When you think of going to a municipal swimming baths, what sort of images spring to mind? Children dive-bombing into the deep end? Grimy showers that deliver no more than a ten second stream of chilly water? Serious swimmers in strict lanes trying to cram in their 100 lengths before breakfast?
Fortunately for those who shy away from public swimming pools, Thames Lido has taken these unpleasant images and moved as far away from them as it’s possible to be. The historic building, the oldest surviving outdoor municipal pool of the Edwardian era, has been thoroughly renovated and transformed into a public swimming baths with real style.
The beautifully refurbished 25m outdoor pool and the building that accompanies it has been painstakingly restored and updated by the team behind the similar Bristol Lido. The venue now has other spa facilities including hot tub and sauna, as well as a well-reviewed restaurant on-site, transforming it from tired public facility into luxurious day destination.
The secluded oasis features a glass-walled courtyard with the pool at its centre. You can relax with breakfast, lunch or a Mediterranean-inspired dinner while watching the swimmers bob up and down – or you can hot the showers and join in the fun yourself. Every part of the restoration has been sympathetic to the building’s original features – it’s not been overly jazzed-up, but the entire place has a pared-back, Scandinavian luxury feel.
The lido was formerly a women’s only swimming pool, built back in 1902. Back then, modesty and privacy were the main aims – there were no windows, and the brick walls stood two storeys high to prevent outsiders from taking a peek. Now, with its ‘shower naked’ policy and open layout, the lido is embracing a more relaxed, communal feel.
The restaurant is also set to attract visitors in its own right. It’s an unpretentious, authentic destination with an open kitchen, serving food cooked in wood-burning ovens and real charcoal grills. A poolside tapas bar will keep swimmers fuelled, and the restaurant can also be hired privately for parties and events.
Membership to this elite destination doesn’t come cheap. It costs £649 for the full year, with a £50 joining fee to get members set up. Non-members can enjoy the facilities too, but at a price – it costs £20 for a three-hour session, which includes use of the pool and the spa facilities. This can only be enjoyed between 1-4pm, with the rest of the day reserved for members only.