6 Of The Best UK Lidos And Outdoor Swimming Pools

Swerve the leisure centre and take your swim outside with our guide to the best UK lidos and outdoor pools

Some days a Calippo won’t cut it (not even the lesser spotted cola variety), and the only way to cool down is to submerge your limbs in a lovely cool swimming pool.

Get your ass outside to one of Britain’s 100+ outdoor pools to get the lengths in

But forget indoor pools with their school groups and wafts of chlorine, get your ass outside to one of Britain’s 100+ outdoor pools to get the lengths in. They may be wetsuit and shrunken genital zones earlier in the season, but in July and August these watery oases really come into their own.

Here’s our pick of the best outdoor swimming pools across our fair isles. Do your 50 laps, catch a few rays on the side, sink a Pina Colada (maybe).

1. Tooting Bec Lido, South London

London has its fair share of outdoor pools including the heated London Fields Lido, the Art Deco Brockwell Lido (excellent café and outdoor film screenings), and the brand new open-air King’s Cross Pond Club, but Tooting Bec deserves special recognition as, at just over 91 metres long and 30m wide, it’s the largest freshwater lido in England.

Popular with triathletes, it’s a great place to train for an open water swim as the ridiculously long length means you get less opportunity for pushing off and stopping at the ends.

For the brave/foolhardy among you, it’s also home to the UK Cold Water Swimming Championships in January. Brrr. And should you wish to boast about your workout on social media, those brightly coloured changing huts look great on instagram.

Tooting Bec Lido website

2. Bude Sea Pool, Cornwall

PIC: Bob Jones

Nestled under the cliffs of North Cornwall, this semi-natural pool is the closest you can get to swimming in the sea, without having to deal with currents, swells, and body boarders.

Topped up twice a day by waves from the Atlantic, the pool is around 91m long and was created in the 1930s. It’s free to use, although funds have to be raised each year for repairs and upkeep so do think about giving them a donation.

Bude Sea Pool website

3. Jesus Green Lido, Cambridge

It’s another whopper! Jesus Green Lido is 91m long, although kind of skinny. Built by the side of the River Cam, you’re surrounded by trees as you swim – lovely if you’re doing a bit of backstroke.  Go between 7.30 and 9am for lane swimming.

Jesus Green Lido website 

4. Tinside Lido, Plymouth

Voted one of the 10 best outdoor pools in Europe, Tinside Lido is a beaut. The semi-circular Grade II listed saltwater pool juts into the sea at the tip of Plymouth Hoe – bit like being on a cruise ship/Kate Winslet and Leo Di Caprio in Titanic.

If you like to get your training in early doors though, be warned, the pool opens at midday in term time and 10am on weekends and during school holidays.

Tinside Lido website 

5. Ilkley Lido, West Yorkshire

If you’re looking for a pool with a view, may we recommend Ilkley lido. Located on the edge of Ilkley moor there are views of lush green hills as you swim. The pool is unheated and a strange shape, bit like a mushroom with a fountain in there, but you can still get a decent swim in. And if it gets too cold, there’s an indoor pool too.

Ilkley Lido website 

6. Stonehaven Open Air Pool, Aberdeenshire

Yep that’s right, outdoor swimming… in Scotland! Fear ye not though, this Olympic-sized (50m) filtered seawater pool is heated.

Aim for the quiet swim and lane swimming sessions if you want to avoid overexcited kids and get some training in. The pool also hosts midnight swims where you can breast stroke beneath the stars to disco music. Awesome.
Stonehaven Open Air Pool website 

4 tips for swimming in unheated pools from Olympic medalist Duncan Goodhew

Olympic gold medal winning swimmer Duncan Goodhew is a supporter of Swimathon

1. If you haven’t swum in cold water before, summer is the best time to do it as the water is a bit warmer. It can still be cold though, so pop some water on the nape of your neck to get used to it, and get in slowly so you don’t shock your body with a big change in temperature.

2. Tempting as it is to have a hot bath or shower straight away, allow your body to warm up a bit first. Get a warm drink inside you and do some gentle exercises and stretches to help your body return to its normal temperature.

3. Sometimes the pool markings and visibility aren’t great in outdoor pools, use the flags to keep you in a straight line and breathe bilaterally (on each side). Bilateral breathing will help with your navigation as it’s really hard for most swimmers to keep their head still if they’re only breathing to one side.

4. Enjoy it!  All day we’re surrounded by electronics and racing through life, swimming allows you to get away from it all and provides peace and serenity. It’s just you and the water, and it’s beautiful.


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