With so much coast, it was a really difficult job to narrow down the top 10 hidden swims in the South West. From the wilder North Coast through to the more gentle Southern Coast, there are so many swimming spots in the South West and the hidden gems often provoke much debate amongst the swimming community. The vast majority of the outdoor swimmers we know are both great people (you rarely meet an outdoor swimmer who is a di*k) and respectful of the environment in which they swim, leaving no trace of their visit but their happy splashing memories!
In the Covid world, helping people find new spots can be extremely rewarding and helpful to mental and physical well-being, as long as people are respectful to these special places. There are some locations where parking and litter is an issue and we have seen some rightly frustrated locals this summer. We recommend the wild swimming community avoid the busy times of the day to get their “fix” as nothing set’s up the day better than a swim or finishes off the day better than with an evening beer / wine after an early evening dip! We encourage everyone to swim safely, respect the sea at all times and if in doubt – don’t do it!
The Hidden Swimming Spots of the South West
- Broadsands Beach, Combe Martin
- Sharrah Pool, Dartmoor
- Chagford Lido, Dartmoor
- Start Point, Great Mattiscombe
- The Three L’s on the South Coast
- Goldiggers Quarry
- Colona Beach
- Coves on the Lizard Peninsula
- Porthcothan Beach
1. Broadsands Beach
Broadsands Beach at Combe Martin is known by our guides as James Bond Beach, as it looks like Khao Phing Kan in Thailand! With 124 steps down, it’s hidden and difficult to find. For the strong swimmer it’s accessible from Combe Martin, just head left off the beach and follow the shore around the bay.
2. Sharrah Pool
This iconic and almost mythical pool sits at the top of the Dart River. The two mile walk either way (from the closest car access point) is worth every step. It’s starting to be discovered and therefore best to visit either in the morning or late afternoon.
3. Chagford Lido
Not quite ‘wild swimming’, we have included Chagford Lido in our lists as it is a river fed (by the Teign) and solar heated lido in the centre of Dartmoor. Eccentric and much loved it’s close to the great little town of Chagford. Try the Three Crowns for a spot of lunch and then head up onto Dartmoor to see stone circles and the splendour of Dartmoor unveiled.
4. Start Point
At the remote and picturesque Great Mattiscombe – away from the crowds on the South Hams, perfect for a spot of solace-filled swimming.
Cawsands can be accessed via ferry from Plymouth or over the Tamar Bridge and round the Rame Peninsula. There is a wonderfully quiet swim, between two villages, Kingsands and Cawsands that is best in the early morning when the sun is just coming up!
6. The Three L’s: Lantic Bay, Lanivet and Lansallos Beach
These three are the hidden beaches of South Cornwall. With a steep downhill walk to all of these beaches: Lantic Bay, Lantivet and Lansallos beach, swimmers are rewarded with the beaches to themselves and unrivalled clear water – bliss!
7. Goldiggins Quarry
Located on Bodmin Moor, this is maybe an unusual choice but the water’s clear and it’s big enough to get in a proper swim. Look out for Quarry cliff jumpers parading their acrobatics (we would not recommend this!), and always be cautious of the dangers of deep quarry swimming and be aware of the very cold nature of the water you are paddling in!
8. Colona Beach
This beautiful hidden inlet is accessible only on foot! For those fancying a walk and swim take the coastal walk from Goran Haven to Mevagissey. Portmellon beach is also worth a look as is the wonderful King’s Arms in Mevagissey – with seafood brought in every day. Just ask for Kris!
9. The Lizard Coves: Cadgwith / Coverack / Mullion Cove
These three are all stunning beaches on the Lizard Peninsula with islands, blow holes and hidden beaches ripe for exploration. Each has it’s own flavour and is distinct and unique – we think they are truly unmissable! (Top Tip: during the height of summer avoid the beautiful Kynance Cove like the plague – far, far to many people!)
Why not head out through a sea arch on the right hand side of the beach. This spot is only accessible at low tide and we know you’ll have the beach to yourselves. There is a huge rock for sunbathing, known as the “frying pan” – remember to take sun screen!
Active England’s swimming holidays are the perfect balance of exploration and relaxation, immersing guests in some of the most iconic swims and walking trails throughout Devon, Cornwall and the South West. Join one of our friendly groups, meet like-minded people and discover new and iconic swims – from the water up!
Our wild swimming holidays are for all types of swimmer with a number of different swims planned every day. On these tours you will swim in deserted coves, inaccessible by car, walk to hidden beaches which look like the Caribbean, dip or dive in sea pools at low tide and visit some of the iconic swims which are fast becoming bucket list “must swims”.