So what if we don’t always have the weather to warrant them? An outdoor swim is a joy even in the rain and, boy, when the sun shines, plotting up at poolside without having to get on a plane is a real bonus. From rooftop parties to outdoor hydrotherapy pools, Roman baths and hot tubs, Suzanne Duckett rounds up the best.
Banner Image Credit: iStock.com/Tobias Helbig
1. Soho Farmhouse: Best For Leisurely Swims
This is the newest from the Soho House stable, a rural number located in the idyllic Oxfordshire countryside. Wannabe wild swimmers can swim from the indoor to the 25-metre outdoor infinity pool, which seems to float on the lake below. Daybeds flank the pool but if you’re feeling lively you can jump in a boat and have a row on the lake. Keep the great outdoors theme going come nightfall by booking a reasonably priced (relatively speaking) bell-tent (summer only), cosy with six-foot beds, wood-burners, hay bales around a fire pit for toasting marshmallows.
2. The Berkeley: Best For City Slickers
Up on the 7th floor of the Berkeley amidst the secret garden, you’ll discover the most chic rooftop pool in London. Sunloungers are set inside a colonnade surrounding the pool, which has a sliding roof to capture every radiant ray of British sunshine, pure gold in the city when summer arrives. The pool, which is often sprinkled with stars (not from the sky but the worlds of film, fashion and finance) opens at 7am at the weekend, so commit to getting there early to bag that perfectly placed lounger.
3. Barnsley House: Best For Stolen Spa Days
This idyllic spa hotel in The Cotswolds has an outdoor heated hydrotherapy pool set in front of the modern, glass-fronted spa walls, quite the contrast to your view from the sunloungers: cows grazing in the field ahead. After you’ve fully immersed yourself in country life, visit the spa for an Aromatherapy Associates treatment targeting stress and encouraging rejuvenation and renewal.
4. Chewton Glen: Best For Pool Parties
A decent-sized pool in the heart of the peaceful sunken gardens at Chewton Glen, filled with luscious green plants, flowers, and wildlife. Such idyllic surroundings mean that you’ll settle into this luxury Gothic mansion very quickly, transporting you far away from city life. The pool is open from dawn to dusk for optimum sunbathing time and even hosts pool parties for weddings and birthdays.
5. Bath Thermae: Best For Natural Springs
Bathe like the Celts and Romans did over 2000 years ago in the UK’s warmest geothermal mineral springs. Choose from the indoor Minerva Bath, The Cross Bath in a separate building (which caters for small parties of up to 12) and the New Royal Bath – a year round open-air rooftop pool with spectacular views over Bath’s elegant Georgian architecture.
6. Cliveden: Best For Colourful History
Iconic country house Cliveden is known for its colourful history: the scandalous Profumo affair began in the 60s at a garden party right by the outdoor pool, where you can still swim today, half a century later. While you languish by the pool, admire the spectacular view of the gilded clock tower, complete with winding staircase on the outside wall. Bubbling outdoor hot tubs have been added and sit proudly alongside the only listed outdoor pool in the country.
7. Calcot Manor: Best For The Family
South of France beckoning? Zoom to this Provence-style country house in The Cotswolds. The stunning, private outdoor pool is open from 8am-8pm to make the most of the long summer days and evenings. Children are allowed to use the pool all day long if you’re staying but even a half day spa package will grant you access to the pool and they’ll even give you lunch.
8. Pennyhill Park: Best For Exclusive Spa Days
This ivy-clad mansion has a beautifully large outdoor space with a decent-sized pool and dozens of sunloungers, a rare find in the UK not to be sniffed at. Looking back at the hotel, there’s a feeling of being in the green Austrian Alps instead of Surrey. Headspace all round.
9. Shoreditch House: Best For Lollygagging
Probably the number one spot in London for people-watching, Shoreditch House is the place to see and be seen. Transport yourself to this 6th floor oasis bang in the middle of Shoreditch, or is it Miami? It’s hard to say once you’re up there sipping on a Soho Mule. When the sun is out you may have to fight for one of the red-and-white-striped sunloungers surrounding the buzzy pool scene; as the sun goes down, a DJ hits the decks to take you from chillout to party mode.
10. Rockliffe Hall: Best For Golf Widows
It’s rare to find an outdoor pool up North as temperatures don’t often allow it. However, the owners of Rockliffe Hall golf and spa hotel in County Durham know that northerners are hardy creatures so have built a Spa Garden with two infinity-edge hot pools, complete with massage jets and a bubbling Jacuzzi for full-on chillout mode. Wallow outdoors in the open space whilst admiring the sun setting over the grounds. Summer down to a T(ee)!