This has got to be one of the coolest places in the country – and we‘re not just talking about the definite “ouch” factor that goes with taking the plunge into its decidedly chilly sea water.
It’s in an utterly glorious position, extending out in a 180-foot semi-circle into one of the most spectacular natural harbours in Europe.
Tinside has a unique place in the hearts of Plymothians, many of whom still tell tales of Blitz survivors gathering at the pool to wash away the soot and trauma left behind by the Luftwaffe.
It became one of the symbols of Britain’s Bulldog spirit during the Second World War – surviving Hitler’s bombardment only to fall victim to the post-war fashion for foreign holidays.
The Art Deco lido was built in 1935 in response to a new enthusiasm for bathing for fun, rather than “taking the waters” purely for health reasons as was the case in early part of the 19th century.
The pool stayed open throughout the war years and was used as a communal bath house when the city’s water supplies were disrupted by the bombing.
It was packed to bursting point in the 1950s – a magnet for hordes of summer bathers and the new place to “see and be seen” after the wartime destruction of Plymouth pier. It hosted regular beauty pageants, was used to train many a Channel swimmer and provided the perfect backdrop for the unveiling of that shocking new fashion fad – the bikini!
But lidos throughout the country lost their allure in the late 60s and throughout the 70s when the advent of cheap package holidays saw millions of holidaymakers abandon Britain’s bracing bathing waters, preferring instead to sizzle on the sun drenched beaches of the Mediterranean.
Tinside closed in 1992 and fell into a sorry state of disrepair. It remained closed for more than a decade, a forlorn reminder of a bygone age (when past times were simpler and bathing water was colder) until local campaigners succeeded in pressurising the city council into a multi-million-pound renovation.
It was given a Grade II listing in 1998 and is now once again the glittering jewel of Plymouth’s waterfront, regularly used for location shoots by national magazines and for live TV broadcasts.
Our world champion diver Tom Daley practised his craft as a boy on the nearby diving platforms (which have sadly been dismantled on ‘elf and safety grounds!) and did an Adidas photo shoot here just before heading off to the Beijing Olympics.
Actor Robson Green chose Tinside as the starting point for his rather wonderful Wild Swimming Adventure – an ITV series which saw him wild water swimming round Britain.
Now it’s open for everyone to enjoy between May and September and in 2011 the City Council even waived the entrance fee in a bid to boost its popularity. In this brave new world where many youngsters have no idea what it’s like to swim in British waters without a wet suit, the pool has rarely been full to capacity since it re-opened.
It’s a world away from those heady days of the 1950s, but there’s still something magical about swimming at Tinside. Where else on the planet can you better your breast stroke while enjoying the views of the sea, the Cornish countryside…and the occasional passing nuclear submarine?