Peering out the little porthole window all I can see are bushes, trees and brown earth hurtling past as the crew take their seats in preparation of hitting the tarmac. With no such surface in sight, the worry begins to rise as I can feel the speed increase, the wings wobble and the wheels straining to release themselves from their hiding place. Moments have gone by and still no runway in sight. The dots below us are growing into cars, buildings, people and suddenly we’re on the ground. Sun streams in through the plane, the foggy misery we left behind in Dublin has vanished and the distant hum of the beach can be heard calling our names – we’d arrived and from the get-go I knew Bournemouth was going to treat us well.
Here’s how I spent 72 hours in England’s coast with the most …
Immediately the quaint English seaside city on the Dorset coast was full of surprises and it would continue to leave me guessing over the course of our three day stay. Home to more hidden gems than that top drawer of your desk you’re always meaning to clean out, there was a lot to cover and I couldn’t wait to get started. Discovering quickly that Uber hadn’t caught on to the beauty of Bournemouth yet, we hoped in a taxi and headed into town to our hotel. The airport is around twenty minutes away from the city centre depending on traffic and will cost you in and around £20.
Our first stop was The Greenhouse Hotel, a pristine white building set on a picturesque residential street no more than a five minute walk to the Lower Gardens and Pier Approach. The eco hotel boasts rooms with gorgeous bathtubs, generous beds and a calm, serene environment. Whilst I could’ve stayed pottering around, we only had 72 hours to see a myriad of edgy cafes, beach promenades and rustic charm. Challenge accepted we dumped our stuff, channelled our inner Dora The Explorer and set off in search of the sea.
Wandering through the town is a sight for sore eyes. Suddenly I know longer felt like I was on the English coast but rather somewhere on the Med. Granted we were lucky with stunning weather but there’s something about the infrastructure that creates an other-worldly feel. That afternoon we got our bearings, strolled through the gardens, up to the high street and back to Pier Approach again – there’s a fee to walk down the pier so we left that and took a short walk along the promenade instead.
As the sun began to dip it was time to head back to the hotel restaurant for dinner. Arbour had a reputation all on its own and we were presented with some world-class dishes that still make my mouth water. Feeling fully satisfied and very much like I was a about to burst out of my jeans, it was time to hit the hay ahead of a busy schedule in the morning.
Up at the crack of dawn, we started our day off with a walk along the seaside to Boscombe, the location of new accommodation for the night. Glamping has never been something I’ve been desperate to try but when I came across the Bournemouth Beach Lodges I couldn’t resist booking into the cosy cabins. Fully furnished and kitted out with a modern kitchen, the huts on Boscombe promenade sleep up to four adults and are the ideal escape to nature without compromising on comfort.
After all that walking it’s safe to say we’d worked up an appetite so it was time to hit The Cosy Club in the centre of town for some brunch. Hidden in plain sight, the restaurant is open all day and is suitable for all with its extra vegan menu and large space. Ideal for that foodie Instagram, the décor is beyond cool and the food looks almost too good to eat.
Next on the list we visited the local marine wildlife at Oceanarium. Weaving in between the mummies and me club that seemed to hold their weekly meetings amongst the fish tanks, we saw everything from sea turtles to stingrays and sharks. The aquarium is a great one for all ages and is located right next to the pier so there’s plenty of places to continue exploring once you’re satisfied you’ve seen enough sea-life.
The latter portion of the afternoon was eventful to say the least. As mentioned earlier Bournemouth has quite a few quirky spots tucked away down its streets. Following on our apparent animal theme for the day, we ventured up the high street to Pause Cat Café. Doing exactly what it says on the tin, the café is home to twelve rescue cats who spend their days cosying up to customers and relaxing in the safe environment Jaya, the owner, has created for them. We had a great time playing with the cats and tucking into purrfect brownies and cups of coffee – due to the nature of the café, you have to book a table in advance and as they work off a volunteer basis, there’s a £5 cover change for each person.
