20 of the best outdoor pools and lidos in Britain

With a heat wave on the way, the idea of ​​going for a swim in the sun is more appealing than ever.

Despite our islands’ propensity for rain, Britain is filled with open-air lidos and outdoor swimming pools, which come into their own when the mercury rises.

The 1930s saw a golden age of lidos, with 169 swimming pools built across the country. This number decreased because the popularity of cheap holidays abroad resulted in less demand for public swimming pools at home.

The specimens that are preserved are often exceptionally beautiful thanks to this history and thoughtful restoration work. Here we’ve rounded up some of the country’s best swimming pools for you to enjoy during the warm weather.

Ilkley Pool & Lido, West Yorkshire

On the edge of Ilkley Moor, this is one of the best outdoor pools in the north of England. The large swimming pool is freshwater and unheated and there is a large lawned sunbathing area and picnic area, with the new additions of flower boxes and hanging baskets designed to restore the original image. If the weather turns, there is also a heated indoor pool here.

Contact: Denton Rd, Ilkley; bradford.gov.uk. Plan the perfect trip with our guide to Yorkshire.

Ilkley Lido

Ilkley Pool & Lido’s solar gardens revived thanks to local donations – REUTERS/MOLLY DARLINGTON

Brockwell Lido, South London

One of the capital’s most popular pools, Brockwell Lido is set in a park of the same name and originally opened in 1937. Today it attracts avid swimmers who stop for laps on their commutes and across most of South London as soon as the sun rises. Stop by the Lido Café for sourdough pizza and homemade gelato from local favorites 400 Rabbits.

Contact: Brockwell Park, Dulwich Road, London; fusion-lifestyle.com. Plan the perfect trip with our guide to London.

Gourock Outdoor Pool, Renfrewshire

The River Clyde runs alongside the Scottish saltwater pool, creating spectacular views for swimmers, and diving boards are available. The oldest heated outdoor swimming pool in Scotland, opened in 1909, was renovated in 2022 as part of a £1.8 million renovation project, and now also has its own gym and improved accessibility.

Contact: Albert Rd, Gourock; inverclydeleisure.com

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Gourock lido is the oldest heated outdoor swimming pool in Scotland – PA/Danny Lawson

Stonehaven outdoor swimming pool, Stonehaven

This Olympic-sized pool is filled with seawater taken straight from Stonehaven Bay, which is then filtered and heated to a warm 29 degrees. Another Art Deco pool, it opened in 1938 and provided recreation (and showers) for troops during World War II. The pool, which looks like something out of a Wes Anderson set, offers moonlight swimming, with sessions taking place every Wednesday between 10pm and midnight during the summer. Note that the pool closes for the season in early September, but has added extra sessions during the heatwave.

Contact: Queen Elizabeth Park, Aberdeen; stonehavenopenairpool.co.uk

Shap Pool, Cumbria

At just under 300 meters above sea level, the Shap Pool in the Lake District is said to be the highest heated outdoor pool in the country. The site is run entirely by volunteers and consists of a 16.5 meter heated swimming pool, a new paddling pool for toddlers and a shop. Please note that the swimming pool is open from May and closes in early September.

Contact: Gayle Avenue, Shap; shapswimmingpool.co.uk

Saltdean Lido, Brighton

A true example of a 1930s lido, Saltdean reopened in 2018 after a long period of neglect. After it was almost demolished, it was instead restored and is now the country’s only listed coastal lido. The pool was once described by Historic England as one of the Seven Wonders of the English Coast and features fantastic Art Deco architecture. Please note that the swimming pool will be closed for the season on September 12.

Contact: The Oval Park, Brighton; saltdeanlido.co.uk. Plan the perfect trip with our guide to Brighton.

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Saltdean Lido in Sussex is a Grade II listed site – John Nguyen/JNVisuals

Bude Sea Pool, Cornwall

Nestled in the cliffs of Summerleaze Beach in north Cornwall, this unique, part natural, part man-made pool is about as close to the sea – and the experience of swimming in the sea as it will be. It measures 88 by 50 meters and is replenished twice a day by the waves of the Atlantic Ocean. Keeping the pool open depends on donations, fundraising, grants and the goodwill of volunteers, local businesses and visitors.

Contact: Bude; budeseapool.org. Plan the perfect trip with our guide to Cornwall.

Tooting Bec Lido, South London

At 100 meters long and 30 meters wide, Tooting Bec Lido is the largest freshwater swimming pool in Britain. Thanks to its rainbow-colored changing rooms, it has become a popular film location over the years Brad Pitt shot scenes for the crime comedy Snatch here.

Contact: Tooting Bec Road, London; placesleisure.org

Anniversary Pool, Penzance, Cornwall

Art lovers will love the cubist changing rooms at this Cornish swimming pool. The country’s largest seawater lido, swimmers will find spectacular views of the Atlantic Ocean. The pool is located on Cornwall’s Battery Rocks, near Penzance Harbour, with a toddlers’ pool in the main pool.

