Book Week Scotland 2017 – Arlington Baths 28 November – 2 December, 2017
The Arlington Baths Club is one of Glasgow's hidden gems. It is thought to be the first Victorian swimming club in the United Kingdom. When it first opened its doors in August 1871 it caused a sensation, inspiring similar clubs, both in Scotland and further afield. While most have long since closed their doors, the Arlington has endured, capturing the imagination of new members year after year. The Club remains true to its original values and is dedicated to its members and still run on a not for profit basis.
The building, which is tucked away at the end of Arlington Street, just off Woodlands Road, is a Victorian masterpiece. The Club's founders are thought to have gained their inspiration from Roman Baths, where bathers graduated unhurriedly through a series of rooms offering a choice of experiences from the tepid to the very hot, emerging finally into the swimming pool. The experience is both physical and social, as you move leisurely from one temperature to the next, and so also from one conversation to the next. The idea of a relaxed combination of physical exercise and sociability lies at the heart of what the founders of the Club set out to achieve, and it remains the dominant idea behind the Club to this day.
The 21 metre pool is the heart of the club, set within an impressive space that benefits from natural light, the water is cleansed using a traditional sand filtration system, which minimises the use of chlorine and provides exceptional water quality. The Club's over pool trapeze and rings are available for the more energetic, and there are a range of therapeutic poolside showers and deep baths set round the poolside. The club has retained its hospitality, with swimming costumes laundered and a towel and a wrapping sheet provided on arrival, so there are no wet items to take home!
The Arlington's Turkish Suite is truly breathtaking. It is an inspiring space adorned with classical tiling and stained glass that is to be admired while members absorb the room's therapeutic dry heat. In addition there is steam room and two saunas to enjoy.
Time hasn't stood still and the Arlington has adapted. The club has recently installed a state of the art gym, which is set in a contrasting Victorian space, with lots of daylight, but with modern comforts like air conditioning and a chilled water cooler. The gym is now equipped with a host of cardio-vascular machines including treadmills, cross trainers, steppers, bikes and rowers as well as equipment for weight and strength training.
The Club prides itself on being a friendly place, while many modern health clubs have sprung up, none have been able to capture that elusive quality of "club" which, while difficult to define, is apparent as soon as you walk through the door.
If you like the sound of the Arlington and are interested in joining, or if you'd like to learn more about the history of this very special Club then you can visit the Club's website, they'd love to hear from you.