Escape rooms are not something I’d given much thought to but after our experience at The MacGuffin Project, I’m quick to recommend them to everyone. A short walk from Pause café, the old-age carnival themed activity rooms are waiting to trap you in and test your mental strength. We spent the next hour racing against the clock, solving all kinds of puzzles and crawling through trap doors in order to find the key and escape. Unfortunately fate wasn’t on our side that day and we failed but had so much fun and that’s the most important thing, right? The MacGuffin Project is suggested for groups of adults and children over the age of twelve and is the ideal activity for hen and stag dos!
By this point all the fun and excitement of the day was starting to catch up on us so it was back to Boscombe to settle into our beach hut and get ready for dinner at Urban Reef. Located next to Boscombe Pier, the restaurant is a prime location to watch the sun disappear behind the sea and chow down on some delicious dishes made from locally sourced seasonal ingredients. Washing our stellar meal down with mouth-wateringly good mojitos, we left in pursuit of our beach hut feeling satisfied and a few pounds heavier in the best way possible.
I’ve woken up to some nice views in my lifetime but the sight of the sun hitting the golden sand and illuminating the endless rows of coloured huts is something I’ll never forget. Sipping on my coffee, watching as the waves rolled over the shore, I prepared myself for another magically manic day of exploring and got ready to relocate to our final hotel; Ocean Beach Hotel and Spa. A twenty minute walk through Boscombe Chine Gardens and we were on the doorstep ready to drop our bags and seize the day. The hotel is spacious and decorated to resemble the ambiance of the nearby beach. As in the name, the Oceana Collection hotel also offers an array of spa treatments and outdoor swimming pool. We were lucky enough to be checked into an ocean view room so I could repeat the wonderful experience I’d had that morning of waking up to the sound of water.
With no time to waste, we set off in search of potentially the most romantic spot in town, the Russell-Cotes Art Gallery & Museum. For the next few hours, we wandered round the personal collection in utter disbelief, too stunned to speak. The house built by Merton Russell-Cotes for his wife Annie, is incomparable to anything I’ve ever witnessed before. Its grandeur, attention to detail, colours and artefacts are a force to be reckoned with and essential to complete the overall Bournemouth experience.
The intensity of the morning’s excursions had my tummy growling so it was time to pay Frieda’s Tearoom a visit for an English breakfast of champions. Back in the centre of town, the little café is possibly one of the cutest places I’ve ever eaten. Decked out in pastel bunting, wooden furniture, cushions and cake displays, the eatery encompasses every childhood tea-party dream you’ve ever had. To make things even better, Frieda runs an afternoon tea tour bus so you can sip on an Earl Grey whilst taking in the city’s sights.
Bursting at the seams, we needed to work off the bacon and eggs and a trip to Mr. Mulligans mini golf couldn’t have been more fitting. Home to some of the most unique holes in the UK, we were pleasantly surprised at the inventiveness of the indoor adventure golf. Over the course of 27 holes we practiced our putting inside a comic book strip, alien invasion and junk yard apocalypse. Stocked with a fully licensed bar, at this place we could enjoy a drink or two while we battled it out for top spot. Easy to find, Mr. Mulligans is inside the BH2 Leisure Complex and the ideal location for date night, a family day out or a catch up with friends.
Once again, as the activities came to an end it was time to regroup at the hotel, throw on some nicer attire and walk back into town for our evening meal. Now, to say on that Saturday night we had the best meal we’d ever eaten would be a bold statement – but the food at NEO is just that good that I’d go so far as to shout it from the roof tops. Before we’d even tasted anything, I was blown away by the airy, bright space fronted by floor to ceiling glass windows overlooking the beach and pier. The mood was already set and after one sip of the expertly crafted cocktail, I knew we were about to be spoilt rotten. Starting with duck and ending with a massive plate of lobster straight from the waters below us, the whole evening was a treat to say the least. Definitely on the pricier side, eat out at NEO for special occasions or when you’re feeling especially generous – the experience is worth every penny!
As the burnt orange sky faded to black, we appreciated the calming atmosphere that hugs the city. The next afternoon it was time to fly back to reality, leaving Bournemouth and its captivating coastline behind us for now.
*Some words taken from Try Somewhere New | Ryanair.com