A splash of orange in the former reception area welcomes visitors and two iPads wait eagerly for new members to tap in their details so they can produce membership accounts in moments. The entry to the pool is now controlled by three gates with touchpads that are operated by key fobs. It’s fair to say that the 19th century building has been upgraded to meet the demands of its 21st century visitors.
The centre was closed in July for extensive refurbishment which saw the pool drained and scaffolding installed so that contractors could renovate the original glass-panelled roof and repaint the whole interior. Gone is the dated decor that was last overhauled 25 years ago and in its place a muted pallet of all-white with accents of mint.
While the original pool tiles remain, new changing rooms and touch-control lockers line the side of the pool, while communal and private showers have been installed on both floors. New accessible changing rooms and family spaces have also been added.
While the swim centre has been spruced up, as a listed building, its Victorian heart remains. The iron columns, the original balcony, the marble tiled entryway and the multi-paned dimpled glass windows maintain the elegance of the pink sandstone baths that sits squarely on Caledonian Crescent.
Architects Smith Scott Mullan and quantity surveyors Doig and Smith carried out the £1 million modernisation project with energy efficiency in mind. The electrics were overhauled and a new water filtration system and ventilation systems have been put in place.
The baths is one of five Victorian pools in Edinburgh and is the third oldest after Warrender Baths, built in 1887, and Drumsheugh Baths Club, built in 1892, and is Scotland’s ninth oldest pool.
The Italian-style villa houses the 25-metre swimming pool, a sauna and a gym-room with a fully-kitted out weights area and cardio equipment with built in TV stations.
Edinburgh Leisure supervisor James Stobie has worked at the baths for 17 years and welcomes the changes.
He said: [“The changes] are very nice, I like the colours and everything looks brighter. I’m so glad it’s retained so many of its original features. It’s an old Victorian pool so it’s important to keep the talking points.”
Natural light bathes the pool and the vaulted ceiling creates an airy space that invites relaxation. Mr Stobie is looking forward to welcoming back the regulars, some of whom he “could set his watch to”. The more than 500 members were able to access all of Edinburgh Leisure’s other facilities during the pool’s closure.
Mr Stobie tells stories of its past when it was the only place for many of the surrounding residents to wash and the pond master would draw the baths that lay on the second floor balcony. For a few pennies more, James says, people could fill their own tubs.
One regular, now in her eighties and still living on the street where she grew up, told him that she and her family and neighbours would huddle in the space under the pool during Second World War air raids.
l More details at https://www.edinburghleisure.co.uk/venues/dalry-swim-centre.