Pool party

This crumbling beauty is Tarlair Swimming Pool in Macduff, Aberdeenshire. It was built in the 1930s in Art Deco style and is one of only three surviving outdoor seaside pools in Scotland.

Tarlair swimming pool

The pool’s outer wall was designed to be fractionally below high-tide level, so the waves could roll in over the edge, refilling it with clean sea water twice a day.

In its heyday it was the place to be, but it closed in 1996 after the impact of indoor heated pools and cheap overseas holidays took hold.

Tarlair swimming pool

The pool then fell into decay. At once point there was a proposal to turn it into a lobster hatchery! That would have been sacrilege for this glamorous old duck.

Tarlair swimming pool

We’d stopped for a nosy on the way back from visiting Pennan, the tiny village where one of Gareth’s favourite films Local Hero was made. Apparently not the original phone box, but Gareth and all the other Children of the 80s wandering around with cameras seemed happy enough…


… anyway, I bloody loved this pool! Well, I loved my fantasy version of this pool. Imagine sitting there in a figure-flattering 50s swimsuit and a gigantic hat, sipping a cocktail. Sunny but not skin cancer sunny. Watching bronzed blokes stroll by from behind giant sunglasses.

Tarlair Swimming Pool

Of course the reality would have been children bellowing over their fallen ice creams, and truly shitty weather 90% of the time.

Tarlair swimming pool

Good news: local Macduff residents had a Save Tarlair campaign and eventually a £300,000 essential repairs programme was announced.

Tarlair swimming pool

It doesn’t look like there’s enough dosh to restore it to a working pool, but it’s good to know it will be around.


About Shauna Reid

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13 thoughts on “Pool party

  1. I love finding gems like this.
    Glad they’re not going to get rid of it completely.

    I think next time I’m up your way we should go road tripping together

  2. That looks absolutely gorgeous! Especially that last photo, with the rock formation – beautiful. 🙂

    I’m not entirely sure, but I think one of the other surviving outdoor seaside pools might be down in Gourock. It doesn’t do the whole rolling-seaside-waves-to-refresh-the-water anymore, but I’m pretty sure it did when I was about four or five. There used to be a sand pool next to a swimming pool, and I’m sure the swimming pool refilled from the river, because the water was always salty!

  3. Ah, that’s lovely. I really am a nature nerd, but old semi-crumbling relics of the past like this, esp. ones that interact (on purpose) with the environment make me REALLY happy. Old “health” spas, including ones closed ’cause the spring water actually had abundant toxic chemicals (e.g., arsenic), are super cool.

    If you’re ever in San Francisco, you really may wanna check out the Sutro Baths (built in 1849, now in Golden Gate Park Nat’l Recreation Area). RIGHT on the edge the ocean (so gorgeous location), similar to what you visited in that it got rinsed by high tides, and today (at least recently) hosts a sea otter! =)

  4. I love Pennan, my auntie lives in one of the houses at the top of the hill. I remember many long weekends spent as a teenager trudging up and down that hill with my brother, I definitely didn’t appreciate the beauty of the place ten years ago!

  5. Beautiful area. I like to think of my mother sitting in a place like that, probably with a cigarette, but perhaps quite dramatically contained in one of those long holders you used to see woman use in movies.Mom was gorgeous back in the 40’s and 50’s.

  6. I love this. I had no idea there were ocean pools in Scotland. I am also a Local Hero tragic alongside Gareth

  7. This is absolutely beautiful. And a bit melancholy. I may have to renounce indoor heated pools!

    Samantha, I’m glad that you mentioned the Sutro Baths. My best friend lives in the Bay Area and that sounds like something I might like to see the next time I visit.

  8. Lovely! Portobello used to have an amazing Art Deco heated saltwater pool. It’s now 5-a-side football pitches. I got to tour it with my parents just before it was demolished, it had a ballroom and everything. Lots of seaside glamour! I have an old poster from the 30’s advertising a treasure hunt with music and illuminations at the Portobello Pool. Not to be confused with the Portobello Baths, which are indoor and still going strong.

  9. The only other time I’ve seen this concept is the pool at the club at Bondi Beach. It’s still in use, and it’s amazing to see after dark when the underwater lights are on and the waves are splashing into the pool – really glorious!

  10. I would be interested enough to stop too. From E’s memories of scottish beach holidays, I would say that everyone would be wearing shoes and socks and rugging up but oh so pleased to have a pool in the event that the sun came out 🙂 We have been to north berwick quite a few times and I always wonder about the old pool there that is now a carpark or something like that

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