Tarlair Swimming Pool Complex, Tarlair Road, Macduff

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Ordnance Survey licence number 100057073. All rights reserved. © Copyright and database right 2019.

General Details and Location

Name of Building
Tarlair Swimming Pool Complex
Other Name(s)
Tarlair Road, Macduff
Planning Authority
Divisional Area
Reference No
Listing Category
OS Grid Ref
NJ 71982 64661
Location Type
HS Reference No


Art Deco tidal swimming pool, boating pool and paddling pool surrounded by curved walkways, with associated tea pavilion at the head of the boating pool. Changing rooms and kiosks to the side. Pool and buildings constructed from concrete.

A remarkably fine, little-altered and early example of an outdoor Art Deco swimming pool. It is one of only 3 known surviving sea-side outdoor swimming pool complexes in Scotland, and certainly the one that best retains its original appearance. The other examples are Stonehaven (1934, listed at category B), which was never tidal, and Gourock, which has been greatly altered and is no longer tidal. Simple tidal pools, such as those at St Andrews and Pittenweem are not included in this category.

The architect of Tarlair pool was John C Miller, the Burgh Surveyor for Macduff. The building of the pool was agreed by the Burgh Council in 1929, and the pool was opened in the summer of 1931. The contractor for the pool was Robert Morrison & Son of Macduff.

Outdoor swimming pools were very popular as social meeting places during the 1930s and a relatively large number of them were built in Scotland, especially at sea-side holiday locations. Built between 1930 and 1931, the pool at Tarlair is one of earliest examples of this sort of swimming pool. The biggest and most impressive pools were at Portobello (1936) and Dunbar (1920s), the latter incorporating not only a swimming pool, boating pool and paddling pool, but also a ballroom in its main pavilion. Other notable pools were located at Arbroath, North Berwick, and Prestwick. These have unfortunately all been demolished (or largely so).

Although the buildings at Tarlair are relatively modest, the pool itself is impressive with the generous curved sides of the boating pool, and swimming pool beyond. The inclusion of a boating pool is particularly unusual; 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. At high tide all parts of the pool are engulfed by the sea. The arrangement of the swimming pool situated to the sea-side the boating pool is practical, as it is obviously more hygienically desirable for the swimming pool to be fully replenished by the sea than the boating pool. Tarlair pool is set in a spectacular location in a rocky bay to the East of Macduff, to which the design of the pool responds well. The pool has been disused since 1995.

A small number of alterations and additions have taken place since it was built (most notably to the paddling pool, and the addition to the tea pavilion), but these alterations are of a superficial nature and its appearance has changed very little since it was photographed in 1935. Its state of intactness, simple yet stylish design, early date and magnificent location all contribute to make this pool the outstanding surviving example of its type in Scotland (Historic Scotland)
Building Dates
1930-1 with minor later alterations
John C Millar (Macduff Burgh Surveyor)

