The second phase of our trip was to the south. Just two hours southwest of Farnham is the town of Bridport. Our plan was to visit the coast, hike some of the Southwest Coast Path, enjoy some seafood, and generally just relax. Bridport is two miles from the coast. All the towns directly along the coast are big summer tourist towns but Bridport is an old market town and not as touristy. We stayed four nights, got in a great coastal hike, did some exploring along the coastline and local villages, and had some pretty good weather, especially for November!
The focus of this phase of the trip was the coast. We stopped in at West Bay, about 2 miles from the coast the day we drove down. Originally called Bridport Harbour, it was renamed West Bay when the railroad showed up and wanted to lure tourists to the coast. This area of the Southwest Coast is known as the Jurrasic Coast. The area is famous for fossils. The soft cliffs erode and the fossils are exposed. Some famous dinosaur skeletons have been found here. But for us, it was about “walks”, as the British call hikes. After some great fresh fish and chips at the harbour, we took off for a climb up a steep hill and along the high coastline. The views were tremendous and the weather was sunny and clear. There is even a golf course right next to the trail and coast! We did about a mile out and back.
While exploring the harbour and pier, we visited with a couple from the area who recommended we go a couple miles east to the town of Burton Bradstock. There are trail heads there leading to some wonderful walks along the coast. After a recon that afternoon, we headed out the next day for our first full-fledged hike. The trail started up at the top of a hill and followed along some gentle sloping ups and downs, past a few small beach areas and “Holiday Parks” to Cogden Beach. The sun was out, as was the wind, but the rain held off. It had rained some the night before, but it was not too muddy, at first. The beaches in the area are not sand, they are small pebbles, and tough to walk on, so we took the “summer route” to avoid them. Which unfortunately trapped us on a pretty muddy, grassy path along a meadow and pasture. About the 2.5 mile point, we found a place and headed back to the beach and decided to brave the pebbles in order to avoid the mud. It was a unique walk, with some great views, and though there were spots of tough going, we enjoyed the day.
After our hike, we decided we wanted to see more of the coast and took some great drives stopping in little villages, overlooks and even a lighthouse. Lyme Regis is a historic resort town with great pubs and a long resort beach. There is a large harbour breaker wall called “The Cobb”. The day we visited, the wind was blowing and the sea was churning. The waves were dramatically breaking over the top of The Cobb . We started to walk out to the end of The Cobb, but thought better of it, as the entire wall was consumed in waves. We grabbed lunch and a pint at the Cobb Arms and walked the beach and town instead.
The village of Abbotsbury is just down the coast from Bridport. If we had continued our previous walk past Cogden Beach another couple miles, we would have arrived at Abbotsbury. We were really surprised when we got there. It is a lovely little village. The stone is a yellow limestone, almost like Cotswold stone. We made a stop at the local village shop for some stamps and walked around the village. Quaint thatched roofed houses, small village pubs, and a lovely church (St Nicholas’ Church). There is also Abbotsbury Abbey, old abbey ruins up on the hill, dating from the 13thcentury.
We made our way down the coast discovering wonderful viewpoints and overlooks as we went.
We made our way through Weymouth out to Portland Bill. There is a lighthouse out at the end of the peninsula protruding into the English Channel and protecting the approach to the south coast. Built n 1906 to guide vessels heading for Portland and Weymouth, it is also a waymark for ships navigating the English Channel. It was a very dramatic day out on Portland Bill. The wind was nothing short of howling -up to 30 mph. This created some giant waves and breaks along the rocky shore of Portland Bill. Unfortunately, the lighthouse and the lighthouse keepers’ dwellings were closed when we were there.
Just down the coast is Durdle Door, a natural limestone arch formed by the sea piercing the limestone for thousands of years. It is one of the more famous features along the South Coast Path and is well known as a filming location for music videos, TV shows and movies. By the time we got there, the sun was starting to set, the wind was still blowing and we decided not to go down.
In between our walks and travels, we spent time exploring the town of Bridport. One of the more unique visits was to Palmer Brewery. On a rainy day, we took a tour of the brewery and had a tasting of their products 😊 The brewery has been brewing beer since 1794 and it is the last thatched roof brewery in the United Kingdom. Much of their equipment dates back hundreds of years. They make cask ales, proper beer, in much the same way they always have. Our tour guide, Graham, was very informative. The brewery is set at the confluence of the River Asker and River Brett. The old mill water wheel still works and they run it once a week.
Bridport is an old market town, and we enjoyed walking the high street and seeing the old buildings. There is also a wonderful path along the River Asker, with houses lining the river and overhanging trees. The path leads down to the brewery and the river locks and even a fish ladder for salmon. With all the market lure of the town, it was full of classic pubs and great coffee shops that we enjoyed. Our stay in Bridport was at the Bridge House, a lovely old stone small hotel. As it was the off season, it was not full. It was built in 1768, served as a surgery, a school and during WWII it was an Officer’s Mess.
On our last day, as we headed out of Bridport for our next adventure, we stopped by Dorset Nectar Cider. A large orchard and cidery producing Organic Craft Cider. Our route there took us along some of the narrowest roads we have traveled in some time, with stone walls and hedge rows towering feet over the top of the car. The cidery was not open for tours, but the tasting room was, and we had some great tastes and even bought some for later.
We came to the Bridport area to enjoy the coast, do some coastal walks, eat some fresh seafood, and just enjoy the English countryside. It was everything we had hoped.