There's little in life that's more tempting than a cool dip in an open-air swimming pool on a hot summer's day. Looking to combine that with getting away from the heat of the city? Read on for outdoor pools and lidos which you can visit on a day trip from London. If you can't be bothered to travel that far, we've got lidos in the capital here.
This guide covers manmade pools and lidos — some are purpose built lidos, others are local leisure centres with an outdoor pool. If you're feeling more adventurous, check out our guide to wild swimming in lakes and rivers near London.
Outdoor swimming pools and lidos in Kent
Faversham Pools (April-October)
Located in the centre of Faversham (a very pretty town, well worth exploring), this leisure centre has year-round indoor swimming, with the popular addition of three heated outdoor pools in the summer months. Keep an eye on the website for details of evening sunset swims during this time.
Serious swimmers can stretch their limbs in the 30m outdoor pool, which also has 1m and 3m high springboards, and a 5m diving board — a rare facility in public pools these days. Toddlers are kept entertained in their own smaller pool, complete with slides, and there's an outdoor rapids pool with splash zone for bigger kids. Both the main indoor and outdoor pools have their own hoist to help disabled swimmers into the water, and the Tides Cafe offers snacks, drinks and light meals for post-swim refuelling.
Faversham Pools, Leslie Smith Drive, Faversham, Kent, ME13 8PW.
The Strand Pool, Gillingham (May-September)
Located right on the banks of the River Medway, the 125 year old Strand Pool uses filtered salt water from the river, making it the only surviving river water salt pool in the country. It all feels very modern though — there's a paddling area and elephant slide for smaller children, and a lazy river surrounds the main pool, with footbridges criss-crossing it.
Plenty of sunbathing space around the edge too — something of a cool paradise, completely hidden from passersby by the high walls.
Strand Pool, Strand Approach Road, Gillingham, Kent, ME7 1TT.
Outdoor pool at Tonbridge Swimming Pool (April-October)
Overlooked by Tonbridge Castle on one side, and flanked by the sprawling green of Tonbridge Park on the other, with a miniature railway chugging around out the front, Tonbridge Swimming Pool is ideally placed for a day out in the town. It's the town leisure centre, with a 25m fitness pool, plus kids' pool and toddler pool open indoors all year.
Between April and October, the heated outdoor pool opens. At its widest point, it's 20m in length, though lane swimming isn't an option on busy days. One end has a slope into the water, ideal for toddlers, with splash buckets overhead. Best of all, there's a swim-through channel linking the indoor and outdoor pools (still closed so far in the 2022 season) meaning you can glide elegantly into the outdoor pool, rather than oohing and aahing as you inch into the chilly waters. The indoor pool has a hoist to help disabled swimmers into the water.
There's usually a couple of picnic tables for spectators, but there's not loads of space, so your best bet is to swim first, then take a picnic over to the park next door. You'll need to book online in advance for busy periods — and as the only outdoor pool in the area, it gets VERY busy during the summer holiday heat wave.
Tonbridge Swimming Pool, The Slade, Tonbridge, Kent, TN19 1HR.
Of course, there's always the biggest outdoor pool of all — the sea. Take a look at our pick of seaside towns in Kent, ideal for a day trip from London.
Outdoor swimming pools and lidos in East Sussex
Pells Pool, Lewes (summer season May-September, autumn season September onwards)
Just when we though the Sussex town of Lewes couldn't get any lovelier, we remember it's got its own outdoor pool — ideal for cooling those muscles after clambering up the town's steep hills.
First things first, Pells Pool is unheated, so can be quite a shock to the system. It's the oldest documented freshwater outdoor public pool in the country, and the water comes from an underground spring, the only warmth coming from the sun, so it's chillier than other venues on this list. Visit later in the season, when the sun's been working its magic for a few weeks, for a warmer experience.
Temperature aside, Pells Pool is ideal for a family day out, with a 46m pool and children's paddling pool, a large lawn area for sunbathing, and a small cafe selling snacks, drinks and ice cream. There's usually a section roped off for serious swimmers to do their lengths, while leisure bathers have plenty of pool too.
Pells Pool, Brook Street, Lewes, East Sussex, BN7 2BA.
Saltdean Lido, near Brighton
If you visit one place on this list, make it Saltdean Lido. Even non-swimmers and complete aquaphobes should visit Saltdean Lido at least once in their lives, if only to gawp at the seductive, iconic curvilinear building, which led to the Lido being labelled as "probably the most architecturally significant open-air pool in the country” by the 20th Century Society. It's had a tumultuous history and almost been demolished a couple of times, but after a restoration project, the 40m pool was reopened in 2017. Work is ongoing to restore the 1938 building, which will house a ballroom, cafe and library.
