There’s nothing like a spell of hot weather to bring out our primal urge to jump into a pool of cool refreshing water and start thrashing about whooping. If - on a hot day - you’ve pitched your tent in a sunny spot or you’ve kept your skylight closed all night and your campervan is like the inside of a Bikram yoga session, chances are you’ll wake up feeling a bit hot and bothered. There’s a fair few large campsites around the UK that have snazzy indoor swimming pools, but in a hot-tent situation, that’s not going to cut the mustard. For full, immersive, back to nature, bodyshock style refreshment, then an outdoor pool is needed. And there are a few around in some excellent campsites across the UK; you just need to know where to look. Some of these outdoor swimming pools are heated, but it's usually British heated, which means - frankly - just taking the edge off. And that is fine by me. I have childhood memories of the Ilkley Lido during March and my grandmother bellowing: “it’s lovely when you’re in,” while I developed rigor mortis, and it’s a very good mantra to have in this situation. It IS good when you’re in. We all know swimming outdoors in cold water is good for you; it boosts the immune system and makes you feel happy. Chances are you’ll be pretty happy anyway being on holiday and camping in the great outdoors; this is just an added bonus. So, for these particular camping trips, make sure you pack your trunks/swimming costume/mankini (delete as appropriate) alongside your tent pegs and get thrashing around in that outdoor pool - whatever the weather. Lush.
This excellent family-friendly and family-run touring park near Mevagissey in Cornwall offers way, way more than just a swimming pool, but seeing as we are here to discuss the joy of outdoor pools, let's start with that. It is a really lovely pool - open May until September and heated, so even if the British summer lets you down a bit, this pool won't. The whole outdoor pool complex has recently had an overhaul, and is now a natural Cornish stone and granite paving beaut, with a good-sized eating area sheltered by parasols, a sunbathing terrace and outdoor sofas. It's fab. There is also an outdoor football table, a table tennis table and waiter service to bring you a cocktail as the sun is setting. Hurrah! Rip up your fit-to-fly certificate immediately and remain firmly in the UK, it's better than the Med. There's no need to ever leave the poolside (except to sleep of course) but there's so much else going on around here you might have to. For sea lovers, Tregarton Park is in an absolute prime location with a few gorgeous beaches just a couple of miles away - Caerhays Beach, Gorran Have and Vault beach to name a few. The world-famous Eden Project and the Lost Gardens of Heligan are both a short drive away, and the nearby villages Mevagissey, Fowey and Polperro are well worth a visit. This is a fantastic campsite in an incredible location.
This is a rather special one. Only four luxurious glamping pods here and they are nestled amongst apple orchards and pretty landscaped gardens in the lovely Suffolk countryside, with absolutely everything you need for a relaxing retreat, so bring nothing apart from your battered soul ready to be healed. Or, if your soul is flourishing, just go and stay for a chilled-out getaway to thoroughly recharge the batteries. It's a tranquil place. There is a beautiful outdoor pool with loungers and chairs dotted around for relaxing and enjoying the peace. This is probably not the place to charge in and do a bomb into the pool, but there is a tennis court if you are feeling active. Apple Mount Retreat offers a range of treatments and therapies including Reiki, Shamanic Healing and Drum circles, and Debbie - the owner and experienced Reiki Master - often hosts events and workshops too. A gorgeous open-sided tipi at the centre of the site forms the hub for coming together around the campfire, and is bedecked with twinkling fairy lights in the evenings. Come and be pampered or simply lie by the pool and soak up the peace and tranquility of this gorgeous Suffolk gem.
In an awesome location between Newquay and Padstow in Cornwall, all are welcome at this brilliantly run, award-winning campsite. The site is made up of 36 acres of beautiful countryside and woodlands which surround the 17th Century manor house, and campers have plenty of space to pitch up where they wish and enjoy the fab views and excellent facilities. The large outdoor pool is heated and large enough (25m) to get some serious lengths under your belt if you've overindulged on the Cornish pasties and clotted cream teas. Or, just sunbathe on the sidelines and enjoy the views out over the rolling meadows. In the summer season, Trewan has a jam-packed schedule of various events and concerts in their Long Barn so there is always something going on, and the location means that you are never far from activities, attractions and a beach or two. This is a unique place; lots of fun and lots to do; the Hill family have been welcoming campers to Trewan for over 50 years and they've got everything absolutely right.
