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16 September 2014
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Stonehaven Outdoor Pool
Stonehaven Outdoor Pool
Once upon a time no Scottish holiday resort was complete without its open-air swimming pool. A haven for families, an arena for teenage boys to try and impress girls and the venue for countless talent and beauty contests, every coastal town encouraged its visitors to join in and have a dip. Indeed in their heyday in the 1930s, Portobello outdoor pool managed to attract an incredible 18,000 swimmers in one day.

Nowadays, with the decline in Scottish beach holidays, these magnificent pools are a good sight rarer, and Stonehaven is to be commended in retaining and keeping in use what is now the only working Olympic-sized heated open-air pool in Britain.

The pool was opened in June 1934, built in the fashionable art deco style common to many of these facilities and fully compliant to Olympic standards. More unusually, it was paid for by the locals themselves through public subscription.

It proved to be a wise investment by the townsfolk as it became a huge hit with visitors to the town, in some years even reaching 65,000 swimmers. However, like many other similar facilities throughout the country it was hit hard by the impact of cheaper foreign holidays, and by the 1980s visitor numbers to the pool had plummeted to an annual figure of roughly 15,000.

Stonehaven Outdoor Pool
Stonehaven Outdoor Pool
This drop in popularity, coupled with the increasing amount of wear and tear on the structure, prompted the local council to propose that the pool be closed in 1994. It seemed that the death-knell had sounded for the pool, and that another valuable piece of coastal heritage would be no more.

However, just as the locals had paid for the building of the pool in the first place, now they stepped in to save their town's landmark. A pressure group, the "Friends of the Pool" was quickly formed, and after an arduous process of negotiation which lasted for years, the pool was saved. The Council now provides an annual budget, maintains the fabric of the pool and provides qualified lifeguards; while the local community organise fundraising, marketing and the volunteers make sure the pool is redecorated every Spring prior to the June opening.

The open air pool is now thriving, hosting everything from triathlon competitions to floodlit midnight swims. The hard work of the local volunteers has well and truly paid off, as visitor numbers climb up towards the 40,000 mark and the long term future of the pool now seems to be in safe hands.


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