Scotland probably isn’t your first thought when thinking of surfing destinations. However, the country’s west coast is a hot spot for sea lovers who want to catch some waves.
The coast is situated on the Atlantic and gets some fantastic northern swells. The best time to visit is during autumn and winter. While the weather may be dark and cold, the waves are just right.
Conditions are harsh, there is the occasional chunk of floating ice, but surfers relish in the challenge.
Are you considering a surf holiday in Scotland? Well, here’s everything you need to know about surfing on the west coast.
Surfing Destinations on Scotland’s West Coast
Isle of Tiree
This is the most western island of the Inner Hebrides. It’s packed with sandy beaches and is known for its beautiful waters.
The warm Gulf Stream waters and sunny climate make this one of the most loved destinations in the UK.
Between the Gulf and the North Atlantic swell, the waves are plentiful here, all year round.
In fact, Tiree is often called, ‘the Hawaii of the North.’ And, it’s pretty easy to tell why.
The coastline here is quite small actually, with 12 miles in length and three in width.
Surfers who visit from December to January are in for some strong gusts of wind.
Aside from the great surf conditions, Tiree offers soft, white sand, archaeological sites, bird and wildlife sightings, and plenty of scenic walks on the coast.
Surfers tend to gather here for the Tiree Wave Classic. It’s the world’s longest running windsurfing event.
The event features professional windsurfers from the UK and around the world. And for visitors, this event offers some of the best in surf culture.
The classic runs for a week with various happenings and events throughout each day.
Islay is known for single malt whiskies and sandy beaches. This combo makes it a great surfing destination for sports enthusiasts.
Because there isn’t much west of Islay, the winds pick up and create enormous swells.
The top surfing beaches here are Machir Bay and Laggan Bay. But, Saligo Bay, otherwise known as ‘psycho bay,’ is a top choice for experienced surfers.
Islay is a hotspot for visitors, both for surfing and for the other activities. If you spend some time here, make sure to check out the cycling, golfing, fishing, hill walking, and horseback riding opportunities.
Guests on Islay can also check out the quaint villages and the Museum of Islay Life to learn more about the local culture and history.
And, once you finish surfing or exploring the city for the day, you can relax at one of the eight distilleries in the area.
Visitors can get a map of the distilleries and spend some time tasting at each of them.
The beaches here are expansive and are constantly getting hit with Atlantic breakers.
These rough conditions make Kintyre peninsula a great spot for more adventurous surfers.
A popular spot for surfing is Westport Beach which stretches all the way to Machrihanish, about six miles away.
Considered a surfing secret, Machrihanish is a little village that offers some quality waves.
There are rivermouth peaks, and the south side is great for protected surfing.
Westport is loved for its dunes, massive tides, and rip currents.
Visitors love that it operates its own surfcam so that they can check the waves before they head out.
Make sure to visit Pete’s Surf School which offers lessons and gear for hire.
They have everything you’ll need to stay warm during the winter surf season.
Isle of Lewis
Paired up with the isle of Harris, Lewis helps to make up the Outer Hebride’s largest island.
Aside from beauty, there is a ton of cultural heritage and history to explore.
Visitors especially love to see the hilly coastline, meadows, moorland, mountains, rocky plateaus, and sandy beaches.
Surfers love the beaches here because they are usually empty, giving them plenty of space to catch waves.
The water is free of pollution and the reef breaks make the surfing conditions optimal.
Warm waters come in on the North Atlantic Drift current which starts in the Gulf of Mexico.
Since winter is such a great time to surf in Scotland, the warm waters are appreciated.
Check out Surf Lewis for lessons and gear hire. They are one of the best shops around.
Oban is the main town of the Argyll region, making it a perfect home base for surfing adventures around western Scotland.
In fact, it’s considered a gateway to the isles. The town is full of shops, restaurants, and places to relax.
And, Ganavan Sands beach is located just north of the town. While surfing isn’t the top activity here, it is a good spot for beginners to get used to their boards.
The allure of Oban is its prime location to some of western Scotland’s premier surf destinations.
If you’re taking a break from your surfing holiday, spend some time in Oban watching whales and dolphins.
Visitors also enjoy various historic museums and the relaxing café culture.
Popular attractions here include the Dunollie Museum, Mccaig’s Tower, the Ocean Explorer Center, and Taynuilt golf club.
Oban is home to a distillery, the War and Peace Museum, the Finn Falconry, and the Dunstaffnage Castle and Chapel.
Plus, it’s a great port for taking sailing and boat excursions around the coast. Many visitors get a chance to do a boat tour from Oban to view puffins, seabirds, and seals.
Located on the Isle of Harris, this beach is one of the most popular in the UK.
It’s quite remote and has become world-renowned for its beauty. The turquoise water is the first thing you’ll notice, followed by the ripples of soft sand.
The area is largely unspoiled, is great for dolphin watching, and is popular with surfers.
