Jubilee Pool, Penzance
The UK's first saltwater geothermal lido opened in Penzance in September 2020 and Muddy wangled an invite to be among the first to test the (warm) waters - shall we dive straight in?
Originally designed by Captain F Latham in the 1930s, Penzance’s saltwater lido, the Jubilee Pool, has been returned to its former art-deco glory. The triangular shaped pool is just by Penzance’s harbour, its clever circular walls protecting the water inside from the waves (and storms), yet allowing the salt water to be refreshed roughly every two weeks on the high spring tides. You’re swimming in seawater but without the seaweed, sand and waves.
Since 2017, the pool has been run as community run social enterprise and in 2018 the pool launched an ambitious crowd funder to create a warm section of the pool for year-round bathing, in the form of a geothermal section. Delayed a little by Covid and various other issues, the balmy geothermal section opened at the start of September 2020, where the saltwater reaches a very relaxing 35C.
During the recent restorations the Jubilee Pool retained much of the celebrated 1930s art deco features including the cubist influenced doorless outside changing facilities and even some of the original signage.
The clean white lines and blue of the water creates a striking laid back vista against which to take a dip, or relax in the warm salt waters.
The Jubilee Pool is the largest and most celebrated salt water lido, and the main pool has three areas – the deep end for jumping, the 50m lanes for ‘proper’ swimming, and then a shallower end for pootling. In previous years there is also a separate shallow toddler pool, but for now that’s empty of water.
Expect to find a mixture of serious hat ‘n’ goggle wearing wet-suited lane-swimmers, hard core cold water bathers braving it in swim suits, all kinds of folk out for a quick dip and an assortment of spectators, plus the life guards.
If you’re not feeling super sporty, hire a blue and white striped deckchair and sit back to watch the action – we have it on good authority that there’s no pressure to swim at all and even yours truly only managed 30 minutes of lane swimming in the cold water before beating a numb-toed retreat to the pastel hued changing booths. (The hour in the geothermal pool was a whole other treat of course).
The geothermal pool is a separate part of the pool and accessed independently of the main pool. It’s the first geo-thermally heated saltwater lido in the UK – but the pool are always at pains to remind guests that geothermal heating isn’t actually a new thing: the Romans were at it first with the warm baths in, yes, Bath. Why it didn’t catch on is a mystery, so suffice to say, this geothermal technology is a novel upgrade indeed. The UK’s version of Iceland’s Blue Lagoon? Sort of.
At 30-35C the geothermal pool is balmy but not bath-water hot (basically don’t expect it to be like a hot-tub or quite as hot as Iceland’s version). Years of British swimming condition the mind that the water will be cold but it is actually pleasantly warm and extremely relaxing.
Saltwater bathing has myriad wellbeing properties and leaves the skin super soft – bonus, no goosebumps, especially if you leave your towel poolside.
The geothermal area is large enough to swim in, but shallow enough that you’re unlikely to be ever out of your depth (unless you’re a child) and not busy at all due to the current Covid restrictions on numbers – although that does mean you have to book a little further ahead for a session.
Some sessions are adult only, others for everyone, and each hour long session ends with a puff of the lifeguards whistle, upon which everyone dutifully files back to the changing cubicles.
NEED TO KNOW
After the enforced lock downs of 2020, in the summer the pool re-opened with fewer swimmers, spectators, a one-way system and an online booking system for pre-booking one-hour swimming sessions, either for the main pool (currently a refreshing 18C but due to drop as autumn progresses as it is roughly 1-2 degrees above sea temp) or the aforementioned geothermal section. Sadly you can’t just turn up – booking closes 60 minutes before the session – but on the upside, on a hot sunny day the queues are much shorter!
If it sounds complicated, it’s really not (and you can always call and they’ll make your booking over the phone, they’re super helpful). The hour long sessions are interspersed with half hour cleans, during which the previous swimmers get changed and make their way out (or, up to the cafe level) and then the next lot come down.
SCOFF & QUAFF
On the top level you’ll find the Jubilee Pool Cafe, a wonderful, seasonal eatery serving up poolside take-away (sandwiches and soups) and hot drinks – including Muddy favourite locally-roasted Yallah coffee. From 22 September they are returning to limited inside dining when booked in advance. There’s no need to book for the takeaway options (and you don’t actually even need to book a swimming session either).
THE MUDDY VERDICT:
Good for: Especially in the current pandemic, having access to swimming that is outside and socially distanced is awesome, and in the geothermal part you don’t need to be worried either about having to swim, or about getting cold. The main pool at 50m wide is just perfect for cold water swimmers who seek outside space in salt water without bothersome tides, currents and waves.
Bad for: Warmer than a conventional swimming pool, despite being outside, it is open to the elements, so if you’re not up for that, it probably won’t appeal. Treatments can be booked but the Jubilee Pool is not a spa. The changing rooms don’t have doors, there are only a couple of showers, and while they are hot, they are also open-sided. You won’t find hair-dryers and mirrors – it’s more a sling your trackies back on and wear a hat kind of place.
The damage: Super reasonable £4.25 for an adult session in the main pool, or £11.95 for an hour in the geothermal pool. Concessions are available, including for Penzance and wider Cornish residents.
Jubilee Pool, Battery Road, Penzance, TR18 4FF