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Portreath’s Tidal Baths

A deep rectangular tidal bath built for Lady Bassett in C18th at Portreath.
A bathing pool cut into an exposed rock close to low tide line at Portreath Beach.
One of Lady Bassets rectangular baths cut into the cliff.

Area:
North Coast

Tides:
Low Tide

Adventure:
Tidal Pool Hunting

Parking:
Portreath Beach

Hidden in plain sight on the east side of Portreath are several baths carved into the cliffs. On a mild, grey January day at low tide I went on a hunt. Of course I treated myself to a dip at ‘Rocky’ the main tidal pool to finish – the winds were blowing from the east to which meant no wind chill and a silky smooth pool.

The Bathing Bassett Lady’s.

In 1782 William Harry, Tehidy’s estate mason, was paid by Lord de Dunstanville to build a house and bathing machine – what they used to change in and out of swimming attire respectfully. Around the same time he carved several tidal baths in the nearby cliffs.

They were for his wife’s and daughter’s ‘pleasure’ and ‘health’. In the C18th, both salt and freshwater bathing, cold or hot, was considered to have healing properties. Doctors at the time would often prescribe water bathing to treat illnesses such as gout, nightmares, bronchitis, blows to the head, leprosy and (my favourite) ‘female complaints’.

Miss Bassett is said to have frequented the summer house and bathe in the pools at Portreath.

Lady Bassett's tidal pool overlooking Portreath Beach.

How many bathing pools are there?

Michael Tangye says seven, some say nine – some say six. I found four but missed two obvious ones on the back rocks. So I would count six baths on the east-side and one (maybe 2) on the west side. There are some funny right angles that look like a bath has been started scattered around. Either way looking for them feels like a treasure hunt.

I didn’t dip in any of the rock cut baths this time but I think I might try it with a glass of wine in the summer looking out at the waves. *puts on to do list*.

Hidden just inside a cave on the eat of Portreath beach - a tidal bath.

‘Rocky’ The Portreath Tidal Pool

On this January day, the ‘Rocky’ pool was crystal clear – not a breath of wind in sight. I slipped in via the carved steps and after helping a pooch retrieve his ball, totally emerged myself in the coldness. The pool is fairly deep on the end closest to the sea and it is big enough to swim in circles. There are some rusted metal steps close to the wall which add to the aesthetic.

I had the pool to myself and chatted with a Polish lady about Hoffman whilst I got myself warm. I love the swimming community – you never feel alone. In the summer, the ‘Rocky Pool’ is very busy with children and families. So depending on when low tide is – visit in early morning – or the evening for a cracking sunset.

Things to do next visit :

  • Go when it’s sunny and calm
  • Take a dip in the bath pools
  • Eat some fish and chips
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Portreath’s Tidal Baths

There are baths cut into the cliffs of Portreath, a visit at low tide and you will discover many of Lady Basset’s Baths.

If you have any questions or comments, pop them below or email me. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Kate's legs and one lady basset bath for scale.
The 'Rocky' Area of Portreath with pools and The Monkey Hut in the background.
Carved steps from rock leading into 'Rocky' the Portreath tidal pool.
Portreath rocks and pools at low tide on the East side.
A manmade bath cut into a cove on the east cliffs at Portreath.
Deepest end of Portreath tidal pool with crystal clear waters.

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