It was officially the height of summer – June 21st – when I headed to Ilkley Lido for a nice and sunny swim. Despite it being the longest day of the year and one with the sun high in the sky, the water temperature was 16.4 degrees C and the air temperature 18.9 degrees C, or so I was reliably informed by the pool’s manager, who had tested it just half an hour earlier.
The setup at Ilkley is rather good, because the facility is home to both an indoor and outdoor pool, making it usable year-round. Of course, it was the outdoor section I was keen to sample and was immediately taken by the lido’s unusual shape and iconic fountain right in the middle at the far end. Seeing as it was a Friday in June, the pool was relatively quiet, but it was easy to see that there would be plenty of space for different activities – from adults doing lengths to children playing – when it was busier.
Just one lane marker ran up the middle of the pool, providing a useful reference for those wanting to do lengths across the widest point. Here, we all quickly fell in with each other, creating an unofficial lane in an orderly fashion, swimming the 45 metres across in circles. It was blissful swimming through the crystal clear water in the early summer sunshine.
I hadn’t made it to the pool at 4.30am for the Solstice Swim due to prior engagements, but apparently there’d been a great turnout. The manager informed me that the lifeguards have to take a dip in the outdoor pool once a week to stay acclimatised to the cold water in case they need to attend an emergency. It makes sense, but isn’t something I’d considered before. The friendly chap in the cafe said he’d never been in, despite working there for four years, but intended to jump in fully clothed in his uniform on his last day before getting “a proper job”.
Ilkley Lido opens for the season in May and closes again in September, although this is sometimes stretched a little if the weather is exceptionally good. It cost me £8.30 for a swim, but as there are extensive grounds and a cafe you may wish to spend a few hours or even the whole day swimming, sunbathing and relaxing by the pool.
The lockers are operated with a returnable £1 coin and the changing rooms were clean and well-appointed, although a shelf in front of the mirror would be useful for makeup etc. Inside there are hot showers and hairdryers (20p to use), but it’s advisable to take your pre-swim shower at the poolside, where the water is cold, as this will help you to acclimatise before getting in.
Just as I was about to leave, I went outside to get a flapjack from the cafe and an extraordinary scene began to unfold. A couple clad in wetsuits – she with a veil and he with paper laminated collar and cuffs – proceeded to get married in the pool. Their entourage stood on the side as the registrar made them husband and wife, and they exchanged rings attached to corks to stop them from sinking, before everyone jumped in to celebrate. It was such a joyous moment to watch and the first lido wedding I’ve ever witnessed.