Say hello to the best and most beautiful places to swim in the UK this summer.
Now that the mercury's finally edged above the 10°C mark, the idea of outdoor swimming no longer has our toes curling in horror. In fact, we're dreaming daily of dashing out of the office, flinging on our bikinis and taking a little alfresco dip.
From 1930s art deco lidos to rooftop spa pools, behold Britain's best places to take the plunge.
1. Brockwell Lido, south London
Between Brixton, Tulse Hill and Herne Hill lies Brockwell Park – and tucked away in a corner of Brockwell Park is Brockwell Lido. Like many of the UK’s iconic outdoor pools, the lido was built in the 1930s; today, the art deco Grade II-listed building has been carefully renovated, and the little outdoor café is a dream. Added bonuses: the changing rooms are clean, the post-swim showers hot, and the staff super-friendly.
2. The Ilkley Pool and Lido, West Yorkshire
The Ilkley Lido is surrounded by emerald green hills and fields as far as the eye can see. But if West Yorkshire views from a lagoon-shaped outdoor pool isn't enough for you, there's also a heated indoor swimming pool open all year round and a lawned sunbathing area. There's lot of space for parking but note that the opening hours vary according to weather conditions.
3. Jubilee Pool, Penzance, Cornwall
This lovely fresh seawater pool – another 1930s art deco creation – was badly damaged in the violent storms that whipped the Cornish coast in 2014; this summer is the first time it’s been open since then. It was built in 1935 right by the ocean, with a gently curved triangular shape and high walls designed to work with the environment. Float on your back and watch the seagulls go by.
4. Shoreditch House, East London
A flashy choice, but worth it for the Instagram snaps (and the cocktails) alone if you're not too fussed about actually, y'know, swimming. This private members club boasts a rooftop pool with views of the City and surrounding areas. Get comfortable in one of the sun loungers or hit up the garden dancing area.
5. Hampton Pool, Hampton
Surrounded by the tall trees of Hampton Wick, the Hampton Lido is an affordable and easily accessible spot for unwinding. The pool is heated, too – good for those days when the sun isn’t quite strong enough to warm the water past shivering point.
6. Pells Pool, Lewes, East Sussex
Tucked away near the River Ouse in the Sussex market town of Lewes, a 15-minute train ride from Brighton, the Pells is the oldest known freshwater outdoor public swimming pool in the UK. There's a tree-lined lawn on which to lounge, as well as a no-frills (but very friendly) café selling ice cream and snacks. Once you've dried off, go for a wander around Lewes's cobbled streets, lined with antique shops and veggie-friendly cafés.
7. Hampstead Heath Ladies' Pond
While not technically a lido, Hampstead Heath's ponds have been adapted for safe swimming. The ponds are split into women's, men's and mixed, and the Kenwood Ladies' Pond is a particular gem. Surrounded by woodland with magical views, it feels like you're in the middle of an enchanted forest. The best way to escape London without actually leaving the city.
8. Tinside Lido, Plymouth, Devon
Like the Jubilee in Penzance, Tinside Lido allows you the luxury of looking at the sea while swimming in a saltwater pool. Perched right on the shore with a swooping, rounded design, it's a thing of beauty – and has been voted one of the 10 best outdoor pools in Europe.
9. Nantwich Outdoor Brine Pool, Cheshire
The Nantwich 'salt pit' (a brine spring) has long been known for its health benefits: after WWI, soldiers used to be brought here to recuperate. The Nantwich outdoor pool opened to the public over 80 years ago; today, it's heated, but staff say that some of their oldest customers still remember swimming in freezing temperatures as children in the 1930s and '40s.
10. Thermae Pool, Bath
Thermae Bath Spa is a must if you're visiting Bath – not just for a massage and a facial, but for the views of the city from the outdoor rooftop pool. Immerse yourself in steamy water while taking in the view of Bath's distinctive sand-coloured rooftops, golden church spires and the rolling hills nearby.
11. London Fields Lido, East London
Not exactly the most under-the-radar option on this list. London Fields has long been shorthand for hipster overload, and its pool gets absolutely rammed during the summer months. But not without reason: there’s a sweet, sensibly-priced little café and it’s heated, too, so you can stay in the water until 9pm.
12. The Lido, Bristol
Dating back to 1849, this heated outdoor pool is one of the oldest surviving lidos in the UK. Today, it’s been sensitively renovated: the viewing gallery of the old Victorian Clifton Pool has been transformed into an award-winning, glass-fronted restaurant and tapas bar, and there’s even a spa, where you can book in for a post-swim massage, facial or exfoliation treatment.
This article was originally published in June 2016.