Discover the Beauty of the Cornish Coast
Lose Yourself in Tidal Pools
By Jessica Lynn Wiebe
I took myself on a swimming holiday and if you love water I highly recommend you do the same.
In 2020, I found myself swimming later and later into the fall, right into winter and I have not stopped since. I started sharing my cold water adventures on social media and connecting with an incredible community of people from around the world. And I found myself drawn to one place in particular, Cornwall, UK. I had come across many artists, swimmers, and hikers who posted images of the rugged coastline, tidal pools, and cold clear water – the water sometimes looking almost tropical at times – and it seemed to be calling to me.
Cornwall - or Kernew in Cornish - is a historic county in South West England. It is recognised as one of the Celtic nations and is the homeland of the Cornish people. In addition to being known for its rich geology and coastal scenery, it was the many unique tidal pools that are scattered along the coast that initially drew me in.
Though some of the rock pools are natural, it is the county’s history of mining that is a large reason why many of these tidal pools exist: “Tin mining was important in the Cornish economy from the High Middle Ages, and expanded greatly in the 19th century when rich copper mines were also in production. Mining had virtually ended by the 1990s.” Through word of mouth and with very little recorded history, it is known that miners used explosives to create sea pools in the rocks along the west Cornish coast, creating safe places for children and adults to swim.
The tidal pools have an ephemeral quality and the adventure of finding them excited me. As the tide rises the pools become one with the seafloor, completely hidden from landview. As the tide falls, they reveal themselves and the sun warms the water held within the rocks until the tide rises once again… though still very cold throughout the winter months.
In May 2022, I booked a flight to the UK. I rented a camper van and for 11 days I drove, hiked, and swam the rugged coastline of Cornwall in search of tidal pools. I tried to have no expectations of what this trip would be other than having the goal to swim at numerous locations that I had scouted online and through friends. There were many factors that were out of my hand: weather and tide times being the largest, but the sense of adventure and discovery was an absolute treat!
I connected with many people on Instagram before going and everyone was so helpful in offering tips: places to go, where I could park the campervan overnight, good food spots, and also joined me for a swim! Many shared their favourite places with me - a few that I would never have found online or on my own. They trusted that I would pack out what I packed in and not share some of these special swim spot gems. I met up with fellow swimmers, photographers, and artists. Sharing a moment in the sea, taking photos, sipping hot tea, or grabbing a bite to eat – everyone was incredibly kind and welcoming.
I made a point to swim at Jubilee Pool – the largest and most celebrated sea water pool in the UK. The notable art deco architecture from 1935 made this open air lido a must swim spot. The pool is a triangular shape with gentle curves. I was able to sneak in on a gorgeous sunny afternoon to admire the triangular shaped pool and swim in this traditional bathing spot at the Battery Rocks in the harbour in Penzance. Before leaving, I warmed up in the small geothermal pool that is a naturally heated sea pool.
I swam multiple times a day at different spots along the coast. The tidal pools were an obvious favourite but I really loved swimming in each uniquely beautiful spot. I covered so much ground and yet I only scratched the surface.