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Art deco pool is a national architectural gem

8 March 2007

Simple yet stylish – one of Scotland’s three surviving outdoor seaside swimming pools has been recognised for its outstanding architectural and historic importance.

Historic Scotland has awarded category A-listed status to the Tarlair tidal pool complex, east of Macduff, in Aberdeenshire.

Dr Debbie Mays, Historic Scotland inspector of historic buildings, said: “Tarlair is especially interesting because of its simple yet stylish Art Deco design which has remained pretty well intact through the decades.

“The complex is also important because it is an early one, and because it included a boating pool as well as the ones for swimming and paddling.”

The large swimming pool plus paddling pool, boating pool and tea pavilion were the very latest in seaside leisure when they were built in 1930-31.

Architect John C Miller, who was the burgh surveyor for Macduff, designed the swimming pool’s outer wall to be fractionally below high tide level.

Waves rolled in over the edge, giving swimmers the pleasures of the sea in a controlled environment. It also meant the pool was refilled with clean water twice a day.

Dr Mays added: “Outdoor pools were highly fashionable meeting places in the 1930s, especially at the seaside.

“They were built in quite large numbers and have an important place in our social history but few now survive, so it’s great that we still have such a good example as the one at Tarlair.

“The whole idea was to offer families lots of different ways to have fun at an elegant pool complex with a superb natural setting in a spectacular rocky bay.”

Being A-listed provides legal protection aimed at ensuring the complex is looked after and that any changes are carefully managed to maintain its authenticity.

Notes for editors

  • The Tarlair pool opened in the summer of 1931 and the contractors were Robert Morrison & Son of Macduff. The pool has been out of use since 1995.

  • While the buildings at Tarlair are relatively modest, the pool is impressive with the generous curved sides of the boating pool, and swimming pool beyond. The inclusion of a boating pool is particularly unusual and the only other known example was at Dunbar. It also seems to have been relatively unusual for a pool of this scale and level of stylishness to have been tidal.

  • The D-plan boating pool is bounded by three broad walkways that swept round from the tea pavilion at head of pool. Shallow steps cut into walkways at regular intervals; ramp for boats to east of the tea pavilion. The paddling pool is rectangular with curved corners enclosing a natural rocky outcrop within the boating pool and directly in front of tea pavilion.

  • The swimming pool is to the north (sea side) of the boating pool with changing rooms at west end. A continuation of the lower walkway divides the boating pool from swimming pool. The middle walkway continued round to east end of pool. There is a single storey, flat roofed Art Deco tea pavilion on a break-fronted rectangular-plan with a three-bay colonnade between taller end pavilions. Ssteps at outer bays lead to a roof terrace.  The changing rooms are a low, flat-roofed group of four linked blocks with slightly advanced outer bays with strip windows at eaves level. Two single bay kiosks at the pool entrance probably date from the early 1950s.

  • The other known surviving outdoor seaside swimming pools are at Stonehaven (listed at category B), which was never tidal, and Gourock, which has been greatly altered and is no longer tidal.

  • Historic Scotland is responsible for keeping and updating the nation’s list of buildings and structures that warrant legal protection due to their architectural or historic importance. Historic Scotland is an executive agency of the Scottish Executive.

  • There are three listing categories A, B and C(S). A is the highest and is only awarded to buildings and structures of national or international significance. Listing aims to prevent unwanted change and ensure that buildings which contribute to Scotland’s heritage are used in a sustainable way and can be enjoyed by future generations. For more information on the listing of buildings for their architectural or historical interest visit

For further information

Lesley Brown
Communications and Media Officer
Communications and Media
0131 668 8603 or 07788 923873