If you can peel your peepers away from the gorgeous architecture for a second, the cooling waters of the pool await. That side of things is now managed by Fusion (who run several leisure centres around the country, including in London), which offers lane swimming or family swim sessions in the 40m pool, surrounded by sunbathing lawns. Don't forget your sunscreen — the light really reflects off the pool and the whitewashed surroundings.
Saltdean Lido, The Oval Park. Saltdean Park Road, Saltdean, Brighton, BN2 82P.
Sussex swimmers: Look out for Sea Lanes Brighton, a 50m heated open air pool due to open on the seafront in Brighton in Spring 2023 (delayed by a year from Spring 2022).
Outdoor swimming pools and lidos in West Sussex
Arundel Lido, Arundel (April-September)
The only remaining lido in West Sussex, Arundel Lido offers stunning views of the turrets and towers of nearby Arundel Castle as you swim (best viewed when there are fewer leaves on the trees, if you can bear to swim in the chillier months). The two pools and sunbathing area are hemmed in by the River Arun on two sides, a car park on one side and housing on the other, meaning it's somewhat overlooked by the nearby houses. However, its central Arundel location means it has plenty of community spirit, hosting events such as teddy bear picnics throughout the year, swimming lessons, aerobics and fitness classes, as well as regular coffee mornings. Oh, and did we mention the castle views?
Arundel Lido, Queen Street, Arundel, West Sussex, BN18 9JG.
The Triangle, Burgess Hill (summer months only)
Leisure centre The Triangle is exactly what our childhood dreams were made of — flumes and rapids and jacuzzis and a beach area. And that's just the indoor, year-round pool.
In summer months, the curved outdoor pool opens too, with steps at one end for easy access, and surrounded by a Mediterranean-style patio.
The Triangle, Triangle Way, Burgess Hill, West Sussex, RH15 8WA.
Findon Swimming Pool, Worthing (May-September)
Something only really known to locals, Findon Village Swimming Pool is located behind St John the Baptist Primary School in the village — but it's open to everyone. Usually the season runs May-September for certain public sessions. If you've got a big enough group of family and friends (including a couple of qualified first aiders), why not club together for a few hours of pool fun via private hire?
Findon Village Swimming Pool, School Hill, Findon, Worthing, BN14 0TR.
Don't be fooled by talk of Worthing Lido — though it was once a beautiful, seaside swimming pool in the West Sussex town, the pool was built over in the late 1980s. These days, The Worthing Lido is simply an amusement centre, with your only swimming option being the sea, a few metres away.
Sussex too has plenty of coastline if sea swimming is your thing — here's our guide to seaside towns to visit in Sussex.
Outdoor swimming pools and lidos in Surrey
Guildford Lido (April-September)
Guildford Lido is a seriously impressive pool, 50m in length and drawing visitors from miles around. With four acres of landscaped gardens surrounding the water, it's somewhere you could bring a picnic and spend the day. Outdoor concerts, barbecues and other events are held regularly during the summer.
Up to 10 lanes are in place at once for serious swimmers, but the real fun of this place is the slides — three blue flumes twirling you around and throwing you out at a separate landing pool alongside the main pool. Definitely one of our top picks if you've got kids in tow. Oh, and that church tower you can see from the pool? It's nearby St John's Stoke Church
Guildford Lido, Stoke Road, Guildford, GU1 1HB. April is classed as 'winter season' with fewer sessions, before 'summer season' begins in May, running to September.
Stoke Park paddling pool, Guildford (May-September)
We haven't included paddling pools in this list so far, as they can be a bit... underwhelming. But Stoke Park's offering (located next to Guildford Lido) is worth mentioning for its size alone. Sure, you won't be doing lengths in it, but there's plenty of room for toddlers and younger children to let off a bit of steam while cooling down. It's free to visit, and it's suggested that you only stay for an hour, to allow everyone to have a go. There are public toilets in Stoke Park, along with a model boating lake, playground, crazy golf and ornamental gardens, so you could fill a few hours here.
Stoke Park, Stoke Road, Guildford, GU1 1ET.
Outdoor swimming pools and lidos in Berkshire
Thames Lido, Reading (year round)
If you're looking to do laps with a side of luxury, Thames Lido is absolutely the one, describing itself as an 'urban retreat' rather than a bog-standard pool. Thankfully its name doesn't come from the (heated) water within it, but rather its location on the banks of the river.
It's been open in its current, upmarket form since 2017, though there's been a pool here since 1902. It's certainly not your local leisure centre — unless you're a member, it'll cost you £20 for a two-hour session, which includes access to the pool, sauna and hot tub. Swim, Massage & Eat packages are available if you want to make a day of it. The food here isn't your usual pool caff grub — choose from the poolside tapas bar or formal restaurant, and tuck into Spanish and Mediterranean-style dishes.
