Surf holidays don’t have to mean noisy backpacker lodges and sticky floors. Those craving the regenerative benefits of sand and sea, after months of isolation, can book some truly unique British surf stays to rival anything abroad. Near world-class waves and areas of outstanding natural beauty abound right here in the UK.
Surfing has long been used as a form of therapy for mental and physical ailments, with surfers the world over claiming it has rehabilitative and restorative effects. Studies have suggested surfing releases stress, relieves anxiety and even helps to treat PTSD.
Once you’ve surfed your way out of your lockdown funk, bed up in one of these quirky, strange, and extraordinary stays.
1. The architectural cabins, Trebarwith, England
Raised above the ground on wooden stilts, these off-grid spaceship-like hideouts have 180-degree views of the surrounding wild willow forests and the Atlantic Ocean in the distance. The small but cleverly designed pods are made 100 per cent sustainably – inside are raised natural wood beds and floor to ceiling windows for sunrise watching.
There’s a wood-fired hot tub on-site for relaxing post-surf, plus a 40-foot waterfall and a 43-acre slate quarry to explore. Intermediate to advanced surfing beach Trebawith Strand is one mile away. Tip: Try the Kudhva cocktail, made from local hand-picked botanicals – wild strawberries, gorse flowers, spotted orchids, cotton grass, honeysuckle, king ferns, wood violets and water mint.
Sleeps two, from £123 per night; book here.
2. The house on an island, Newquay, England
Situated atop a chunk of cliff separated from the mainland, and accessed via a suspension bridge, this island is completely isolated and surrounded by water at high tide. “It’s particularly spectacular for storm watching,” says Shane Cornish, the director of Boutique Retreats.
Once on the island, you can pick your own flag from the collection in the house and raise it to let everyone know you’ve arrived; “My favourite is the skull and crossbones,” says Cornish. The sheltered Towan beach below is the place to learn how to ride waves.
Sleeps six, from £1,776 for three nights; book here.
3. The eco turf houses, Isle of Lewis, Scotland
Turf houses are not just home to hobbits in Lord of the Rings; folks in the northern hemisphere have been building turf houses since 4,000BC. Blending into their landscape, these clever insulated roofs keep the houses naturally warm and cosy – ideal after a bracing North Atlantic surf. These cottages also attract wildlife, and have “machair” flowers growing on them in the summer months. For extra warmth, there’s under-floor heating and fuel-burning stoves.
A long curved bay window offers unobstructed views of the beaches (which have some of the cleanest water on the planet). And stay guilt free – a wind turbine 300 metres away provides all the power to these eco-abodes. Thoughtful touches include 100 per cent organic body wash and shampoo, made of hand-harvested local seaweed (supposedly its natural anti-oxidants have anti-ageing properties). Surf nearby at Scarista beach (with Surf Lewis).
Sleeps two, from £600 for two nights; book here.
4. The inland surf camp, Bristol, England
Miles from the beach, surrounded by farmland on the outskirts of the city, The Camp at The Wave is minutes from an artificial surf break producing 1,000 perfect waves of varying sizes and shapes an hour (some up to two metres high). “The Camp at The Wave is located metres from the most consistent surf break in the country,” says founder Nick Hounsfield.
Unlike other surf destinations, “you can book your trip for whenever suits you and be guaranteed perfect waves,” he says. These stilted safari-style tents have wooden floorboards, a wood-burning stove, proper beds and a kitchen. There’s also a cafe on site.
Sleeps eight, two-night minimum stay mid-week and three-night minimum stay on weekends. From £105; book here.
5. The bubble domes, Enniskillen, Northern Ireland
Completely see-through, these blob-shaped rooms offer 360-degree views. It’s eerie at first to think you are completely on view to the outside world, but being an accidental exhibitionist has many advantages: gazing at the clear night sky from your four-poster bed, and working at a desk fully immersed in nature.
These domes are a way to fully “disconnect from the everyday noises of life and reconnect with the simple pleasures of nature”, says co-owner Gillian Beare. Deluxe bubbles are surrounded by trees for privacy and come with a retro radio and record player, plus designer chairs. Of course, those sensitive to light can forget a lie in, as sunlight streams through the walls. And this also means the domes heat up fast during the day – so plan on being out surfing at Bundoran, a 30-minute drive from the bubbles. The area has a number of world-class breaks.
Sleeps two, from £295 per night; book here.
6. The retro Airstream, Carmarthenshire, Wales
Named after its vintage, the “76er” is a 31-foot kitsch Americana camper, which crossed the pond and ended up in rural Wales. Its owners have managed to fit a charmingly compact kitchen, lounge, dining table and sofa inside. Bathroom facilities are atmospherically off-site – brace yourself for the Swedish compost loo and outdoor bathtub on its own deck among the trees.
While it’s not right on top of the beach, a 45-minute drive will take you to the Gower Peninsular – home to some of the best surfing beaches in the country. Llangennith is a three-mile swell magnet.
Sleeps two, from £300 for four nights or £600 for seven nights; book here.
7. The wave-shaped cabins, Outer Hebrides, Scotland
Right on the wild and pristine Uig Bay, where white sand is offset by deep green hills and piercing blue water, you can fall asleep to the sound of the surf inside a cosy Carnish Cabin, designed in the shape of a wave. It’s possible to see otters, seals, dolphins and harmless basking sharks in the waters, plus wild deer roaming around the coastline.
Look overhead for diving gannets, eagles and piercing stars of an evening – it’s occasionally possible to see the northern lights. The nearby Cliff Bay and Mangursta Bay are excellent breaks for experienced surfers (watch out for rip currents).
Sleeps two, from £595 for seven nights; book here.
8. The beach hut, Whitsand Bay, England
High above the Cornish coast, this chic cedar-clad beach hut feels like it’s at the edge of the world. Far from the dilapidated deckchair-filled sheds on the beach, this hut is glam, with plush linens and designer furniture.
It’s got bird’s eye views of the dramatic surf and the four-mile stretch of sand below – after a session, you can wash off your salty skin in the alfresco shower and soak in the outdoor hot tub. Tip: Runners bring your trainers – there’s a rugged cliff track right next to the cabin.
Sleeps two, from £1,395 per short break; book here.
9. The coastal carriage, Ceredigion, Wales
The last of its type in existence, this Edwardian original sleeper carriage was built in 1905 for the London and South Western Railway. It used to form part of the Plymouth-Waterloo “boat train”, before it was retired from service in 1931 and transported to this unlikely location on an Aberporth cliffside.
Original details remain throughout, including the narrow corridor and century-old wood panelling. There’s a comfy main cabin with a wood-burner, but the best bit is the view out to sea – keep your eyes peeled for dolphins off the coastline. Excellent waves can be found down the coastal path at Tresaith beach.
Sleeps five, from £354 for three nights; book here.
10. The glamping surf pods, Bude, England
Built with biophilia in mind, these quirky cave-like glamping huts are all about merging indoor living with the outside world. In a sheltered spot surrounded by Cornish farms, and minutes from the UK’s best waves, they are surprisingly spacious – with comfy king-size memory foam beds, underfloor heating and external wet rooms for showering off after the beach. Of an evening, use the private barbecue and relax on the deck overlooking lush lawns.
Pods sleep two adults and two children, from £69 per night; book here.