5 to try: Natural outdoor sea pools

The coast of Cornwall is dotted with outdoor sea pools which are as salty and as fresh as the ocean but with the added advantage of being without dangerous waves and unexpected currents…

Jubilee Pool, Penzance
It’s got bucket loads of Art Deco touches, spectacular views out to sea and the proud title of being the UK’s largest seawater lido; the Jubilee Pool sandwiched between the Promenade and harbour is one of Penzance’s most loved treasures. It’s been attracting swimmers and sunbathers since its opening in 1935 and has since acquired Listed status as well as its own group of Friends who passionately campaign to make sure it has a thriving future. Lifeguards and a toddlers’ pool make it a hit among families and the Poolside Indulgence Cafe is a favoured spot in its own right.

Bude Sea Pool, Bude
This part man-made, part natural sea pool nestles under the cliffs at Summerleaze beach in Bude and is another example of Cornish handiwork from the 1930s. Built with the aim to provide a safe swimming haven, it is topped up twice a day by the waves of the Atlantic creating a unique environment which is close to the ferocity of the natural environment but sheltered from its extreme effects. Everyone from little ones getting their toes salty for the first time to sporty-types practicing before braving the waves are fans. It is now in the hands of the Friends of Bude Sea Pool; fervent supporters committed to raising enough money for its ongoing costs.

Chapel Rock, Perranporth
With St Piran’s flag flying ceremoniously on its summit, Chapel Rock on Perranporth beach is a recognisable feature on the 3 mile long stretch of golden sand. Home to a natural open air pool which is filled with sea water at high tide and warmed by the sun during the day, Chapel Rock is a honey pot for families. The sight of windbreaks and blankets propped up beside it and clusters of wetsuit clad children scrambling over it to splash through the sea pool is a familiar one but an eye should be kept on the tide as dangerous rips form here.

Polperro bathing pool, Polperro
At the foot of Chapel Cliff on the small sandy beach at Polperro lies a small tidal bathing pool which has been the site of many first swims. As natural as they come it could be described as a giant rockpool so buckets and nets, along with a keen eye are essentials. There’s also a call for a head for heights and steady legs, for the steps carved into the cliff giving access to the pool are steep and al naturel (hand rails won’t be found here) but what awaits is more than worth the beating heart.

Portreath, Tidal sea water pool
Tidal sea water pools lie on either side of Portreath beach. To the east a retaining wall has been added to a natural rock pool and to the west are Lady Basset’s Baths, six bath-shaped pools, hewn from the rock at different levels to catch the tide. They were created around 1800 for Lady Frances Basset, whose father believed in the healing powers of cold seawater.

There are also sea pools at Mousehole, Cape Cornwall, Porthtowan, Millendreath, and Treyarnon Bay. Please be careful when using sea pools and check the tides and lifeguard services before visiting.