What if I told you you can take the kids to a beach, but not have to travel to the coast AND you can get there and back within school hours? You can.There’s a beach in London. It’s called Ruislip Lido. And on it is the coolest ever pirate ship, palm trees and little boats. It’s free to visit but you do pay to park if you’re not a local resident. We live more than 2 hours from our nearest coastline… but my sons love going to the beach. We’ve been to lots of parks which have sand near us which are fab but we’ve been wanting to see if we can find a bigger alternative for some time. I’d heard about Ruislip Lido last year and how much people enjoyed it – but I’d also heard about some problems too – so we were determined to find out exactly what’s there, whether it’s worth going and if there are any pitfalls. Watch my video below and then read on for all the information before deciding if and when you want to go.
Where and what is Ruislip Lido?
Ruislip Lido is in the borough of Hillingdon in North London. The address is Ruislip Lido, Reservoir Road, Ruislip, HA4 7TY. Ruislip Lido is a 60 acre lake with beach, play area, splash park and narrow gauge railway. It’s surrounded by Ruislip Woods, a national nature reserve. We live in Milton Keynes and on a quite Monday in term-time in May 2019 in non-rush hour traffic it took us an hour to get there arriving at 10.30am.
What are the problems with Ruislip Lido?
I know if you’ve already watched the video and / or are looking at the pictures of Ruislip Lido, you’re going to want to take your kids. It looks amazing right? And quite honestly there’s more to explore beyond what you’ll read about here. Our reason for going was meeting a friend from South Bucks so we spent most of the time chatting rather than walking. It’s very rare that I do this so early on in a review but I’m going to tell you about the problems / downsides first as that’s what’s most important. Three issues… Parking. Popularity. The water.
What are the parking problems at Ruislip Lido?
Hands down, Ruislip Lido is an excellent place to visit if you’re local to the area and having spoken to friends who grew up near there, they have fond memories of visiting when they were children. However, if you’re like us then you probably drive everywhere and occasionally use public transport. Using that postcode we found Ruislip Lido easily. There are two car parks. One for local people which is free. The other is a public car park which anyone can park in – charges vary depending on the time of year. When we visited it was £5 in May, June, July and August and £3.50 in all other months. CASH ONLY – TAKE COINS. There is also apparently another car park for restaurant customers although I wasn’t paying attention when we arrived. On a quiet but beautiful day weather-wise on a Monday in May 2019 we DID get a parking space. BUT it’s not a big car park. And having read information on their website and reviews on Facebook I had worried about it before we went, so I was relieved to get one when we arrived. Their own website advises you do not travel by car during peak / busy / summer times. There is no parking on the surrounding streets. Apparently parking wardens are well hot on ticketing cars. Where would you park otherwise? I don’t know. I didn’t have time to drive around when we were there to look. Googling suggests there are public car parks in Ruislip itself but you may have to walk some way. If this is something that would majorly stress you out because you have young children and prefer to rock up somewhere and park then do seriously consider whether it’s worth going.
What are the potential problems with the popularity of Ruislip Lido?
The pictures I’ve used in this feature make Ruislip Lido look empty. It wasn’t of course. They were taken when we arrived but I quickly snap away the moment there are no children in sight – and a split second later there are kids playing again. That said, when we visited it was fairly quiet. I imagine if you go at a weekend in the summer, bank holiday or at any time in the school holidays if the weather is good, it will be a must-go destination for Londoners not wanting to travel too far to a beach. I have seen pictures online of it being really really busy, so just be aware if you go, you’re unlikely to get the beach to yourselves.
What are the problems with the water at Ruislip Lido?
The water looks lovely doesn’t it? BUT…. When we visited in May 2019 you couldn’t go in it. There were red flags up which meant there were problems with animal poo, swimmer’s itch, glass and there are no lifeguards. So if it’s the same, don’t go thinking the kids can have a paddle and cool off on a hot day. I guess it’s not really a surprise. This is a lake, not the sea, and most of the lakes we go to you can’t just go for a swim in as and when you please.
What are the best bits about Ruislip Lido?
Here’s the thing. We had a great time! I took my 3 year old. He loved playing on the beach. The big pirate ship is awesome. It’s made by Milton Keynes based play equipment company Kompan that does some pretty cool stuff. (Having visited in excess of 70 play areas I’m getting a bit geeky about this now). He struggled with some of the frame which means older ones will enjoy it too. He loved the little boats and the palm trees on the beach. The splash area was open when we went. The water seems to only cover about half of the actual area – not sure why that is, it has fewer jets than some of the ones we’ve tried. There is a good cafe – reasonably priced serving lunches, ice-cream and coffee. There’s also a big railway – the Ruislip Lido Railway is Britain’s longest 12 inch gauge railway – it looked great. It wasn’t running when we went – but if your children are fans of trains then I imagine it’s fab. You do have to pay to go on it. For prices and timetable here’s their website. On 16th/17th June it is free to ride as they have a big celebration that day. The lido is surrounded by woods – again we didn’t have time to explore but it’s a big site so I suspect you could spend the whole day there. There are toilets and changing rooms.
What needs to be improved about Ruislip Lido?
Other than what I’ve already mentioned earlier then there is more play equipment across the path from the beach – that could do with updating. There are both toilets and changing rooms which is great – but the toilets could also do with updating. There aren’t many shady areas on the beach either.
What advice do you have for going to Ruislip Lido?
Take cash. If you do manage to park then you will need coins for the parking machine. Take towels and changes of clothes for the children. Take a towel or a picnic blanket to sit on the bench. There is an accessible path for buggies to get down to the beach – it is a bit of a walk from the car parks. Take sun-cream – it is a sun trap with little shade. You can buy food there, but like most places we visit, it is a good place for a picnic.
Is it worth making the trip to Ruislip Lido?
In good traffic we live an hour’s drive from the lido and so for us yes it was much quicker than going to the seaside which we could not have done in the time we had. We were meeting a friend local to the area so it was an ideal meeting place. We did enjoy it enough to want to go back again with friends and the rest of my family. If you live much further than an hour then you may just be better off going to the coast – remember you can’t swim in this water so it is the sand you’re going for. There other places with big climbing frames and splash parks and trains. Personally I’d prefer to go on a weekday in term-time again – I wouldn’t attempt to go on a weekend or the school holidays unless a) I could be there as soon as it opens or b) have found other parking alternatives.
We enjoyed Ruislip Lido where else can we visit?
Everywhere we’ve visited is on this website just look through the menu at top. Leighton Buzzard Splash Park In Bedfordshire has a beach, splash park and play area. Stanwick Lakes in Northamptonshire has a huge climbing frame, sand and water area and assault course.
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Thank you for your honest and frank review. My wife and I live in Essex and we babysit our two grandkids over the summer so my youngest daughter can work – not that we are complaining! This sounds like a perfect alternative to Southend or Clacton.
You’re welcome! Glad you found it useful, Laura
Forget it, do not attempt to go there unless you plan to arrive before 9am when the weather is nice and sunny during the summer.
There is very limited parking (two small car parks), the surrounding streets are double yellow lines and are patrolled during peak season (spring/summer time) by two wardens, in addition a tow away truck is used to remove clamped cars. The biggest problem is that it is a victim of its own success, it’s advertised widely around other London boroughs with people travelling for miles to visit it.