Whether you prefer to do your laps in five-star luxury, reconnect with nature in a stylish swimming ‘pond’ or soak up the skyline from a city rooftop, here are our top outdoor pools for taking the plunge this summer.
1. Thyme, Gloucestershire
The swimming pool at Cotswolds haven Thyme is tucked away in a beautiful, honey stone walled garden on the hotel’s 150-acre estate. This secluded and serene heated outdoor pool is surrounded by nature and filled with water drawn from the estate’s very own underground spring. A unique bio-filtration system means that no chemicals are used whatsoever, so you can enjoy a swim in water that is pure enough to drink! Complete the all-natural experience by drying off in the sunshine on one of the stylish sunbeds that surround the pool or grab a botanical cocktail from the new poolside bar.
2. The Scarlet, North Cornwall
Whilst the outdoor pool at North Cornwall’s eco hotel The Scarlet may be on the chilly side, it’s worth braving it for the views. Fringed by granite rocks and greenery, this picture-perfect swimming spot overlooks the beautiful beach of Mawgan Porth.
Cleansed by a living reed bed as opposed to harsh chemicals, this unheated natural ‘pond’ is usually a bracing 22°C in the summer but fear not – after an invigorating dip you can warm up in the nearby wood-fired hot tubs and outdoor cedar wood sauna, both of which boast more stunning sea views.
3. Portavadie, Loch Fyne, Argyll
Perched on the shores of a stunning sea loch, the extraordinary spa at Portavadie cost a cool £10 million, and it shows. Built using glass, steel, stone and neutral tones, this serene, sprawling spa experience boasts an indoor pool, outdoor spa pools and a Scandinavian sauna. The star of the show however is the 81sqm heated outdoor infinity pool – said to be the largest in Scotland – with breath-taking views across Loch Fyne to the Isle of Arran. It’s kept at a comfortable 33°C, so whatever the Scottish weather may bring, you’ll feel positively balmy.
4. Lodore Falls Hotel & Spa, Cumbria
Nestled in the beautiful Borrowdale valley in the heart of the Lake District, the luxurious spa at The Lodore Falls Hotel makes the most of the stunning scenery that surrounds it. From the cool, contemporary 16m outdoor hydro pool, complete with neck jets, underwater loungers and an overflow hot tub, alfresco swimmers can enjoy breath-taking views of Derwentwater and Cat Bells mountains.
The nearby glass-fronted Finnish sauna boasts more wonderful views and, if you’re feeling brave, invigorating cold-drench buckets (followed by hot showers) are available on the open-air poolside terrace.
5. The Headland Hotel, Newquay, Cornwall
The Headland Hotel’s new and already award-winning £10 million Aqua Club has wow factor at every turn. Enjoy the sunset from the outdoor spa pool or do a few laps in the larger, deeper pool that encircles it; either way, ingenious design makes the most of the spectacular views over Fistral Beach whilst also sheltering swimmers from the wind. Elsewhere, there’s a spacious outdoor vitality pool with a stunning Cornish granite menhir (standing stone) at its centre – a perfect place for soaking tired muscles after a day exploring the nearby coastal path.
6. St Brides Spa Hotel, Pembrokeshire
On a clifftop overlooking the seaside village of Saundersfoot, the award-winning spa at St Brides boasts a heated, infinity-style spa pool, with sweeping views of the harbour and the stunning Pembrokeshire coastline beyond.
With submerged loungers and a hydrotherapy fountain, this bijou pool is less for strenuous laps and more for relaxing, whilst taking in the fresh sea air and magnificent views. It contains natural salt instead of chemicals, and is heated to a toasty 32-34°C.
7. South Lodge Hotel & Spa, West Sussex
The beautiful, 18m outdoor swimming pool at the luxurious South Lodge Hotel & Spa may be described as ‘wild’, but the good news is that it’s heated. Edged with swaying reeds and pretty flowers, this undulating and ohso inviting wild swimming ‘pond’ is surrounded by stylish decking, parasols and comfy sunbeds to curl up on after your dip. Elsewhere, there’s a state-of-the-art spa to explore, and more open-air bathing on offer at the small but sleek outdoor hydrotherapy pool.
8. King Street Townhouse, Manchester
In the summer months, city-centre hotels with outdoor pools are a real treat. What better way to shake off the sticky urban heat than with a refreshing open-air dip, sky high? The sleek, slate-grey infinity spa pool at King Street Townhouse may be small, but it is perfectly formed. Located on the hotel’s seventh floor, the pool has a glass roof but is completely open to the elements on one side, offering incredible views across the city’s skyline, dotted with pointy spires, and of the iconic clock tower of Manchester Town Hall. Sightseeing from a swimming pool? Why ever not?
9. Burgh Island Hotel, South Devon
Positioned on its own private island, it seems only fitting that the completely unique Burgh Island Hotel would offer a suitably extraordinary outdoor swimming experience. The hotel’s Mermaid Pool is a breath-taking natural seawater bathing pool, reminiscent of a mythical lagoon. Secured by a historic sluice gate and surrounded by rocks for utter privacy, it’s worth braving the unheated water for this totally unique swim. Alternatively, there’s also a rowing boat available for those who would prefer to remain dry – just watch out for the mermaids…
10. Cliveden House, Berkshire
Very few swimming pools can claim to be the origin of a world famous political scandal, but this one most certainly can. The legendary ‘Profumo pool’ at luxurious country retreat Cliveden House is where John Profumo first laid eyes on Christine Keeler, and their infamous affair began. Surrounded by rows of cream sunbeds, neat topiary and swaying lavender, this picturesque pool sits in the hotel’s elegant walled garden and is the last remaining listed outdoor pool in England. Admire the hotel’s stunning neoclassical architecture whilst doing a few lengths, before unwinding in one of the outdoor hot tubs.
Our love for lidos emerged in the 1930s when outdoor swimming first became popular in the UK, and now these sociable swimming spots are making a comeback. Today, there are more than 100 to discover, with more renovation projects in the pipeline. Here’s where to make a splash this summer!
Thames Lido, Reading
After more than three years of careful restoration, this beautiful, historic lido re-opened its doors in 2017. Located by the river Thames in Reading, the water temperature at this urban retreat is heated all year round to between 24-26°C. Spa treatments are available on-site, as well as a stylish poolside restaurant with a Mediterranean menu.
Bristol Lido, Bristol
Tucked away in the heart of Clifton, this historic lido is in fact a restored Victorian swimming pool and it oozes stylish serenity. It’s kept at a toasty 24°C and is surrounded on all sides by beautifully designed buildings that include an awardwinning restaurant and a poolside tapas bar, perfect for a post-swim sangria.
Tinside Pool, Plymouth
Built in 1935, beautiful Tinside Pool is an internationally acclaimed Art Deco style seaside wonder. Open only during the summer months, this stunning semi-circular saltwater pool is 50m in diameter and is both family friendly and fully accessible. Dry off on the large sunbathing terrace; the sea views are unbeatable.
Jubilee Pool, Penzance
Another Art Deco gem is the recently restored Jubilee Pool on the Cornish coast. It is the country’s largest seawater lido and there are three pools to choose from. The popular geothermal pool is the first of its kind in the UK, where you can bathe in natural salt water heated to between 30-35°C by the lido’s very own geothermal well.
Words | Sophie Farrah