It’s available to everyone, doesn’t cost a penny and is a great pick-me-up; what could be more appealing than a dip into one of Cornwall’s rivers, lakes, bays or coves for some? This is the world of wild swimming: the act of swimming in natural waters.

Many of us are missing out it seems. Swimming in the outdoors was once a common occurrence but with the creation of indoor pools and pollution of the post-war years people moved inside. Recently however, jumping into chlorine-free waters has seen a resurgence and the wild swimming community is a thriving one, ranging from a few friends meeting up in secret locations to mass events organised in the name of charity. To get involved you just have to be up for it, know how to stay safe and be respectful.

Whether you choose to dive in for a big swims or just a casual dip with a friend, the waters are open and available to all (but maybe come equipped with a wetsuit this time of year!).


Portheras Cove

Portheras is one of the last remaining truly local beaches in West Cornwall. Located on one of the wildest stretches of Cornish coast between Pendeen and Morvah it isn’t that easy to find.

Owned by the Duchy of Cornwall, the beach itself is a lovely sandy cove located at the end of a shallow valley with sheer cliffs at the northern end. Parking: Either park in the farm car park at the end of ‘Rose Valley’ or park in the Pendeen Watch car park – to find out more about Portheras Cove click here.

wild swimming

Jim Champion, Flickr


St. Nectan’s Kieve

St. Nectan’s Kieve is a tall, slender waterfall or gorge hidden at the head of a wild woody dingle. It falls into a high basin, flows through a circular hole and drops into a small plunge pool, 1.5m deep, 5m across. There is a small tea room in hermitage above. This isn’t for the faint hearted or unfit as there are many steps. Entrance fee is £3 – to find out more about wild swimming at St.Nectan’s Kieve click here.

Pedn Vounder Sands

Perhaps the most beautiful beach in Cornwall. Framed by Logan’s Rock on one side and the Minack cliff-top theatre on the other, it’s a tricky scramble down, but at low tide off shore sand bars form with shallow lagoons which warm in the sun. Above there is a basic cliff top campsite with superb views – to find out more about wild swimming at Pedn Vounder Sands click here.

Golitha Falls

Beautiful stream of young river Fowey runs through ancient oak woodland. First 700m wide path provides access to shallows for paddling. At top of cascades rough tracks continue 200m down to shady secret plunge pool at bottom. Swim against the current. Golden sandy bottom. Don’t slip on rocks! A car park and toilet are accessible – to find out more about wild swimming at Golitha Falls click here.

wild swimming

Prussia Cove

Secluded and romantic with small coves of sand and shingle revealed at low tide. Prussia Cove has an olde-world poetic feel, famous as the home of the Carter family, smugglers in the 18th century, one of whom was known as the King of Prussia. Formerly called the King’s Cove, Prussia Cove is on the coast of Mount’s Bay to the east of Cudden Point.  No lifeguard cover, but surf rescue equipment located on the beach. Parking and toilets, with a 5 minute walk down an unmade track to the cove – to find out more about Prussia Cove click here.


Lansallos Bay

This is an enchanting walk, through woods and streams lined with bluebells and wild garlic in spring. As you reach the cove you’ll find a deep passage hewn from rocks where smugglers hauled up brandy and French lace contraband. The farm in the tiny village serves excellent organic cream teas – click here for more information about wild swimming at Lansallos Bay.

wild swimming

Robert Pittman, Flickr

(Information from this article was adapted from


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