Harbour Holidays

The Best Sea Pools in Cornwall for a Cold Water Dip

Swimming in Bude Sea Pool, Cornwall. Photo by Elliot Walker

A sunny day dip in Bude Sea Pool, Cornwall. Photo by Elliot Walker

The skin-tingling joy of plunging into a saltwater pool is both addictive and good for your health. In recent years there’s been a resurgence of swimmers seeking a coldwater high in Cornwall’s tidal pools. From the 18th-century aristocracy to fishermen’s families and now the Dry Robe community, Cornwall’s plunge pools have been used by all walks of life. 

These natural (or semi-natural) swimming holes re-fill on every ebbing tide, creating safe spaces on the edge of the turbulent ocean, where swimmers can immerse in the sensory feast of sea swimming year-round without the worry of rip currents and dangerous swells.

Embark on an adventure to some of Cornwall’s incredible sea pools to dip in these natural sanctuaries, boost your wellbeing and encounter a strong wild swimming community in some of the most remote and stunning coastal locations. 

Come on in, the water’s lovely.

Sea Pools Near Padstow 

Treyarnon Bay Tidal Pool, Treyarnon 

Treyarnon Sea Pool

Just a few miles from Padstow, Treyarnon Bay is a sweeping sandy beach boasting a natural 12-metre-long rock pool hewn into its rocky edges. At high tide the waves crash onto the cliffs, making access dangerous and impossible, but as the tide ebbs, it leaves a lozenge-shaped lagoon where you can plunge off the rocks for an exhilarating sea dip. On a summer’s day, warm up on the sun-heated rocks, or, on a winter’s day, make haste for the YHA café to warm up with coffee and homemade cake. 

Trevone Tidal Pool, Trevone

Trevone sea pool

Known locally as Tinker Bunny’s Bathing Pool, or Trevone Mermaid Pool, the 25-metre Trevone Tidal Pool provides a glorious bathing spot on the edge of wild seas. While the powder-white sands of Trevone Bay beckon surfers into the Atlantic swells, follow the coast path west just around the corner to Newtrain Bay, where you’ll find the sea pool. Here you can swim laps with a view of the waves, and children can splash in the shallow paddling pool. It’s a popular spot with the local sea swimming community, who came together to repair the sea wall in 2013. Pack a picnic and bask on the rocks afterwards, stroll further along the cliff tops to watch saltwater explode from an 80-foot blowhole, or head back to the beach café for food and drink. 

Sea Pools in North Cornwall 

Bude Sea Pool, Summerleaze Beach, Bude

Bude Sea Pool, Cornwall. Photo by Elliot Walker

Bude Sea Pool, Cornwall. Photo by Elliot Walker

Back in the 1930s, at the advent of the coldwater swimming movement in the UK, the partially man-made Bude Sea Pool was created by Captain Henry Round (an English engineer and close colleague of the famous Guglielmo Marconi) as a haven for swims on the salt-kissed coast, safe from the pounding surf. Measuring nearly 100 metres in length and 50 metres wide, it’s also Cornwall’s largest sea pool. Since public funding for the pool was withdrawn in 2010, the local Friends of Bude Sea Pool charity has been committed to its upkeep, providing a glorious, free, saltwater swimming pool for serious swimmers and dippers all year round.

Porthtowan Tidal Pool, Porthtowan

Ocean therapy doesn’t get any more exciting than head-to-toe immersion in this shimmering pool beneath the cliffs at Porthtowan. A secret pool only frequented by those in the know, Porthtowan’s tidal pool is tucked away in a rocky gully at the north of the beach, and only accessible at low tide. However, it’s well worth the wait when the tide is on the turn to experience the ocean crashing against the sea wall while you float in the emerald waters. Once you’ve dried off, warm up in the legendary Blue Bar or one of the other beach cafés offering hot food and sea views.

