-back beach vibes most surfers seek.
Thurso -- Scotland
Photo credit: Paul Wordingham
Thurso is the last town you'll see when heading north on the mainland of Scotland. While it's known among locals as a charming town that serves as a cozy gateway to the country's picture-perfect countryside, surfers know Thurso for much different reasons. Thurso East is a hollow, powerful, and long right-hander that breaks over a reefy/rocky bottom. Not a wave meant for beginners, this often uncrowded, world-class wave has attracted highly-experienced and professional surfers from around the globe. The nearby town of Thurso's happening bars, renowned restaurants, traditional shops, and long list of other popular surf spots make the area even more appealing to traveling surfers.
Hell's Mouth -- Wales
Hell's Mouth, known simply as "The Mouth," by local surfers is one of the most consistent waves in the region, offering beach and reef breaks for surfers of all ability levels. Although it's one of the best known surf spots in north Wales, the four-mile-long stretch of beach tends to keep the crowds dispersed. Although many argue the reefs under the cliffs at the end of the bay create better waves, you can find a spot to yourself if you're willing to paddle out away from the pack. The name sounds a bit more dangerous than the wave really is, but your friends back home don't need to know that.
Saunton Sands -- England
Photo credit: judy dean
Saunton Sands is a favorite sandy-bottom beach break that attracts longboarders from across the United Kingdom. The slow, rolling wave in North Devon is ideal for learning to surf, but it's also a place to watch the local longboarders showboat while cruising to shore with their toes on the nose. The two-mile-long stretch of sand is ideal for bringing your boards, beach chairs, and the whole family for a day of fun in the sun, but it's important to arrive early on the weekend, because parking spots fill up quickly. To the north, nearby Croyde Bay is one of the most popular surf spots in the U.K., providing punchier waves for those who prefer shorter boards.
With hundreds of named surf spots dotting the coasts of Scotland, England, Wales, and Northern Ireland, the U.K. is quickly becoming a true surf travel destination.