Surf’s up: Making waves on the west coast of Ireland

by Ellen Curham

Surf's up in SligoWhen you think of surfing holidays, Ireland probably isn’t the first place that springs to mind. However, the Emerald Isle is actually one of Europe’s best-kept surfing secrets.

The West of Ireland, in particular, has some great spots for catching waves and while you’re there you can check out the beautiful, rugged Irish scenery. Given that it’s only a short plane ride away from many European cities, you can easily fit it in as a weekend getaway or part of a larger tour of the continent.

Whether you’re a beginner or a pro, it’s worth checking out Ireland’s surf scene and experiencing all that the Atlantic has to offer on this side of the world. So grab your board and get ready to hit the beach.


Bundoran, Co. Donegal

On the beach in BundoranNestled in the North West of the island in Co. Donegal, Bundoran is the most famous surfing spot in Ireland and on the bucket list of even the most seasoned surfers. Known as Ireland’s surf capital, this small town comes to life every weekend with surfers from all over the world flocking to the area to experience some of those wild Atlantic waves.

Tullan Strand is one of Ireland’s best surfing beaches with incredible swells all year round. It’s two miles long and gets calmer the further down you go, where you will find many people getting lessons. Because of its popularity, this place can get pretty crowded, so more experienced surfers can also check out The Peak, The Sandbar at Main Beach and The Drowes River Mouth.

Getting there: From Dublin airport you can either rent a car or hop on a Bus Éireann coach, Ireland’s national bus service. This takes about four hours. To get to Bundoran from Belfast, it’s a two-hour drive or else you can get a train to Derry and a bus from there, or a bus to Enniskillen and another one to Bundoran. Driving is by far the best way to get around Bundoran although you can walk to many of the beaches from the village if you don’t have a car.

Sunset in BundoranLessons and rentals: Schools offer lessons and surf camps all year round in Bundoran. TurfnSurf and Bundoran Surf Co both offer beginner camps and refresher lessons. It goes without saying that it’s easy to get rentals in this surf haven if you don’t feel like bringing your own gear. The Atlantic Ocean is cold and it also gets quite windy so wetsuits are essential.

Accommodation: The TurfnSurf Lodge Bundoran is an award-winning surf school that also offers hostel-style accommodation and free breakfast. Similarly, Bundoran Surf Lodge impresses guests with its friendly accommodation, school and shop, right on Main Street.

Other things worth checking out: You can’t go to the West of Ireland without trying the Guinness. Grab a pint of the black stuff at The Chasing Bull Pub, right in the heart of Bundoran village. If you’re planning a trip in June then you should check out Sea Sessions, an increasingly popular festival that’s been making waves amongst surfers and music fans alike, featuring top Irish acts as well as international stars. 2016’s festival is headlined by Primal Scream, Tinie Tempah, Gavin James, Sunset Sons and more.


Lahinch, Co. Clare

Sunset over Co ClareFurther south on the West Coast, you’ll find Lahinch in Co. Clare, another Irish surf mecca. This picturesque town is a favourite weekend getaway for Irish people—especially groups of friends, bachelor and bachelorette parties and corporate retreats. However, it also attracts plenty of international tourists and surfers thanks to its year-round good waves and bustling nightlife.

The beautiful Main Beach at Lahinch offers ideal conditions for beginners who want to catch some actual waves. More experienced surfers should check out Doolin, Doonbeg and Spanish Point for bigger swells and smaller crowds.

Getting there: From Dublin, it’s a three-and-a-half hour drive to Lahinch. Otherwise, get a GoBus or CityLink bus to Galway and then a Bus Eireann bus to Lahinch. If coming from Belfast, get a bus from there to Dublin and follow the same route. The area is best explored by car but there are shuttle options available if you don’t have one.

Surf coaching in LahinchLessons and rentals: You’ll find a handful of surf schools at Lahinch offering different lesson plans based on experience and the amount of time you have. Check out Lahinch Surf School, Ben’s Surf Clinic and Lahinch Surf Experience, which are all highly rated. These all offer both wetsuit and board rentals or you can bring your own if you please.

Accommodation: Lahinch Hostel offers dorms, a well-equipped kitchen and surf rentals as well as common areas to meet fellow travellers. There are also plenty of short-term rental properties in the area if you are part of a big group; our Group Bookings team can help you with that!

Other things worth checking out: Lahinch is just a short drive away from two of Ireland’s most spectacular sites: The Cliffs of Moher and The Burren. Don’t miss your chance to see these natural wonders in all their glory. After a day of sightseeing make sure to check out Lahinch’s lively bar scene and enjoy some pub grub and a pint.


Alternative Irish surfing spots

Beautiful TramoreBundoran and Lahinch are the names on everybody’s lips when it comes to surfing in Ireland but it doesn’t end there. West Cork offers a stunning backdrop to some great waves, too, and is only a short drive from one of Ireland’s best cities. And even further west is Ballybunion in County Kerry, with four miles of sand and cliff breaks that create some gnarly waves for surfers wanting a challenge. If you don’t have time to head to the Atlantic, the Copper Coast at Tramore, Co. Waterford, can offer waves to rival the West on a good day and is only a couple of hours from Dublin. Ireland may be a small country but it certainly doesn’t come up short where surfing is concerned.


Thanks to dusi_bbg, John Menard, Telping, lee_ciaran, Alan Milligan and Tambako the Jaguar for use of their great images under the Creative Commons license.

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