Swimming can be a great activity for many. It’s a wonderful form of exercise, can be done with friends or by yourself, and lets you go somewhere you wouldn’t normally — the water!
However, swimming up and down swimming pool lanes can get a bit boring at times. The ocean is much more fun, and if you’re looking for wild swimming in Cornwall you’ll find many excellent spots along its coast.
Although many of Cornwall’s beaches provide great options, there are some lesser-known spots that can afford you a great wild swim experience while also staying relatively crowd-free.
In this guide, we’ll be looking at:
- Safety while wild swimming
- Some key locations for Cornwall open-water swimming
- Swimming conditions at each location
- What’s around each location
Let’s dive in!
Before we jump into the fun part of this guide, it’s important to remember that oceans, rivers, and lakes can be dangerous places.
If you are an inexperienced wild swimmer, you should always stick to areas that are lifeguard-patrolled or swim with someone more experienced who is able to help you if necessary.
Being able to spot and avoid rip currents if in turbulent water is incredibly important, but the best way to avoid being swept out further into the water is to swim in calm locations.
You should also make sure that the water is clean, clear of marine wildlife that might pose a hazard to you, and generally suitable for swimming.
Just like with any other outdoor activity, make sure that someone knows your plans and when you’re likely to return, especially if you’re swimming solo.
Okay, now that the safety briefing’s over with – let’s get into it!
Prussia Cove isn’t actually just one cove – it’s a set of four, very close to one another. These four coves provide a great set of options for the ultimate beach experience.
Piskies Cove, the westernmost cove in the group, is the only sandy beach option within Prussia Cove. Therefore, it’s ideal if you’ve got a hankering for some sand! However, the beach is covered by the waves at high tide.
The main swimming area is at Bessy’s Cove, which is the next one to the east of Piskies Cove. This is also the only one of the four that has safety equipment present.
Bessy’s Cove is inset quite a long way into the coastline, meaning it’s more sheltered from the ocean swell, so you can expect calmer water than the other coves.
Prussia Cove does not have nearby facilities, so you’ll need to make sure you bring what you need with you and use the toilet before you leave.
Access can also be tricky, with the car park being relatively small and a slightly steep walk down from it to the coves.
As a result, it’s probably not a good choice for those with mobility impairment or anyone with a lot of equipment.
Daymer Bay is a much more accessible swimming location than the first one we discussed.
With safety equipment above the beach and toilets, a beach shop, and a café by the car park, you’ll be able to spend longer around the water without worry.
The beach itself is sandy and quite large — even at high tide, there is a large beach area of around 200 metres in length. At low tide the water recedes significantly, allowing the beach to join up with the nearby Brea Hill.
Swimming at Daymer Bay is highly regarded by some and is also generally safe in the right conditions. Swimming on a rising high tide is recommended, as at low tides the currents in the area can be very strong. P.s. on a windy day take care as it is a popular kitesurfing spot!
Nearby, you can also visit Polzeath Beach, which is great for any in your group who wants to try out their surfing skills!
The beach also offers some sand dunes behind it, and you can walk to the ferry if you want to cross the Camel and visit Padstow.
Golitha Falls are a set of Cornish waterfalls within a picturesque forest environment, which are frequented for their aesthetic value.
The walk to the main turn-around point at the falls is around a half kilometre one way and has a negligible climb. However, the track can be muddy in places, so you’ll want good shoes and fitness.
As some users on its Google maps page have pointed out, the water around Golitha Falls can be quite shallow on the whole – which means it isn’t great for swimming in all places.
However, there are some deeper pools, particularly past the main point where people turn around where Golitha Falls swimming is ideal.
The track becomes worse here so you’ll want to be on your toes, but it’s worth the treachery — fewer people attempt this part of the walk, meaning there’s a good chance you’ll get a pool all to yourself!
Goldiggins Quarry is just that — a quarry. Although that might not sound like the most natural or appealing place to go for a swim, the excavated landscape provides some awesome opportunities.
The old quarry pit has filled with water, making a pool that is quite deep at over ten metres in places. This, combined with the lip of the pool that’s relatively tall, means it’s perfect for jumping into!
You can jump from anywhere between two metres and twelve metres above the water, so it’s easy to work your way up to a formidable height.
This is something that you don’t get at many other swimming holes in Cornwall, due to their lack of depth – so Goldiggins definitely offers something special for aspiring divers!
Of course, this does mean that if you intend to swim in the pool, you’ll need to keep away from people diving.
The quarry isn’t easily accessible by car, and there are no facilities nearby. So, forward planning is essential.
Nearby, you’ll find a variety of other attractions, including Daniel Gumb’s Cave and Hurler’s Stone Circles.
