Winning tip: Gourock, Greenock
Spreading itself below the best of Glasgow’s sunshine is Gourock outdoor pool. With tickets no more than £5, this charming and no-frills heated lido is the oldest in dear Alba, with stellar views across the Clyde estuary. On one diving board a young lad, clad in Irn-Bru tinted trunks, was having a hard time. The crowd quickly banded together, hooting and clapping in the slapping heat a boy overcoming his fear of heights. His dive was crowned by a glistering splash submerged in cheers, and the pride of a parent. Soundtracked to an eclectic selection of 1980s classics, noughties pop and Ibiza bangers, you can perform the cleanest dives to the most painful of belly flops. Gou-rocks!
Cirencester open air pool is a hidden gem in the centre of this beautiful Cotswold town. The historic pool is just off a riverside walk and you can swim in heated spring waters with a backdrop of ancient trees and a castellated building. The pool is run by volunteers through a charity. Disabled access is via a hoist, there’s a changing table, and every Sunday morning there are inclusive swims for those needing extra support and a quieter swim. Moon swims and solstice dawn swims are special events and are amazing. Love, love, love it!
Hidden down a narrow lane at the heart of an ancient stannary town, no one would expect to find sea-blue wooden changing rooms, a heated outdoor pool and a field large enough to while away hours reading, picnicking and playing. Ashburton pool is a gem, loved by tourists and locals alike, so well worth the long volunteer hours that we put into saving it from closure. Like all community-run pools around the country, our favourite is the one that we can walk to, reminisce about and cherish.
Jesus Green, Cambridge
Never quite knowing whether to pronounce it “lee-do” or “lie-do”, I have settled on the latter for Cambridge’s well-aired secret, Jesus Green lido. After hours of exploring the bustling, cobbled streets of the city centre, you will certainly be in need of an afternoon lie-do. And just a short stroll through Jesus Green’s cloud of barbecue smoke, you stumble upon this tucked away, 1920s bathing haven. Complete with a “pool through the ages” timeline on the back wall, you’re plunged into history for your afternoon dip, sunbathe, or a read of that book you still haven’t finished from last year’s holiday.
Containing fivemillion litres of sea water, the spectacular triangle of the Jubilee pool juts out into Mount’s Bay from a promenade dotted with giant pebbles. This whitewashed art deco lido was built for George V’s silver jubilee in 1935, and has been beautifully restored. There is also a smaller pool heated to 30-35C by energy from a geothermal well 410 metres below the ground. Brave the bracing Atlantic or bask contentedly in clouds of steam.
Matlock Bath, Derbyshire
What more could you wish for in life: an adults only pool! The lido at Matlock Bath (a strange inland seaside resort) is a joy and well-kept secret in Derbyshire. Fed by spring thermal water, it was restored to its original 1930s splendour in 2019. Situated between Masson woods and the limestone cliffs above the Derwent, this is an absolute gem. When you enter the water, it will certainly be a shock to the system if you have been used to a normal pool. However, every time I swim here, I come out of the water truly invigorated and enjoy the buzz for the rest of my day.
Herne Hill, south-east London
The unheated 50-metre pool in Brockwell Park is my London refuge, year round. Whether I’ve swum for two minutes in sub 5C water or two hours in a heatwave, I leave on a high. My advice is never allow yourself to think of the water as cold. As you enter, tell yourself it’s INVIGORATING and, I promise you, it will be! Then, if you’ve time, the pizzas at 400 Rabbits, overlooking the pool, are great too.
Peterborough lido, in view of the cathedral, is inspiring to me in many senses. It celebrates the magic feeling of throwing yourself into water, physically and spiritually. The water is heated and welcoming, plus the lido has a connection to poetry, with poems about swimming etched on to its walls. It even has a local poet in residence, Keely Mills, whose piece Floating and Feeling Fine should be a mantra for all those thinking of swimming in any lido. It is a great way to spend a day for the mind and body. Pop music from the speakers keeps you floating too.
Helmsley, North Yorkshire
I can’t recommend Helmsley pool in the heart of the North York Moors national park highly enough for a “proper” swim, a relaxing dip or a fun time with family. There are grassed areas around the pool with tables, seating and parasols, and a little shop stocked with very cheaply priced snacks and drinks. Basic, but clean, changing facilities and the reassuring presence of friendly lifeguards make this a truly amazing place to be enjoyed by all.
Hackney, east London
Nestled in the corner of London Fields is this lovely lido, a little oasis tucked away among the hustle and bustle of hip, lively Hackney. The 50-metre pool is always heated at the perfect temperature no matter the season and offers lane swimming for swimmers of all calibres. If you have worked up an appetite from swimming, you can check out the lido’s own cafe or head down to Broadway market, where you can enjoy some of the best eats Hackney has to offer.