Moat Island....so-called because out here you are glamping within the moat of the old medieval Haveringland Hall Estate. The Hall itself is no longer standing on this glorious estate in Norfolk, but what has happened in its place is the arrival - in 2019 - of a collection of beautiful Lotus Belle tents, nestled into an oil-painting worthy setting. Each 6 metre bell tent is beautifully decked out (or not - you can have a literal blank canvas and bring your own garb), each with a private fire pit and seating area with a tripod to cook on and a bag of logs to get you started. Two of the tents are "Stargazers" and have a clear roof; perfect for looking for shooting stars in the dark Norfolk skies. But the jewel in the crown of this tranquil spot is the beautiful outdoor pool. The stunning, naturally filtered swimming pool at the centre of the site is a large natural pond with its own jetty to jump off into the waters and enjoy a wonderful close-to-nature swim. Native plants growing in the shallower areas attract dragonflies, allowing swimmers to wildlife-spot while doing their back crawl; something not every pool can claim to do. The beauty and uniqueness of this campsite really is something else; when you've finished in the water, head to the hand-crafted wooden field kitchen and cook up something delicious in the wood pellet pizza oven, sit back and enjoy the wildlife around you. It's magic.
Head to the English Riviera in South Devon for this one. A superb family-run park set in 40 acres of lovely countryside, offering a wide range of accommodation to suit everyone - glamping, a touring park, lodges, even hot tub caravans for goodness sake! - and a whole raft of wonderful facilities including a really fabulous outdoor pool. With views out across the fields, this heated swimming pool has a large area for swimmers, a paddling pool for the little ones and a fountain and mini splash pad for the really little ones (and those who just want a paddle rather than full immersion). There are water jets and a poolside "spa" and plenty of space around the outside to sunbathe, relax and unwind. Before taking the plunge, work up a sweat by hiking some of the pretty woodland trails surrounding the Park or in one of the adventure play areas. Older kids won't be bored either, with a barn full of amusements including pool and arcade games. With the closest picturesque beaches just a couple of miles away and the nearby towns of Paignton, Brixham and Torquay also close by, Whitehall Country Park is a fantastic place to holiday in Devon.
Good old-fashioned camping here from the folks at Chyan Farm, who run - apart from a campsite - a lively and quite brilliant eco-friendly cultural centre and community project, teaching us all how to live better, live sustainably and live off the land...just the way we used to. The camping is basic and lovely, off-grid and wild, but with a few rather awesome things thrown into the mix that are unexpected and wonderful; which is a good way of describing the whole place really. One is a gorgeous spring-fed natural swimming pool (note - this needs to be booked in advance) which is surrounded by rocks under low hanging trees, and frankly feels more Swallows and Amazons than you could ever wish for as you splash about in the cool water. There is a sauna to warm up in, which can also be booked too. Aside from the gorgeous pool, campers have access to the Community Field, which has a collection of natural play areas for children (and adults of course) with dens, arches, tunnels, and a mud kitchen. As campsites go, this place is a real one-off. Around and about and keeping in mind your eco credentials, adventure around the Cornish countryside by bicycle or foot. Falmouth, with its crystal clear waters and spectacular beaches, is 40 minutes away by bike and there is a lovely coastline to explore along there.
picture credit: Chyan Farm
Surrounded by some of the best countryside views in Cornwall, this collection of Yurts is a ten-minute drive from Newquay and just a stone's throw from the beautiful Perranporth beach on the west coast of Cornwall. The lovely, Mongolian-inspired Yurts make for a traditional and very luxurious glamping experience, and have plenty of room inside with a double bed and trundle bed underneath. Outdoors, the place just gets better and better; the land around the yurts is spacious and tranquil, and at the centre is a lovely swimming pool surrounded by a wooden fence, keeping it lovely and sheltered and a perfect place to sunbathe. There is also a large covered hot tub and a children's play area with a picnic garden. After a dip, head back to the yurt, fire up the BBQ and relax on your private decking to watch the sun go down.
Not strictly a swimming pool this one, in fact not even close, but I couldn't write an article about outdoor swimming without mentioning wild swimming, and one of the best places to do this in the UK is the Blue Lagoon in the glorious Pembrokeshire National Park in Wales. The Blue Lagoon - a disused slate quarry - looks more like an inland lake attached to the sea, and is quite a sight to behold with its calm green-blue waters. The seawater is cold, and a few metres out it does get very deep, so you need to be a confident swimmer for this one. The lagoon itself is off the beaten track (although there is a nearby car park), so you cannot camp right by it, but under a mile away is the lovely Coastal Stay; a rural and relaxed campsite with a back to nature vibe and superb uninterrupted views out to the coast. The pitches are set around a natural spring-fed lake and you can either camp out under the stars in your own tent or glamp in one of their pretty bell tents equipped with beds. The closest beach is Abereiddy - home of the Bue Lagoon - and it is about a 15-minute walk down here for your morning swim. Now that's what I call an outdoor pool.....
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