Pedn Vounder (pronounced “pe(d)n vownder) is a sandy beach close to the more popular Porthcurno beach.
Because of its proximity to Porthcurno, it’s both easy to get to and has less people making the extra effort to head to Pedn Vounder.
After all, why would you bother when you have a full beach with facilities already?
The answer is that Pedn Vounder is typically much quieter, and has some absolutely wonderful scenery as well as quite good swimming conditions.
You will need to be a bit careful while swimming, as due to the beach being mostly sandy the ground can shift and form unexpected currents.
However, on a rising high tide at the west end of the beach, swimming is typically reasonably safe.
The sand bar out at the edge of Pedn Vounder can create a lagoon-like water body particularly at low tide, which can be great for those less confident in the water.
There is safety equipment on the access track to the beach, and toilets at nearby Treen carpark or Porthcurno. Porthcurno also has some shops and food vendors.
Kynance Cove has a long-standing reputation as an excellent beach, having been popular since the reign of Queen Victoria.
Although the beach is sandy at lower tides, even at high tide there are some things to look forward to.
The rocks that form the remainder of the beach are red and green serpentine, leading to an almost otherworldly experience when visiting the beach for the first time.
There are also a few caves around the beach that can be worth exploring, but you should be careful to ensure you won’t get caught out by a rising tide in one of these.
The cove can be relatively sheltered due to its topography, with areas facing both south and west.
This means it can be quite good for wild swimming — however, you should ensure that you avoid swimming on an ebbing or low tide, as this can cause dangerous currents.
Be sure to pay attention to the signs at the cove on beach safety. There is some safety equipment available, too.
You’ll find a beach shop and café just above the cove, but if you want any further facilities you’ll need to make the roughly one-kilometre journey to Lizard.
There are rumours that as of early 2023 the cove is being used as a shooting site for the show ‘House of the Dragon’, so it’s possible that you might see some set activity if you’re in the area!
Mousehole Tidal Pool and Harbour
Mousehole is not particularly well-known for its beaches, which means it’s a great spot for those looking for a more secluded swimming experience.
Swimming in Mousehole’s Cornwall sea pools can be done in multiple areas — the harbour has a beach from which you can swim, and there are other beaches very close by.
However, the big draw of Mousehole is the tidal pool.
It’s quite large and round, bordered by rocks and a small soft bank at low tide. Swimming here means you are much less exposed to the ocean compared to being directly in the open sea.
There’s no lifeguard patrol, but you can find several safety equipment stations.
Mousehole is a coastal town, and as a result, there are amenities very close to most swimming locations such as toilets at either end of the harbour and various shops and food vendors throughout the town.
Bude Tidal Pool
Bude Tidal Pool is another great option for those who want to practise swimming in the open water without the risk of being exposed to dangerous rips and currents.
The pool is open all-year-round, and at 88 metres in length is relatively large – which means that particularly in winter months it is unlikely to be too crowded.
Of course, the water temperature is much better in the summer, though even a warmer summer could still mean somewhat chilly waters…! Wetsuits are therefore a great option if you’re planning on a winter swim in the pool.
There is a lifeguard tower nearby, which is manned during the summer. The town of Bude is just a few steps away, so you can access various facilities — including food vendors, shopping, and toilets — quite easily.
Porth Nanven, known by the locals as Penanwell or Nanvar, is a visually spectacular beach with cliffs rising around the beach providing an incredible view as you walk down the sandy path.
The beach has both sand and rock surfaces, although the sand tends to be hidden at high tide. The beach is also dog-friendly, although it doesn’t have any nearby facilities.
Once again, good planning before you visit is a must for this beach!
The beach provides a spectacular experience when swimming due to the unique terrain and views. However, this does come with a catch.
Unless the conditions are very calm, swimming in Nanvar can be anything from “not great for swimming” to incredibly dangerous.
Strong currents and submerged rocks mean that this is definitely not a beach for novice wild swimmers, and is a challenge only those more experienced should consider.
There is safety equipment at the beach, but no lifeguards patrol the area – so you have to be very confident in your ability and able to assess the water well.
Cornwall has a great variety of beaches and other spots for swimming and wild swimming, in particular.
Whether you’re looking for a secluded woodland river retreat or an open ocean experience, we hope that this guide has given you some options to explore.
Remember: always check the conditions before you swim, and make sure that you’ve prepared adequately. If in doubt, don’t enter the water.
Have a wonderful trip and a wonderful swim — and try not to get too cold in the water!
Introducing Eliot, the Editor here and Cornwall local with a wanderlust spirit and an insatiable appetite for adventure. With a passion for the great outdoors, he can often be found catching waves on his surfboard, scaling peaks on a hiking trail, or discovering hidden gems in his exploration of Cornwall.