When we were choosing a location to shoot our linen travel towel, we knew it had to be special. So you might be surprised to find out that rather than scouting for locations, hiring lighting equipment, and booking studio time, we simply took a trip down to our local gym.
The catch? Our local gym isn’t your average gym. It’s the Arlington Baths, the oldest (and coolest) club of its kind in the world.
Run as a non-profit organisation, and owned by its members since it was built in 1870, the Arlington Baths sits inconspicuously at the end of Arlington Street, in the Woodlands area of Glasgow. Designed by John Burnet, it forms part of his impressive contribution to Glasgow architecture. Unlike his more famous buildings, however - the Glasgow Stock Exchange, Merchant Place, and the Clydesdale Bank headquarters – the Arlington Baths is the kind of place that you’ll only find if you go looking for it.
And we highly recommend that you go looking for it.
Added in 1875, using a pioneering method of poured concrete, the Baths is home to an elaborate Turkish suite created in homage to the Islamic palaces of Alhambra. With small stained glass windows designed to let in just enough light to dimly illuminate the room, it has a strict "no talking policy".
The swimming pool has a history entirely unto itself, as the location where water polo was invented. William Wilson was a pioneering force in the world of swimming – modernising stroke technique, innovating on indoor pool design, and working as the first ever journalist dedicated to swimming. During his time as baths master at the Arlington, he also developed the new sport of “Aquatic football”. Back then, though? It was a completely different game. Considered a wrestling match between two teams, the rules permitted holding opposing players underwater until they surrendered the ball, and goalkeepers jumping from the pool deck directly onto opponents to stop them scoring. It’s likely then no coincidence that William Wilson was also the first person to invent the life-saving drill!
In an era where gyms have become laboratories for fitness, with state-of-the-art gym machines, science based personal training programmes, and expensive sports nutrition, the Arlington baths is an important reminder that going to the gym can be fun. It’s a trip back to an era when the latest in sports equipment was a flying trapeze hung over the pool, travelling rings to swing from, and a steam room to restore ones humours.
With so much modern research coming out about the precarious nature of our work life balance, and ever increasing levels of stress in society, I think we can agree that we could all do with a little bit more trapeze.