Secret Edinburgh: Helen Arney's watery oasis at Warrender Swim Centre
Tim Clark19 August 2010
Ever found yourself looking for a quiet oasis to escape the Fringe? In the latest of our 'Secret Edinburgh' series Helen Arney packs her towel and heads to Warrender Swim Centre.
Swimming costume? Check.
20p for the locker? Check.
Verucca sock? Maybe in the second week…
My Hidden Edinburgh is a jewel south of the Meadows, literally an oasis in the normality-deprived desert of the Fringe.
It’s the Warrender Swim Centre. This is no Leith Waterworld, it remains regal and constant without flashy waterslides, wave machines and inflatable family funtimes.
Hidden away on Thirlestane Road in Marchmont, the original 1887 Bath House boasted a billiard room and a reading library. Today it has the modern equivalents (gym and yoga studio), but the original Victorian structure is still gloriously visible. It’s like breast-stroking back in time. It’s like front-crawling in an ancient cathedral.
This is serious swimming for serious people.
Take the changing rooms, lined up like beach huts on either side of the pool. Walk straight out of your hut and you’re already in the water, where you can let your imagination run riot.
Like, if dozen swimmers walked out of their huts in quick succession and in perfect rhythm, they’d create the perfect start to a Fred Astaire-style synchronised swimming number…
Then there’s the lane etiquette. Three lanes are marked “slow, medium and fast” (translated as “manageable, ambitious, insane”) or you could always dip into the other half of the pool, marked “freestyle dicking about”.
My preference is for the slow lane. You can’t go any faster than the person in front, and overtaking gives no advantage, so you just have to relax and enjoy the endless circular journey. It’s a timely reminder of the principles of Zen philosophy, and might help keep you sane well into Week Three.
Once you’ve overcome the social anxiety of lane swimming, there are few things more relaxing than 40 lengths of back crawl staring through the expansive glass roof and into the uniform grey of the Edinburgh summer sky.
This was the last completed project of local architect Robert Paterson, ending a career that included designing the Caf.
View Secret Edinburgh: Such Small Portions' map of over 50 comedians' favourite spots in the city in a larger map
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