The Best Places to Go Surfing in Ireland

Surf the wild waves of the Atlantic

It is already well known that Ireland’s West Coast has become a hot spot for surf enthusiasts. But it’s not just professional surfers who visit the West for its waves. If you’d love to include surfing as an experience during your holiday there are also beaches that allow the not so advanced surfer to have a go.  I’ve checked out the best spots for surfing in Ireland for beginners as well as experts along the Wild Atlantic Way.

That’s the great thing about the Irish waves – there really is something for everyone. If you have never surfed before I’d recommend you to take a couple of lessons with one of the many surf schools that you will find at any surf beach. It will help you making the start so much more easy and give you the right technique to not have you waste that precious energy. But let’s face it, the first couple of days on the board will hurt…

The gentle hills of Inchydoney, Co. Cork. This beach is a popular surfing hotspot in Ireland.
The gentle hills of Inchydoney, Co. Cork. Photo: Fáilte Ireland

Surfing in Sligo

Situated at the heart of the Surf Coast, Sligo has long played host to an avid surfing community. The county combines both extremes: you have both gentle waves ideal for beginners and the ones that will make you go “challenge accepted”.

Strandhill for example would be a paradise for surfing beginners. Apart from being a popular beach destination for the Irish in general, you can find loads of surf schools there that will help you with your start. The beach is easy for paddling out and you can rely on gentle waves throughout summer & winter.

Now let’s step it up a bit… or even a bit more. Mullaghmore Head is the place where you’ll find the pros for big-wave surfing. The small fishing village has developed to become one of the most famous surfing spots in Ireland but also internationally. Even if you’re not one of those expert surfers it is a fantastic experience to simply watch them taking on the big waves. They can reach up to 15 metres and are surfed best in winter time. Lonely Planet even named Mullaghmore as one of the best surfing spots in 2013.

Something for high risk-takers is Easkey, set west to Strandhill and Mulaghmore. It has a long history of surfing and you will find that the Irish Surfing Association settled down there. The waves here are faster than on other beaches, because they break over rocks and not over the sand. Needless to say, this spot is one for experts.

Surfers in wetsuits walk across Strandhill Beach during a peaceful winters day. This is one of the most popular surfing spots in Co. Sligo, situated in the heart of the Wild Atlantic Way's Surf Coast.
Strandhill Beach on a peaceful winter’s day. Photo: Tourism Ireland

Surfing in Clare

Home to some of the most famous sights along the Wild Atlantic Way, Clare too features some beautiful places to catch some world-class surf. Yet beginners will find plenty of opportunities to get a feel for the sport as well.

Then there is Alieen. You might have heard of it – supposedly the perfect wave, you will find just 3km offshore to the Cliffs of Moher. So next to one of Ireland’s biggest attraction, one of Ireland’s biggest wave has formed. The giant can reach up to 13 metres, createing the perfect tube for surf-addicts to speed through. Aileen’s is so spectacular because it combines the energy of the warm Gulf Stream, a pull of the tide, as well as the wind from the east. These circumstances make the water of Aileen’s extremely clear and a unique surfing experience that has been featured in numerous magazines and has even gone viral.

Aileen’s Wave is just unreal! Photo: Fáilte Ireland

Back to reality, if you can call yourself a decent surfer already then you might have made it to Lahinch. On this beautiful beach you can find waves for beginners and intermediates, but due to the strong currents you have got to be careful and know the water well. You can enjoy the reef breaks though, that will give you a nice speed.

An absolutely gorgeous spot is Fanore Beach. Its reddish-black sand is the perfect backdrop for your surfing experience and is located just north of Lahinch. Fanore is ideal for beginners as you can expect to surf small, rolling waves. However, do check the conditions before you travel there as the waves are not as reliable as Lahinch, for example.

Surfing in Donegal

The far north of the Wild Atlantic way has plenty to offer the avid surfer looking to enjoy both some great swells and some of the most tranquil corners of the country.

Tullan Strand in Bundoran has it all, it offers gentle waves for complete beginners as well as more challenging swells for experts. The beach is huge and surfers can stretch out without rolling over each other. The beach is one of the oldest popular surf spots in Ireland and was also featured in the National Geographic. So you may tackle Bundoran Peak or try out one of the beginner’s waves.

Also, Bundoran makes the perfect place for food and drinks after your workout on the waves, as it hosts numerous cosy pubs and restaurants.

Tullan-Strand-Fairy-Bridge-Bundoran-Co.-Donegal-IE-EDITORIAL-ONLY-Alison-Crummy-Failte-Ireland

Surfing in Kerry

The rugged terrain that Kerry is renowned for offers a stunning backdrop to any day out at the beach.

Let’s travel a bit further down south to County Kerry to where an inch is actually 3 miles long. Inch Strand, located on the Dingle Peninsula gives you the chance to test out your surfing skills whether you’re a beginner or a bit more advanced. The waves are not as intimidating as Mullaghmore or Aileen’s but they sure are loads of fun. If you do surf there as a beginner, be aware that the life guards won’t be there in winter. At Inch Strand you can also expect to surf the longest waves in Europe. Sounds like great fun!

Surfing in Mayo

Mayo too is a true surfing hot spot, both on the mainland and on the islands! And some top-notch surf schools make it a fantastic place to start your first foray into the sport.

By far one of the most popular destinations for surfing in Mayo is Achill Island, where surfers can choose between five different beaches. Keel Beach is probably the most popular of the three, with rental facilities and the Blackfield Surf School situated close by – perfect if you want to brush up your skills or even take your first lessons. There are clearly marked sections for swimmers, so just keep an eye on which sections of the beach are open for surfing. Towards the northern shore of the island you’ll also find Silver Strand and Doogort as well, so you’re spoilt for choice here.

Belmullet is another great choice for surfing and well-suited for beginners. What’s more, the beautiful stretch of golden sand never gets too overcrowded, so you can enjoy your day out on the waves without having to put up with heaving crowds. Perfect for when you want to keep things nice and chill.

Surfing in West Cork

With its myriad of peninsulas and sheltered coves, West Cork may be one of the smaller regions to feature on this list, yet it has more than plenty up its sleeves to keep even the most avid surfer happy.

Enjoying growing popularity is Barleycove, situated near the very tip of the Mizen Peninsula. Great for beginners, this Blue Flag beach provides consistent surf and there are some gorgeous views to boot. If the kids are interested in taking up surfing, be sure to book a spot on the Barleycove Surf Camp – with everything from one-day sessions to even a week’s worth of lessons, kids get a fantastic introduction to the basis. Classes are open from June until September.

Inchydoney Beach is a hit with families thanks to the gentle waves, but they can reach up to five feet at times as well. This is another spot with a Blue Flag accolade, and the Inchydoney Surf School can provider everything from equipment rental and surf camps to private, 1-on-1 lessons.

Plan the perfect surfing holiday

I think this goes to show you don’t need to travel halfway around the world to catch some great surf. And the fact Ireland is becoming more and more internationally renowned for its surf just goes to show how good we have it at home!

If you’re craving a few days out on the waves or even fancy a chilled out break by the sea watching the professionals do their thing, be sure to browse my most recent offers for hotels and holiday rentals across the Wild Atlantic Way. I’m certain you’ll find the perfect wee getaway!

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