• Richard Hammond

Hotels with natural swimming pools in the UK, France, Spain and Italy

Updated: 4 days ago

My selection of hotels, gîtes, treehouses, agriturismos and other lovely places to stay with natural swimming pools in the UK, France, Italy, Spain and Portugal. (updated 19 June 2017)

The blissful natural pool at Orion B&B and Treehouse in the South of France. Photo: Richard Hammond

Compared with a chlorinated swimming pool, a dip in a natural pool can feel much more refreshing. Designs vary, but they generally all work on the same premise: a wall separates a foil- or rubber-lined swimming area from an aquatic plant garden, whose marsh plants and sand act as a natural filter for oxygenizing and cleaning the water. Because they are designed in tune with the natural environment, they are wildlife-friendly, so don't be surprised if, while you're relaxing poolside, you see dragonflies and butterflies flittering across the water. Thankfully, hoteliers are increasingly installing these natural, eco-friendly alternatives. Here are some of our favourites:

The natural swimming pool in the hills above Porrera, Catalonia. Photo: Richard Hammond/Greentraveller

Mas Ardèvol, Falset, Costa Daurada, Catalonia, Spain: An idyllic rural house amid ten hectares of land in the green hills above Porrera. It specialises in traditional Priorat food, including fresh produce from their own vegetable garden, oil, and wine. There are two rooms inside the main house while outside there are three spacious thick-walled rooms and a natural swimming pool - perfect for a plunge on a hot day. Indulge in a variety of treatments, including a massage and body moisturising using natural ingredients, such as organic olives and hazelnuts. If you can tear yourself aware from the tranquility, nearby are the sundial route in Porrera and the Montsant mountain range.

The new natural swimming pool at the fabulously relaxing Can Marti farm, Ibiza. Photo: Can Marti

Agroturismo Can Marti, Ibiza, Spain: A beautiful, authentic and organic farmhouse in a quiet and idyllic spot in the unspoilt north of the island. This has long been a favourite of mine, a wonderfully peacefully part of the island, far from the crowds of Ibiza Town and near some great beaches. Even better, it has recently installed a hamman and this wonderful natural swimming pool (below).

The smart interior of one of the yurts at Le Camp. Photos: Le Camp

Le Camp, Southwest France: A luxury six-tented camp in an oak woodland overlooking the green valley of the Aveyron, an hour northwest of Toulouse. Each tent is on a raised wooden platform and every pitch has been carefully chosen "for its views, privacy and mood". The 45m² Giant Yurt is great for larger families or groups. Pride of place is the glorious 20m-long natural swimming pool. Expect a large buffet breakfast which includes locally sourced fruit, jams, saucisson, honeys, and cheeses. Owners will also help book and plan the journey of anyone who wishes to arrive by train and offer a free transfer to and from the local train stations.  They also provide bicycles for guests to borrow free of charge, including trailers and tagalongs for kids.

Orion B&B & Treehouses, Saint-Paul de Vence, France: 

Close to the stunning medieval fortified village of St Paul de Vence inland from the French Riviera, Orion's tree houses are one of the most stylish we've visited. The stand-alone tree-houses are built among oak and pine trees, 30m-high, and are reached via an outer wooden staircase where you climb up to a large double bedroom and ensuite bathroom. The treehouses come in all shapes and sizes, from the double-decker Colonel Hathi to the family-friendly combination of King Louis and Mowgli, where kids can have their own little adventure. There's also an additional cottage for those looking to keep their feet on solid ground. Back on terra firma, you can relax by a gorgeous natural outdoor pool and there is also an eco-friendly sauna where you can treat yourself to a Turkish Bath.

The cosy interior of a treehouse overlooking the natural pool at Orion B&B. Photo: Orion

Il Paluffo: A collection of small villas and B&Bs in a 15th Century historic building in the Chianti hills in Tuscany, not far from Florence and Siena. Along with the wonderful natural swimming pool, the buildings are managed in an eco-sensitive manner: electricity is produced by a 12kWatt photovoltaic system; heating and cooling systems use renewable energy: there are heat pumps powered by photovoltaic panels, hot water heating using thermal solar panel and pellet boilers in addition to the heating system; rainwater is collected and used for irrigation, while waste water is regenerated through herbal purification methods. Impressive!

