Whether you’re looking for a safe place to go for an outdoor swim or somewhere to cool off on a hot day, lidos offer the perks of a swimming pool in an al-fresco environment.
But with over 100 lidos across Britain welcoming swimmers this summer, choosing the best ones can be a challenge. Below, we’ve compiled a list of some of our favourites…
A brief history of lidos in Britain
The word ‘lido’ originates from one of the barrier islands, separating the tranquil waters of the Venetian Lagoon in Italy from the Adriatic Sea. The lagoon became a popular bathing spot for high-society vacationers during the 1800s.
But when local authorities in the UK built various outdoor swimming spots after the First World War, ‘lido’ was the term used to describe them – perhaps to give our local watering holes an air of European sophistication.
During the 1920s and 30s – which is considered by many to be the golden age of lidos in the UK – over 100 of these facilities were constructed across the UK, particularly in South England. But, unfortunately, in the latter half of the 20th century, many fell into disuse and became derelict.
In recent years, however, lots of our lidos have been given a face-lift and are re-opening their doors to visitors (thanks, in many cases, to local campaigners and organisations like the National Heritage Fund).
12 of the best lidos to visit in Britain
1. Sandford Parks Lido, Cheltenham
Adult price: £7.30
As a spa town, Cheltenham locals aren’t exactly short of places to go for a swim. But since it opened in 1935 (at the height of Britain’s interwar fascination with the lido), Sandford Parks Lido has undoubtedly become a favourite.
The main attraction is the 50m heated pool, which is split into an open swimming section – for those wanting a relaxing dip – and a lane swimming section, so people can get their laps in without weaving through the crowds.
However, there are many more facilities to enjoy here, including a children’s pool and cafe. The venue even plays host to open-air film nights and offers fitness classes. This year, it’s open from 27th March to 7th October.
2. Lido Ponty, Pontypridd
Adult price: £3.00
Built in the 1920s, Lido Ponty has been a popular leisure destination for locals of Southeast Wales for nearly 100 years.
It was a favourite spot of a young Sir Tom Jones – who grew up locally – and is where Jenny James (the first Welsh person to swim the English Channel) trained for her historic crossing.
Recently restored, the lido has all the creature comforts a modern bather might expect and more. This includes three heated pools, a cafe serving decadent waffle breakfasts, and an adventure park for little ones who don’t fancy getting wet.
Lido Ponty’s summer season typically runs from May until September. However, they do organise sporadic cold water swimming sessions throughout the winter.
3. Parliament Hill Lido, London
Adult price: from £4.50
Between WW1 and WW2, Londoners witnessed a surge in open-air swimming venues when the London County Council built 13 lidos throughout the city. This included Parliament Hill Lido in the northwest.
Also known as the ‘Hampstead Heath Lido’, Parliament Hill Lido is a relatively simple affair compared to some of the entries on this list – with a 60m unheated pool and a cafe. However, unlike many other swimming spots, it’s open all year round and conveniently located within a short walk of a handful of major transport links.
Why not book a dip in the pool in the afternoon, before heading to the top of Parliament Hill to watch the summer sky turn purple-pink over the city?
4. Stonehaven Open Air Pool, Aberdeenshire
Adult price: £6.60
The Stonehaven Open Air Pool has plenty to shout about. Not only is it the UK’s most northerly lido, but it’s also the only one to boast an Olympic-sized, Art Deco seawater pool.
From May to September each year, this coastal swim spot provides Aberdeenshire residents with a heated sanctuary from the brisk waters of the North Sea.
Complete with a cafe, a splash pool and chute for children, and wheelchair access and assistance, you can enjoy yourself at this lido no matter what your needs.
5. Thames Lido, Reading
Adult price: £25.00
At first glance, readers might baulk at the price of this swimming spot, but the Thames Lido in Reading is more than just a place to swim.
Originally built as a women’s pool in 1902, it was closed to the public in the mid-70s and fell into an extended period of disrepair. However, in recent years, it’s been transformed into a modern temple of relaxation.
The standard ticket price will grant you use of the facility’s 25m metre heated swimming pool, as well as the hot tub and saunas. You can also grab an up-scale bite to eat at the restaurant or poolside bar – or even treat yourself to a massage.
This lido is ideal for swimmers searching for a slice of luxury. Though, if you live in the Southwest, why not check out Bristol Lido? This is the sister site of the Thames Lido and has many of the same facilities.
6. Saltdean Lido, Brighton
Adult price: from £6.00
Since the 1920s and 30s were the golden era of Art Deco architecture and lidos, many of these watering holes were designed to reflect this – one of the most striking being Saltdean Lido in Brighton and Hove.
After opening to much fanfare in 1938, it was forced to close its doors just three summers later in 1940 due to the Second World War. There are even reports of the lido itself – which was filled with swimmers at the time – being subjected to gunfire from low-flying German fighter aircraft.
