The Tragic Demise of Tarlair Open Air Swimming Pool

Panoramic picture of tarlair abandoned pool

Lying at the base of dramatic sea cliffs, just outside the coastal village of Banff, lies the abandoned Tarlair swimming complex. Once a hub of activity for the local community and tourists alike the pool now sits crumbling and neglected. A mere remnant of its former glory.  

Tarlair Open Air Swimming Pool was a community staple for around six decades. It evokes memories of family outings and children’s laughter. A reminder of simpler times before technology became ingrained in every facet of society. If it were open today, it would certainly be described as a highly Instagrammable spot.  Even in its dilapidated state its shell still provides a beautiful image. The cliffs and crashing waves providing a dramatic backdrop. I just wish I could have experienced it in its heyday.  

Seven Decades of Tarlair Activity

The construction of Tarlair Open Air Swimming Pool (also known as a lido in Scotland) was agreed in 1929. The pool was was opened to the public in the summer of 1931.  John Miller was the architect of the art deco inspired facility. The pool and building are constructed of concrete and the complex is backed by cliffs with the sea expanding out before the pool. It is a truly beautiful spot.  

Tarlair at the height of its populairty

In the 1930’s holidays abroad were not an option for the general public and indoor heated pools didn’t exist. Therefore outdoor pools like this were in high demand. They were used as a meeting place, to socialise, holiday and generally have fun. 169 outdoor pools were built throughout the UK during this period. 

More than just a pool

Tarlair can be described as a tidal swimming pool. This involves a clever design which allows sea water to fill the pools at high tide to flush out old water. This would happen twice a day which would allow the water to remain fresh. The pool currently appears to have some stagnation, however during its heyday the water would have been fresh and inviting for a summer dip.  

The main pool had a diving board at the deep end and a child’s chute at the shallow end. Unfortunately, these are no longer there. The second-largest pool was effectively a boating pond with the two remaining pools being used as paddling pools.  You can really imagine the buzz the place would have once had when you visit.  The silence feels somewhat sad, when you contrast it to what would have been a vibrant and bustling centre.  

Tarlair Music Festival!

Tarlair’s popularity began to decline during the 70s when holidays abroad became a reality for the everyday family.  During this period Tarlair somewhat reinvented itself, becoming a venue for open air concerts which grew in popularity. However, it was in the summer of 1994 that Tarlair really came into its own when it played host to two of Scotland’s biggest bands.  

The water was drained from the pools to host the Tarlair Music festival and its two headline acts, Wet Wet Wet and Runrig. It was the crowning glory for a fantastic facility, however sadly it closed its doors the following year in 1995. It has never reopened. 

What does the future hold for Tarlair?

Since 2007 Tarlair Open Air Swimming Pool has been protected as a category A listed building. It is also listed on the buildings at risk register.  It still lies derelict today but many locals walk round the complex remembering the former glory that it once was. 

A number of proposals have been put forward for redevelopment of the complex, but to this date a revamp has not fully materialised.  The friends of Tarlair community group received £300,000 to complete vital restoration work in 2015, and are looking to raise additional funds to restore the amazing facility to its former glory. You can read more about their mission here.

With the current resurgence in the popularity of open-air swimming and the massive potential that this site poses, I believe that Tarlair could definitely become a thriving hub of activity once again. 

Abandoned tarlair pool
Tarlair Pool Today

I know for sure that I would be one of the first to visit if it does reopen its doors!  Would you? 

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11 thoughts on “The Tragic Demise of Tarlair Open Air Swimming Pool

  1. Went with my family as a young child on hot summer days and can just remember going in the boating pool with my cousin and sitting having picnics on the grass hill overlooking the pools. Faint but very happy memories and I would absolutely LOVE to see it brought back to its former glory for all to enjoy once again.

  2. I have distant memories of being there with my family as a small child and going on the boating pond with my older cousin. I was so young I just remember finding the main swimming pool at the far end next to the sea dark and scary so never ventured there just stuck to the paddling pool! We used to sit up on the grass hill and have a picnic. I remember it being really busy and fun on hot summer days. Really hope it comes back. I’d go for sure!

    1. It’s so lovely to hear people’s memories from Tarlair. I think they have received some more funding so hopefully you are able to get back in the future and take a walk (or swim) down memory lane! 🙂

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