Things to do in Cornwall: Swim at the Jubilee Pool
July 17, 2018
*In collaboration with Jubilee Pool
A visit to Cornwall is not complete without a dip in the saltwater that surrounds three sides of this beautiful county, but, it has to be acknowledged that sea swimming is not for everyone. Or, sometimes you just fancy a low key excursion from the house or holiday rental; low cost, low stress and where you can bring your own picnic and eat it without it getting full of sand.
The Jubilee Pool is one of the country’s few saltwater lidos. The water comes from the sea outside the walls, and every two weeks is emptied back out to sea and refilled. You can enjoy all the benefits of a swim in salt water, without worrying about jellyfish, weaver fish, seaweed or the tides, against a backdrop of white walls, blue water all whilst sheltered from the wind.
Sitting right on the edge of Penzance, jutting out in the sea from the harbour, the Jubilee Pool was built at the height of the 1930s golden age for lidos, in an art deco style with cubist influences, the triangular shape of the pool is combined with curved walls to combat the heavy Cornish seas which batter Penzance during winter storms.
Swimming in salt water is said to have myriad health benefits, boosting both mind and body: sodium and magnesium and other minerals help reduce inflammation, strengthen the immune system and reduce toxins and anxiety, as well as relaxing the mind and body
Lidos are part of my collective memory of childhood summers; heading to the communal pool in hot weather in the long summer holiday with friends on our bikes, where I embraced body conscious moments for the first time in a bikini, and where we spent days lying on the grass near the pool. The lido at home was far less beautiful than the Jubilee Pool, but held no less of a position as the centre of the community on hot summer days.
We headed down to Penzance first thing on Sunday morning – the children were super excited to be heading for a swim and lunch, and were delighted with their small stripy deckchairs (and likewise, I was thrilled with the double deckchair as I have always wanted one!).
It really couldn’t have been easier: there is a carpark opposite as well as parking along the promenade. As with everywhere in Cornwall, the earlier you arrive the better your chance of easily finding a parking space. And then pay at the turnstile, get a wristband for the day and head in.
We packed fairly lightly, just swimsuits (and UVF50+ rash vests for the kids) plus our trusty Ebb+Flo hamman towels which have done sterling work for us this year and still look just as good as new, as we planned to have lunch at the cafe, but we sat among people with their own deck chairs, beach mats, little pop up shaded tent for their baby and those that had pulled all the picnic benches together and brought all their own food for a children’s birthday party, so pack as little or as much as you can carry!
The kids, of course, wanted to head straight into the shallower children’s pool, bouncing straight in. Lifeguards sit at several places round the pool – there was one dedicated to the baby pool alone, so it felt very safe. Ahead of our holiday to Mallorca next week we thought we’d try out some inflatables which they sell at the shop at the entrance. Buster chose an enormous dolphin which was so large I was able to ride on it with him, which pleased him no end, and Pip opted to buy a large tyre which she thoroughly enjoyed swimming in and lounging on. 6 going on 16. Next time we visit we will bring a ball as well, and perhaps goggles for actual swimming, but on this occasion, they were happy just playing in the baby pool and in the end only M managed a swim in the proper lido. In the baby pool the water was a pleasant 22C and sheltered from the wind with the hot sunshine beating down it felt like we’d gone further away than simply down the road!
The Jubilee Pool Cafe sits on the top level, so you can sit outside under an umbrella watching not only the lido but beyond to the boats in the bay, to St Michael’s Mount, or round to Newlyn Harbour. The cafe has its own entrance, so you can also just come in for lunch or a coffee, and on Tuesday, Friday and Saturday nights you can eat pizzas and drink cocktails until 9pm. It is run as a social enterprise, with all profits put back into the running of the pool, by Flo and Oona (I like this interview with them that Seasalt ran a while back) and can confirm having tasted the menu on Saturday that the food is local and delicious. It was a treat to be eating Newlyn crab whilst literally looking at Newlyn Harbour and the waters that the crab was fished from, and the children enjoyed their cheese baps. The highlight for all of us though, aside from the crab, was the excellent hummous served with carrots and cucumbers.
On a Sunday afternoon in a heatwave it was no surprise that the pool got rather busy as soon as lunchtime came around. We retreated to the cooler shade of the nearby Tremenheere Sculpture Gardens (next blog post) but had it not been such a busy Sunday we could quite happily have whiled away the rest of the afternoon in and out of the lido on deckchairs, reading or just people watching.
I brought along shampoo and so on, but we’ve grown accustomed to pulling on our clothes onto salty skin, so we never actually tried the showers, but there are hot showers and ample changing facilities. I guess it is perhaps worth noting that not many things have doors, but the changing areas do recess into the walls, so there is privacy. There are also plenty of toilets. I didn’t notice a refillable water tap, but I’m fairly certain that there was provision for this.
I am excited to read that in 2019 the pool may be open all year, if all goes according to plan, as geothermal power is coming, to heat the pool, part of which may reach 35C. I first came across this in a piece I wrote for Finisterre after hearing about Iceland’s natural geothermal pools, and I am looking forward to experiencing the first geothermal pool in the UK when the drilling is complete. The pool is looking to crowdfund the completion of this project. All the details on the Jubilee Pool crowdfunder are here – you can get both a free swim and tax relief on your investment.
Prices and visiting details here.A family ticket for 2 adults and 1 child over is £12.50 (under 4 is free). Deckchair hire is extra (£1/£2 per chair depending on size).
The pool is open 10.30am to 6pm May – September.
Header photo and first image (c) Adam Gibbard. All others, mine.