18 of England’s best hotels with fabulous outdoor pools
When green-list dreams are torn apart and a plume of lovely, warm, sunny weather hits England, you know you need to make the most of every sun-drenched moment. Beaches always make for a fabulously British day out, but when you desire a sparkling pool, spotless restroom (sans queues) and somewhere to quickly hop over to for a cup of tea, glass of wine or spot of lunch (without the paraphernalia of a picnic), hotel pools are the creme de la creme of summer days off. So, whether that’s an exclusive and slinky rooftop pool, a beautiful clifftop natural pond, a few civilised lengths on country house estate, or a splash about in family-friendly spots, here’s our pick of the best hotels with pools in England, from Cornwall to the Cotswolds and Hampshire to Hertfordshire.
Best hotels with outdoor swimming pools
It’s not too often a swimming pool can be partially blamed for bringing down the government. This pool can. In 1963 on a hot summer’s day, 19-year-old model Christine Keeler peeled off her clothes and went for a dip. John Profumo (the then Secretary of State for War) spied her naked body, and so began their subsequent affair – resulting in his resignation and further political turmoil. Today, the listed pool is equally as refreshing, as is the indoor pool.
Talk about a special spot. The outdoor pool at this charming b&b with just 11 rooms is perched on a cliff above Lulworth Cove, and so benefits from expansive blue views. Nearby you can amble along the Jurassic Coast to oggle at Durdle Door (just a 20-minute walk away), brace yourself for an afternoon of adrenaline-packed coasteering, or scavenge for fossils down at the water’s edge. But for a chilled-out day, you’re best to simply pitch up poolside.
Framed by trimmed hedges, lush trees and lavender-filled urns, the courtyard pool at Chewton Glen has a chilled-out and exclusive feel. The greenery seems apt given the New Forest location and provides natural shade when it gets hot, but there’s plenty of parasols should you require them too. The hotel’s spa has a 17-metre indoor pool with views of the garden for days when the weather simply won’t cooperate.
Originally built in 1924 as a private house, St Enodoc was transformed in 1999 into one of Cornwall’s first seaside-chic boutique hotels. It’s a modern coastal retreat flooded with light, delivering a fresh and contemporary style with an emphasis on brightly coloured furnishings and fabrics. With its elevated position, St Enodoc boasts sweeping views over the Camel estuary, and the hotel has been designed to make the most of its stunning surrounds, with large terrace areas leading onto well-manicured lawns with ample seating. Here you find an outdoor pool.
This clifftop freshwater pool is naturally filtered by reeds and offers excellent vistas along the Cornish coast and out to sea. Fringed in by granite rocks as well as the reeds, it feels more like a wild swimming spot than a glossy hotel pool. Log-fired hot tubs further along the cliff are just the ticket for warming up after a cold plunge.
In the most southerly point on the UK’s mainland, this luxury coastal hotel is perched on the clifftops of the Lizard Peninsula, above a private beach. The hotel is a backdrop for family adventures, designed to make the most of the outdoors. A large terrace leads out from the Vista lounge, surrounded by pretty clifftop gardens with a children’s play area, home to snakes and ladders and hopscotch, an outdoor pool and tennis court.
The beach connecting Burgh Island to the mainland sits just beneath the hotel, but not only does it disappear twice a day, rendering the island accessible by sea tractor only, the water can also be pretty chilly without a wetsuit. Noticeably warmer and much more secluded is the truly spectacular Mermaid’s Pool. This natural seawater pool was secured during the Second World War by a sluice gate and is surrounded by rocks. The vista is magnificent simply to survey from a deckchair on the hotel’s back lawn; but swimming in it feels really quite magical. A wooden podium in the middle accessed somewhat inelegantly by hauling oneself up on a rope offers prime tanning opportunity.
This relaxed country house hotel in Dedham Vale provides great food, excellent service and beautiful countryside on the doorstep. The swimming pool gets extra points for its adjoining pool house that’s kitted out with a log fire that burns all day. You can book the whole place on an exclusive-use basis and it’s increasingly popular for weekend house parties.
The golden Cotswolds stone buildings bordering the 15-metre pool make for a chic countryside setting. The pool is toasty year-round (heated to 30 degrees Centigrade in all seasons), but summer is the time it’s in its prime – when you can relax on the stone-paved terrace and snack on truffle and parmesan chips post swim.
Thurlestone’s heated outdoor pool, surrounded by verdant gardens, also includes an adjacent children’s paddling area. There’s plenty of space for splashing around, and the dolphins and fish painted onto the floor of the pool fit in with the family-friendly atmosphere.
The bay-side outdoor pool is heated to a balmy 30 degrees Centigrade, usually open from May to October. From the water, guests can see across the hotel’s gardens down to the beach and out to sea. Purple and pink hydrangeas bring a nice pop of colour to the view. Afterwards, don’t miss a session in the adjoining, ocean-view hot tub.
The pool at this beamed, ivy-clad hotel is part of the more contemporary spa building and has swim-through access to the outdoors. Many celebrate special occasions at Ockenden, with pampering packages, fine dining and the peaceful countryside views all adding to the sense of indulgence. In terms of rooms, choose between traditional rooms in the historic manor or modern spa suites above the pool.
This is a magnificent example of a luxurious and beautifully run country house hotel. The house exudes a feeling of controlled and carefully orchestrated wellbeing without ever feeling unnatural or overly theatrical. Its good looks are matched by the surrounding gardens and the beautiful view of Rutland Water from the lovely flower-filled terrace and parterre. The outside pool is a highlight.
Measuring in at 22 metres long, The Grove’s outdoor pool favours proper swimming over languid toe dipping. It’s found in the walled garden of the estate, along with a volleyball court, tennis courts and a croquet lawn. All the sporty activities make it particularly family-friendly, plus there’s ice lollies and fizzy drinks sold in the gazebo, and a makeshift ‘beach’ in the summertime.
With a wall of lush greenery on one side, Calcot Manor’s outdoor pool is a lovely place for a dip in the summer months. It’s usually open from May to September, which is the best time to visit anyway, when the surrounding 220 acres of meadowland and gardens are in full bloom.
Ioné O’Brien and husband Michael first opened up their country home more than sixty years ago. Since then a stampede of illustrious guests, from June Whitfield to Princess Diana, and the glitzy polo set have waltzed through its elegant Edwardian halls. Now it’s under the helm of grandson, Seamus, who has added the odd contemporary flourish, but its 1940s style and grace remain ingrained throughout. The modern PH² O spa at Park House has both indoor and outdoor heated pools, ideal for summer lounging.
This family-friendly bolthole in the New Forest may be small in size but it’s big on facilities. Contemporary details blend seamlessly with 17th-century features like fireplaces, stained-glass windows, a coat of arms, and acorn and oak-leaf patterned doors. As well as an outdoor swimming pool, the spa includes hydrotherapy pools, thermal rooms, a foot spa, ‘experience’ shower and outdoor hot tub, plus relaxation areas.
This 17th-century home with extensive gardens is a firm favourite with families visiting Bath and the Wiltshire countryside. Inside, its two lounges are inviting, allowing parents to monitor play with a drink by the fireside. Outside, the gardens are home to a static tractor, a pig, chickens, a scarecrow, a giant tree swing and a fairy garden. A modern, attractive Elemis spa overlooks the hotel’s walled vegetable garden, and the outdoor pool is heated.