10 of the UK’s Best Lidos

While the mercury soars, we run the rule over Britain’s finest outdoor swimming spaces. Once a fading national institution, lidos are now back in vogue, and investment in their environs has resulted in bang-up-to-date culinary add-ons.

Brockwell Lido London

This 1937 lido was a London landmark in the pre-war era. Art deco in design and now Grade-II listed, it fell into disrepair before a local campaign led to regeneration in the mid-Nineties. Now, the Olympic-length pool is one of the biggest sunny draws in south London. The café has won countless awards for its use of local produce, while the drinks list rivals the best bars in London. The fact that the facility is council-supported means prices remain competitive all year round. It hosts film screenings throughout the summer, where locals float in dinghies supping G&Ts long into the night. Of a weekend, get your towel down early. Expect every good sunbathing spot to be procured before 10am.

Lido Final Crop

Travel Details

Dulwich Road, London SE24 0PA, 020 7274 3088, brockwelllido.com

Cirencester Pool Gloucestershire

One of the most picturesque lidos in the UK, this 28m pool is silhouetted by the ramparts of a faux-medieval castle. It’s also one of the few outdoor pools to be heated, to a positively balmy 27°C no less. It’s filled with natural spring water and has been serving the local community since 1869. Aside from the main pool and water slide, there’s a separate kiddie’s pool and sunbathing terrace. The old-school ‘tuck shop’ is a big draw for younger paddlers, serving sweets such as rhubarb and custard, aniseed balls and sherbert lemons by the quarter. Picnics are welcome, though the café, being right on the River Churn, offers local fish and produce, with discounted rates available to older guests.

Travel Details

Cecily Hill, Cirencester GL7 2EF, 01285 653947, cirenopenair.co.uk

Lido Bristol Bristol

Only still standing thanks to a fierce campaign by locals in the Nineties, the lido won out against developers who wanted to turn the land into flats. After a huge refurbishment it reopened in 2008. Many of the original Victorian features remain, but these are spliced with luxury, creating the most upmarket lido in the UK. It’s got a high- end spa, hot tub and steam room as well as changing rooms with hairdryers and hair straighteners. The restaurant is a big pull, serving quality tapas such as lamb chops with new-season garlic, wood- roasted scallops, smoked eel, and jamon croquetas. Wash it down with Lido Ale, a brew blended specially for the site. A swim and lunch for two package comes in at £70.


Travel Details

Oakfield Place, Clifton, Bristol, BS8 2BJ, 0117 332 3970, lidobristol.com

Arundel Lido West Sussex

One of the more recent additions to the UK lido scene, Arundel was opened in 1960 by the Duke of Norfolk as a 21st-birthday present for his daughter, Lady Anne. A familiar story follows, with closure in 1999 leading to a charity campaign that restored the space in 2002. Its real strength is its grounds. Huge grassy areas surround the 25m pool, and parasols and tree-lined areas are perfect for picnics. The café does a fine line in homemade cakes and sweets with simple panini and sandwiches well executed. Barbecues, inflatables and zorbs are available for parties.


Travel Details

Queen Street, Arundel, West Sussex BN18 9JG, 01903 884772, arundel-lido.com

Ilkley Pool and Lido West Yorkshire

Set in the heart of beautiful Yorkshire countryside, Ilkley Pool has more of the feel of a Scandinavian lake rather than somewhere a couple of miles outside Bradford. One of the few pools not designed as a rectangle, it’s an architectural rarity, with the original fountain still in place as it was on opening in 1935. Sport is very much the theme here, with outdoor tennis courts, crown bowls and a putting green available for when you’re done in the water. A café serving good coffee and snacks is on site during the summer months when the outdoor pool is open to swimmers.

Ilkley  Lido 005

Travel Details

Denton Road, Ilkley,
LS29 0BZ, 01943 600453, ilkleylido.co.uk

Pells Pool East Sussex

As the oldest outdoor freshwater pool in the UK, dating back to the 1860s, Pells Pool in Lewes is a huge point of pride for locals. Indeed, throughout the summer it’s a hive of activity, as many bakers and food producers come to sell their wares in the vast space surrounding the water. It’s not heated, meaning temperatures rarely get above 20°C, but it’s one of the most beautiful pools in the UK, with rolling Sussex scenery encircling the space. The neighbouring parkland is perfect for country walk to act as an ideal precursor to a dip in the pool.

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Travel Details

Brook Street, Lewes, BN7 2BA, 01273 472334, pellspool.org.uk

Serpentine Lido London

As close as the capital gets to the French Riviera when the sun is out, Hyde Park’s Serpentine Lido has been an inner-London haven for more than a century, playing host to the oldest swimming club in Britain. In the summer, there are plenty of sun loungers to hire, with a children’s paddling pool and plenty of safe play areas available. As well as an abundance of quality restaurants in the area, Lido Cafe Bar serves the best burger you’ll find next to a swimming pool, cracking fish and chips and a carrot cake to boost the blood sugar after a lengthy swim. A gin and tonic truck is regularly in situ through the summer, in case you wish to reward yourself still further.

Credit  Andy  Hooper

Travel Details

Hyde Park, London, W2 2UH, 02077 063422, serpentinelido.com

Stonehaven Pool Aberdeenshire

Up on the east coast of Scotland lies the UK’s only heated seawater pool. Primarily geared for families, there’s any number of chutes and inflatables, though adults can head down for a starlight swim every Wednesday in summer, when it’s open until midnight. It’s set in an art deco structure with a terracotta roof; on a sunny day, it’ll remind you of lazy days in Tuscany (almost). It’s also just a few hundred yards from Stonehaven beach and its excellent surf, meaning you can maintain the holiday vibes by switching between sea and pool at your leisure. The café is excellent, serving bakes from the local community and a good range of quality teas and coffee.

Travel Details

Queen Elizabeth Park, Stonehaven, Aberdeenshire, AB39 2RD, 01569 762134, stonehavenopenairpool.co.uk

Tinside Lido Plymouth

The closest thing you’ll find to a public infinity pool in the UK, Tinside Lido sits on a jetty jutting into the sea at the tip of Plymouth Hoe. Built in 1935 on a series of rock pools where people swam for centuries, Tinside was subject to a £3.3m restoration completed in 2003 after falling into disrepair. Its beautiful half-moon design, size and facilities saw it rated in the top ten outdoor pools in Europe and rightly so; the facilities are outstanding. The central fountain is the key focal point, sending jets of spray into the air. For food, think traditional, good quality seaside fare. Fish and chips and ice cream are well represented with plenty of good restaurants nearby.

Travel Details

Hoe Road, Plymouth PL1 3DE,
01752 261915, everyoneactive.com

Tooting Bec Lido London

Even though Olympic-grade athletes train for outdoor swimming at the 91m-long Tooting Bec pool, don’t be put off. It’s one of the best- equipped in the country and you’ll probably recognise its multi-hued changing room doors from any number of advertising campaigns and Brad Pitt’s Snatch. Its café is as good as any in the area, serving up interesting international dishes that wouldn’t look out of place in a top restaurant. The Brazilian cheesy doughballs are a lesson in how you should use cassava without it turning into mulch, while other South American staples such as guacamole with eggs and burgers are equally well done.

Travel Details

Tooting Bec Road, London SW16 1RU,
020 8871 7198, placesforpeopleleisure.org

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