With its unpredictable weather and short summer season, the United Kingdom isn’t known for its outdoor pools. Perhaps that’s why when a UK hotel does feature an outdoor pool, it’s often a quirky one. Natural and reed filtered, clifftop and infinity, heated and hydrotherapy, private sandy beach and potting shed — the UK lives up to its eccentric reputation when it comes to its hotels’ outdoor swimming pools. Whether you want to brave a cool, wild swim or you prefer a heated, luxurious experience, you’ll find some pretty incredible offerings. And since the climate is kinder in the south, that’s where you’ll encounter most of these unusual pools.
Here are some of our favorite UK hotels with quirky outdoor pools.
1. The Scarlet, Cornwall
For all you brave souls, the outdoor pool at The Scarlet is a reed-filtered, natural, cold water wild pool. If you like the idea of wild swimming but don’t want to jump into a lake, this pool would be perfect for you. Cold water swimming — or just immersing yourself in cold water — is a great way to get the blood pumping and the endorphins going, but it’s not for the faint of heart! There is also an indoor pool at The Scarlet that offers incredible panoramic views of the sea.
The hotel is 5 minutes from Cornwall Airport Newquay and 25 minutes from Bodmin Parkway Railway Station, and it’s easily accessible by car. This is a couples-only hotel, but dogs are allowed!
Pro Tip: This coastline is beloved by surfers, who come from all over the world to catch a great wave, and that’s partly due to how breezy it can be. It’s a rugged coast with a touch of wilderness about it, so make sure to pack a sweater, no matter what time of year you visit.
2. St Brides, Pembrokeshire
Infinity pools might not be the first thing you think of when you think of South West Wales, but you’ll be intrigued by the seaside optical illusion pool at St Brides in Pembrokeshire. When the tide is in, you can float around in the hydrotherapy pool that’s heated to body temperature, and the pool will seem to merge with the murmuring ocean. It’s particularly spectacular on chilly days, when the bubbling jets and warm water soothe you while the waves crash in the cool air.
To get to St Brides, you’ll need to fly to Cardiff Airport, which is 90 miles away; take the train to Tenby, which is 5 minutes from the hotel; or drive from anywhere in the UK.
Pro Tip: The hotel has a choice of rooms and apartments, so you can either go with the usual hotel experience or self-cater. The apartments give you the best of both worlds, with all of the hotel’s facilities on hand plus your own amenities in your room. The hotel is situated right on the beach, so it’s perfect for doing your own thing.
3. South Lodge, Sussex
If you like the idea of a natural, wild-swim pool, but you don’t like the cold, the outdoor pool at South Lodge has the best of both worlds. South Lodge is set on 93 acres of outdoor spa and country parkland with woodlands, gardens, lakes, and the most unusual natural outdoor pool. This pool is heated, so there’s no need to steel yourself when getting in, but it is also natural, with foliage sprouting at its edges, natural water, and a lake-like appearance. You can feel like you’re wild swimming while enjoying a little more comfort. There’s also an outdoor heated hydrotherapy pool and an indoor pool, so you are really spoiled for choice.
The rooms and suites are generously sized and include original features from the historic manor house.
Horsham Railway Station is 10 minutes away by taxi, and the hotel is easily accessible by car.
Pro Tip: There is also a self-catering cottage on the grounds, but be aware that if you book this instead of a room at the lodge, you won’t have access to the hotel’s dining. There is a pub opposite the lodge and a supermarket 2 miles away.
4. Ellenborough Park, Cotswolds
This historic manor house, now a hotel, is set on 90 acres of countryside and has a rich and storied past dating to 1485. If you like historic country settings, Ellenborough Park is the real thing, but it also has some surprising and luxurious features, including a beautiful outdoor pool. The 50-foot pool is heated to 86 degrees so that you can enjoy a dip no matter the weather. But the really special thing about this pool is the way that it sits perfectly in its surroundings. The pool is made from Cotswold stone, as is the terrace that surrounds it. It’s a classic and sophisticated outdoor pool and a very unusual find in the UK.
Ellenborough Park is a 20-minute drive from Cheltenham Spa Railway Station.
Pro Tip: This is a 500-year-old manor house, so there will be some challenging areas for anyone with mobility issues. Ellenborough Park has worked hard to address this, and there are four ground-level rooms accessible to those in wheelchairs. If you’re traveling with other guests and want to make sure you’re positioned close to each other, you can book the two accessible rooms that are connected.
5. The Grove Hotel, Hertfordshire
Just 20 minutes outside of London, Ralph’s Beach at The Grove Hotel brings you an unexpected slice of the seaside in a rural setting. This urban beach in the middle of the countryside looks and feels like the real thing, complete with lots of sand, deck chairs, buckets, and spades. But instead of taking a dip in the sea, you have a large, luxurious, heated outdoor pool. The outdoor facilities at The Grove are just about as English — and as eccentric — as they come. Along with the beach and pool, there is a walled garden with a potting shed where you can relax in an armchair and play a board game or two.
The Grove boasts a selection of luxury rooms and suites to stay in.
Pro Tip: If you want this amazing experience all to yourself, inquire about exclusive-use bookings for the beach, the pool, and the potting shed. Invite your friends and family to a garden party that no one will ever forget. This is a great setting for a birthday, a wedding, or just a much-needed celebration.
6. The Headland, Cornwall
The Headland in Cornwall has just redeveloped its outdoor and indoor spaces to include an incredible pool complex, all overlooking beautiful Fistral Beach in Newquay. The Aqua Club opened in April 2021 and features an outdoor vitality pool with a Cornish granite menhir as its centerpiece and a heated sunset spa encircled by an oceanfront edge pool. There is also an 80-foot indoor swimming pool and a hydrotherapy pool.
You can travel to Newquay by air, landing at Cornwall Airport Newquay; by rail, stopping at Newquay Railway Station; or by car from anywhere in the UK.
Pro Tip: Although The Headland offers double hotel rooms and self-contained, self-catering cottages suitable for romantic vacations for couples, it is predominantly a family resort. The pool complex features a children’s splash pool, so it’s the perfect place to take the grandchildren. However, if you want a slightly quieter stay, visit during the school year, and you’ll find those incredible pools have a bit more space in them!