Cornwall is best-known for its famous surf beaches and busy surf breaks and until recently, wild swimming in Cornwall was a relatively specialist pursuit. The Cornish coastline is a treasure trove of estuaries, smuggler’s caves, meandering inlets and sandy coves. Cornwall’s south coast tends to be gentle with several meandering estuaries and millpond-like beaches, whilst the north coast of Cornwall is more dramatic and wild, bearing the full brunt of south-westerly Atlantic swells. Little-known secluded wild swimming spots are not usually a fixture on the tourist map and their secrecy is something which makes them even more alluring and magical! Along with spring-fed lakes, disused quarry pools, woodland waterfalls and moorland rivers, wild swimming in Cornwall is an amazing way to explore the natural beauty which comprises this glorious ancient land.
What is Wild Swimming?
Since Roman and Greek days, swimming or bathing in fresh water has been highly rated for its innumerable healthful attributes. Sometimes also called ‘free swimming’ or ‘outdoor swimming’, wild swimming essentially means swimming in the wild – be that in a river, lake or ocean. Outdoor swimming also includes the lidos and Victorian sea pools which we are so lucky to have here in Cornwall.
Wild swimming is as much about reconnecting with nature and experiencing the world from a unique and unusual perspective as it is about health benefits. Wild swimming in Cornwall celebrates the beauty of nature and getting back to your roots. You’ve never felt escapism and freedom like it until you feel the salt water on your skin or the tickle of a fish as it swims up river past your bare toes.
Wild swimming allows you to immerse yourself in an environment and become part of it, rather than being a neutral observer on the banks. All you need to enjoy a wild swim in Cornwall is a swimming costume (and even that is optional!). Free swimming engages all the senses, from the stinging of salty water to the silken feel of peaty mud underfoot and, as anyone who has been skinny dipping knows, wild swimming can be a sensual, sensory experience.
Five Best Spots for Wild Swimming in Cornwall
Bude Sea Pool
This beautiful tidal pool at Summerleaze Beach in Bude was created in the 1930s to provide a safe haven for the people of the town to swim. It curves under the cliffs on the North Cornwall coast and we think it is the best place in the world. We go there to rejuvenate and release the day’s stresses, soak in the views and just to enjoy the feeling of being salty! The natural sea pool in Bude is part man-made and part natural rock pool which fills twice daily with sea water when the high tide washes over (so totally untreated and unheated). Highly recommended!
Where? Right on the South West Coast Path just above Summerleaze Beach in Bude, the sea pool nestles at the foot of the cliffs.
Distance from Trevigue Farmhouse B&B- Approximately 13 miles
Web- Bude Sea Pool
Goldiggins Quarry, Bodmin Moor
This beautifully secret, spring-fed quarry lake is located out on the open moors but hidden in a small grassy amphitheatre with lots of flat rock ledges for jumping. The Pony Pool has sandy areas and gently shelving shallows, which make this small, sheltered lake perfect for kids. There’s even a waterfall!
Where? From the Hurlers car park in Minions, follow the track past the stone circle which heads North onto the moor. After 15 mins bear left at the junction and continue another ½ mile to find the quarry.
Distance from Trevigue Farmhouse B&B- Approximately 25miles
At the head of a wild woody dingle, a beautiful slender waterfall falls into a high basin, flows through a circular hole and drops into a plunge pool (the kieve). This is a holy place with prayer flags, a shrine room above (and lots of steps). This magical wild swimming spot in Cornwall has a deep spirituality which will capture even those who don’t believe in pixies and woodland nymphs.
Where? Just off B3263 in Trethevey, 2 miles east of Tintagel, there is a track with a postbox opposite a telephone box. Follow the track, then bear right and follow it for 1 mile, past St Piran’s Well, down into the woods and up along the pretty stream (keep eyes peeled for the piles of wishing stones) before finally climbing the steps up to the shrine entrance.
Distance from Trevigue Farmhouse B&B- Approximately 7 miles
Web- St Nectan’s Glen
Jubilee Pool, Penzance
The Victorian lido in Penzance is one of the oldest and largest sea water pools in the UK, and one of only a handful of saltwater tidal pools left in Europe. It was built in 1935 for George V’s silver jubilee (hence the name) and is stunningly art deco in its design. The view of St Michael’s Mount sitting just behind this striking outdoor sea pool makes it truly picturesque and you can see why it’s one of the most celebrated outdoor swimming pools in the UK. While outdoor swimming is the most popular choice, people also enjoy other activities such as stand up paddleboards, yoga, circuits and triathlons at the pool.
Where? Open every summer from the end of May to mid-September, Penzance’s Jubilee Pool juts out from the harbour into the sea. (postcode is TR18 4FF).
Distance from Trevigue Farmhouse B&B- Approximately 68 miles
Web- Jubilee Pool
For some of the most beautiful wild swimming in Cornwall, nay, the country (!) this spectacular bay has shallow lagoons and is a remote and wonderful place to while away the heat of the day paddling in turquoise waters. Seek out the atoll-island sand bars at Pedn Vounder (just east of Porthcurno). Striking pink flowers which adorn the headland all around the Porthcurno coast contrasts beautifully with the azure blue of the sea, and you’ll be forgiven for thinking you are in the Mediterranean or on a secluded Greek island (until the bracing sea water jolts you from your daydream!). Swim through the ‘song of the sea’ rock arch at Nanjuzal Bay, wallow in jade-green plunge pools and snorkel into sea caves shimmering with coralline. Porthcurno is an oasis of stunning natural beauty.
Where? Porthcurno Beach, TR19 6JX is beneath the world famous Minack Theatre. Porth Chapel has fun ledges to jump from, Porthgwarra boasts a secret tunnel and finally the real edge Land’s End, at Nanjizal Bay (50.0536, -5.6926).
Distance from Trevigue Farmhouse B&B- Approximately 76 miles
Whether you choose river, sea, open water or an outdoor pool, we think that wild swimming in Cornwall is a pursuit which everyone should try at least once! Where have you tried? Are there any local wild swimming hot spots that we’ve missed? Let us know on our Facebook page and join the Trevigue community!