A swim in an outdoor pool in the far north of Scotland may seem like a bonkers idea to many but to me it seemed like a crazy good idea. The day I made up my mind to go was a gorgeous hot summers day and it was exactly what I fancied. Unfortunately the day I actually went it was freezing and the rain was lashing down but I was determined on that two hour drive up the A937 to Stonehaven open air pool that I would be brave and go for it. Luckily I discovered the salt-water pool was kept at a toasty 29 degrees and was like jumping in a hot, steaming bath!
There aren't many outdoor pool left in the UK but in the 1930’s Lidos and outdoor pools were growing in popularity and popping up all over the country. When the Stonehaven Open Air Pool opened on 4th June 1934 it was a massive hit. Opened by local MP Mr. C M Barclay, the day itself was attended by 2300 people who took part in diving and swimming competitions and a fashion show where local ladies showed off the latest styles of bathing suits. How retro cute are those suits? It’s at times like these I wish I could step back in time
During the second world war the pool came in mighty handy when it was used by local troops for showers and for recreation and locals can remember the diving competitions after the war years, when rationing was still in place, where they had to dive to the bottom of the pool to retrieve tins of food. If they brought the tins to the surface they were allowed to keep them although with no labels on dinner that night was always a surprise! Trainloads of holidaymakers from Glasgow used to visit and stay in local guesthouses and spend all day at the pool. Competitions like knobbly knees, glamorous grannies and bonnie babies kept locals entertained and the stunning Art Deco building remained busy and thriving right up until the 80’s and 90’s.
Around this time foreign holidays were becoming more accessible and attendance figures dropped, as people disappeared into the sun, so much so that the Lido was threatened with closure. The locals weren’t going to let that happen though and founded the community group Friends of Stonehaven Open Air Pool in 1995. A Scottish charitable incorporated organisation, they worked alongside Aberdeenshire Council to keep the pool open. The council now operates the pool while the friends maintain the appearance and promote it. Note below the ickle doors on the changing rooms, people were blatantly shorter in the 1930’s so if your over 5’11 and are planning to visit I recommend getting changed sitting down!
Now this four-star visitors attraction with a leisure centre and indoor pool next door is in it’s 80th year and is as popular as ever.
The pretty fishing village of Stonehaven lies 15 miles south of Aberdeen and sits a sheltered position between Carron water and Cowie water. The impressive Dunnottar Castle stands high up on the cliffs above the sea nearby in a spectacular setting and has a fascinating history. William Wallace and Mary Queen of Scots are amongst some of the famous faces to have visited but it’s probably better known as being the place where the ‘Honours of Scotland”, Scotland’s crown jewels, were hidden from Oliver Cromwell. Stonehaven is also home to the famous Fireballs celebrations at Hogmanay where locals swing balls of fire around their heads as they parade the streets. It’s also famous, or infamous, as being the birthplace of the Deep-fried Mars bar, at the local Haven Chip bar.
The Lido itself is open from the end of May to the beginning to September and in the high season holds midnight swims, fun activities for the kids and even an aqua-ceilidh! Go on, give it a try, it’s one of those things to tick off your bucket list.
You can have a nosy at their website at