Words and research by Lauren Heath
I have a confession to make, I’m obsessed with water… the ocean, a river or a pool. Thanks to some inspiring friends over lockdown, I’ve now been wild swimming all year round since summer of 2020. I only have to see water and I want to be in it, but I realise that it’s not for everyone. Wild swims ground me, calm my mind and gift me with a natural high. Pools on the other hand instil the holiday vibes and a different kind of joy.
Well never fear, now summer is firmly here, the majority of you will revel in finally feeling the warm sun on your skin, and I’m certain you’ll want to find the right spot to cool down in and have a refreshing dip.
With South West 660 being spoilt by and celebrating a fabulous stretch of the British coastline, I’m sure there’s a group of people who don’t always want to be in the open ocean. Cue my tips on outdoor lidos, pools and sea pools.
Outdoor Lidos and Pools
Lidos (pronounced lee-doe) were named as such due to their proximity to the sea and derives from an Italian word meaning beach or shore.
Lidos and outdoor pools have faced increasing costs recently due to energy prices so they’re delighted to see you. In return, you get to enjoy glistening clear, warmer water, no over-crowding, good facilities, and even some treats from their serving hatch.
Sea pools can also face a battering with the ever changing climate and seasons. The joy of a sea pool is that you can give yourself to the ocean but in a more contained and safe feeling space if you will. Some are maintained by local councils and others are left to run wild.
Use it or Lose it
Many, if not all, are cared for and maintained by the local council or community and volunteer run charities, so if you don’t visit and use it, you’ll risk losing it. With all that’s on offer and many of these venues, why wouldn’t you have them on your must visit list?
I have collated a few options along the routes, to chill out in, during your South West 660 road trip. So pack your beach bag essentials, and let’s dive in…
Route 3 – Lyme Regis to Exeter
Tucked away in the middle of estuary town Topsham, this lovely community-run pool was born out of nearly a decade of hard graft and fundraising back in the 70’s, finally opening in 1979. Topsham Pool is 25m swimming pool, heated to at least 27-28 degrees with plenty of seating, umbrellas, showers, lockers, changing rooms and some vending machines. Booking isn’t available, and queues are a common site for this lovely venue, with people normally being treated to a game of bowls as they wait with Topsham Bowls Club on its doorstep.
Route 4 – Exeter to Dartmouth
Situated a stones throw away from Teignmouth beach, this outdoor pool as been brought back to life recently thanks to decarbonaistation investments by the local council, resulting on it being incredibly eco-friendly. The heated 25m outdoor swimming pool has seated area around the edges, vending machines for drinks and snacks and changing rooms with hot showers and toilets.
Shoalstone Pool is a 53 metre sea water swimming pool situated in a stunning position on Brixham seafront and run by a charity. It is built into a natural rock pool that has been popular for bathing since Victorian times, you can relax on one of the sun loungers or deck chairs that are available for hire, or relax on the grass and decking. There is a shower and changing rooms, lifeguards during peak season and independent food and drinks offerings available too. The pool is free but donations are welcome.
Situated a mile inland from the River Dart and stunning town of Dartmouth, this charity-run swimming pool is a 25 metre by 8.5 metre outdoor pool and is heated to 28 degrees celsius. With space around the pool’s edge for relaxing, shower and change facilities, lifeguards at the ready, there is also a small but perfectly formed shop selling drinks, snacks and swim accessories. Online booking is available which is great if you want to be sure of as swim slot.
Route 5 – Dartmouth to Plymouth & Route 6 – Plymouth to St Austell
Overlooking Plymouth seafront, this semi circular Grade II-listed outdoor salt water swimming pool offers gorgeous surroundings for locals and road trippers to enjoy. At 55 meters in diameter, it features several water features, a glorious sun deck with deck chairs for hire, it’s no wonder this Art Deco pool is appears in the top 10 of Europe’s outdoor pools and is certainly instagrammable. Tinside Lido Café is perfect for grabbing a drink and an ice cream. This pool says it is accessible to anyone with accessibility needs, and is therefore truly open to all.
Route 7 – St Austell to Penzance & Route 8 – Penzance to St Ives
Said to be the largest art deco sea water lido and geothermal pool in the country, Jubilee Pool has an envious position overlooking Mounts Bay. Over time it has been restored to its former glory with more modern facilities, whilst retaining its period feel. An interesting pool due to its a triangular shape, it is cocooned by its crisp white walled backdrop and has three options for water lovers.
One corner holds the geothermal pool which requires booking for its hourly slots, were you can be enveloped in its toasty 30 and 35 degrees C waters, a temperature that can be sustained with a very low carbon footprint. The main pool is bookable as well as welcoming walk ins and there’s a learner pool for open for the summer holidays too, with the sea water bathing pools usually a refreshing 1 to 2 degrees above sea temperature. The Jubilee Pool Café serves breakfast, lunch, snacks and drinks using local suppliers and has indoor and outdoor seating.
Route 10 Padstow to Clovelly
Bude Sea Pool is a semi natural pool which opened in 1930 as a safe haven for bathers, it is looked after by its passionate charity and a much loved and well used free pool. With the cliffs at the rear providing some shelter, the staggered terrace provides space for sitting or changing whilst the cheerfully coloured beach huts look on.
At approximately 91m long and 45m wide, it is nearly double the length of an Olympic swimming pool and is one of the largest tidal pools of its kind in the UK. As this is a tidal pool, high tide is to be respected and avoided, as well as when the weather is windy and wild but the comings and goings of all types of friendly swimmers seeking the same joy will warm your heart whatever the weather.
Route 11 – Clovelly to Lynton
Built in the mid to late 1800’s by the Victorians who travelled many miles to the sea at Westward Ho!, this pool is impressively built right in the middle of the rock pools which are great for a ramble at low tide. This is a very natural, no fuss, free offering, so seek facilities, food and drink nearby from local businesses in this lovely seaside town.
Tunnels Beach is named as such thank to a network of hand-carved tunnels that were built in the early 1800s, leading to unique sheltered beaches and tidal Victorian bathing pool. Now privately owned there is a small cost for access to cover the cost of looking after this rugged part of Devon coastline and its history.
There’s a ladies and a gentlemen’s beach, the latter sometimes being closed for private functions as part of their unique coastal wedding offering. The tidal pool is unaffected by events and is visible 3 hrs before and after low tide, with rock pools also a prominent feature. When weddings are not taking place they also have their Beach Venue with food and drinks on offer.