Sip or Swim: Rathlee’s at the Lido

Sip or Swim: Rathlee’s at the Lido

Outdoor swimming is experiencing a huge boom in popularity, and for those enthusiasts not fortunate enough to live alongside a suitable stretch of coast or open water the best option for many city-bound swimmers is their local lido. Lidos are a long way removed from your local leisure centre though; in their heyday in the early twentieth century there were 169 lidos around the UK, but most are derelict following decades of neglect and many have been demolished with only 31 remaining. Many of these stylish swimming establishments have been restored and reopened in recent years and now offer more than contained cold water and a changing stall.

Bristol Lido reopened in 2008 after almost two decades of closure; it dates back to 1849 and was granted Grade 2* listed status by English Heritage following a successful “Save the Lido” campaign, which saved it from demolition. The restaurant and poolside tapas bar were opened by critically acclaimed Bristol-based chef and TV presenter Freddy Bird, who then went on to open the Thames Lido in Reading last summer. Thames Lido is only slightly younger than it’s West Country cousin; it was built in 1902 as the Ladies Swimming Bath (it had no windows looking on to the pool to ensure privacy) and was fed by the River Thames until the 1950s, before closing in the mid-70s. Both of these lidos are beautiful, soaked in history, and offer a unique experience for both swimmers and diners alike.

“I was introduced to Rathlee’s Rum last year at Port Eliot – there I fell in love with the rum and the fact that a little bit of exotic Colombia has been brought to the wilds of Cornwall!”

Freddy Bird, Bristol-based chef and TV presenter

We met Freddy last summer at Port Eliot Festival (itself the venue for some wild swimming in the River Tiddy) where he was presenting chef run cooking demonstrations to audiences on the Flower and Fodder stage. We recently visited him in Bristol and showcased our three-year Golden Barrel Aged Rum, and you can now order Rathlee’s at the bars of both the Bristol and Thames Lidos – perfect for a post swim poolside reward. Although, you don’t have to have just swum a set of laps in the fresh air to warrant taking a seat and sitting back to sip a rum cocktail; the Spanish and Mediterranean inspired restaurants and tapas bars are open to the public, seven days a week.

Bristol Lido
Oakfield Place, Clifton, Bristol BS8 2BJ
Reservations: 0117 332 3970

Thames Lido
Napier Road, Reading, RG1 8FR
Reservations: 0118 207 0640

All Lido photography © Andre Pattendon