Gyllyngvase Beach, Falmouth
A wide pebbles-and-sand beach with rock pools either side. Access to the water is easy at all tides. Gylly Beach Cafe serves hot and cold local food and drinks, and there are public (often fairly sandy, but otherwise clean) toilets. The beach has the coveted Blue Flag Award for clean water. Parking is free but fairly limited on the road, or there’s a pay per hour car park conveniently located a minute or so’s walk from the beach. There is even a formal, though small, open air sub-tropical garden at the back of the beach for family members for whom even looking at the sea makes them shiver!
Porthmeor Beach, St Ives
A wide and shallow sandy beach that is popular with surfers all year round. Access to the water is best during an incoming tide, but not difficult at either end (except for the long walk or occasional dumping wave!). Overlooked by Porthmeor Beach Cafe, there is a range of hot and cold food available, with several pasty shops scattered no more than a ten minute walk throughout town. Porthmeor also has the Blue Flag Award, and often seals and dolphins can be spotted playing further out around the rocks of Man’s head. Parking is fairly limited and often expensive in St Ives, especially right down near the beach, but there is a larger car park at the top of the hill with the added bonus that the stairs will warm you up after your swim. Dogs are also welcome at Porthmeor until Easter, and the Tate is right behind the beach should you need any more reason to visit this beautiful corner of town.
Jubilee Pool, Penzance
Although currently closed for a geothermal renovation, the award-winning lido perched on the edge of Penzance’s sea wall is definitely worth a mention, although there is a small charge for entry. Reopening in the Spring of 2019, the deep art deco style pool uses filtered sea water, as it has done for over 80 years, and is beautifully arranged in a curving triangle facing out to sea. There is usually plenty of parking in Penzance, with a large pay and display car park in the town centre and often spaces available along the Promenade nearby. With bright changing rooms (including hot showers), a reinforced sea wall to keep the worst of the breeze out and a proposed cafe soon to open, it’s everything you could want for your first cold water dip. Add to that the new geothermal project, where a corner of the pool will be heated via natural energy to 35°C all year round, and this option could almost be considered cheating.
Bude Sea Pool, Summerleaze
Although a blowy winter sea on the north coast is best for surfers, for a swim without too many waves there are other Cornish options. Part natural and part man made pool carved into rock, Bude Sea Pool is therefore best enjoyed at low tide, when the waves crash onto the beach below, rather than into the pool. As it’s rock based, it can be slippy, and as it’s tidal the depth can’t be guaranteed – unfortunate for those that prefer the quick dive in. The pool is cared for and maintained all year round by a volunteer operation, The Friends of Bude Sea Pool (FoBSP), although there’s no charge to use it or Summerleaze beach, which it sits on. There are no lifeguard facilities during the winter, but FoBSP do organise winter swimming events if you prefer to dip socially. The beach at Summerleaze also has the added bonus of the wide open sea, as well as a Life’s a Beach cafe, and is open to dogs on leads all year round. Parking is available in a large pay and display car park that also houses the nearest public toilets.