Surfing in Ireland: 10 best beaches to visit in 2019
1. Rossnowlagh, County Donegal
Rossnowlagh beach in Donegal is one of the best beaches in Ireland to learn how to surf. Many of the nearby surf schools, such as Finn McCools Surf School and Hostel, offer sessions for absolute beginners. They provide two-hour lessons on long boards and winter wetsuits to keep you surprisingly warm – even in the chilly Irish waters. The three-kilometre long, Blue Flag beach is stunning both on and offshore. Very popular with local windsurfers and kitesurfers, it comes with a steady flow of waves and wind providing perfect conditions for all water sports.
The name Rossnowlagh stems from the Gaelic words Ros Neamhlach, which in English translates to ‘heavenly headland’. When you stand on the southerly headland, looking down onto the beach below, it’s very clear for all to see where the name came from. It’s one of the most incredible views on the west coast. Be sure to stop by the Smugglers Creek Inn for a cold post-surf pint and some locally caught mussels!
2. Ballybunion, County Kerry
Ballybunion‘s South Beach in County Kerry is one of the most underrated beaches in Ireland. Surrounded by rugged cliffs, recent winner of the International Blue Flag award, Men’s Beach (as the locals call it) has been a hot spot for surfers for over twenty years. Beginners can stick to the smaller and easy to manoeuver waves close to the shore. But more advanced surfers can head out to the Atlantic Cliff breaks for more challenging waves.
You can rent a board and wetsuits, or book beginner surf lessons with Ballybunion Surf School. Sessions start from just €35 for adults and €25 for kids (8-16 years). Head to McMunns Gastro Pub for some hot whiskey and seafood to warm you up after a long day in the surf.
For more beach holiday inspiration, check out our guide to the 10 best beaches in Ireland.
3. Easkey, County Sligo
This excellent reef break in County Sligo, along Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way, is recognised around the world as one of Ireland’s top surf spots. Located in the small village of Easkey, these waves can be surfed all year round. So famous is this tiny little spot that Surfer Magazine named it as one of the must-visit spots for travelling surfers looking for that perfect wave. Easkey is also a lovely little village to wander through when you’re back on dry land.
4. Inchydoney, County Cork
The beach at Inchydoney stretches out as far as the eye can see and the clean shores recently scooped up the award for best beach in Ireland. While the waves here are nowhere as big as Sligo or Donegal, the beach is perfect for beginners looking to stand up for the first time. Or simply looking for a picturesque location to sign up for surf school.
You can actually check out the waves on the Inchydoney Beach Cam to make sure your trip is worthwhile. Be sure to head on up to the Inchydoney Island Hotel for lunch, as they serve mouth-watering smoked salmon sandwiches and seafood chowder, caught fresh each morning. If you can afford to splurge a little, a stay in this luxury hotel with panoramic views and an award-winning spa will be one you won’t forget!
5. Inch, County Kerry
Inch beach, where an Inch is in fact three miles long, is a popular location for shooting Irish films such as Ryan’s Daughter and Far and Away. It’s also a favourite among local and visiting surfers, particularly during the summer months when the surf is ideal for families and young children – there are resident lifeguards on duty.
Once winter comes, and the lifeguards leave, the beach becomes a water sports haven for more experienced surf enthusiasts. Lessons can be booked through Kingdon Waves Surf School and start from €30 for individual lessons or €125 for a week-long course. There are a variety of breaks along the beach, so whether you are a novice, or have surfed the waves since you were barely old enough to walk, there is something everyone on this beautiful Blue Flag beach.
6. Strandhill, County Sligo
Not only are there great waves off the coast of this friendly Sligo town, but Strandhill itself has a really fun surf village vibe. Some great bars and restaurants will keep you entertained throughout your stay here. The Go Strandhill website will feed you with everything you need to know about the area, from where to find the best surf breaks to where to eat and the most fun places to grab a post-surf pint.
If you plan on sticking around for a few days, book yourself into the Surf and Stay Lodge and Surf School. The owner makes everyone feel at home, and you might even find yourself walking in on a live music session in the living room.
7. Aileen’s Wave, County Clare
Known internationally as ‘Ireland’s perfect wave’, Aileen’s Wave is somewhat of a mystical surf spot compared to everywhere else on this list. You’ve got to be extremely lucky to catch this perfect wave. It appears only a few times a year when the conditions are just right.
Found off the coast of County Clare, close to the 214-metre Cliffs of Moher (one of Ireland’s most visited tourist attractions), this wave can reach heights of up to 12 metres. Local scientists believe it’s the closest thing to a perfect wave that they’ve ever found. This wave is, understandably, only for professional surfers and even then it’s usually only surfed by the world’s top surfers.
Co. Clare is also home to Bunratty Castle, one of the 10 best castles in Ireland.
8. Lahinch, County Clare
Lahinch is consistently voted one of the top surf spots in Ireland thanks to the diverse range of breaks in the area. There are excellent beaches with consistent waves for beginners. And plenty of good reef breaks for more advanced surfers looking for a challenge.
Lahinch is also one of the only places in Ireland where you can get coaching from a former Irish surf champion. Lahinch Surf school is owned by former pro-surfer John McCarthy, who runs the school along with his crew of surfer friends. They are sure to have you stoked about surfing in no time.
9. Bundoran, County Donegal
Bundoran has been nicknamed the ‘surf capital of Ireland’ in recent years and it’s not difficult to see why. With an abundant choice of beaches, varying swells, varying sizes and with waves coming from every direction, Bundoran is a surfer’s dream.
Water sports fans descend on this tiny seaside town all year round to catch some of the best waves the west coast has to offer. Once you’ve tired yourself in the surf, enjoy the town’s pubs and live music venues. Or get an early night in one of the many great hostels, B&Bs and hotels in the area. Beginners can get surf lessons at TurfnSurf Lodge, which also offers dorm beds and the best sea views onto ‘the peak’ in Bundoran harbour.
10. Mullaghmore, County Sligo
Saving the biggest and best ’til last, the waves at Mullaghmore Head in County Sligo entice the most famous surfers in the world. These waves have been known to reach heights of 15 metres, making them one some of the biggest to ever hit the Irish coastline. Consistent good waves all year round make this incredible reef break off the cliffs at Mullaghmore one of the best big-wave surf spots in Ireland and the world.
10 of the best surf spots in Ireland 2019
|1. Rossnowlagh||County Donegal|
|2. Ballybunion||County Kerry|
|3. Easkey||County Sligo|
|4. Inchydoney||County Cork|
|5. Inch||County Kerry|
|6. Strandhill||County Sligo|
|7. Aileen’s Wave||County Clare|
|8. Lahinch||County Clare|
|9. Bundoran||County Donegal|
|10. Mullaghmore||County Sligo|
*Updated May 2019. Prices correct at the time of publication and are subject to change and/or availability.