WHEN Gourock Outdoor Pool appeared on the front of the latest Blur album it should not have been a surprise. Singer Damon Albarn had already declared himself inspired by the Clyde, listing Dunoon one of his favourite gigs and writing the ‘Selfish Giant’ about the local submarines. No surprise too as Scotland boasts impressive outdoor pools with a heritage dating back over a century that are ideal when the mercury finally rises.

Outdoor pools might seem a little eccentric given our too often dreich climate, but there is real heritage to our outdoor pools. Or lidos, to give them their posher name. There should be a heritage as we have over 10% of Europe’s coastline and Loch Ness holds more water than all the lakes in England and Wales put together – that is a lot of water to be tempted by.

You find outdoor pools dotted around the world, most notably in the rest of Europe. I am thinking of Germany’s historic Volksparks, of the Venetian island actually named Lido di Venezia. Then of terme culture in Slovenia and Croatia. There are said to be over 100 lidos dotted around the UK, with a flurry on England’s south coast and even in Hyde Park in London.

The great era of the European lido was handily in the 1930s when art deco architectural excesses were on hand to sculpt lidos as eye-catching as they were enjoyable to swim in. In Scotland, these outdoor pools thrived and indeed continued to do so right up until the advent of cheap package holidays abroad. With the Spanish Costas just a cheap flight away the outdoor pools in the likes of Rothesay and North Berwick lost their appeal and, eventually, their lustre.

Scotland's oldest outdoor heated swimming pool is Gourock itself, which actually dates back as far as 1909. After surviving both World Wars, heating was installed in 1969, bringing us the balmy 29C temperatures we enjoy today on the banks of the Clyde. Gourock shows how it can be done. A massive £1.8 million revamp has brought the always essential modern changing areas and a new gym. There is upgraded disabled access, with handy street-level parking too and stargazing evening swimming.

The other hugely famous traditional lido-style dame is Stonehaven Open Air Pool. It opened in 1934 and remains the UK’s only 50m Olympic-size art deco outdoor swimming pool. As well as heated seawater like Gourock, other neat touches include the fact that it is open until midnight on a Wednesday, the chute, and the paddling pool for under eight-year-olds. You can relax in the café and at weekends savour entertainment on site. The local authorities have helped massively in a recent revamp, which means their season will not start until June 10.

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One less heralded outdoor pool that breaks the mould is the New Cumnock Swimming Pool. It is both inland and also offers freshwater for those not keen on the saltwater tang in their eyes. This pool was refurbished in 2017 by the Dumfries House Trust, which King Charles III is involved in; indeed he was at the official opening. New Cumnock is very much a community pool and they are always looking for volunteers.

The outdoor pools exist and investment is going in, but why are so popular right now? An obvious answer is lockdown, when ‘wild swimming’ (basically swimming with an unnecessary prefix) massively grew in popularity. Covid forced many people into looking at how they spent their time, how they lived and how much they embraced the great doors; indeed how much exercise they took, too. Outdoor swimming ticks all of those boxes and another huge one – safety.

Safety on Scotland’s waters seared into the news over the last few years with some terrible drowning tragedies, most notably on Loch Lomond. The temperature issue of cold water shock encountered in our lochs and rivers is less of a danger in our outdoor pools with the trio listed here heated. There is no current to battle and no waves to engulf you either. What you do get is the sense of communality of being together with likeminded souls just enjoying the great outdoors and being active.

There is another type of outdoor pool you may have seen are or about to remember when you read this. And they are the outdoor pools on beaches that are open to the sea, where the seawater comes in to replenish the pool. Here you don’t get any fancy facilities, or even changing rooms. These tidal pools are colder, but you do get an in-with-Mother-Nature thrill.

The prevalence of these tidal pools really hit me when I walked a section of the Fife Coastal Path a few years back and came across not just St Monans Tidal Pool, but its siblings at Pittenweem and further east still at Cellardyke. People were using all three, which were in a rough and ready state. Since then I have come across community groups working to revamp all three, bringing in a modicum of facilities and making them more appealing.

It doesn’t end there. I’m thinking of the outdoor pool at North Berwick, which was being used to teach schoolkids stand up paddle boarding last time I was there. And into the Highlands, Wick. This far north town is home to not one but two outdoor pools - the Trinkie and the North Baths. I reckon you will be able to recall more.

Whether you are looking to float in balmy water in a gorgeous old world lido-style pool on the Clyde or North Sea, or prefer a more rustic experience in a tidal pool, there are plenty of options for cooling off in Scotland. And you will, of course, be in good company: if it is good enough for Clyde-loving Gourock Swimming Pool fan Damon Albarn, it’s surely good enough for us all.

More information Gourock Outdoor Pool - www.inverclydeleisure.com/facilities/gourock-pool

Stonehaven Open Air Pool - www.stonehavenopenairpool.co.uk

New Cumnock Swimming Pool - www.facebook.com/NCSPool