Category of Risk and Development History

Very Poor
Category of Risk
Exemptions to State of Risk
Field Visits
14/05/2008, 15/10/2010, 22/10/2013
Development History
March 2007: Historic Scotland award the tidal pool A List status in recognition of its simple but stylish art deco design which has remained largely unaltered. The complex is noted as being on of the earliest of its kind.
February 2008: Aberdeenshire Council, in partnership with Scottish Enterprise Grampian, advises a review of the complex will be undertaken by a project team including Jura Consultants and LDN Architects, who are charged with investigating and developing potential uses for the complex.
May 2008: External inspection finds the complex vacant and lacking maintenance. The are signs of recent vandalism having taken place.
February 2010: Press and Journal reports Banff and Buchan councillors are to meet to discuss the future of the Tarlair area in March. The Councillors have requested a presentation from Jura Consultants on the feasibility study carried out last year. The article goes on to note during the recent winter storms Tarlair has been battered by rocks and other debris from the sea.
March 2010: The building is featured in Coast Magazine‘s Save our Seaside campaign.
May 2010: The Press and Journal reports on further consultations, on behalf of Aberdeenshire Council, on possible uses for Tarlair. This will include investigating a proposal to establish a lobster hatchery which would utilise the buildings whilst the hatchlings are raised to juvenile stage before being released into the sea. A similar operation is noted in Padstow, Cornwall.
October 2010: External inspection finds this fine building suffering from slow decay, particuarly the pool areas.
November 2010: The Press and Journal reports that Jura Consultants have delivered a feasibility study for a lobster hatchery to Aberdeenshire Council. Banff and Buchan councillors are reported to be considering the results of the study before the end of the year.
23 April 2012: A member of the public advises that a Save Tarlair campaign group as begun on the social network, Facebook, concerned with the deteriorating condition of the site.
14 December 2012: Local planners report Aberdeenshire Council is in discussions with the local community regarding the former swimming complex and is evaluating options to secure its long term future.
23 January 2013: The Scotsman reports a proposal for an investment of £1.1 million for refurbishment work at the site, whilst detailed options for its long term future are completed, is to go before Aberdeenshire Councillors. The article goes on to note the initial works proposed are for the demolition of the changing rooms, infilling of boating and paddling pools along with external refurbishment of the tea pavilion and retention of the main pool for model boat club or stocking with fish and plants. Bringing the pools fully back into use is reported to be in the region of £2.5 million. The Economic Develoment Service is reported to consider potential development into an oyster hatchery (lobster hatchering having previously been explored) as an alternative option.
22 October 2013: External inspection finds some evidence of storm damage since the 2010 site visit, but otherwise, the site remains in much the same condition as seen previously.
27 May 2014: An article in the The Banffshire Journal, 8 April 2014, reported Aberdeenshire Council policy and resources committee approved the £300,000 refurbishment to the complex in the local authority’s maintenance plan for the year 2014-15. The works are planned to include repairs to the boating pond and main pool, covering holes in the pavilion roof and terraces are to be filled in.
9 July 2014: Consent is currently being sought for encapsulation of base/ surround of the boating pool, rebuilding of the concrete terraces and construction of disabled access ramp ref: APP/2014/2288.
29 June 2021: Press and journal news website reports (25/06/2021) on the efforts of a locally established group, the Friends of Tarlair, to secure funding towards further repairs to the pool complex, the complex having last been subject to repairs in 2015. The article goes on to report Greenspace Banffshire, in tandem with VisitAberdeenshire, planted 420 trees within the wider surrounding site.
7 September 2021: Northern Scot (31/08/2021) reports that Friends of Tarlair have appointed architects to carry out restoration on the pavilion.
8 September 2021: Urban Realm reports (07/09/2021) that Studio Octopi, with Heritage Architecture, are working with the Friends of Tarlair Community Group and Aberdeenshire Council to develop a scheme to repair and bring the site back to use. The project is likely to be delivered in phases and includes the re-opening of pools, a team room, social space, workshop and toilets. Planning consents are intended to be lodged in November with ambition to initiate works in 2022, subject to the project securing the anticipated funding requirements of around £915,000.
27 September 2021: Press and Journal reports (20/09/2021) that the second phase of restoration work will focus on upgrading the pool's pavilion to include a tearoom, social space, workshop and toilet facilities.
22 December 2021: Scottish Construction Now reports (21/12/2021) that Friends of Tarlair have been awarded £1.4m toward restoration of the pavilion from the Scottish Government's £25m Regeneration Capital Grant Fund.
22 February 2022: Press & Journal (21/02/2022) reports that Friends of Tarlair Community Group has been awarded £71,000 from the Macduff Vision and Action Plan budget to allow them to complete design works for the restoration of the lido pavilion building.
29 March 2022: Listed building consent (APP/2022/0385) being sought for alterations, extensions and restoration works.

Guides to Development

Conservation Area
Planning Authority Contact
PAC Telephone Number


Current Availability
Not Available
Appointed Agents
Occupancy Type
Present/Former Uses
Name of Owners
Aberdeenshire Council
Type of Ownership
Local Authority

Information Services

Additional Contacts/Information Source
Sports Centres and Gymnasia
Original Entry Date
Date of Last Edit