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Tuesday, 26 July 2016

My First Time Coasteering and Review of Cornish Rock Tors

Continuing my series of 'First Time' posts, my first experience of Coasteering is reviewed here:

What is Coasteering: 

Coasteering is exploring the coastline through swimming, entering caves, climbing rocks, jumping off them, observing the landscape, and engaging with plants and creatures at first hand. And a chance to see such things as seals if you are lucky. 

Cornish Rock Tors:

Endorsed by the National trust, Cornish Rock Tors have been providing beach activities for a decade. Our escapade left from Port Gaverne, close to Port Isaac in the North of Cornwall. 

cornish rock tors review
Add caption

Who is it for?

Although all jumps into the water are optional, I would say this is not an ideal activity for anyone with serious vertigo. Or a jellyfish phobia. Or a fear of entering caves. Or a problem with being in open water. Having said that, a guided excursion like this is a great way to challenge yourself. 

A fair degree of strength and fitness is helpful, and a spirit of adventure is probably an essential for enjoying coasteering. There is a consent form to fill in, with only a small section where you declare any medical conditions, so nothing like standard gym PAR-Q form. If you are unsure whether you are ok medically to do this sort of thing you absolutely should check in advance with your GP. 

Is it safe? 

We were fully equipped with a buoyancy aid and helmet. Very clear instructions were given on how to communicate with simple signs once in the water, and there were three guides the 10 participants in our group. They were all qualified lifeguards, and carried safety equipment. The instructions for climbing and jumping were always clear, and the guides had endless patience with us asking for clarification as we needed it. 

In short, I felt very safe at all times. 

coasteering north cornwall
Yep, I'm in that huddle!

Was it Exercise?

I was far too engaged with the experience to notice at the time whether I was physically working hard. However, after two and a half hours I did begin to feel tired and a little cold. I woke up the next day with the tops of my pectoral muscles feeling like they had been worked. Looking back though, with all of the swimming, climbing, and scrambling over rocks we must have used up a lot of calories. 

The cost:

Introduction to Coasteering sessions like this cost £40 per person. If you have a large family this is clearly going to work out as an expensive activity. However, I'd say it is worth every penny, and the chances are that it will be a real highlight of any holiday and something that you won't forget easily. Cornish Rock Tors also offer  vouchers, which would make an amazing present. 

coasteering cornwall review

Top Tips:

My first piece of advice is a more general one: chat to the Cornish Rock Tors staff, and make sure that coasteering is for you. They are very friendly and extremely knowledgeable, and quick to answer email queries. So if you have any questions that might seem silly I would recommend that you put them out there and put your mind at rest. 

But here are my top 3 specific tips:

1. Take the opportunity to borrow a winter-weight wetsuit (included in the price). In my experience and that of the other women in our group, the ladies ones come up a little small, so I would recommend you go up a size. Be aware also that there isn't really anywhere to change. If you are particularly shy or need to put your swimsuit on then there is a public loo close by, but our group all changed into wetsuits in the road outside the office. 

2. Carb load! Ok, that's an exaggeration, but do make sure you have eaten well and kept yourself hydrated before you head off. Coasteering can be a chilly experience, and if you are not used to being active for a few hours at a time, let alone exerting yourself by hauling your own body weight up rocks etc then I imagine this may be a shock to your system. If you haven't eaten then I expect you will start to flag. Ditto hydration.

3. Don't try to park at Port Gaverne. There are public carparks in Port Isaac, which is only a stroll away. 

port isaac
Port Isaac

In Summary:

Coasteering is a magic experience. It takes you away from all of your comforts and/or millstones, depending on how you see day-to-day essentials like your phone, your handbag, perhaps even your watch. Leaving behind everything like the need to be bothered with how you appear is a liberation which lets you properly relate to the beautiful Cornish landscape around you in way that you otherwise just wouldn't.  

Taking a guided excursion like this gives you the confidence to know that what you are doing is entirely safe, and shows you things that you probably wouldn't notice, from a buoy lodged tight in the top of a cave, to rare anemones

The guides clearly love what they do, and that is infectious. Their respect for the Cornish coast is evident. 

Going with a family or partner is a real bonding experience, but joining a group if you are by yourself would also be really fulfilling I think. 

I loved just being out in the water, seeing the coast literally and figuratively from a whole new perspective. I'm also thrilled that I jumped off all of the highest points on offer. I'm naturally cautious, but after a few smaller jumps I really wanted to go for it on this trip. 

So, thank you Cornish Rock Tors, we had a brilliant time and can't recommend you highly enough. We'll be back for Intermediate Coasteering