As much as I love the thrill of jumping on a plane and discovering a new European city with kids, there’s something really pleasing about packing up the car or taking the train for a weekend break in the UK. This is especially true whenever the sun appears; Britain is home to beautiful coastlines and some fantastic beaches, which will always guarantee fun short breaks with the family. So, when the kids finished school for the holidays we waved goodbye to London and made our way down to Bridport. This pretty market town in West Dorset is around the corner from the port of West Bay, made famous by David Tennant in the TV hit Broadchurch and, as we discovered, a lovely place for a family weekend away.
Disclosure: This was a paid campaign with Fullers. All opinions are, as always, entirely my own.
The Bull Hotel Bridport
We had been invited to spend the weekend at The Bull Hotel, a lovely boutique getaway located in the heart of Bridport. Part of the Fuller’s group, the hotel is positioned within an old 1850s coaching inn that has itself been built on the site of an earlier 16th century inn. Although you’d never guess it today, the site was once the setting for murder and rebellion when Lieutenant Coker of Mappowder was killed by Colonel Venner, an officer of the Duke of Monmouth in 1685. The hotel’s speakeasy style cocktail bar is named after Venner. The inn was also part of the Trafalgar Way, the route used to carry dispatches with updates of the Battle of Trafalgar from Falmouth to the Admiralty in London. Things are, fortunately, a lot quieter at the Bull these days and the only people going in and out of its doors are hotel guests and locals keen to eat at the hotel’s gastropub.
The Bull Hotel ranks top of the list of Bridport hotels (thank you TripAdvisor!) and is one of those rare hotel finds that works just as well for couples as it does for families (and dog owners). The Grade II listed building is full of surprises including a downstairs lobby, bar and gastropub and the upstairs Venner Bar. There’s also the Georgian ballroom, popular for weddings, and the Ostler Room with a table football and Wii console that’s ideal for kids. But it’s the bedrooms where this hotel really steps up. The 19 bedrooms have been individually designed and decorated and feature bold-print wallpapers that work surprisingly well in the historic inn. Add to this the odd piece of vintage furniture – we had a couple of fun antique mirrors in our bedroom – comfortable beds and quality linens and you’ve found your home away from home on the Dorset coast.
If I’m being completely honest this was the first hotel that we’d stayed in for a while. It’s not easy to find somewhere that can accommodate a family of five without having to fork out for two bedrooms. At the Bull, however, they have three family rooms. We were in Room 108 with a master bedroom and a small second bedroom with bunkbeds and room enough to fit a z-bed as well. There was a bathroom in each bedroom, one with a bath and the other a shower. It’s an old property so the rooms do get warm in the summer months but every room has a Dyson fan. There’s also a coffee machine and kettle and plenty of bottle water, presented in glass bottles, which made my eco-warrior kids very happy.
Eating at the Bull Hotel
Breakfast is included in the room rates at the Bull, which is always welcome when you travel with three hungry kids. A small but generous breakfast buffet includes pastries, cereals, yoghurts and fruit and you can then order something more substantial off the menu. The kids were thrilled with their pancakes and I really enjoyed my smoked kippers with poached eggs. We chose to eat at the hotel on both nights of our stay dining indoors on the first night and in the garden on the second night. I imagine that if you visit in winter, the hotel restaurant would be a cosy place to linger over a glass of wine but we were determined to make the most of the good weather and chose to enjoy the courtyard. Just be aware that if you do decide to dine outside then you must keep an eye on the seagulls who will brazenly try and steal whatever is on your table including, as happened with us, a lump of butter! The menu is extensive serving everything from seafood linguine and venison pasta to beef medallions and, of course, fish and chips. There’s a kids’ dinner menu too that features crowd favourites all homemade to order.
Things to do in Bridport Dorset
Bridport and neighbouring West Bay are the gateway to the Jurassic Coast, the stunning stretch of coastline that extends from Dorset to Devon hiding millions of years of history in its towering coastal cliffs. In 2001 it became a World Heritage Site. The coastline is also home to plenty of picture-perfect villages, fish and chips and beaches that are perfect for swimming – just remember a wetsuit if you’re planning anything more than a quick dip!
It’s worth spending some time exploring Bridport itself. The high street features far more independent shops and cafes than it does chain stores and there’s a good local market held on Wednesdays and Saturdays; the weekend fair sees more antique and bric-a-brac stalls if that’s your thing (it’s definitely more mine!).
West Bay is the closest beach to Bridport famous for its mustard yellow cliffs and its TV series fame. The harbour town is filled with fish and chip kiosks, traditional pubs and ice cream stores – make sure to try the local Purbeck ice cream while you’re here. West Bay is a great place to try crabbing and we spotted plenty of families sitting along the harbour’s edge tempting crabs with long lines tied with pieces of bacon or sardines.
As well as being home to Instagram-friendly blue and turquoise beach huts (these also made an appearance in Broadchurch!), Charmouth Beach is a great beach for swimming, paddling and looking for fossils. When the tide goes out it’s also a good spot for rock pooling, just make sure to pack your jelly shoes. The beach is divided in two by the River Char and the strip of sand to the east (the left as you face the sea) is definitely the better one for families: pebbles are smaller and there’s more dry sand.
A local’s favourite thing to do near Bridport is breakfast at The Hive. Located on the beach at Burton Bradstock, this popular cafe was packed when we visited so we opted for a picnic of cakes on the pebbly beach – make sure to try the homemade carrot cake! This is a popular place for an early morning swim as well as stand up paddle boarding and kayaking.
We didn’t have time to visit Lyme Regis while we were enjoying our weekend away but it’s one of the most popular things to do in Dorset. Apparently it was Jane Austen’s favourite place to spend the summer so it must be good! The town is home to a couple of good museums, including the kid-favourite Dinosaurland Fossil Museum and, of course, beaches including Monmouth and Cobb Beaches.
Bridport Travel Guide
- Bridport Accommodation: The Bull Hotel is located at 34 East St, Bridport DT6 3LF.
- Bridport Location: Bridport is located in West Dorset. The closest train stations are Dorchester South, Dorchester West, Crewkerne or Axminster stations. If driving from London, it’s approximately 160 miles. Be aware that there is a lot of traffic in the summer so make sure you factor in holidaymakers and caravans into your travel time.
- Don’t forget: jelly shoes, wetsuits, crabbing gear, buckets and spades and nets for rock pooling.
Fullers are currently offering a free Sunday night stay until October 2019 if you book a weekend break. Extend your weekend by checking into one of Fullers’ boutique countryside hotels located in some of the South of England’s most breathtaking beauty spots. And when you book a three-night weekend break, your Sunday night stay is complimentary* – giving you more time to truly make the most of your weekend. To see a full list of participating pubs take a look here.
* offer available until 27th October 2019 subject to availability.