10 of Britain’s best lidos

From Devon to Derbyshire, these glorious outdoor swimming pools make for an invigorating dip

Tinside Lido, Plymouth, Devon

Another clear winner in the British seaside lido beauty parade. Built in 1935 in a semi-circular shape heading out to sea, Tinside Lido has striped blue tiling and retains the original changing rooms. It also has a backdrop of Plymouth Hoe. It’s open all summer, with a wide sun terrace, fountains and a pleasing sense of frivolity along with lifeguards and essential post-swim oriented cafe.
Adults £5, juniors £4, everyoneactive.com

Thames Lido, Reading

‘Poolside tapas bar…’ Thames Lido, Oxfordshire.
‘Poolside tapas bar’: Thames Lido, Oxfordshire. Photograph: Andre Pattenden

Arne Ringner, the Bristol restaurateur who saved the city’s lido, has also worked his magic on this Grade II-listed Edwardian swimming pool that had been closed since 2004. Today, the poolside tapas bar aims to transport you to the Med and the water is heated to a delightful 26C. The original ironwork is still in place, as are the changing rooms. Another Edwardian hangover, the fences screening swimmers from the Thames path, have had peepholes added.
Spa minibreaks including swim, treatment and tapas cost £60pp, thameslido.com

Jubilee Pool, Penzance, Cornwall

‘Britain’s largest seawater swimming pool’: Jubilee Pool, Cornwall.

Britain’s largest seawater swimming pool is a glorious art deco triangle that offers the traditional cold-water option or new geothermal toastiness. First opened in 1935, it has one corner now heated via the pool’s own low-carbon heat-source pump. An inhouse therapist delivers massages. The pool cafe serves up locally roasted coffee and sandwiches made from St Ives bread – and the views over Penzance are just as nourishing.
Main pool: adults £4.25, children £3, under 4s free. Geothermal pool: adults £11.75, kids £8.20, under 4s free, jubileepool.co.uk

Bristol Lido

Bristol Lido.

Locals battled for more than 13 years to save these Victorian municipal baths tucked away in Clifton. Now they are a beautifully sybaritic experience with massages, facials, a restaurant and a bar. Covid regulations have restricted the pool (kept at 21C) to members only; but booking a package (from £35) allows you swim time, spa treatments and a meal.

Saltdean, Brighton

Saltdean lido, Sussex, UK

A cherished example of Britain’s modernist architecture in a suburb of Brighton. Opened in 1938, with space for 500 in Covid-free times, there’s both a main pool and a children’s paddling pool. Saltdean has followed the ebbs and flows of lido fashions and fortunes, falling into disrepair before opening again in 2017. Its heated pool attracts winter swimmers, while summer sees families arrive. Plans for further restoration will include a cafe and library in the lido’s glorious white facade.
Adults £8, juniors £5.60, saltdeanlido.org

Hathersage, Peak District

Hathersage lido, Derbyshire.

This is a complete charmer of a swimming pool with a stunning setting in the Peak District, water temperature that aims for a pleasing 28C and – even in Covid times – night swims to live music are being planned. Built as a memorial for George V in 1936 and without the dereliction drama of so many of the country’s other lidos, the Hathersage pool spent the first lockdown completing serious renovations. A cafe dispenses hot drinks and snacks.
Adults £7, juniors £4, under 4s free, hathersageswimmingpool.co.uk

Gourock Pool, Clyde

Gourock Pool. Clyde.

Scotland’s oldest outdoor swimming pool has undergone some delightful tweaks over the years. It first opened in 1909, although it was another 50 years before heating finally arrived in the 1960s. Acting as a community hub where generations have learned to swim, Gourock Pool sets aside times for lane and free swimming. The views are magnificent on to the River Clyde, and there are even diving boards, which complete the fabulously retro feel.
Adults £4, inverclydeleisure.com

Clevedon Marine Lake, Somerset

Clevedon Marine Lake, Somerset

Topped up by the spring tides each year, the infinity edge of this man-made lake creates a delightful blend of wild swimming and watersports. While the pool itself is unheated, coming to Clevedon is meant to be fun; SUPs and inflatables are all allowed and at 250m long and 100m wide, there’s plenty of space for everyone. Added to all that, the sunsets are glorious. Run by volunteers, there’s no charge, but a donation of £2 is appreciated.

Lido Ponty, Pontypridd, Glamorgan

Lido Ponty, Glamorgan.

Where Tom Jones got his first and most natural tan. Coming up for its centenary, this pool has shaped up rather beautifully for the 21st century. It still has its original 1920s turnstiles and green wooden changing rooms, but now has heated water and offers generous Welsh breakfasts in its cafe. The three swimming pools are divided between one for serious lane swimmers, an inflatable-filled fun pool and a paddling area plus playgrounds, lawns and woodland to the side.
Adults £2, under 16 free, lidoponty.com

Beckenham Place, south London

‘A man-made lake for cold-water swimmers and wetland birds’: Beckenham Place, London.

London is blessed on the open-air swimming front, but this is the newest – a man-made lake for cold-water swimmers and wetland birds. It’s run by Lewisham council and all swimmers have to wear tow-floats and be able to swim 25m. There are fully trained lifeguards on hand, wildlife, play areas and lawns. Water temperatures are posted daily on social media. Over-eights only are allowed to swim, and pre-booking is essential at the moment with a time limit of an hour per session. Two cafes keep hunger at bay.
Adults £5.50, ages 8-16 £3.50, ptpcoaching.co.uk

• This article was amended on 29 June 2021 because an earlier version incorrectly referred to the pool at Saltdean as “unheated”.


Sarah Turner

The GuardianTramp

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