The variety of beautiful wild swimming spots in Cornwall had us going from golden beaches to hidden tidal pools; from spring-fed quarries to babbling brooks. Here is our pick of the best swimming in Cornwall.
There can be few more beautiful places to wild swim in the UK than Cornwall.
Sure, the breath-taking tarns in the Lake District can give it a run for its money, but the sweeping arcs of golden sand buttressed by craggy cliffs and rolling countryside are the scenes that entice people to put down their pasties and brave the chilly waters surrounding the slender county.
But it’s not just the beaches of Cornwall that make claims on the best swimming spots. Rocky coastlines, wild moors, spring-fed quarries and babbling brooks provide plenty of opportunities to have a surprisingly secluded dip in Cornwall.
Where the low tide reveals hidden secrets only twice a day, there are literally hundreds of places you can swim in Cornwall, these are just some of our favourite spots.
We’ve curated a list that includes the best Cornish beaches along with the most out of the way spots. Some are good for a decent lengthy swim; others are a delightful paddle before a scenic glass of wine. But there’s one thing they all have in common: they’re all beautiful places in England’s most picturesque county.
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01 – LANTIC BAY
Best wild swimming in Cornwall on a remote but lovely beach
This glorious bay, in a much less visited part of Cornwall, is a bit of a hidden gem. Surrounded on three sides by near-vertical 100-metre cliffs, the sandy beach stretching out at the bottom of the cove is one of the most beautiful spots in the county. From the coastal path above the beach, wide-ranging views stretch across the bracken, gorse, and heather strewn headlands.
A long, well-protected beach offers great conditions for wild swimming in Cornwall. Explore the shore near the beach or, if you’re feeling slightly more adventurous, swim around to Little Lantic Bay. Only accessible by boat or a swim, you’ll most likely have this secluded beach under craggy cliffs all to yourself.
Even if the weather isn’t good enough for a swim, Lantic Bay is one of the most picturesque areas in Cornwall.
HOW TO GET TO LANTIC BAY
To get to Lantic Bay, park in the National Trust Lantic Bay Car Park. From here it’s a 15-minute walk from the car park to the beach. The last part is quite steep, but there are steps, and you won’t need to use your hands. There are no facilities on the beach so bring what you need and make sure you take everything with you.
02 – GOLDIGGINS QUARRY
Best wild swimming in Cornwall for leaping into a spring-fed quarry
High up on the wild moors of Bodmin, where rocky tors and endless swathes of bracken are broken only by the ruins of disused mines, Goldiggins Quarry is the perfect place for a wild swim. Totally unexpected amongst farmland, the spring-fed quarry is deep and wide, with clear waters surrounded by rocky beaches and high cliffs.
There’s plenty of room to have a decent swim and the quarry walls provide some interesting spots for snorkelers to explore. The cliffs around the edge get higher and higher, providing a natural progression from easy jumps to more exhilarating plunges. The smallest start around 2 metres, the highest is around 11 to 13 metres.
Before heading home, visit the nearby Cheesewring (Stowes Hill). The natural slabs of granite smoothed over the years are an impressive sight overlooking the rugged moors.
HOW TO GET TO GOLDIGGINS QUARRY
To get to Goldiggins Quarry, park at Hurlers Car Park (see map below) in the village of Minions. It’s a 20-minute walk to the quarry past three circles of Neolithic stones. There are no facilities at the quarry, but it’s a great place for a picnic. There’s a tea shop with toilets in the village of Minions.
03 – PEDN VOUNDER
Best wild swimming in Cornwall on one of the most beautiful untouched beaches in the UK
Set under huge granite cliffs, Pedn Vounder is possibly one of the most beautiful beaches in the UK. Completely secluded by the cliffs, a huge swathe of golden sand curves around a sandband that is only revealed at low tide, creating a shimmering shallow lagoon pool that’s an idyllic way to cool off.
