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Car-free trips toOutdoor poolsaround the UK

Sunny days are here again! (Well, sometimes…) Here are ten lidos and outdoor pools you can visit by public transport. Cool down by the sea or dive into an art deco treasure (or both). At all of these places, you can also find interesting sights close by: museums, country walks, sculpture gardens, boat trips... The new pool at Jupiter Artland near Edinburgh has proved so popular that this summer's swimming sessions are sold out already, but the park is still a great place for a shady summer stroll with watery works of art.

  • County: around the UK
  • Great for: family | good cafés | Picnics | scenic bus and train | swimming |
  • Refreshments: cafes at most pools
  • Please note: researched/updated in July 2019. If anything’s changed or you have more tips to share, do get in touch:
  1. 4. Parliament Hill lido and Hampstead ponds, London

    As the UK’s only life-guarded wild swimming places that are open to the public all year round, Hampstead ponds are legendary. Nearby Parliament Hill lido is a 61m unheated pool on the edge of Hampstead Heath, first opened in 1938.

    Where? Parliament Hill lido is on the south-eastern tip of the heath, very close to Gospel Oak station on London’s Overground railway from Barking, Stratford, Clapham Junction or Richmond. The ponds are a short walk away over the heath (see below).

    When’s it open? Every day 7am to 9.30am and 10am to 6pm with evening swims (6.30 to 8pm on some weekday evenings). The ponds are also open from 7am and close at various times throughout the year.

    How much does it cost? Day tickets for Parliament Hill are £7/£4.50 for adults/kids, with discounts for morning/evening/winter swims. The ponds cost £2 for adults.

    How do I get there? For the pool, get the London Overground train (orange line) to Gospel Oak. Turn left out of the station and left again into the park. This is also a good way to get to the (Highgate) Mens and Ladies ponds. The Mixed Pond is nearer Hampstead Heath overground station. There’s a map of Hampstead Heath here.

    What else can I do while I’m in the area? Using the map above, stroll over Hampstead Heath to Kenwood, a stately home on the far edge of the wild space with a world class art collection, lovely gardens and beautiful views over the park below…

  1. 5. Tooting Bec and other London lidos…

    London has far more than its fair share of great lidos. One of the most impressive is the huge 91-metre pool at Tooting Bec with its changing room doors all painted in bright colours. It’s the UK’s largest pool (by surface area rather than volume) and one of the oldest too, first opening in 1906.

    Where? On the edge of Tooting Common, not far from Streatham High Road.

    When’s it open? 6am to 4.45pm until the end of September (7.45pm until the end of August).

    How much does it cost? £7.70 for adults (£4.70 for kids or after 6pm).

    How do I get there? Take the northern line tube towards Morden and get off at Tooting Bec station, walk past St Anselm’s church, down Tooting Bec road, for ten minutes and you’ll see it on your left. (See map below).

    What else can I do in the area? There’s plenty to do in Tooting – one lesser-known treasure is the decorated interior of the Gala Bingo Hall (marked with a compass on the map below) in Tooting Broadway. It was painted by Russian émigré theatre director and designer, Theodore Komisarjevsky. Hop on bus G1 towards Battersea for five minutes and ask politely to take a look.

  1. 6. Lymington salt water baths, Hampshire

    The UK’s oldest outdoor sea water baths opened in 1833 and are still going strong. Lymington baths have 110m of salt water with views across the Lymington River and the sea towards the Isle of Wight.

    Where? On the edge of the New Forest in the picturesque town of Lymington.

    When’s it open? 10am to 6pm until September 8th

    How much does it cost? £3 for swim only; more for sessions with inflatables

    How do I get there? There are regular trains to harbourside Lymington Town station from Waterloo (change at Brockenhurst) and it’s then about a fifteen-minute walk (see map below).

    What else can I do in the area? Lots of things! There are summer buses all over the New Forest and, from the next stop on the railway, Lymington Pier, you can catch a ferry to the Isle of Wight.

  1. 7. Thermae Bath Spa, Bath, Somerset

    You can bathe like a Roman in the warm, mineral waters of Bath’s luxurious Thermae spa, with its outdoor pool, eucalyptus-scented steam rooms and giant, curving jacuzzis. And there are views across the city from the rooftop pool. (Thanks to Thermae Bath Spa for the photo).

    Where? Natural hot springs have been Bath’s USP for two millennia. The famous Roman bath with the remains of a huge temple complex, still fed by a steady flow of geo-thermally heated water is next door and both are close to the station – you can bathe for twice as long if you come by train!

    When’s it open? The main spa is open 9am to 9pm almost every day of the year.

    How much does it cost? On weekdays, if you can show a valid train ticket, you get four hours for the usual price of two (£36). To get your full four hours, you’ll want to arrive by around 5pm – the spa closes at 9.30pm.

    How do I get there? It’s just a 10 minute walk from Bath Spa railway station (see map below).

    What else can I do in the area? Lots more ideas in our car-free guide to Bath.

  1. 8. Chesham Moor, Buckinghamshire

    Where? At the end of the Metropolitan line is an unexpected oasis of green fields and clear streams. The characterful town of Chesham has old pubs and rolling hills, water gardens, woods … and this classic lido!

    When’s it open? It’s open from April to October, 6am to 9pm (5.45pm at weekends), Look out for temporary changes for private events.

    How much does it cost? £5.20 for adults.

    How do I get there? It’s a fifteen-minute walk along Moor Road from Chesham tube station. See map below.

    What else can I do in the area? Follow the Chess Valley Walk, which goes right past the pool. This way-marked route from Chesham to Rickmansworth station follows a clear chalk stream through a grassy valley.

  1. 9. Priory Pool, Ware

    This pool in a peaceful Hertfordshire market town is close to the museum and the river. There are buses to Ware as well as trains direct from London (Liverpool Street or Tottenham Hale stations).

    When’s it open? Various sessions each day (check here for times) until Sunday 8th September 2019.

    How much does it cost? £5.50 for adults and £2.75 for kids.

    How do I get there? It’s a fifteen-minute stroll over the River Lea and down the High street from Ware railway station. But an even nicer route is to turn left along the river before crossing the bridge and stroll past the gazebos, then cross the footbridge and continue by road. See map below.

    What else can I do in the area? Check out our car-free guide to Hertford and Ware.

  1. 10. Jesus Green, Cambridge

    At 91m, this elegant 1920s pool is still one of Europe’s largest and stretches parallel to the nearby river, just metres away across the towpath. Take a dip in Jesus Green Lido and a stroll through the shady avenue of plane trees nearby, before heading to King Street’s trendy eateries for brunch.

    When’s it open? Open in the summer months. Various hours, but open until 7.30pm most days (afternoons only on Monday and Thursday and early openings on the other weekdays).

    How much does it cost? £4.60/£2.45 for adults/kids

    How do I get there? It’s always a bit of a schlepp from Cambridge railway station into town so hop on a bus (number 1, 3 or 7 – among others) as far as the Drummer Street bus station. From there, it’s a lovely fifteen-minute walk through Christ’s Pieces and Jesus Green. See map below for one possible route.

    What else can I do in the area? Cambridge has lots of interesting places to visit car-free. The pool is just a ten-minute riverside stroll from Kettle’s Yard. There are some more ideas here.

Look out for the Good Journey Mark – where car-free visitors are welcome and enjoy a discount

Visit car-free in 2020!