By Philippa Fox, John Gray Centre archives

THE days of outdoor pools dotting Scotland’s coast in every town are gone but they are certainly not forgotten.

A favourite outdoor swimming pool with locals and tourists alike was Dunbar Lido, which at its height of popularity was the largest open air pool in Scotland.

The pool was separated from the sea by a wall and would refill with sea water at high tide. The location of the pool meant that it was sheltered by the cliffs and it was suitable for swimming whether it was high or low tide, offering a much safer alternative to swimming in the open sea.

The first design for the pool was built in the late 1880s and contained brick and concrete dressing houses. Even at the time it was considered a work in progress and plans for an upgrade and a new pavilion at the ladies’ pool were built in 1904. It consisted of 14 dressing rooms and a seated veranda.

The season for the pool would span from late May to late September every year and, during the peak season of July and August, the population of Dunbar would double in number.

Its popularity led to more improvements in the early 1920s when the wall separating the sea and the pool was raised and a promenade was added.

Several years later in 1928 a boating pond was added, and only one year later in 1929 further extensions were made. By this stage the pool was 240ft by 151ft and had a depth of 2.5ft and 5.5ft. It was 7.5ft deep in the diving area and was planned to be made further deeper again with the addition of an Olympic standard diving board.

In the early 1930s further upgrades were made to the pool and the pavilion was replaced with a larger structure curving around the pool. A hall was also added containing seating for 300 and there were 170 cubicles.

During the 1930s there was a further rise in popularity due to the craze for health and outdoor living that swept Scotland.

As the health benefits of being outside became more apparent, doctors would regularly recommend visiting the seaside to aid health.

George Simpson, the architect of the latest pavilion and hall upgrades at the pool, described the outdoor pool as “the most attractive health resort on the east coast if not in Scotland”.

The official Dunbar guide book said: “Owing to the purity of the sea and the rocky shingly coast there was no necessity at Dunbar to filter and chlorinate the sea water. In health-giving qualities the water in the swimming pond is the same as the sea.”

The outdoor pool and pavilion were regularly used for events over the summer time. From the 1920s an annual gala was held at the pool. The upgrades meant that the pavilion and grass slopes could hold several thousand spectators. Swimmers would compete in races and, in between clowns and acrobatic divers, would provide entertainment. Display teams from Portobello and Edinburgh would regularly attend the event.

In the 1960s and early 70s the pool also hosted a very popular beauty contest, the ‘Miss Dunbar Bathing Suit competition’.

Due to a decrease in tourists coming to Dunbar in the summer, largely due to the increased popularity of overseas holidays, the pool was left in an eroded state and, eventually, in November 1984 bulldozers and diggers spent one month dismantling the pool. Even as this was happening, talk had already begun on building another pool for Dunbar.

However, it was not until 1992 that the current leisure pool opened its doors, which remains very popular with locals and tourists today.