At this point, the pool itself feels like an afterthought, but here's what you need to know: 25m long, heated year-round, and children are only allowed in for one session a day. It's surrounded on all sides by the (stunning) buildings, including a restaurant terrace just a splash away from the pool, so if you don't like the goldfish bowl feeling of being watched as you swim, it might not be for you.
Thames Lido, Napier Road, Reading, RG1 8FR.
Northcroft Leisure Centre, Newbury
You'll be needing binoculars to see the far end of the 72m-long outdoor pool at Northcroft Leisure Centre — quite frankly, one length would finish us off.
It's open to kids and adults alike, with plenty of room for splashing around as well as doing lengths, and there's a smaller, children's pool right next to it, as well as plenty of grass for spreading out your towel and making a day of it.
Northcroft Leisure Centre, Northcroft Lane, Newbury, RG14 1RS.
Outdoor swimming pools and lidos in Buckinghamshire
Wycombe Rye Lido
Dating back to the 1950s, Wycombe Rye Lido consists of two pools, with American-style bleachers running alongside the length of them for spectators to watch the action. A wall of trees flanks the other side, part of The Rye park in which the lido sits. The pools are heated, though if you do need to warm up, a recent refurbishment added a gym and football and tennis courts to the complex. There's also a cafe on-site for that all-important post-swim snack.
Wycombe Rye Lido, The Rye, High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, HP11 1Qx.
Chesham Lido (Year round)
There are records of people swimming in the waters around this spot as far back as 1898, though the first pool was constructed until 1912. A couple of facelifts later, the water's looking more tempting than ever, with bunting strung in zig zag patterns above above creating something of a festival feeling. Being open year-round means plenty of fairy-light swims in winter. The timetable is split between lane swimming and family sessions — if you've got kids, keep an eye on the schedule for inflatable sessions. Best of all, it's reachable on the tube — Chesham station (Metropolitan line) is less than 20 minutes walk away.
Chesham Moor Gym and Swim, Moor Road, Chesham, Buckinghamshire, HP5 1SE.
Outdoor swimming pools and lidos in Hertfordshire
The Priory Lido, Ware
*Not opening for the 2022 season due to refurbishment work. We hope to see it back open in 2023*
As the name suggests, Ware Priory Lido sits in the grounds of the priory in the small but pretty town of Ware. The main pool is 30m in length, and there's a smaller teaching pool too (though that's closed for repair work for the 2021 season), surrounded by grass and paved areas for sunbathing, as well as a cafe serving drinks, snacks and ice creams. As for the priory itself, it's now a wedding and events venue, so no chance of the monks stumbling across you while you fine tune your front crawl.
Letchworth Outdoor Pool (May-September)
Located on the edge of Norton Common, Letchworth Outdoor Pool is a 50m facility (with separate toddler pool) surrounded by trees and greenery, as befits a Garden City.
Letchworth Outdoor Pool, Norton Common, Icknield Way, Letchworth, Hertfordshire, SG6 4UF.
Outdoor pool at Hitchin Swimming Centre
Hitchin Swimming Centre is operated by the same company as Letchworth Outdoor Pool, but has much more on offer, including indoor pools, and a gym and sauna on-site.
The heated outdoor pool is an impressive 50m long, surrounded by a sunbathing terrace (with palm-style trees for that holiday feel), and flanked on one side by a gorgeous redbrick pavilion building.
Hitchin Swimming Centre, Fishpond Road, Hitchin, Hertfordhire, SG5 1HA.
Hemel Hempstead Leisure Centre
In addition to its indoor pool, Hemel Hempstead Leisure Centre has a 25m outdoor pool, with a smaller outdoor pool for kids alongside it. Family swimming and lane swimming sessions are available to book
Hemel Hempstead Leisure Centre, Park Road, Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire, HP1 1JS.
Outdoor swimming pools and lidos in Essex
Brightlingsea Lido (June-September)
The only remaining lido open to the public in Essex, Brightlingsea Lido sits right on the seafront, just a few miles south-east of Colchester, and next to the boating lake (make sure you plunge into the right body of water). It's a classic, 1930s style lido with a 50m heated pool, plus a smaller pool for toddlers.
Changing rooms, a cafe, and space to relax surrounds the water, though be warned that there is a hire charge for chairs and loungers.
Brightlingsea Lido, Promenade Way, Brightlingsea, Essex, CO7 0HH.
Essex has plenty of lovely beaches and seaside towns and islands with the option of a dip in the sea to cool you down.