The best lidos and splashparks
Hey hot stuff! Bit sweaty? Our pick of the best pools and river spots to cool down in. Just add sun lotion.
Bit hot, innit? Ideally, we’d like someone to move us a bit closer to the seaside right now but, failing that, here’s the Muddy-approved lowdown on all the best local spots for al fresco water fun. (If we’ve missed anywhere good, let us know in the comment box below please). Just make sure those bikini straps are firmly secured before you cannonball in…
LOVE A LIDO?
Well, you’re in luck because there are loads to choose from! Cheltenham’s art-deco beauty Sandford Parks Lido is one of the largest outdoor swimming pools in the UK. Set in landscaped gardens which are perfect for lounging about in, it not only boasts a 50m main pool but also has a children’s pool and paddling pool. Meanwhile, Cirencester Open Air Swimming Pool is the oldest in the country and is a fab bijou offering with a nice family vibe and rather fantastic views of a turreted castle. The stunning Bristol Lido, hidden in among the pastel-coloured houses of Clifton is the closest you’ll get to the Med in the city – check out our review here. Also in Bristol is the very photogenic Portishead Open Air Pool. Impressively huge with fab views across the Bristol Channel from its sun terraces, the pool, built in the 1960s, was given an extreme makeover on TV by Ty Pennington’s Great British Adventure in 2009 and is looking good. The 33m main pool is heated by green energy, has two diving boards and there’s a toddler pool open on warm days. Elsewhere, Tisbury and Stroud also have cool, blue offerings for the overheated.
Who doesn’t love an inflatable aqua park? On water. In the sunshine. Yeah, baby. Our favourite of all the waterparks in the country (yep, we’ve seen a few) is slapbang on the Glos/Wilts border – the Cotswolds Water Park not only has a huge inflatable village but waterskiing, speed rides on inflatable doughnuts and bananas, sailing, swimming and wakeboarding. Fancy a trip a little further afield and you’ve got Dorset Water Park with jumps, trampolines, bridges, flip bags and ladders on this awesome floating inflatable obstacle course. The location is idyllic, too, set on two lakes surrounded by woodland at the foot of Corfe Castle on the Isle of Purbeck – check out our review here. The New Forest Water Park isn’t far either – at 80m long and 40m wide this inflatable park has two trampolines, monkey bars, flippers, slides, hurdles, rockers, rollers, an overhang climbing wall, a swing and giant iceberg. Hopefully no cruise liners around, then. Oxford Wet ‘N’ Wild aqua park in Berinsfield has been spruced up by its new owners and now has a decent café (note – no picnics allowed). The inflatable obstacle courses are suitable for children aged 6+ who can swim 50m.
MESSING ABOUT ON THE RIVER
Prefer to survey the scene from the relative dryness of a boat? (Assuming you don’t fall in, obvs). Head to Wyedean Canoe & Adventure Centre in Symonds Yat where you can paddle down the majestic River Wye in Canadian-style canoes. There’s a campsite if you want to make a weekend of it (or a week, there’s that much to do – including rock climbing, abseiling, caving, archery and raft building).
If you’re closer to Oxford, you can hire a punt from Magdalen Boat House or Cherwell Boathouse – the riverside restaurant at the latter is lovely, plus it’s slightly cheaper and less touristy. You can also hire punts from Folly Bridge or take a boat trip – or even charter one – from the historic Salters Steamers, who’ve been messing around on the river since 1858.
NEED BEACH, WILL DRIVE?
Depending on where you are in Glos and Wilts, you can make a day trip to the best beach in the country and the ninth best beach in the world (yes, in the world!). Rhossili Bay is a divine stretch of white sand and super surf-friendly waves, and from Muddy Glos manor near Stroud takes around three hours to get to (crossing the majestic Severn Bridge, always an awe-inspiring moment). Pack a picnic – or fuel up at the excellent The Bay Bistro, which does fab healthy, gastro fare and caters well for vegans and veggies – along with your body boards and rugby balls (the beach is great for a spot of touch rugby and being in Wales, you’ll soon get a team together).