With luxury hotels now reopening their outdoor swimming pools, where better to cool off during the long, hot days of summer? From a natural lagoon perched high above the cliffs of Cornwall to a striking rooftop glass-and-steel infinity pool in Leicestershire, here’s where to make a splash…
The Best UK Outdoor Hotel Pools
It doesn’t get any more picture-perfect Cotswolds than this honey-hued country house hotel, set on a 150-acre estate in Southrop. Called a “village within a village” by owner Caryn Hibbert, the cluster of restored buildings have the vibe of a sleepy hamlet. And yet, within this hamlet you’ll find the chic Ox Barn restaurant; The Baa – lambing sheds-turned-cool bar; a pub; cookery school (there’s a big epicurean focus here) and a series of delightful bedrooms.
The grounds are equally dreamy, offering up topiary-filled gardens, wildflower meadows and a farm. There’s also the Meadow Spa, a tennis court and the heated springwater outdoor pool (though they use natural spring water, they are currently chlorinating it to ensure safe use during coronavirus). You need to book a 60-minute time slot – it’ll be the most peaceful hour you’ll ever spend.
The Grove, Chandler’s Cross
This opulent five-star hotel – the former home of the Earl of Clarendon – is just 18 miles from the centre of London, and yet has all the feels of a rural retreat. Set in 300 acres, it’s a haven of tranquility offering everything from perfectly manicured lawns to an ornamental canal and championship golf course.
The secluded Walled Garden, lined with rambling roses and fruit trees, is a particularly idyllic spot to while away a hazy summer’s afternoon. Cool off after a game of tennis, or a spell on the sandy private ‘urban’ beach, in the heated outdoor pool, which is currently open for 45-minute time slots from 10am until 6pm every day.
For a weekend break imbued with romance and style, Beaverbrook ticks all the boxes. The country house hotel, nestled in the picturesque Surrey Hills, was once the home of press baron Lord Beaverbrook who was a consummate host, entertaining the beau monde at his 470-acre estate.
This old-fashioned hospitality remains to this day, with a slick, attentive staff ensuring guests make the most of their country escape, whether they’re sipping gin cocktails in the art deco-inspired Sir Frank’s Bar or kicking back in the impressive English-countryside inspired Coach House Spa. It’s here you’ll find a 20-metre long indoor pool, plus the pretty outdoor pool, and the Coach House Deli for pool-side superfood snacks after all those lengths.
Soho Farmhouse, Great Tew
Spread across 100 acres of prime Oxfordshire countryside, the members-only Soho Farmhouse is a rural playground for city types and a ridiculously comfortable one at that. As you’d expect from Nick Jones and his trusty SH crew, the attention to detail here is second-to-none, from the weekend farm feasts offered in the Barwell Barn to the 40 individually-designed cabins for sleeping in.
On hot days you’ll want to hop on one of the pistachio-coloured bicycles and head straight to the Boathouse. It’s here you’ll find an indoor pool that extends to the extraordinary outdoor deck-level pool – heated year-round and open every day, 7am until 10pm – that appears to float within a lake. Again, you’ll have to book a time slot, but for bucolic perfection, this is it.
Cliveden House, Taplow
If Cliveden’s 350-year history is anything to go by, a stay here promises decadence and delight at every turn. Built in 1666 by the 2nd Duke of Buckingham for his mistress, this five-star country estate has welcomed everyone from movie stars to politicians – and, of course, it is where Meghan Markle spent the night before her wedding.
However, its most famous moment involves the hotel’s outdoor pool. At a party thrown by Lord Astor in 1961, it is here that government minister John Profumo first clapped eyes on nineteen-year old Christine Keeler, who had decided to cool off from the sultry summer heat. Thus began their affair, which was to impact the course of British politics forever.
These days, the heated pool – set in an enclosed garden and flanked by squishy loungers and two enormous hot tubs – doesn’t offer quite so much drama but is still glorious on a hot summer’s afternoon.
The Scarlet Hotel, Mawgan Porth
Billing itself as a luxury eco hotel just for grown ups, the Scarlet is perched high above the rugged Cornish coastline. In keeping with its other-worldy location, nature plays a leading role throughout the hotel. From its wide terraces and huge airy lounges to the glass-fronted Scarlet Restaurant, guests are treated to sweeping vistas of gardens, cliffs, beach, sea and sky.
You could easily while away an afternoon in the hotel’s spa – with its luxury lantern-lit treatment rooms and indoor pool – but for a swim to remember, hit the natural outdoor infinity pool. Cool, deep and filtered by reeds, practice your breaststroke as you soak up the views across golden Mawgan Porth Beach to the wild Atlantic beyond.
Lodore Falls Hotel & Spa, Lake District
Nestled amongst the Lake District fells and next to its namesake winding waterfall, Lodore Falls Hotel and Spa is equal parts romantic, idyllic and bucolic. The expansive hotel overlooks the entrancing Derwentwater, where bold wild swimmers can take a dip after a long hike. But for those who prefer man-made luxury, the retreat has plenty to offer.
The heated hydrotherapy infinity pool feels perfectly in place in the broody Lake District spot, with steam rolling off the water’s surface and creating a mist frame around the view of the craggy Cat Bells Mountain Range and the Derwentwater out in front. Ready for swimmers on both sunny and cloudy days, the pool is just one part of the hotel’s spa offerings — an extensive array of treatments are available in four rooms that look out on the dramatic setting, and there’s a glass-fronted Finnish sauna to warm up in after a long day spent exploring the rugged hills.
