Swimming in Cornwall: RNLI Castle 2 Castle Swim

I’ve had my eye on this popular swimming event for years. Having missed the entry more than once, 2022 is finally my year to swim castle 2 castle.

Before we start, a massive thank you to Lucy Cullen for giving me permission to use her fabulous photos of the RNLI Castle 2 Castle Swim. You can find more of her photos of Cornwall on her Instagram, here.

a RNLI lifeboat with 3 crew on the deck

Well, this is rather exciting, isn’t it? The RNLI Castle 2 Castle Swim was meant to be my first ever open water swimming event. With the original date being postponed due to bad weather and conditions, I squeezed in the Malpas River Swim Run before this event. After years of running races, I was looking forward to embarking on a new experience.

About the RNLI Castle 2 Castle Swim

The annual RNLI Castle 2 Castle Swim has been going for years. It’s incredibly popular, with many locals signing up to complete the distance and support the RNLI. 2022 was no exception. A total of 217 swimmers turned up on the day to swim across the estuary.

an orange rib boat on the shore with people standing beside it

The Castle 2 Castle Swim starts at Pendennis Castle in Falmouth and ends at St Mawes Castle, on the Roseland Peninsula. Both castles were both built by Henry VIII to prevent attack and are both popular places to visit in Cornwall.

The race covers one nautical mile (a friend told me it was 1.1 mile) from one castle to another across Carrick Roads estuary. The timing of this Cornish swimming event depends on tide times and with the rescheduled date, I was pleased with an early start.

The RNLI are a much valued search and rescue service across the shores of the UK. They patrol many Cornish beaches from April to October, ensuring the safety of swimmers, surfers and all sea lovers. If you enter the RNLI Castle to Castle swim, you’re committed to raising money for them. The minimum amount is achievable and I was pleased to exceed this, raising over £200. A big thank you if you donated to my Just Giving page, it meant a lot to receive so much support.

an RNLI lifeboat on the water beside swimmers in the Castle to Castle event

The Castle 2 Castle Swim start

With swimmers wearing a standard issue yellow swimming cap, we headed down to the start. This is on a little cove between Pendennis Castle and Middle Point (Crab Quay, maybe). As I waited for all the swimmers to congregate, my mind was mainly on my post swim coffee from the Bear Van. I had it all planned, a milky number with a little bit of sugar.

It was lovely to speak others at the start, many of whom had done it before. We watched the people on SUPs, who were supporting the event, head to their positions on the water. The RNLI were present too, with the large RNLI vessel making its way across the channel.

5 people on sitting on SUP boards while on the water
a white and blue boat leading swimmers across the estuary as part of the RNLI Castle to Castle swim

During the swim, the channel is closed. There’s a need to start promptly and get everyone across safely. There was a safety briefing from an RNLI member on a jet ski (so cool), and we honoured a minute silence for the Queen, the patron for the RNLI. We were then encouraged to step into the sea, ready to start.

As I was daydreaming, looking around at the spectators on the cliff and coast path, the claxon blasted. I didn’t wait a second, I dived in and was on my way. The Castle 2 Castle swim had officially begun!

swimmers going across an estuary for the RNLI Castle to Castle Swim

The swim

There was much talk at the start about which path swimmers were going to take. Some were opting to swim wide of the marker knowing there was a slight drift. I decided to swim head on, taking occasional glimpses towards the shore to ensure I wasn’t swimming off course. Believe me, this is very likely for me. When I swim, I’m literally all over the shop!

I started the event quite quickly; probably a bit too quickly. With so many swimmers, the start is busy and a few nudges and collisions are inevitable before we evened out. After an eager start, I told myself to slow down a bit. I was a little out of puff and had already gulped loads of air and water! What’s strange is standing at the start, St Mawes didn’t look that far away. Once in the water, I felt like I was never going to get there.

swimmers scattered in the water with an RNLI lifeboat in the distance
swimmers in the water along Carrick Roads estuary taking part in the RNLI Castle to Castle Swim
a red kayak alongside 2 swimmers taking part in the Castle to Castle swim

Having said that, I found myself at the half way marker relatively quickly. I’ve no idea how long it took but I was surprised to see it in front of me as I looked up. By the second half I felt like I’d really settled into the swim and was moving along steadily. I could feel my arms and shoulders were working hard but I was totally enjoying myself.

Out in the depths, it’s obviously impossible to see the sea bed. It was a joy to see the water becoming clearer; a sign that I was moving into shallow waters and near the end. I could make out the rock details and swaying seaweed beneath me as I edged closer to the finish on Castle Cove next to St Mawes Castle.

crowds of people clapping along the waterfront in St Mawes at the Castle to Castle Swim

The finish and post swim feels

Reaching the shore was just fantastic. I’m not going to lie, I was quite tired. I think by the end I was 90% sea water having gulped so much (something I really don’t want to think about)!

I could see the big timer at the finish and roused myself to do a little run to cross the line in 35 minutes. We received a RNLI swimming medal and a t shirt for our efforts.

a swimmer coming out of the water in a wetsuit and a yellow swimming cap
2 female swimmers walking from the water wearing wetsuits at the end of the Castle 2 Castle swim
a group of swimmers wearing wetsuits and yellow caps reaching the shore with a marshal on the sand

The crowds overlooking Castle Cove were incredible. There was plenty of cheering and clapping, with those who’d already finished greeting their friends and family. I was delighted to see my friends at the finish and headed off to change before grabbing my coffee reward.

More details about the Castle to Castle Swim

The event itself is very well organised. Swimmers are given a discounted ticket to use on the day for the Fal River St Mawes to Falmouth ferry. There’s a bag and flip flop drop off for competitors and all swimmers are chipped for timing and safety purposes.

I can only say how brilliant the Castle 2 Castle swim is; I really enjoyed a new challenge. The distance isn’t too crazy and there are no time restrictions. SUP boarders and other RNLI workers are there to assist, with safety being paramount.

If you’d like to start sea swimming, take a look at my top tips for winter swimming to get you going this winter.

a pinterest pin image of swimmers leaving the sea with the title Swimming in Cornwall RNLI Castle 2 Castle Swim

Author: plbedford

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