Since then, the swimming spot has been opened and closed numerous times. But in 2011, it was saved from the brink of permanent demise by a local community group and named a Grade II* listed building.
While construction works are currently underway to restore the iconic Art Deco building to its former glory, the pool itself is open for visitors until September.
7. Jubilee Pool, Penzance
Adult price: from £6.00
When it comes to the best lidos in the UK, no list is complete without Penzance’s Jubilee Pool.
Located on a rocky peninsula just minutes away from the town, this is the largest of the five remaining seawater lidos in the UK.
With its clean, symmetrical lines and blue-white colouration, it boasts a classic Art-Deco design – and the triangular-shaped main pool is said to be inspired by a seagull in flight.
While the main pool isn’t heated, if you’re not looking to benefit from the health bonuses of cold water swimming and fancy something more comfortable, why not head over to the geothermal pool?
As the first of its kind in the UK, Jubilee’s geothermal pool is heated by extracting water from, and pumping it back into, a geothermal well over 400m below the ground! And while the two other pools are only open between July and September, the lido plans to keep the geothermal pool open all year round.
8. Hathersage Pool, Peak District
Adult price: £7.50
This 30-metre open-air pool is located in the quaint village of Hathersage, which is only a half an hour’s drive for Sheffield residents looking for an escape from the sweaty city heat.
While it can get busy at Hathersage Pool from time to time, it’s a charming place to enjoy a day by the water. An ornate grandstand looms over the pool like a permanent lifeguard and the surrounding hills of the Peak District provide stunning scenery.
Open all year, the pool is heated throughout the main season. But unheated swimming sessions are run sporadically, so people can enjoy the benefits of cold water swimming.
Hathersage Pool offers a mix of bookable sessions and first-come-first-served periods. So it’s worth checking the timetable on their website before planning your trip.
9. Gourock Outdoor Pool, Renfrewshire
Adult price: £5.50
On a sunny day at Gourock Outdoor Pool, you can admire the sun glinting off the emerald wavelets of the Clyde estuary from your poolside lounger. But on a moody day, when the mist comes in over the bay, you can seek sanctuary in the heated waters of the pool.
Beloved by locals and visitors alike, Gourock Outdoor Pool is Scotland’s oldest lido, built well over a century ago in 1909. And though it’s been refurbished recently to include a new gym and better-changing facilities, it still retains some of its old-school charms – including a vintage-style springboard, which many lidos have abandoned over the years.
An enduring lido that’s found new fame recently as the cover of Brit-pop band Blur’s upcoming album, The Ballad of Darren, Gourock Outdoor Pool doesn’t take bookings for their everyday swim sessions and works on a first-come-first-serve basis. However, you can check out their timetable or book a starlight swim using the button below.
10. Cleveland Pools, Bath
Adult price: TBD
With community groups across Britain working hard to restore their local lidos to their former glory, there have been many success stories in the world of outdoor swimming in recent years. But perhaps none as hard-won as that of Cleveland Pools.
After an 18-year campaign to save the UK’s oldest public outdoor swimming pool, which has been closed for nearly 40 years (to become a trout farm, of all things), Cleveland Pools is set to open its resplendent gates to the public again later this summer.
Unlike many of the other lidos on this list, Cleveland Baths is a fine example of Georgian architecture. Its grand changing room block, which wraps around the pool, will remind visitors of the Royal Crescent – the famous row of terraced houses not far down the road.
11. Tinside Lido, Plymouth
Adult price: £8.00
Set at the tip of the Plymouth Hoe Promenade, Tinside Lido is one of the larger swimming spots on this list, with a semi-circle design and a 55m diameter.
It’s another stunning Art Deco affair from the heyday of British lidos, and both the pool and the sundeck offer dazzling views over the azure waters of Plymouth Sound.
Featuring a variety of events – from late-night swims to hosting triathlons – Tinside Lido is open from May to September. And if you’re a Plymouth local, you’re entitled to a discount.
12. Ilkley Pool and Lido, West Yorkshire
Adult price: £9.50
Located on the very edge of the Yorkshire Dales National Park, Ilkley Pool and Lido is a favourite among locals and visitors from the nearby cities of Leeds and Bradford.
This mushroom-shaped lido is surrounded by manicured lawns, hedges, and trees – and offers views of the surrounding Ilkley Moor. It’s relatively large, but unheated, so brace yourself when temperatures are low.
Although, if there’s a chill in the air, you can head to the 25m indoor pool, which is open all year round. The lido, on the other hand, only welcomes guests from May to September.
Swimmers won’t need a booking. However, it’s worth having a look at the online timetable to check what’s going on.
From Aberdeenshire to Cornwall, there are loads of al-fresco swimming locations to enjoy all over Britain. However, if wild swimming is more appealing, check out our articles; An introduction to open water swimming and 16 of the best beaches in the UK.
And for more ideas for days out this summer, head over to the travel section of our website.