The 42-square metre pool has wonderful views of the French countryside. Photo: François Depuis, provided by Chaumarty.

Chaumarty, French Pyrenees: An eco-gîte south of Toulouse, southwest France. Irises, waterlilies, and papyrus line the water’s edge of the 42 square metre natural pool “bassin de baignade” (below), plus there’s a diving board and a smaller pool for children. Adjacent to the pools is a large terrace where you can lay your towels and admire the mountain panorama all day long.

Great for kids: the family friendly Chaumarty. Photo: Chaumarty.

Little White Alice, Carnmenellis, Cornwall: Award-winning six self-catering holiday cottages in the heart of Cornwall. Self-sufficient in energy and water with wood burners, a natural swimming pool, nature reserve and 25 acres of land. Close to North and South coasts. Little White Alice was included in the Guardian Green Travel List 2011 (organised by Greentraveller) which celebrated innovation in sustainable tourism.

The Scarlet Hotel, Cornwall

The Scarlet Hotel, Cornwall, England: A lovely, smart hotel built to high eco standards, overlooking the sea on the Cornish coast. Be pampered in the luxurious Ayurvedic spa, sample delicious locally sourced food or take some time out to reflect and enjoy the views from the outdoor natural swimming pool.

La Jument Verte is above the spa town of Aix-Les-Bains. Photo: La Jument Verte.

La Jument Verte, Aix-les-Bains, France: A guesthouse /country inn on a 17th Century Farm, above the spa town of Aix-Les-Bains, and the beautiful Lake du Bourget, in the Regional Natural Park of the Bauges.

The tranquil rooms at Muxima, southwest Portugal. Photo: Richard Hammond
Making a splash: the large natural pool is popular with guests at Muxima, southwest Portugal. Photo: Rhiannon Batten

Muxima, Algarve, Portugal: a single storey farmstead that Jorge and his wife, Sofia, have turned into a splendid rural guesthouse. About an hour's drive north-west of Faro, Muxima is technically in the Algarve but, according to Jorge, the lifestyle here is more like that in the Alentejo, so he calls it the "Alengarve".

Cool off in a dozen natural pools in 2 rivers that flow through Vale de Moses Photo: Vale de Moses

Yoga at Moses, Oleiros, Portugal: Spend a week here on the edge of wilderness, in the beautifully restored home of the Winter family, beneath the village of Amieira, Oleiros. Practice yoga daily, walk in forests, swim and mud bathe in rivers, breath mountain air, eat deliciously, sleep deeply. Retreat.

Hotel Maravedí, Las Alpujarras, Spain: Be amazed by breathtaking views both day and night - you can stargaze in the hotel's own astronomical observatory. Walking, outdoor activities, interesting places to visit... and on your return enjoy a refreshing dip in the natural swimming pool.

Cornish Tipi Holidays, Cornwall, England: Wake up to the sound of birdsong, go swimming before breakfast in the clear water of a secluded lake. Cook your bacon and eggs over an open fire while you plan your day, or just laze it away in the peace and quiet of your own personal tipi. You can always go fishing tomorrow, and walk along the cliffs the day after that.

Not glamping, not tramping, just real camping made easy in a beautiful and private place. Sit round your own camp fire, fish and swim in the sparkling lake, drift through butterflies or run on the wild Atlantic beach.

Cabane de Jeanne, Normandy, France: This wooden fisherman’s cabin overlooking a serene lake is charmingly simple, a single white-panelled bedroom with embroidered white linen, and stairs up to a light-filled lounge. But it’s all about the lake: the views, the boat bobbing at the end of the jetty, the table on the pontoon – perfect for a romantic dinner. If blissful isolation is what you’re after, look no further – and there’s more natural splendour just to the south with the Parc Naturel Régional Normandie-Maine. Alençon, with its lacemaking tradition, is also nearby.

Useful Information:

>> British Association for Natural Swimming Pools >> Outdoor Swimming Society >> wildswimming.co.uk