Get us in your inbox

Tinside Lido in Devon, a round pool with striped tiling overlooking the sea on a clear day
Photograph: Shutterstock

17 of the UK’s most spectacular outdoor swimming pools

Fancy a scenic dip? From community-run lidos to coastal lagoons, here is our pick of the UK’s very best outdoor pools

Rosie Hewitson
Lucy Lovell
Written by
Rosie Hewitson
Contributor
Lucy Lovell
Advertising

From day trips to one of the many golden sandy beaches to a sun-soaked pint in a beer garden, the British Isles are blessed with excellent fair weather activities, but none quite rival the retro charm of the lido. 

Back in the 1930s the chilly outdoor pools were one of the hottest hangouts, and hundreds were built up and down the UK. Now, just a handful remain, but thanks to a huge revival in outdoor bathing, the breezy baths are having a bit of a moment. 

Lidos can be found across England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland – and they’re perfect for a summertime dip. From art deco cathedrals to swimming to sleek new rooftop hot springs, dive into our pick of the UK’s best outdoor pools. 

RECOMMENDED:
🏊 The best wild swimming spots in the UK
🦦 Where to spot rare wildlife in the UK
📸 The UK’s most Instagrammed villages
🪂 The best extreme outdoor activity breaks in the UK
🚴 The most beautiful bike trails in the UK

Best outdoor pools in the UK

Constructed in 1937, this Grade II-listed tidal pool on Margate’s Walpole Bay is a whopping four acres in size (about the same as seven football pitches) and is a favourite among cold-water swimmers and triathletes in training. 

Topped up at high tide – when its walls are completely submerged – the pool is bracingly cold for most of the year, so wetsuits are advisable for all but the most hardened swimmers. And if you’re looking to properly dive into the whole cold-water swimming thing, there are regularly safety courses run by local watersports groups.

Constructed in 1927, Lido Ponty is one of the oldest lidos still operating in the UK and counts Pontypridd royalty Sir Tom Jones among its fans. After extensive damage caused by Storm Dennis, the lido relaunched following a £6.3 million refurb.

The lido now boasts improved facilities, including a café, function rooms, an adventure playground and swanky inflatable toys. Its visitor centre explains the history of this much-loved place through video screens and interactive games.

Advertising

Built on the only natural hot springs in the UK, Bath has been famed for its thermal spas since Roman times, when travellers would come from all over Europe to bathe in their healing waters. The original municipal pools closed in 1978 after infectious bacteria were discovered in the water, though this new spa complex opened in 2006. 

Alongside a large indoor thermal pool and a series of treatment rooms, the New Royal Baths feature a heated rooftop pool with incredible views over the city. Book an evening slot to watch the sunset while relaxing in the pool’s mineral-rich waters. 

At the southern end of the Yorkshire Dales, this 46-metre-wide, mushroom-shaped pool in the village of Ilkley is yet another specimen dating back to the 1930s.

With amazing views over the surrounding moorland, it’s bustling with activity on the hotter days of the summer, with crowds flocking to make use of its picnic area, tennis courts, putting green and bowling green. If the unheated lido is too chilly for you, there’s also a 25-metre indoor pool.

Advertising

Offering fabulous views over the nearby estuary and surrounding hills, this 33-metre pool on the west coast of Scotland uses saltwater taken from the Clyde, heated to a pleasant 29C. Dating back to 1909, Gourock is the oldest heated swimming pool in the country and underwent a major refurb in 2010. 

Facilities include diving boards, a baby pool, a large gym, changing rooms and a viewing terrace. The pool offers night swims in the summer months, allowing visitors to stargaze as they float around in the water. Bliss!

Another pool dating back to the 1930s, this 30-metre-long lido in the Peak District recently underwent an extensive refurb, reopening in August 2020 with a brand-new filtration system and a fresh lick of paint. With the water heated to a comfortable 28C, the pool is open year-round, whatever the weather.

Its café serves comforting homemade meals to warm your cockles after a long dip, and there’s a monthly night swim accompanied by live music (£10). 

Advertising

Nestled within the lawned gardens of Marbury Country Park in the Cheshire countryside, this idyllic members-only lido dates back to the 1930s and opens daily from the middle of May to September with the help of volunteers from the resident swim club.

Facilities include a children’s paddling pool and play area, picnic tables and a small shop, with two diving boards overhanging the lido. Although it’s unheated, the pool is sheltered from the worst of the weather by the surrounding woodland. Keep an eye out for the sale of their annual membership passes – they sell out like hot cakes. 

