Surfing in Ireland: the mutant barrels are waiting for you | Photo: Mitchinson/WSL

Ireland is one of the most underrated surfing nations on the planet. Despite the cold air and water temperatures, the Irish coastline is full of idyllic waves, and perfect surf spots.

Do a quick internet search of "surfing," and you'll be met with hundreds of pictures of bright blue waters and skies to match. In places like California and Australia, wetsuits are optional; the water temperature hovers around a pleasant 20 degrees Celsius and their affinity for watersports is world-renowned.

And yet, halfway around the world on a tiny spec of land known better for rolling hills and pubs, there is a surf culture thriving. Surfing came to Ireland in 1949, and it's been its best-kept secret ever since.

There is a stark contrast between the culture here and the typical "beach bumming" aesthetic of hotter climates, with Irish surfers braving sleet and hail through the winter months, and sometimes the summer too, but the Emerald Isle manages to make the global ranking for best waves time and time again.

The country has surf peaks for all levels of experience. If you're a surfer looking for adventure, nature, and cultural diversity, Ireland is the perfect surfing destination.

So where should you go to catch the best waves? Discover ten surf breaks that will make you fall in love with Ireland. Ride them, and finish the day hearing folk music at the nearest pub with a pint of Guinness in hand.

Beginner Surfers

Inchydoney, County Cork, Ireland

Inchydoney: a beautiful Irish island beach | Photo: Inchydoney Island Lodge & Spa

Inchydoney is a small island, attached to the mainland by way of two causeways, and the gorgeous Blue Flag beach here is the perfect spot for surfing beginners to find their feet. This beach also took the number one place in TripAdvisor's list of its users' favorite beaches, proving it to be a particularly must-see location.

Carrowniskey, County Mayo, Ireland

Carrowniskey: a perfect spot to learn to surf | Photo: Surf Mayo

Best known for the horse races conducted on the long stretch of sand here, Carrowniskey is another excellent spot for those just learning to stand up on their board. It can be quite busy in the summer, but the waves are some of the most dependable in Ireland, and the view of the hills of Connemara make a perfect backdrop.

Achill Island, County Mayo, Ireland

Achill Island: a stunning surf spot | Photo: Stacy/Creative Commons

Situated in County Mayo, the largest island off the coast of Ireland is not only gorgeously scenic but is also a popular spot for water sports. Out of the various beaches on this tiny spec of land, Keel Beach is best for those just starting out, with four kilometers of sandy beach and consistent rolling breakers. At the eastern side, you can also spot the famous Minuan Cliffs.

Enniscrone, County Sligo, Ireland

Enniscrone: an ideal surf break for beginners | Photo: Diamond Hotel

Another beginner friendly beach and popular family holiday spot, Enniscrone boasts a five-kilometer stretch of beach and more of Ireland's stunning views. The waves are usually moderate here, making it an ideal introduction to the sport, or, if you'd prefer some professional tips, you can catch a lesson with one of the surf schools in the area.


Intermediate Surfers

Easkey, County Sligo, Ireland

Easkey: there are fun left-handers here | Photo: Tushingham

It's named for being "abundant in fish," but Easkey has much more to offer than food. This is another spot you can surf all year round, and with two reef breaks to ride, even the more experienced surfer can find this one a fun challenge. The Irish Surfing Association is also based here; its headquarters are located in Easkey House, in the centre of the village.

Ballybunion, County Kerry, Ireland

Ballybunion: Men's Beach offers six kilometers of waves | Photo: Stay In Kerry

Ballybunion has two main beaches: Men's Beach and Women's Beach, named during the days when the men and women bathed in separate areas. With six kilometers length and a variety of beach and reef breaks, Men's Beach is particularly good for surfers, but the entire area is worth exploring. Highlights include shallow caves at Women's Beach and the rare perfection of Nun's Beach.

Rossnowlagh, County Donegal, Ireland

Rossnowlagh: a Blue Flag surfing beach | Photo: Sandhouse

Rossnowlagh is one of Ireland's best Blue Flag beaches. It isn't too far from Bundoran, but is quieter than some of the other spots and has great water quality. The surf here is mostly consistent, with some particularly large rollers in winter months. This town has also hosted the Irish Inter Counties Surfing Championships, Ireland's longest-running surf competition, for over forty years.

Castlerock, County Londonderry, Northern Ireland

Castlerock: an incredible surf spot dominated by Mussenden Temple | Photo: code poet/Creative Commons

Situated on the north coast of Northern Ireland, Castlerock is popular with families with children, as well as surfers. With the rugged cliffs hugging the coastline, and Mussenden Temple perched on top of them, this area offers great views as well as good surf for those trying to advance beyond beginner level.


Experts and Advanced Surfers

The Peak, Bundoran, County Donegal, Ireland

The Peak: Bundoran's finest surf spot | Photo: Europe Surfing

Bundoran has been heralded as the surf capital of Ireland, and for a good reason. The high-quality waves here attract surfers from around the world, and The Peak has even played host to the European Surfing Championship. If not for the waves, but for the experience of having surfed where surf legends like Kelly Slater and Tom Curren have before.

Mullaghmore, County Sligo, Ireland

Mullaghmore: the mother of all Irish waves | Photo: Bundoran Surf Company

The most intense surf spot in Ireland and one of the best big wave surfing spots on the globe, Mullaghmore is an experts-only spot. The waves here have been known to break bones and boards in particularly intense weather, and The Head is a reef break, making it even more difficult to ride. For experienced thrill-seekers, though, there's nothing like it.

Know more about surfing in Ireland.


Words by Laura Fulton (David Murphy Towing).