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The sand may not be white, the water may not be warm, but England’s surf spots make up for it with bags of character. Surf with a castle, lighthouse or island as your backdrop. Ride waves for 300 metres, sometimes more. Enjoy the feeling of remoteness, and the connection with nature. Yes, it’s cold. Yes, it’s rocky. But it’s also exhilarating. Here are some spots you might not have heard of.
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Bamburgh Beach, Northumberland
The North East of England is thought by many to be England’s best-kept surfing secret. Bamburgh, a village on the Northumbrian coast about half-way between Edinburgh and Newcastle, has a chilly, northeast-facing beach break. Rides are long and take place under wide open, haunting skies. Bamburgh Castle, complete with towers and turrets, makes a stunning setting. It’s cold but so so beautiful. Get cozy in a coastal cottage on the beach afterwards.
Surfers visiting Cornwall descend on crowded Porthmeor and Porthleven, but a little way along the coast is a huge sweeping bay, with plenty of space and consistent waves that go on for 100 meters. Welcome to Gwithian. Gwithian is a happy place. In the water, you’ll likely meet a comical-looking seal, bobbing around. Virginia Woolf holidayed near here and wrote about a mysterious lighthouse on an island in the bay. Head to the Rock Pool for a warm meal, and say hi to the cheerful locals. Gwithian has some beautiful places to stay close to the beach including chalets and coastal cottages, as well as campsites.
When the conditions are right, Kimmeridge Bay produces world-class waves. There’s no denying the breathtaking beauty of this remote beach on the Jurassic Coast, which is within a Marine Special Area of Conservation. But it is also a wild and unforgiving place. Known locally as Kbay, it is the domain of Dorset’s toughest surfers. You’ll have to clamber out over boulders and limestone slabs and if you wipe out then the bottom is rocky too. Without a board in hand, it’s one of the best coastal walks in Dorset. There isn’t anywhere to stay nearby – the closest place is Corfe Castle, which has some pubs with rooms and campsites.
Lynmouth is a Devonshire village of whitewashed houses and a popular surf competition spot. There are three different waves here. The most famous is a left-hand point break that can go on for 300 meters or more in the right conditions. When it’s stormy the surf can be huge, and waves break over rocks, making this a spot for the more experienced. If it’s not for you then the village has a pretty harbour and traditional pubs to chill in. Stay in a traditional English ‘Bed and Breakfast’ or a hotel.
Praa Sands is a gorgeous stretch of beach and an easy-going, typically Cornish surf spot. The wave is fast and breaks opposite the café. It can be good for a range of abilities depending on the conditions. There is a nice beachside restaurant, the Sandbar, where you can sit with a cocktail on the outdoor terrace. Board hire and local tuition make this a popular spot with beginners too. Good waves can happen here even in the summer when it’s flat elsewhere along the coast, and as a result, it can get crowded. There are plenty of places to stay in the area, including campsites and holiday cottages.
Many British surfers look forward to the experience of almost freezing to death in winter surf. For some reason, this is especially true in Yorkshire. The sea here is cold. Very, very cold. But locals love it anyway and say that on a good day their waves can beat Newquay’s hands down. South of Scarborough, which is a typical English seaside town of limited charm, Cayton Bay is a rocky beach break that boasts three excellent waves; Pumphouse, the Point and Bunkers. There is a strong, hardy surf community in this part of the world, with locals who have been surfing here since the seventies. If it’s just too cold, warm up in one of the towns’ hostels where you might meet other surfers.
Bantham has been a hub for British surfing since the 1960s and is where many of Britain’s young surfers cut their teeth. The sea meets the River Avon at the extremely pretty beach, and out in the bay is the stunning Burgh Island, Agatha Christies’ one-time writing retreat. The wave here breaks on the sandbanks formed by the river and is shallow and fast so good for those who know what they are doing. Bantham is a typically lovely English coastal village and has a popular pub called the Sloop, where you can also lay your tired head for the night.
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