Urban Escapes: Lidos

jubilee pool in penzance at sunset on a still summer evening 

Summer in the city has the potential to be a touch stifling when we’re fortunate enough to experience a prolonged spell of hot and sunny weather here in the UK, but the great British institution of the lido offers a welcome escape from the heat of the streets.

Of the 169 lidos built around the UK in their heyday in the early twentieth century only 31 remain, the rest having fallen into disrepair or been demolished following closure.  A recent boom in the popularity of outdoor bathing, however, has seen many historic lidos reinvigorated or restored, meaning that you now have a number of more stylish options for cooling off and taking a swim on a sunny summer’s day - whether you’re in the city or beside the sea.

Here are some of our favourites, in London and beyond, to give you a few extra options for escaping the urban environment mentally, if not physically:

colourful changing room doors at tooting bec lido 

Tooting Bec Lido

One of Britain’s oldest open air pools (opened in 1906), Tooting Bec Lido is also the second largest swimming pool (by surface area) in the country at 90 metres (100 yards) long by 30 metres wide.  It’s open to the public every day between May 1st and September 30th, although if you’re particularly hardy and a member of the South London Swimming Club, then you can swim there all year round.

london fields lido 

London Fields Lido

Hidden away in Hackney, the London Fields Lido is a heated 50 metre gem, and because it is heated to 25 degrees C and has floodlights, it's open from 6.30am – 9pm all year round.

bristol lido in clifton at night, with swimmer in pool and diners in restaurant 

Bristol Lido (Clifton)

Dating back to 1849, Bristol Lido closed in 1990 but thanks to a successful “Save the Lido” campaign and English Heritage giving the building Grade 2* listed status (which saved it from demolition), it reopened in late 2008.  It’s surrounded by a restaurant, tapas bar and spa, and is open all year round.

jubilee pool in penzance photographed by adam gibbard 

Jubilee Pool (Penzance)

Opened to celebrate King George V’s silver jubilee in May 1935, Penzance’s Jubilee Pool was built in a stunning cubist style on the site of a traditional sea-bathing spot on the promenade overlooking Mount’s Bay in west Cornwall.  Severely damaged by the storms of February 2014, the Jubilee Pool recently reopened following a £2.9m restoration.

saltdean lido art deco building in brighton photographed by deryck chester 

One to look forward to:  Saltdean Lido (reopening spring 2017)

A Grade 2* listed Art Deco lido in Brighton and Hove, Richard Jones’ design in the only lido to be celebrated in London’s Design Museum.  Currently undergoing extensive renovations, Saltdean Lido is due to reopen next spring with a heated pool and facilities including a restaurant and library.


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