There are several hidden coves to explore by wading through the shallow pool of water just off the beach. Past the sandbank, the waves can be notoriously treacherous and should only be taken on by very experienced swimmers.
Unfortunately, the beauty of Pedn Vounder is transitory. The sandbar only appears 2 hours either side of low tide, and in high tide there’s no beach at all. But the fleeting nature of Pedn Vounder makes it all the more appealing. The descent down to the beach is a little tricky, so read up on all the details on our Pedn Vounder guide.
MORE DETAILS / VISITING PEDNR VOUNDER
04 – PORTHTOWAN TIDAL POOL
Best wild swimming in Cornwall in a dramatic cliff set tidal pool
The St Agnes headland has some of the finest scenery in Cornwall. The ruins of old mines stand above the heather and gorse clad cliffs which are a swathe of colour in late summer. It’s a beautiful section of the coast that also contains one of the best wild swimming spots in Cornwall.
Wedged between towering cliffs and the Atlantic Coast, Porthtowan Tidal Pool only reveals itself a few hours either side of low tide. Protected from the rough seas by a wall, it offers a sheltered spot to splash about in a dramatic coastal setting.
The best way to enjoy it is to take a walk along the clifftop coastal path, build up a bit of a sweat while taking in breath-taking views and then descend the rocky steps to cool off in the tidal pool.
HOW TO GET TO PORTHTOWAN TIDAL POOL
The pool can be a little tricky to find, which makes it an adventure to discover, and possibly deserted when you do.
We have marked the exact location on the map below. Park at Porthtowan Beach Car Park and walk to the pool. There are two approaches. Firstly, along the beach at low tide. Or secondly (much more fun although a little hairy) via the coastal path that rises up onto the headland and then descends to the tidal pool using steep steps cut into the rock.
There are no facilities at the tidal pool but the excellent Blue Bar cafe is just next to the car park.
05 – KYNANCE COVE
Best wild swimming in Cornwall for exploring hidden caves and pools
The National Trust owned Kynance Cove is one of the most beautiful wild swimming spots on the Cornish Coast. At high tide towering buttresses of rock lurch out of the ocean, but as the sea retreats, swathes of sand appear between the rugged crags. The contrast of black rock, golden beach and turquoise water make Kynance Cove a mesmerising place to visit for a wild swim.
As the beach is protected by the rocks, it’s a great place for families. Swim from one little beach to the next, explore coves and leap into the water from the rocks.
Make sure you don’t miss Mermaids Pool. Hidden in the cliff wall on the northern side of the beach and only accessible at low tide, its crystal-clear waters are big enough to swim in and deep enough to jump into.
HOW TO GET TO KYNANCE COVE
Park at the National Trust Kynance Cove Car Park. Although the car park stretches into the nearby fields it can still get very busy in peak season. It’s a 10-minute walk from the car park down to the beaches, which only appear one or two hours after high tide. There’s a café and toilets overlooking the beach and toilets at the car park.
06 – MOUSEHOLE TIDAL POOL
Best wild swimming in Cornwall with a café overlooking a small natural pool
Less of a wild swim and more of a mild paddle, the beauty of this place is the Rock Pool Café, perched on the edge of the pool with an enviable position overlooking the sea. On the terrace, enjoy contemporary café goodness in a vibe that oozes Victorian seaside charm. The coffee is ok, the cakes are tasty, the cocktails creative and the views are splendid.
The rock pool directly in front of the café starts to appear around three hours (or so) either side of low tide. It’s little more than 10 metres square and may be more of a paddle than a swim, but it’s the perfect spot for the kids to frolic in protected waters while you enjoy a relaxing coffee or a glass of wine.
HOW TO GET TO MOUSEHOLE TIDAL POOL
The Rockpool Café and tidal pool are tucked a few steps down from the village car park on the north side of Mousehole.
07 – HOLYWELL BAY
Best wild swimming in Cornwall at a stunning sweeping beach
Only 6 miles from Newquay but miles away from the crowds, Holywell Bay is a huge sweep of golden sand. Backed by 60 ft dunes, with cliffs on either side and two rocky promontories out at sea, it’s often gloriously sheltered from both the wind and the rough seas.
