Chapel Rock Perranporth

Chapel Rock, with its flag pole and hidden swimming pool, is one of the most iconic and distinctive features of Perranporth beach and the North Coast of Cornwall.

Chapel Rock is so called because it allegedly used to have a chapel on top of it. In the photograph below, showing Chapel Rock behind Union Seine boats, there appears to be both steps going up the side of the rock, and the remains of a building on top of it.

The other thing to note is just how big the rock is in this picture compared to the size it is today. One of the oldest photographs of Chapel Rock is 180 years old, but even within the last 70 years the size has decreased dramatically as it is constantly battered by the Atlantic Ocean.

old chapel rock

Posted on Facebook by David Higgins

In the context of the aerial photography of Cornwall Chapel Rock is a popular subject matter, having attracted many different photographers to capture it. Below we take a look at some of the most remarkable shots taken over the last few years.

The flag pole on top of Chapel Rock is a more recent addition, and has flown a few different flags over the years. It is most commonly seen flying St. Piran's flag, the flag of Cornwall, but has also flown the Union Jack and more recently the Ukrainian flag.

chapel rock ukrainian flag

Chapel Rock Ukrainian Flag by Jamie Turnbull

The other main feature of Chapel Rock is that it contains a hidden swimming pool. The pool was made by building a wall onto an existing rock pool to capture the sea water that floods over it. This means that the pool is naturally refreshed twice a day when the tide comes in. You can see the tide coming around Chapel Rock in this great picture below by George Cryer.

chapel rock perranporth swimmer

Chapel Rock, Top Down by George Cryer

The pool is depicted on postcards from the 1960s' and so it is at least as old as that. (If anyone knows the exact date that it was built then please let me know).

There are many manmade swimming pools on Cornish beaches (such as Portreath, Porthtowan and Bude, to name a few) but Chapel Rock is the only free-standing pool in a rock formation of its own surrounded by sand. This makes it unique amongst Cornish tidal pools as well as extremely photogenic.

Wild, cold water, swimming has become incredibly popular in recent years which has further served to enforce Chapel Rock Pools iconic status.

ladies surf club perranporth

Surf Club & Chapel Rock by Jamie Turnbull

In addition to swimming Chapel Rock also serves other activities. When surrounded by the tide it is used to paddle around by Perranporth Surf Life Saving Club. The Surf Club Nippers also commonly jump off the rocks into the pool.

On extremely high tides with calm seas those daring enough have also been known to jump off the top of the rock into the sea. Obviously this is very risky, and not recommended. (Although Chapel Rock is only about half as high as Green Island in St. Agnes, when the young people of St. Agnes have been known to jump from the top into the sea).

chapel rock perranporth

Chapel Rock Swimmer by Carl Brightman

The pool is commonly used by the local wild swimming group, the Perranporth Blue Tits, when the sea is too rough and dangerous to swim in. The pool is more commonly pictured with just a lone swimmer in it though, as you can see from many of the pictures here.

I wonder if there's one local swimmer with the job of Chapel Rock pool swim model? If so, it looks like they're getting quite a bit of work. 


by Liam Alford

With the advent of flying cameras we now have amazing pictures of Chapel Rock from almost every angle and state of the tide. The above shot, by Liam Alford, shows Chapel Rock against the backdrop of Droskyn.

When the tide is out the rock is defined by the sand and the textures of the river running across the beach beside it (as in the above picture by Carl Brightman). As the tide comes in then the rock and pool become surrounded by the blue-green of the sea - as you can see, many of the pictures here are well timed to be at the mid-state of the tide. At high tide the pool is completely covered, and only the top of the rock is visible.


by Jack Anstey

Red immediately draws the eye to it. One trick in photography is to have just one red thing in the picture, to make a subject stands out. That technique is well deployed in these pictures by both Jack Anstey and Simon Heather use of red wetsuit and swimming costume on their swimmers.


by Simon Heather

The above shot makes great use of the textures in the sand. Can you spot the shadow of the dog on the beach? Presumably waiting patiently for its owner to finish having a swim.


by George Cryer

The above shot from George Cryer is one of my favourites. The swimmer standing on the rock gives a real sense of anticipation - that they're about to go swimming. St. Piran's flag is also excellently captured in this shot - if you've ever tried to take a picture of a flag flying in the wind then you'll know just how tricky it can be. I also love the view up the coast to the YHA Youth Hostel and Cligga Head beyond.


by Geoff (the overweight photographer)

If you've ever tried to photograph sand then you might have discovered that it can often just look grey. To get any real colour beaches needs to be shot at golden hour, such as just after dawn. Judging by the position of the shadows in the above shot, this must have been taken just after dawn - and so this swimmer must have had an early start!


by Liam Alford

The above looks to be another golden hour shot, but this time at late evening or sunset (the shadows are now on the opposite side of the rock). There's a great view in the background of Droskyn, the millennium sundial, and back into Perranporth village in this shot.


chapel rock sunset

Chapel Rock Sunset by Jamie Turnbull

Perranporth is renowned as an amazing place to watch the sunset. In this close up a couple can be seen enjoying a sunset paddle around the rock on an incredibly flat sea.

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By Jamie Turnbull