Little do visitors of the British Isles realise, as they journey through the most popular cities and towns, visit famous buildings and monuments, and eat in the best restaurants of the country, what lies beyond what travel guides or travel blogs usually mention.
If you take the time and are curious enough, take a risk and you might just find some real jewels. The kind of places you would never think of, and yet would feel like an idiot had you missed them.
Right at the top of your bucket list, you should really consider a jewel called West Bay, Dorset, on the English Channel coast. This is a small harbour settlement and resort located on a region known as the Jurassic Coast, which happens to be a World Heritage Site (The Jurassic Coast has World Heritage Site status, ranking it alongside international treasures such as the Great Barrier Reef and the Pyramids in Egypt), and also lies within an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).
What is so particular to West Bay is the fact that its harbour is surrounded by two beautiful cliffs, one man-made and the other natural, and beaches on either site, East Beach and West Beach. You might already know the area if you have ever watched British TV drama Broadchurch, with former Doctor Who actor David Tennant.
The natural cliff, to the East of the harbour, is made of coloured horizontal layers of various materials such as sands, clay and marble, said to date between the end of the Early and the Middle Jurassic. The man-made cliff on the hand was engineered as a coastal defence barrier to protect the harbour with some large and impressive boulders on the foreshore.
The promenade that leads to the top of the East cliff is more about climbing than walking, contrary to the one on the West cliff and can easily discourage the less confident. Climb the two promenades, which are part of a 630-mile stunning coastline footpath known as the South-West Coast Path (The South-West Coast Path is England’s longest waymarked long-distance footpath, stretching for 630 miles from Minehead in Somerset, along the coasts of Devon and Cornwall, to Poole Harbour in Dorset.), and you will be rewarded with a breath-taking view of the surroundings, the beaches, the harbour, the piers, the English Channel.
As you walk the West promenade, you will also notice some large and rather stunning houses that have been built along the cliff and that benefit from a stunning view out into the English Channel from their private gardens and balconies. You will envy their owners!
When climbing the cliffs and if travelling with small children, however, be aware that neither promenade should be accessed with a buggy and it is advisable that children should be kept in an adult’s arms until reaching the grass fields at the top of the cliffs, since there are no safety barriers along the paths.
Let yourself go and enjoy the fresh air, the sea and the stunning beaches. Another reason to have a great time sunbathing or swimming: West Bay features in the Good Beach Guide as achieving the highest award for seawater quality and the beaches are regularly cleaned by the Council. (Note: Dogs are not permitted on the West Beach between March 1 and September 30)
The East Beach is a shingle ridged beach alike the one in Brighton. It also has sand at the water’s edge for the children’s pleasure of building sand castles. Being formed into a protective cove, the West Beach is usually considered safer for smaller children. There is also a ramp for disable access, so that everyone can enjoy the beach.
Finally, away from the beach, if you fancy yourself as another Tiger Wood, why not have a go at the full 18-hole course at the Bridport and West Dorset Golf Club? If you always dreamt of becoming a sailor, you may either hire a riverboat for a trip on the River Brit or join a deep-sea fishing trip.
On and around the harbour, West Bay is also full of little takeaway kiosks, fishing vessels, pubs, restaurants, hotels, B&Bs, camping and caravan sites (such as multiple awards winning holiday parks Parkdean) and children crab lining with their crabbing lines, baits, nets and buckets.
Whether you fancy a traditional fish and chips (with generous portions of fresh local fish with hand-cut chips), a delicious West Bay Burger or a simple hot-dog to eat on the beach or on the marina, you will certainly find that having a great time in such a gorgeous location is not an option in West Bay. It is a given!