The beach stretches for around 1 mile, offering plenty of places to sit and relax and take a long swim in the ocean. At low tide, the grotto-like Holywell Cave becomes accessible and a 70-year-old wreck pokes out of the sea.
If you can pull yourself away from the glorious slice of paradise, Porth Joke is a 30-minute walk away from Holywell Bay and another lovely beach to visit in Cornwall. Wedged between two rocks you’ll find some of the most turquoise waters in Cornwall.
HOW TO GET TO HOLYWELL BAY & PORTH JOKE
Holywell Bay is owned and run by the National Trust. The car park is free to members and there are toilets in Holywell village. Porth Joke beach can be accessed via a 30-minute walk around the headland or a 15-minute walk from the Polly Joke car park.
08 – BUDE TIDAL POOL
Best wild swimming in Cornwall for the grandest of all tidal pools
Bude sea pool is the granddaddy of tidal pools in Cornwall. Semi-natural with a man-made wall on one side and rocks on the other, it has been welcoming visitors since the 1930s. Roughly 90 metres by 45 metres it is big enough for a long swim yet shallow and safe enough for all the family.
Its best to come at low tide when the seas have retreated beyond the wall and the pool is calm. The beach below provides plenty of room for playing and soaking up the sun. Best of all its free, with the tidal pool paid for and managed by the Friends of Bude Sea Pool.
HOW TO GET TO BUDE TIDAL POOL
Park at Summerleaze Long Stay Car Park from where it is an easy 5-minute walk to the sea pool. There’s a café and toilets on route.
09 – GOLITHA FALLS
Best wild swimming in Cornwall for a secluded dip in a jungle-like forest
The picturesque cascades that make up Golitha Falls is a popular tourist attraction in peak season. But head a little deeper and a secluded section of the river provides a tranquil escape from the crowds.
Beyond the main waterfall, the path appears blocked by a fence. However, a rugged track continues for another 200 metres delving deeper into the ravine. Shrouded in jungle-like scenery, moss clings to the rocky walls and vines hang from trees overhead. It’s a magical exploration of an ancient oak and beech woodland where hidden pools slowly reveal themselves.
There’s no long wild swim here, just a dip in the gently flowing waters surrounded by glorious forest. Come on a sunny day and the dappled rays peeking through the canopy seem to sprinkle the entire scene in fairy dust.
HOW TO GET TO GOLITHA FALLS POOLS
Park at Golitha Falls Car Park in the southern section of Bodmin Moor. From here, it’s a 10-minute walk to the main falls then another 5-to-10-minute walk along a tricky path that finally drops to the river. We have marked the exact location on the map below. A couple of the pools have sandy bases but be careful clambering on the rocks as they can be slippery.
10 – JUBILEE POOL
Best swimming in Cornwall for a dip with old-school art deco grandeur
To be honest, this wild swimming spot in Cornwall is not all that wild. But we included it for its remarkable location and art deco design. Perched on the sea wall in Penzance and jutting into St. Michael Mount’s Bay, it’s a tiny slice of Miami in this most traditional of fishing towns.
Opened in 1935 the triangular pool is surrounded by streamlined high white walls providing protection from the wind. Swimmers and sunbathers get dressed and undressed in cubist changing rooms and a licensed café keeps everyone satiated. There are deckchairs to laze on the terrace and the pool is geothermally heated. So, on those dank misty days when the seas and lakes look uninviting, it’s a magical place to get some laps in.
HOW TO GET TO JUBILEE POOL
Park in St Anthony’s Long Stay Car Park just across the road from the Jubilee Pool.
MAP / BEST SWIMMING SPOTS IN CORNWALL
To save the map, make sure you are logged in to your Google account, then click on the star to the right of the title. To locate the map go to your Google Maps app, select saved, then maps.
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