Argyll's top surf spots
Scotland’s west coast, with its uncrowded sandy beaches, clear waters and Atlantic swells attracts adventurous surfers form around the world. And Argyll & the Isles has some of the country’s top surfing spots. There’s something for everyone, from the beginner looking for surfing lessons to hard-core riders seeking pounding breakers far from the surfing crowd. So grab your board, zip up that wetsuit and enjoy a surfing journey through Argyll & the Isles.
But before you get going, a word about safety. Many of the surfing beaches in Argyll are remote and you won’t find lifeguards patrolling them. All surf spots should be treated with caution and you should never surf alone. Rips and tides can be extreme and a sound knowledge of surfing conditions is essential if you are to stay safe. Talk to locals as much as possible and book in for some lessons with a surf school if you can.
Coll & Tiree
Tiree, the most westerly Inner Hebridean island, is called the ‘Hawaii of the north’. Its exposed location and sandy beaches make it a magnet for surfers from around the world. It’s perfectly placed to catch the swell from the North Atlantic, giving year-round, consistent waves. The island’s white sandy beaches face every direction and you’ll find conditions to suit all levels of surfer, from sedate rollers to barreling beach breaks. Tiree has a vibrant surfing scene and is home to some excellent surfing schools – Suds Surf, Wild Diamond and Blackhouse Watersports offer surfing instruction for all levels. So whether you’re a beginner looking for lessons or an expert looking for some challenging waves, Tiree should be top of your list for surfing in Argyll. There’s a great campsite run by Wild Diamond at Balinoe.
Neighbouring Coll doesn’t have the same surf scene as Tiree, but it does offer some fantastic surfing for those seeking adventure and empty beaches. This tiny island is home to some stunning sandy bays. Hogh Bay is probably the most popular beach with reliable surf. Having said that, it’s unlikely to be crowded – even when the surf’s up! Crossapoll Bay is another option for surfing on Coll. Check the surfing conditions on Coll’s beaches.
To get to Coll & Tiree, catch the ferry from Oban. CalMac’s Island Hopscotch® 19 is the best way to combine a visit to these western-most isles of the Inner Hebrides. The journey takes around two and a half hours. Watch out for dolphins, porpoises, basking sharks and whales – this is prime cetacean-spotting territory. The ferry from Coll to Tiree takes around another hour and drops you at the port in Scarinish. When you’re done on Tiree & Coll, get the ferry back to Oban. From here you can head south to the Kintyre peninsula for some more sensational surf.
The west coast of the Kintyre peninsula is another of Argyll’s surfing spots. Huge sandy beaches are often pounded by Atlantic breakers, making it a destination for adventurous surfers. Westport Beach stretches for six miles to Machrihanish. It has its own surfcam so you can check the waves before you arrive! Pete’s Surf School operates from the car park at Westport Beach, providing lessons for all levels as well as surf gear hire. Warm 5mm suits are standard all year round and boots, gloves and hoods are available too.
To get to Kintyre from Oban, follow the A816 and the A83 south. The drive takes about two and a half hours and it’s a stunning journey through some of mid Argyll’s most magnificent scenery, including Kilmartin Glen.
Up for some more surfing? It’s time to hop on the ferry to the inner Hebridean island of Islay.
Islay is famed for its smoky, single malt whiskies, overwintering geese and miles of sandy beaches. It also has a reputation for great waves among the surfing community. There’s nothing westwards of Islay until Newfoundland, so Islay picks up lots of swells thanks to its exposed Atlantic location. Laggan Bay and Machir Bay are probably the best surfing beaches. Even when the surf’s up, you’re likely to be the only ones on the line-up. Beautiful Saligo Bay is called ‘Psycho Bay’ by surfers, and as the name suggests, is only for the most experienced and hardcore of surfers.
To get to Islay, catch the CalMac ferry from Kennacraig on Kintyre to Port Ellen and Port Askaig on Islay. If you’re heading to Port Ellen, you’ll get a great view of three of Islay’s most famous distilleries, Ardbeg, Lagavulin and Laphroaig, as you sail by the coast of Islay.