Long days of summer swimming that simply drifted away

They are a reminder of long, simple summer days -and a water temperature usually the wrong side of nippy.

Portobello outdoor swimming pool.
Portobello outdoor swimming pool.

From Dunoon to Dunbar, Portobello, Stonehaven and Macduff outdoor swimming became increasingly common in the early 20th Century with lidos dotted up and down the country, particularly in coastal towns.

Seawater was often drawn into the pools, some of them cleaned out and refreshed naturally by the tide.

Some were simple walled areas on the waterfront to provide a safe bathing space.

More sophisticated heated baths were to later emerge although the trend did fade, given the ageing facilities and the lure of holidays abroad.

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Two outdoor public pools, at Gourock and Stonehaven, remain with both having listed building status. A third pool, at New Cumnock, is the only heated clean water open-air pool in the country.

“In the 1920s and 30s recreational swimming became an increasingly popular pastime and more readily available to the public because of improved public transport and increased leisure time,” a spokesman for Historic Environment Scotland said.

He added: “Consequently a relatively large number of outdoor swimming pools were built in Scotland, especially at sea-side locations. Built between 1930 and 1931, the pool at Tarlair near Macduff is one of earliest examples of this sort of swimming pool.

“However, competition was strong.”

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Outdoor pools appearing across Scotland, including Prestwick (1931), Portobello (1936), Stonehaven (1934) and Arbroath (1935).

The complex at Dunbar, first opened in 1929, incorporated not only a swimming pool, boating pool and paddling pool, but also a ballroom in its main pavilion.

The spokesman added: “Declining visitor numbers led to the closure and subsequent demolition of the majority of these pools.”

Efforts are ongoing to bring swimming back to Tarlair, a Grade A listed tidal pool which sits at the bottom of a sea cliff near Macduff in Aberdeenshire.

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A tea pavilion, boating lake, changing rooms and diving board made Tarlair one of the most popular attractions around but it has not been used since 1995.

The Friends of Tarlair are working to raise funds for its restoration.

At St Andres, The tidal pool at Step Rock, next to the Old Course, created a little resort within a resort at St Andrews. It opened in 1902 and visitors recall trays of teas and coffees from the kiosk, with long days spent on deckchairs and children content in the sand with buckets and spades.

It was replaced by the East Sands Leisure Centre in 1988.

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The Art Deco marvel of Portobello opened in 1936 and was the first in Scotland to feature a wave machine.

It was hugely popular, with the pool operating a ‘one in, one out’ policy during the summers of the 1970s. Heat to the pool was supplied by the nearby Portobello Power Station. The rise of foreign holidays dented its popularity with the closure of the power plant in 1978 a major blow to its survival. The 1979 season turned out to be the last and demolition was finally approved in 1988. A leisure centre and 5-a-side football pitch now stands on the site. At Helensburgh outdoor pool, it was often said the water was warmer once it had rained. The pool was gifted to the town by Provost Andrew Buchanan after he survived an infamous outbreak of food poisoning which killed several of his friends.

According to the Helensburgh Heritage Trust, all his friends died during a fishing trip to Loch Maree in 1922 when the hotel served canned duck paste sandwiches.

Provost Buchanan lived after giving away his sandwich after just one bite. Believing it was divine intervention that he was spared, he gave away his money to countless good causes in and around the town.