The Tidal Baths, Portreath

Believed to have been made by a band of industrious locals who used dynamite to blow a sizeable hole in a rocky outlet at the base of the town’s harbour wall. To the left of the main pool are six smaller bath-like pools that were carved out for Lady Frances Bassett during the 19th century, providing hours of entertainment for bathers of all ages. With your pick of pools (not to mention the sea on calm days too), you’ll quickly fall for Portreath and its year-round swimming opportunities.

Chapel Rock Tidal Pool, Perranporth

Perranporth sea pool in Cornwall from the air

This file is licensed under the Creative Commons. Image by Fossick OU

Well known for its surfing treasures, Perranporth hides a dreamy little saltwater pool in the iconic Chapel Rock that stands sentry beside the waves with the St Piran flag at its summit. Refreshed by the incoming tide and warmed by the sun, it’s not only an idyllic saltwater pool, but also a giant rockpool where you can discover the likes of blennies, anemones and crabs. After your dip, dash across the sand to The Watering Hole for a steaming hot chocolate on the beach. 

West Cornwall Sea Pools

The Children’s Pool, Priest’s Cove, Cape Cornwall, St Just

If you want to venture out and discover a remote, end-of-the-world location for a wild saltwater dip in a safe haven, this is it. Surrounded by the remains of the Victorian industry, fishermen’s sheds and the rugged landscape of Cape Cornwall (once believed to be the most south-westerly point of the UK) is a small, man-made tidal pool amongst the rocks. The Children’s Pool was built in the 1950s so that the fishermen’s children could play safely on the wild coastline ravaged by swells. Wait for the tide to ebb and make sure it’s clear of surging waves, and there isn’t a more divine dipping spot in all of Cornwall. 

Mousehole Rock Pool, Mousehole

Photo courtesy of Friends of Mousehole Rock Pool

Like the village itself, Mousehole tidal pool is small, but beautiful. Once described as ‘the loveliest village in England’ by Dylan Thomas, when he was resident there in the 1930s, Mousehole is indeed a charming place of twisting alleyways, white-washed cottages and a dinky harbour famous for its Christmas lights display. The shallow tidal pool is just another of its charms, created in the 20th century for local children to learn to swim in a safe environment, and to this very day, a picture-perfect spot for a dip, paddle, and to explore the rock pools. 

Sea Pools in Southeast Cornwall

Chapel Pool, Polperro

Nestled into the rugged coastline with just a few feet of concrete at one end, Chapel Pool is tucked into the historic terrain of smugglers and fishermen. Just getting here on foot via the narrow streets of Polperro, designed for horse and cart, takes you on an adventure back in time. The smugglers’ booty has long gone from the nearby sea caves, but while you swim, you can enjoy the treasures of the amethyst-hued rocks, glistening shells and velvety seaweed. Still a secret spot despite the popularity of Polperro, the descent is marked by a metal railing just past the 16th-century Blue Peter Inn – a lovely spot for a post-dip pint and a warming fish stew. 

Millendreath Sea Pool, Nr Looe

Millendreath Sea Pool

Photo courtesy of visitlooe.co.uk

Just a couple of miles from the buzzing seaside resort of Looe, Millendreath Beach is a family-friendly haven with a man-made sea pool. Framed by a 20th-century concrete pier and a retaining sea wall, and bordered by beach and cliffs, with a drain at the seaward end, it’s the perfect pool for young children to splash around safely. However, if you’re looking for the next level of sea swimming adventure, on calm days, you might prefer to hit the open sea. 

Sea Pool Safety Checklist 

Check the tides: Most tidal pools are not accessible at high tide or dangerous as they are being refilled by the incoming swell. 

Swim with a friend: It’s safer, and more fun. 

Wear grippy shoes: Some of the descents and access to Cornwall’s sea pools are rocky and slippery. Decent footwear is essential. Or, on a sunny day, bare feet are preferable to flip-flops. 

Take warm layers and a hot drink: It’s essential to warm up afterwards, and be aware of the risks of hypothermia, especially if you are dipping in cooler weather.

Check the weather: Never swim in a storm. 


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