Whether you’re a seasoned wild swimmer or just fancy a chlorine-free, alfresco dip, Cornwall has some of the cleanest, most serene spots for fresh and seawater paddles.
Reconnect with nature, exercise and give you and your family a unique outdoor experience. Be inspired by our guide to open air bathing spots and outdoor swimming pools in Cornwall.
Wild swimming or open water swimming is not only great for your physical health but your mental health too. The gentle ebbing of the tide, seeing the shore from a different perspective and the lack of frantic thrashing and splashing is therapeutic in nature. An invigorating experience that sharpens your senses. And not just because of the fresh temperature of the lakes, rivers, quarries and seas in which people swim. Taking the plunge away from the often sterile, same-old indoor pools with their heavy scent of chlorine to the great outdoors is easier than you think. Especially in Cornwall.
When wild swimming in Cornwall, check the tide times and adhere to the RNLI ‘Swim Safe’ precautions.
Swimming in the sea in Cornwall: Portminster Beach
Located just east of St.Ives, Portminster Beach is the perfect place for a sea swim in Cornwall. Porthminster is fully lifeguarded during the summer months and has to be one of the most pristine beaches in West Cornwall. The crescent of golden sand benefits from a warm climate and translucent blue waters. We suggest you make the most of the cawing gull alarm clock and take an early morning swim when the sea is millpond like and mirroring the sky.
Open water swimming in Cornwall: Portheras Cove
Just a 30 minute drive from St.Ives, Portheras Cove is situated on a wild stretch of Cornish coast. Park up in the Farm car park at the end of ‘Rose Valley’. The sandy cove sprawls out from a shallow valley and features azure blue waters that wouldn’t look out of place in the med. The sandy shore offers easy access to the water. Seals are often spotted here so watch out for them too.
Quarry swimming in Cornwall: Bakers Clay Pit
When thinking of outdoor swimming pools in Cornwall, you might think of lidos, sea pools and idyllic coves. However, you can head inland and find some amazing outdoor swimming spots as well. Cornwall’s industrial history mainly involves pulling minerals and metal from out the ground, resulting in a lot of sizeable quarries. One of these is Bakers Clay Pit, just 13 minutes inland from St.Ives. Situated on moorland, this spring fed lake is adorned with the remnants of mining works and lined with greenery. It offers a serene environment for swimming: no tides, waves or jellyfish. There’s space to park and it’s dog friendly.
Wild swimming in Cornwall: St.Nectans Kieve
A little further afield than the West Cornwall located spots but well worth the trip, or should we say pilgrimage. Siutuated at the sacred site of St.Nectan, the river Trevillet carved its way through the slate creating a magnificent 60ft waterfall. The water cascades down into a beautiful valley forming a shallow pool. The water is clear, clean and lined by green moss, ferns and grasses. This really is a special, fairytale location to swim in. Wild yet beautiful. Prayers, inscriptions and offerings are woven in to the surrounding trees as this spot is regarded as a place of mysticism and spirituality.
Skinny dipping in Cornwall: Pedn Vounder
Another tricky location to get to, this time involving a clifftop walk and steep descent down a rocky path that leads to the beach. Pedn Vounder is a sheltered sandy cove. Neighbouring Porthcurno, of which you can walk to at low tide, this beach is often much quieter. However, it is an unofficial naturist beach so pack your birthday suits! To the east of the beach lies Logan Rock, a rectangular block of granite weighing over 70 tons which can be moved back and forth by a single person.
Outdoor Swimming Pools in Cornwall: Jubilee Bathing Pool
Perhaps you’re not sold on the idea of potentially paddling with seaweed, fish and the occasional benign jellyfish? We understand (you landlubber you). If that’s the case then head to Penzance. As outdoor swimming pools in Cornwall go, the Jubilee Pool is one of the best. The art deco pool opened in 1935 marking George V’s silver Jubilee and has recently undergone structural repairs after storm damage. It features high white walls ensuring protection from winds, cubist style changing rooms, a baby pool, a delightful little cafe and lifeguards from May to mid September.
There’s a range of activities that occur at the pool including yoga, stand up paddle boarding, circuits and more. It boasts fantastic views of St.Michaels Mount and of Newlyn. It could be one of the best open air swimming spots in the country and it’s soon to get even better. Geothermal energy will heat a section of the pool! Drilling has begun, 1.4km down into the earth’s core and will put Penzance’s lido up there with pools in Japan, New Zealand and Iceland. It’s set to open in summer 2019.
Cornwall is blessed with beautiful coastline and countryside with pools a plenty. We suggest using website Wild Swim to discover your own spots alongside our suggestions of open water bathing spots and outdoor swimming pools in Cornwall. And of course, follow the tide times and open air swimming guidelines from RNLI backed Swim Safe.
Ready for an outdoor adventure but looking for somewhere to stay? View holiday homes and cottages in St Ives and the surrounding areas and find the perfect accommodation for your getaway.