Contact: The Promenade, Penzance; jubileepool.nl

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The Jubilee Pool offers spectacular views of the Atlantic Ocean – Jubilee Pool Penzance

Pells Pool, Lewes, East Sussex

Pells Pool dates back to the 1860s and is believed to be the oldest freshwater swimming pool in the country. Please note: the pool is unheated and can get quite chilly. If a dip here makes you thirsty, Lewes is also home to the very good Harveys Brewery. Booking in advance is highly recommended.

Contact: Brook Street, Lewes; pellspool.org.uk

Parliament Hill Lido, North London

The stately Parliament Hill Lido on Hampstead Heath is open 365 days a year, so keen swimmers can always find something to do. The 60-meter pool is not heated, so visitors are advised to brush up on their cold swimming knowledge before taking the plunge: no alcohol, warm layers, and fuel your body before swimming.

Contact: Heath Lodge, Parliament Hill; Parliamenthilllido.org

Thermae Bath Spa, Bath

Those who fear icy water – or who never think a pool is adequately heated – can find solace at Thermae Bath Spa. Britain’s original thermal spa, the 18th-century building was renovated in the early 1990s and has since become the city’s most popular outdoor pool. The rooftop pool is filled with warm thermal water, fresh from one of Bath’s three springs, and offers panoramic views of the city.

Contact: The Hetling Pump Room, Bath; thermaebathspa.com. Plan the perfect trip with our guide to Bath.

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The rooftop Thermae Bath Spa is filled with warm thermal water – Alamy

Sandford Parks Lido, Cheltenham

One for the more serious swimmers, given the 50 meter length of the main pool; in 2012 this Cotswolds lido was offered as an Olympic training facility and was used by the Malawi team. The swimming pool is also family-friendly, with the added bonus of a smaller children’s pool, paddling pool and some slides.

Contact: Keynsham Road, Cheltenham, Gloucestershire; sandfordparkslido.org.uk

Lymington Seawater Baths, Hampshire

One of the country’s oldest, the Lymington Sea Water Baths (or Lymington Lido) has a pedigree dating back to the late 18th century, when the therapeutic benefits of saltwater bathing began to be recognised. The site has been renovated many times, but the 110 meter long seawater pool is still one of the largest in England.

Contact: Bath Road, Lymington; lymingtonseawaterbaths.org.uk

Tinside Lido, Plymouth

A beautifully restored semi-circular seawater swimming pool with many art deco elements, a fountain in the center and direct views of the sea. Boat enthusiasts can see all kinds of ships floating into nearby Plymouth Harbour. Open-air cinema evenings are also organized occasionally.

Contact: Hoe Road, Plymouth, Devon; plymouthactive.co.uk

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Watch boats float by from Tinside Lido – Alamy

Thames Lido, Lecture

The long-closed Reading’s King’s Meadow swimming pool reopened in 2017 as the Thames Lido. There has been an open-air bathing area on the site since 1860, and in 1879 the local authorities built the largest swimming pool in southern England, a whopping 79 meters long, but for men only, with water brought in from the nearby Thames. A women’s swimming pool was added in 1902. Designed to guarantee Edwardian ladies total privacy, it is surrounded by a beautiful building, and it is this pool that still exists today.

In addition to the 25-metre swimming pool, heated to between 21°C and 25°C, visitors will find a 120-seat restaurant, a public bar and a spa. However, use of the pool is quite expensive, with an entrance fee of £25 for two hours of access. Still, the steep price gives you access to one of the most luxurious lidos in the country.

Contact: Napier Road, Reading; thameslido.com

Bristol Lido, Bristol

This Grade II listed lido, Britain’s oldest heated outdoor swimming pool, was built in 1850. However, Victorians might struggle to recognize the now glamorous spot with its spa facilities, restaurant and poolside bar. It is now the sister lido to the equally chic Thames Lido, mentioned above. To visit this spot in Bristol you’ll need a membership or book a spa package, which starts from £25 per person for a two-hour session.

Contact: Oakfield Place, Clifton, Bristol; lidobristol.com. Plan the perfect trip with our guide to Bristol.

London Fields Lido, East London

You may have to wade through a sea of ​​sunbathing hipsters, but London Fields Lido is undeniably a lovely spot on a sunny day. A delight even when the weather turns, the pool has the advantage of being heated to 25 degrees all year round.

Contact: London Fields West Side, London; better.org.uk

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On a sunny day, London Fields Lido is a popular spot for Londoners – Jonathan Brady/PA

Droitwich Spa Lido, Worcestershire

Another modernized swimming pool from the 1930s, with plenty of space (40 meter pool), a wet playground for the children, sun terraces and a Lido Café. Repairs have recently been made to one of the last remaining saltwater swimming pools in inland Britain.

Contact: Droitwich Spa Leisure Centre, Briar Mill; wychavonleisure.co.uk

Arundel Lido, West Sussex

A large outdoor swimming pool from the 1960s, with a beautiful view of Arundel Castle. Sessions cost £8 – the pool closes for the season on September 17.

Contact: Queen Street, Arundel; arundel-lido.com.

This story was first published in June 2022 and has been revised and updated.

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