This triangular art deco lido was built in 1935 to commemorate King George V’s silver jubilee and has stunning views over the Cornish coast. The main lido – the largest seawater pool in the UK – is unheated for an ‘authentic’ (read: quite chilly) sea swimming experience. But it recently also became the first in the UK to use geothermal technology, with one section of water heated to a toasty 35C via a well dug 410 metres below the earth.

And if that isn’t sustainable enough for you, the lovely café is plastic-free and uses only seasonal, locally sourced ingredients. They even recycle broken pool inflatables via a specialist charity. 

Advertising

One of many lidos that sprang up across the UK in the 1930s, this gorgeous art deco lido in Brighton was rescued following a long community campaign (after developers planned to demolish and fill it in). Instead, it had a £3.6 million refurb and finally reopened to the public in 2017.

There’s a 40-metre heated pool, as well as a kids’ play area and lawns for sunbathing. A second campaign is underway to raise funds for the renovation of its iconic building to create a café, library, exercise studio and events space. The plan is to reopen the building in 2023, so watch this space. 

Nestled in the hills of the North Pennines, this 25m pool opened in 1974 and remains a local favourite during the summer season. It’s an eco-friendly option, heated to a positively tropical 27C via super-efficient boilers and 38 solar panels along the side of the pool.

There’s a smaller pool with a mini water slide for kids and a sauna available for private bookings, as well as a little cafe area and swim shop. 

Advertising

Jutting out into Plymouth Harbour and offering amazing views over the coast, this 55-metre-wide saltwater pool is another art deco specimen dating back to the 1930s. Regulars were responsible for saving the venue after it closed in 1992, campaigning to get it Grade II-listed and reopen the facilities in 2005. 

The unheated lido is open during the summer, usually from May to September. Its facilities include a café, several water features and a scenic sunbathing terrace.

Set into the rocks on the lush Bude seafront, Bude Sea Pool is a safer option for swimmers on Summerleaze Beach. The free-to-use pool is topped up by the high tide, and in the summer you’ll find volunteers from the Friends of Bude Sea Pool on hand to help. Despite the inviting water, it’s still a rather chilly 11-18C in there – pack your wetsuit just in case.

Advertising

A trip to Bristol Lido is like taking a flight to some far-flung Mediterranean resort – nearly. The Grade II-listed pool is lined with an excellent restaurant that serves Spanish-influenced dishes, while the pool-side bar offers tapas and drinks. Massages, a steam room and a hot tub can also be found here. Non-members can visit as long as they book a two-hour slot (£20), or buy one of the ‘swim and dine’ packages (from £35). Members can visit as long as they like, but according to Bristol Lido, the membership is full and has a waiting list with over 1,500 people on it. Eek.

Sister site to the Bristol Lido, Thames Lido serves up the same kind of classy med vibes, with a restaurant and pool-side tapas bar serving up small plates from the bespoke charcoal grill and wood-burning oven from breakfast ‘till dinner. The 25m pool is heated to around 26C, and while membership full, visitors can pop in with a 2-hour slot or make a day of it with one of their packages, such as the swim, dine and massage complete with robe and towels to make a day of it.   

Advertising

The original structure of Pells Pool dates back to 1860, and there are a few quirks that show its age. There’s no car park, for starters – the building pre-dates cars – and the water comes from an unheated natural spring. More modern amenities include a kiosk selling goggles, inflatables and (that swimming must-have) duck food. Pack your own food for a picnic on the grassy lawn and soak up the history – as well as the sun.

Lovingly maintained by its volunteers, this free tidal pool on the Somerset coast offers a wilder swimming option. Their biggest project yet has been making the pool fully wheelchair accessible, with a hoist and disabled changing rooms making it a breeze for wheelchair users to take a dip. The lake also hosts regular events, such as the Lake Pier Day with games, music and free water activities to try out. A real community-focused gem. 

Advertising

The UK’s northernmost lido has entertained locals and holiday goers visiting nearby Aberdeen for generations. Built to Olympic specifications, the 50-metre-long pool is filled with filtered water pumped in from the North Sea (and mercifully heated to a balmy 29C).

The volunteer-run site is open from June to September and features a small water slide, a paddling pool for kids, a café and a sheltered sun terrace which is ‘often warmer than the Med’, according to a bold claim on its website. Visit in peak season to enjoy midnight swims accompanied by disco music.

Recommended
    You may also like
      Advertising