Cornwall's Coastal Swimming Pools

Lidos, tidal pools and giant rockpools

Dotted around the Cornish coast are a number of seawater swimming pools. Many of these are well known, however there are quite a few that are easily missed and barely on the radar. The majority of these tidal pools date back to the early part of the last century, before the widespread availability of indoor swimming pools, and all share the advantage of being a safe place to enjoy the sea without any of the potential the dangers.

The open air swimming pools in this article range from completely natural over-sized rock pools to one of the finest Art-Deco lidos to be found anywhere.

Bude Sea Pool

Bude sea pool
Bude sea pool

This semi-natural outdoor pool is set into the base of the cliffs at Bude's main Summerleaze beach. Measuring 91m long and 45m wide this is a big swimming pool by anybody's standards. It is actually the town's most popular visitor attraction with over 50,000 people a year dipping a toe (or more) in the water.

Dating back to the 1930s Bude Sea Pool was built to provide a safe place to swim when the waves were up. It is on stormy days that the pool really comes into its own - you can be enjoying a swim in safety whilst just metres away Atlantic waves crash onto the rocks.

Up until 2010 the pool at Bude was funded by the local authority, however this was withdrawn and demolition was threatened. It is now run by the Friends Of Bude Sea Pool Charity who have raised and spent almost half a million pounds in restoring and maintaining this fantastic resource.

Chapel Rock Tidal Pool - Perranporth

Perranporth Tidal Pool
Perranporth Tidal Pool

The small tidal pool at Perranporth beach is not at all obvious and can be completely missed by the causal beachgoer. The pool is situated among the rockpools on the far side of the iconic Chapel Rock, and whilst it's hard to miss the huge rock with its St Piran flag on top most people head for the vast expanse of sand to the right. That said, plenty of people (read wetsuit-clad children) do find the pool and it is a pretty popular spot during the summer holidays.

The pool itself is replenished by the sea twice a day, during the high tide and at this time the rock becomes an island. The remainder of the day the pool is nicely warmed by the sun (sometimes!) providing another good reason to have a dip here.

Jubilee Pool - Penzance

Jubilee Pool - Penzance
Jubilee Pool - Penzance

Penzance's wonderful Art Deco lido sits between the harbour and the eastern end of the town's promenade. Opened in 1935 it was named in celebration of the Silver Jubilee of King George V. The Jubilee Pool is both an architectural gem and popular attraction for locals and visitors alike. Offering a safe space for swimmers of all abilities along with water temperatures a good degree or two warmer than in Mounts Bay, just over the wall.

Containing 5 million litres of sea water the pool uses the tides to circulate the water daily. During the summer months the pool is completely emptied and refilled every fortnight when the tides are at their biggest. This helps keep the water fresh and reduces the need for chemicals.

Recently renovated (again) the Jubilee Pool is set to become geothermally heated - or at least a section of the pool is. However, recent setbacks in this project might mean the water is just about tepid at best. Whatever the outcome it is a long cry from a few years back when the pool's future was in question after winter storm damage. 

Mousehole Rock Pool

Pool in Mousehole
Mousehole Tidal Pool

Probably the smallest of the pools on our list, the tidal pool in Mousehole is more along the lines of a glorified rock pool. Shored up by cement along the sides to make sure the water stays in the pool this is a great place for children to safely splash around, cool off and explore in the summer. Knee deep to a grown up there is just about enough water in here to make bobbing around with a snorkel and mask worthwhile. Alternatively you can sit on the edge with your feet in the water and take in the spectacular views across Mounts Bay towards the Lizard Point.

As an added bonus you can easily nip up the steps behind to either the Rockpool Cafe, or if you fancy something a little more refined, the Old Coastguard for a spot of lunch.

Porthtowan Tidal Pool

Porthtowan Tidal Pool
Porthtowan Tidal Pool

Not too many people know about the little bathing pool at Porthtowan. Nestled away amongst the cliffs and caves to the north of the main beach this little spot is only accessible at low tide. Previously a set of "secret" steps lead down from the coast path, but these have apparently eroded away over the last few years. This does mean there is a chance of getting cut off at high tide so please check before visiting.

When the tide is in the often powerful waves will wash over the concrete retaining wall but as it drops away this becomes a great spot to relax and watch the surfers.

Children’s Pool - Cape Cornwall

Cape Cornwall tidal pool at sunset
Cape Cornwall tidal pool at sunset

Every summer there is a swimming race held from Priest's Cove to the Brisons (a pair of rocks around half a mile off shore) and back. Whilst a bracing swim in the often wild, and occasionally treacherous, waters off Cape Cornwall may appeal to some it might not be suitable for all. This is where the "Children's Pool" comes in - another part-natural, half rockpool, this offers safe paddling within a hair of the most westerly point in mainland Britain. It is thought that the rectangular pool here dates back to the 1950s

Treyarnon Bay Rock Pool

Treyarnon Bay Rock Pool
Treyarnon Bay Rock Pool

Referred to locally as simply "the Rock Pool" this pretty much sums up this huge natural tidal pool at the northern end of Treyarnon Bay. Measuring about 12 metres across and over 2 metres deep in places this is a whopper!

With such a fantastic pool to frolic in a good proportion of kids coming to Treyarnon never actually make it as far as the sea. Possibilities are endless; from swimming laps, jumping in and snorkelling - as the pool is refilled twice daily there's often a few interesting specimens hiding in the nooks and crannies.

Other notable spots not listed above include the natural Chapel Pool, just around from the harbour in Polperro and Portreath's oversized rockpool tucked in behind the breakwater.