Hambleton Hall, Rutland
For those wanting to retreat into old-school English countryside glamour, Hambleton Hall is the place to go. Perched on the peninsula above Rutland Water, the elegant Victorian country house boasts sophisticated suites, a Michelin-starred gourmet restaurant and over 17 acres of beautifully kept grounds.
Enclosed by a red brick wall draped with trailing flowers is the idyllic pool, which looks ready to be staged for the latest Keira Knightley period film. With sprawling views across the Rutland Water and surrounding woodland, it’s a charming and relaxing spot to take a dip or lounge with a book.
The Bath Priory, Bath
Tucked a short walk from the centre of Bath is a peaceful escape that feels as if it could be in the heart of the Somerset countryside. Everything about The Bath Priory is warm and inviting, from the honey-coloured Bath stone of the Georgian house facade, to the luxurious bedrooms in a range of soft, pastel shades. The elegant house is surrounded by over three acres of gardens, including a kitchen garden, meadow and lawns with hidden nooks, all tended by Jane Moore, a Chelsea Flower Show Silver Medalist.
Within these impressive gardens is the heated outdoor pool, hidden amongst the trees to ensure you feel even more disconnected from the hub of the city. There’s an indoor pool, too, that forms part of the tempting L’Occitane Garden Spa, where visitors can enjoy facials, massages or lounge in a steam pod.
The Nare, Veryan–in–Roseland
This family-owned country house hotel is an idyllic blend of luxury and quintessential English countryside charm. Sitting on top of the Carne Beach sands, the secluded spot offers individually designed rooms with breathtaking views across the water, undisturbed by the crowds that descend on the Cornish coast every summer. The hotel also owns two boats exclusively for guest charters, allowing you to really make the most of the waterfront location.
While being a few steps from the beach is undeniably one of the hotel’s main draws, the heated pool is a close competitor. Heated to 30 degrees so it’s ready for swimmers even on the coldest summer days, the pool boasts impressive views across the bay. There’s also a sheltered hot tub overlooking the bay — a perfect spot to take in the dramatic Cornish sunsets before dinner at the hotel’s popular restaurant.
Gara Rock, East Portlemouth
Another hotel offering dramatic coastal views, but this time in deepest rural Devon. Set on a bluff just across from Salcombe, surrounded only by countryside, fresh sea air and the odd sheep, the hotel prides itself on its remoteness. So, too, its easy-going, laid back vibe. There are no rules here except, they say, to make yourself at home.
Most of the Scandi-chic rooms have sea views, as does the restaurant, which serves up a seasonal, sustainably-sourced menu. Afterwards, take a Salcombe Gin cocktail or a chilled glass of biodynamic wine and bag one of the chic black loungers that surround the heated outdoor swimming pool. Perfect sundowner material.
Chewton Glen, New Forest
Chewton Glen is quite the dream for staycationers. Set deep in the New Forest, the five-star country house hotel is awash with activities for young and old, both on land and on water. There are Segways to be rented, kayaking, foraging and croquet to be done; not to mention the Veuve Clicquot picnic bike ride.
If that all sounds a little too energetic, head for the Spa. While the indoor pool operates a one in one out policy, alternated by kids swimming times, the outdoor pool is open to hotel residents on a first come, first served basis. Tucked away, amidst shady trees, neat hedges and pots overflowing with lavender, it’s like being in someone’s private garden, though it’s best to get there early to make the most of the peace and quiet.
Cowley Manor, Cheltenham
Cowley Manor may have 55 acres of parkland, a sweeping drive and the grand facade of a country house hotel, but inside there isn’t a chintz curtain or a dusty chandelier in sight. Instead, the decor pops with a flamboyant aesthetic, from the geometric carpets and cowhide window seats to the handmade minimalist furniture and papier-mâché hunting trophies.
The bar serves killer cocktails, so shake off the hangover at the C-Side spa, a post-modern glass and Cotswold stone building carved into the grounds. There’s a green-slate lined heated indoor pool, but when the mercury rises, there is no better place to be than the spectacular 15-metre heated outdoor pool. With its poolside bar and giant bean bags, you’ll never want to leave.
Ragdale Hall, Melton Mowbray
When it comes to pampering, Ragdale Hall doesn’t do anything by halves. The rural Victorian country house-turned-multi-award-winning destination spa is set within 13 acres deep in the Leicestershire countryside, complete with state-of-the-art facilities and a welcoming fleet of staff.
The impeccably run retreat has no less than 65 treatment rooms, as well as 11 heat rooms and a grand total of six pools. The multi-million-pound rooftop infinity pool is the showstopper. Perched high above the crenulated walls of the manor house, the 12-metre stainless steel pool (heated to a tropical 35 degrees) juts out from a glass fronted indoor lounge and offers underwater massage jet seating, so spa-goers can lie back and enjoy views over the rolling countryside.
Calcot & Spa, Tetbury
This golden-hued 35-room hotel is the definition of boutique bliss, tucked away in idyllic Cotswolds landscape. Nestled in a quiet corner of the grounds is the spa, which reopened this year after extensive refurbishment. Think contemporary clean lines merged with natural materials like wood and stone.
The tranquil space includes a new indoor pool, seven treatment rooms and a relaxation area, while outside you’ll find a lavender-lined courtyard housing a fireside hot tub, sleep-inducing loungers and the outdoor swimming pool, which is open to guests during the summer months from 8am until 8pm, with 45-minute bookable time slots to avoid overcrowding.