The surf comes in unbroken and the waters have been significantly cleaned up over the years.
It’s a great way to see one of Scotland’s most beautiful beaches while getting in some surf as well.
A popular activity here is the 3-mile cycle trail that runs from the beach to the main road in Harris. It offers incredible vistas that makes the perfect backdrop for a photo.
If you want to take a break from the board and try out a bike, this is the beach trail to do it on.
This uninhabited island is just west from the Isle of Harris. Many people might recognize it from the show, Castaway 2000.
It’s truly stunning and visitors won’t have to worry about crowds.
Accessible by boat, surfers can take a day trip to the island for plenty of fine waves.
There are numerous beaches with golden sand and opportunities for wildlife sightings.
Visit the Sound of Taransay if you want to get a peak at basking whales. Sheep, sea eagles, and red deer can also be spotted around the island.
While there is no transit on Taransay, everything is easily accessible by walking.
There is a sport center by the Sound so that you can hire surfing gear to complete your trip.
Sandwood Bay, Sutherland
This tranquil loch is surrounded by imposing dunes and plenty of wildlife. It’s one of Scotland’s most remote beaches and has retained its beauty because of that.
The area has a historic background. Scientists say that some of the rocks here may be some of the oldest on the planet.
The beach faces the north Atlantic and stretches for 1.5 miles. The only way to reach it is by taking the path from the hamlet of Blairmore, which stretches for four miles.
Surfers enjoy the beauty, the steady waves, and the seclusion that gives them plenty of space for their sport.
St. Ninian’s Isle Beach, Shetland
This white sand beach stretches for 500 meters and is one of the most beloved coastlines in Scotland.
It’s so beautiful in fact, that the scene is often used on tourist pamphlets to depict the beauty of Scotland.
Water sport enthusiasts have been coming to this beach for years since the conditions are just as fantastic as the scenery.
Both surfers and windsurfers spend time with the waves here. And most of the time, the water is shared with fishermen, boats, kayakers, divers, and snorkelers.
This spot is also frequented by families as the expansive beach makes an ideal spot for a picnic.
Once you finish hitting the waves, there are plenty of ways to relax on this picture perfect beach.
This beach is located just three miles north of Lochinver. It’s slightly secluded and has crystal clear, turquoise waters, which is why many people call it a paradise.
The cliffs make a beautiful backdrop and the rock formations give this beach character.
Visitors can take walks along the cliffs to get some of the best views around. There are various walks, the chance to see dolphins, and an abandoned castle to explore.
This area is a favorite for snorkelers, windsurfers, kayakers, and surfers.
The scene is beautiful, and the waves are mild, making this beach a great spot for any kind of surfer.
Kiloran Bay, Uragaig
Located on the northwest coast of Colonsay, this beach is known for its golden sands.
Between the North Atlantic swell and the westerly winds, the waves are ideal for surfers who like a challenge.
Many visitors choose to visit for the scenic walks and the chance to explore the caves. And, the beaches are often sprinkled with artists and photographers who come to capture the moody colors.
Some days this beach is tranquil while others it turns into a wild wind tunnel.
Surfers should be experienced if they want to catch waves here.
Just a 30-minute walk from the car park and you’ll be looking out over the beautiful beach at Talisker Bay.
The black and white sand makes this beach extra beautiful and is best seen during low tide.
There are high cliffs and a waterfall which make the bay look postcard perfect.
In fact, it’s considered one of Scotland’s most romantic destinations.
This spot is considered remote for surfers and has a west-facing beach break that works well with the southwest swell.
The surf offers left and right peaks too.
Once you’re done hitting the waves, head over to the Talisker Distillery to warm up with a single malt.
Tips For Surfing Scotland’s West Coast
- Since the best time for surfing in Scotland is winter, you’ll need the proper gear. Make sure you have a well-insulated wetsuit so that you can withstand the cold.
- Book accommodation in a central location on the west coast. This will allow you to have easy access to all of the best beaches.
- Plan to stay at least five days so that you have a chance to explore many of the beaches.
- Consider renting a board and your gear instead of flying with it. There are multiple surf shops on the west coast that can help you get what you need.
- Research which beaches are known for rough conditions. You don’t want to end up in rough surf if you aren’t prepared to handle it.
- Get to know the locals on the beach and in the surf shops. They can introduce you to Scotland’s unique surf culture.
- If you aren’t a well-seasoned surfer, don’t be intimidated. There are surfers from every skill level so you should be able to fit right in no matter how long you have been surfing.
- Consider windsurfing in addition to regular surfing. A lot of the beaches on the west coast offer great opportunities to try out this alternative way to surf.
Surfing on the west coast of Scotland is a treat for anyone who likes the sport. The scenery is rugged, romantic, and unique when it comes to a surfer’s paradise.
Hop in the car, take a coastal road trip and test out the water and waves at each location. If you are looking for some accommodation to stay in during your surf-trip, get in touch with us today and we can find the best property for you.