Staycations for Surfing and Watersports in Ireland this SummerDaniel Robinson
If you’re a fan of surfing, watersports or outdoor adventure, there’s arguably no better place to be “stuck” this summer than the island of Ireland. While many are bemoaning the loss of holidays abroad this year, others are eagerly thinking of staycations that will provide an opportunity to really take in what’s already on our doorsteps.
When it comes to planning a staycation in Ireland, specifically if you’re seeking board-based thrills, we are spoiled for choice. Ireland’s breathtaking coastlines have helped grow some of the most passionate surfing communities in the world and anywhere from the north of Antrim, along the Wild Atlantic Way down to Cork and Kerry are places well worth visiting.
Now that hotels and accommodation in Northern Ireland and the Republic are reopening after lockdown, it’s a race to get stays booked. But if it’s been a while since you were last in the water, you first should make sure you’re ready before rushing back.
So, while we don’t get the same sunny weather as Canguu or Morocco, these beaches and towns have personalities of their own that will make a trip to any of them just as unique, action packed and memorable an experience in 2020.
Bundoran, County Donegal
Key beaches: Main Beach, Tullan Strand
This seaside resort near the south of Donegal has been a magnet for families and tourists for generations. With attractions for all ages as well as bars and a busy entertainment offering, its place is well cemented as a summer destination in Ireland. Even with restrictions still in place around the hospitality sector it will remain a popular choice with native holiday-makers this year as well as those interested in Bundoran’s famous surfing spots.
Like many places listed here, surfers travel from far and wide for Bundoran’s beaches, namely Main Beach and Tullan Strand, which is said to boast some of Ireland’s best surfing conditions. The rocks and reefs can make it dangerous for those lacking experience, but there are reputable companies like Murfs Surf School and Bundoran Surf Co on hand with lessons, equipment hire and travel packages to make everything easier for beginners and up.
Portrush, County Antrim
Key beaches: West Strand, East Strand, Whiterocks
Gazing out to the North Atlantic sea, Portrush is part of the formidable Causeway Coast which is awash with fabulous surfing and watersports locations. It shines as the jewel in the North Coast’s crown however for the collective strength of everything it offers in its peak summer season. Fantastic eateries, amusements, glistening stretches of sand and of course Royal Portrush golf club which played host to The Open in 2019.
But for all its golfing credentials, Portrush makes for an even better experience if water activities are what you’re after. The Antrim town has three Blue Flag beaches; West Strand, East Strand and Whiterocks, any of which are a fine launching point for surfing and Stand Up Paddle Boarding (SUP) while other local clubs facilitate all manner of sailing, diving, powerboating, coasteering and kayaking. Portrush Surf School is the area’s one stop shop for lessons, experiences and surfing break packages.
Key beaches: Strandhill, Streedagh, Easkey, Enniscrone, Mullaghmore
Sligo is spoiled for its wealth of outstanding beaches and big waves found on its western coast. Strandhill, Streedagh, Easkey and Enniscrone are all beaches suitable for novice surfers while those with years under their belts have the enticing Mullaghmore, where some of the biggest ever waves in Ireland have been recorded. If you’re a seasoned pro, perhaps you’ll be drawn by Mullaghmore’s mythical status and hope to capture that once in a lifetime magic.
If you still have a lot of learning to do though there are no better hands for you to be in than Sligo Surf Experience. Led by renowned bodyboarder Seamus McGoldrick, the school specialises in classes at Strandhill where visitors can get a true taste of what’s known as the “Surf Coast of the Wild Atlantic Way”.
There is much, much more to do and explore around County Sligo, including other other adventures at sea, hiking up Benbulben, or drinking in the local culture and nightlife. One thing for certain is that if you’re itching to make a splash you won’t be stuck for options in Sligo. Check out this guide for more information.
Lahinch, County Clare
Key beaches: Lahinch Beach
Another resort town, Lahinch has almost come to be defined by its affinity with surfing and attracts top athletes all year round. A world record was even set here in 2006 when 44 surfers all managed to ride a single wave!
The town’s beach in Liscannor Bay is also a natural hub for windsurfing, kitesurfing and kayaking, while Lahinch Golf Club was ranked 65th best in the world by Golf Digest only a few years back. Tours, lessons, summer camps and stays can all be booked through Lahinch Surf School, which is run by former Irish Surf Champion John McCarthy and will provide an unforgettably fun, friendly venture into the water for any skill level. Coaching and rental is also available from Lahinch Surf Experience, based at the bottom of the town’s promenade.
And if you’d like to have a little more variety in your trip to Lahinch, there are bus and boat tours to nearby wonders such as the Aran Islands and the spectacular Cliffs of Moher. The Burren National Park is also well worth allowing for a half day away to behold its unique, lunar terrain and historic outdoor tombs.
Castlegregory, County Kerry
Key beaches: Castlegregory Beach, Magherabeg Beach
Perched at the top of the Dingle Peninsula in County Kerry, Castlegregory has been described by National Geographic as “the most beautiful place on Earth”. That’s quite a statement considering even some of the other places on this list, never mind elsewhere in Ireland, and the whole entire world. But Castlegregory’s natural qualities, with stunning mountainous backdrops and part of one of Ireland’s longest beaches along Tralee Bay make its enduring popularity unsurprising.
Although Kerry itself has no shortage of choice surfing spots, from Inch Beach to Banna and Ballybunion, Castlegregory is a perfect all-rounder for your south-west staycation. Its known as the “Gold Coast” of the Dingle Peninsula and is home to Jamie Knox Watersports, now 30 years in business. The ex-professional windsurfer and ISA Senior Windsurfing Instructor’s school and surf shop is the place for all your water activity needs in Brandon Bay and the Maharees. If you’re not already a longtime surfer Jamie’s team will help you get the most out of a stay in this wonderful stretch of the country.
These are only a few many, many possible staycations around Ireland surfing and watersports fanatics could have in 2020. We’ve listed a few more schools and companies also well worth booking with below.
- Cork: Pukana Surf Adventures
- Dublin: IrishSUP, Big Style
- Waterford: Freedom Surf School
- Northern Ireland: Active Adventures NI, Sup Hub NI
Finally, please remember to bear in mind this is far from a normal summer and that many of these businesses are operating differently due to COVID-19 restrictions. It’s important to be respectful of this and always check ahead whether it’s with where you’re staying or the activities you’re planning. Have an amazing summer and safe surfing!