Although Cornwall may be the “capital” of surfing in the UK, northern neighbor Devon is definitely holding as well. Centered around two distinct regions—Barnstable-Croyde in the north and Plymouth-Torquay in the south—Devon has a number of popular waves, but also many secrets with difficult access and far smaller crowds. For the prototypical English surfing experience minus the hype of Cornwall’s Newquay, one could do a lot worse than Devon.
The Surf: Beach breaks, river mouths, points and reefs—Devon has a little of everything. You’ll need patience to score, as conditions can be quite fickle, but those in the right place at the right time enjoy waves as good as anywhere else in Europe. In general, this is a beginner to advanced destination, depending on where and when you are surfing.
Five Waves Worth Surfing:
- Bantham River Mouth: A classic righthand setup breaking in the mouth of the Avon River, Bantham is close to Plymouth, making it one of the more accessible waves in the region.
- Thurlestone: A righthand sandbar setup in Thurlestone, this wave is a good pressure release valve from the crowds in Bantham.
- Speke’s Mill: A left- and right-breaking reef peak in a beautiful setting in northern Devon, Speke’s has been known for a while now and can be crowded at times.
- Croyde: As you’d guess from the name, this user-friendly beach break setup is in Croyde, which means easy access and lots of surfers.
- Putsborough: Another beach break setup north of Croyde, Putsborough is protected from S and SW wind, making it a good choice during stormy conditions.
The Water: Similar to Cornwall, the water in Devon is not as dirty as one would think—but it does live up to its reputation for cold. Surface temps range from 48 to 63 F (9 to 17 C), with select areas getting colder during winter.
The Season: Summer (May through August) can be pretty inconsistent, but enjoys relatively nice weather, while winter (December through February) sees bigger swells and stormy conditions. As with most northern hemisphere destinations, fall (September through November) is your best bet.
The Vibe: Popular waves around large cities will be crowded, and secret spots will be localized (especially when they are pumping). But there are a lot of empty waves in the region, so don’t be afraid to search.
Things To Do: London is a classic tourist destination, with any number of cultural and architectural highlights.
Where To Stay: Your best bet will be to base yourself in the Barnstable-Croyde area (if you are surfing the north) or Plymouth (if you are surfing the south).
What To Bring: A shortboard and either a fish/hybrid or a longboard (for the days that are less than stellar). Thick wetsuits, booties, gloves and a hood—particularly if you are coming in winter. Patience and a tolerance for crappy weather. A peacoat and some galoshes.
Getting There: Exeter International Airport is the main gateway into Devon and is accessed by frequent flights from London. You can also choose from a number of different driving routes. Nationals of many countries do not require a visa. Airport codes: LHR (London Heathrow) and EXT (Exeter).