The ultimate wild swimming retreat for stylish staycationers

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  • Looking to take your front crawl to the next level but not sure where to start? Hit Falmouth’s new dedicated break for bona fide water babies

    The location

    Set on the south coast of Cornwall, Falmouth offers up a tapestry of golden beaches, cerulean surf, and a rich maritime history that has long attracted the cool, creative crowds. With an eclectic art scene, thriving hub of independent cafes, bars and boutiques, and meandering seaside high street festooned with colourful bunting, you could be forgiven for barely getting your toes wet. But a new wild swimming retreat, run by pro coach Salim Ahmed of SwimLab and hosted at the luxurious beachside St Michaels Resort, is set to change all that.

    wild swimming retreat

    The retreat

    With a focus on teaching open-water swimming as a performative art, Salim has crafted a course that’s suitable for everyone who can manage 400m without stopping. Whether you’re already a long-distance swimmer hoping to elevate your skills to the next level or a relative novice looking to transition from breast stroke to front crawl (that would be me, then), you’ll find his masterly approach – a combination of technique-perfecting hacks and cold-water philosophy – not only improves your stroke but also helps to plug you into the mental, physical and emotional benefits of taking an admittedly chilly dip into the big blue. Expect one-to-one tuition, video analysis, group drills and structured swims from Swanpool to the blue-flagged Gyllyngvase Beach, alongside pool instruction and deep dives into the physiology and mindfulness aspects of cold-water swimming. What’s more, this two-night, three-day wild swimming retreat is packed with complementary activities and excursions that deliver the full restorative experience – think yoga sessions to soothe aching shoulder muscles, hydrothermal treatments in the hotel spa (to soothe everything else), and coastal walks along the stunning Falmouth clifftops. And, breathe…

    wild swimming retreat

    The hotel

    A slick, nautical-themed resort that fringes Gyllyngvase Beach, St Michaels is a contemporary base that specialises in seasonal fare, local seafood plates and generously sized suites with stylish interiors. Bleached wood, a muted palette and considered design details are par for the course here – as is the luxury on-site spa and gym. Head down in your fluffy robe and slippers to immerse yourself in the largest hydrothermal pool in the south-west, or book a signature treatment to eliminate toxins, boost your energy, or hit that longed-for post-lockdown reset. There’s also a herbal Finnish sauna, outdoor hot tub and series of tropical gardenscapes to retreat to after a salt-soaked day at sea.

    wild swimming retreat

    The must-dos

    What with the scheduled swims, workshops, yoga and spa sessions, plus necessary refuels (cue dining on Cornish delicious fare in the resort’s Brasserie on the Bay), there’s not a huge amount of downtime during the retreat, but do try to squeeze in a trip to Falmouth’s charming high street to visit its plethora of art galleries, artisan studios and quality secondhand book stores. Influencer-favourite The Hidden Hut on Porthcurnick Beach is also just a boat ride away, and makes for a spectacular clifftop setting to end the retreat on a high (literally).

    wild swimming retreat

    Book it

    The next SwimLab wild swimming retreat at St Michaels Resort takes place from 1-3 October, 2021 and costs from £515 per person, with the option to add an additional night’s stay for £95. If you’re sharing a room with someone who does not want to participate in the wild-swimming sessions, prices start from £295. Call 01326 312707 or see for further details or to book. Please note: you’ll need to bring goggles and a swimming wetsuit with you to participate in the sessions too – try Zone3 for suitable styles and hire options – plus that all-important, super-toasty dryrobe to warm you up afterwards (uncontrollable shivering post-swim is not only a bad look, it’s dangerous). Wearing neoprene swimming gloves, boots and a hat is also advisable during the chillier months.

    Get there

    By car, the journey from London takes just under 5 hours and 40 minutes via the M4, M5 and A30. To avoid traffic, you can hop on a Great Western Railways train from London Paddington, change at Truro, and be in Falmouth Town in around 5 hours. Advance fares start from £15. St Michaels Resort is a 15-minute walk or 5-minute cab ride from the station.

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