Bournemouth, England

“Bournemouth? My gran lives there!”

This is the refrain we locals tend to hear as we wander about
the land, and to be honest there are plenty of OAPs in this lovely
seaside town – but that’s not all. Bournemouth
has grown beyond its original reputation of a retirement village
and into that of a rocking place to spend the summer months, and
that’s not just because of the seven miles of golden sand.

The transformation is partly down to the growing university:
many many bars, clubs and pubs have sprung up to cater for the
student lifestyle and the nightlife now rivals that of Brighton.
Then there’s some of the clubs themselves, one of which is releasing
almost as many albums as the Ministry of Sound or Gatecrasher
(nice one!) and organising some massive dance events. To top that,
Bournemouth’s only a couple of hours out of London and a hop,
skip and a jump away from the New Forest and Isle of Purbeck for
those wanting to use their Boots’n’All (see below).

Down it!

The age of the student means that Bournemouth’s pre-club selection
has never been so good. A popular option is Wetherspoon’s Moon
In The Square
– no music, but cheaper than your average pub.
A little closer to the beach we find Edwards, once a home
for the beautiful people but now a fun place to start the night
off, with a great patio area for warm evenings. Then there’s Yates’
up the hill, fairly similar to the Moon but with pumping sounds
and a hilarious selection of hen/stag parties most weekends.

the hip bar front there are plenty of choices, for instance Bar
. There may be one in every town in Britain by now, but
this one’s a good laugh and right by the main centre clubs to
boot – just watch out for the Who Wants To Be A Millionaire machine.
Bliss recently opened across the road as well, just an
tiny bit too poncy and chrome-plated for my taste – perhaps more
for those used to Soho nights? The easiest on the wallet has to
be Liquids though, and while it is a short walk away from
the centre it was still voted the best pre-club bar in Bournemouth
last year.


The largest town centre club is the recently refurbished
Elements (once
the Cage & Zoo), with a few more rooms and essentially the same
music all week – they just shift the DJs so that everyone gets
a go on the stage 🙂 Round the corner is Berlins, with
the Voodoo Lounge downstairs – definitely at the cheesy end of
the market, but generally a cheap option. Comes complete with
drinks promotions that change every half hour, courtesy of a game
show-style flashing board above the dance floor. On the other
side of the square is K-Bar, not a bad night out but definitely
smaller than the Elements or Berlins.

By far the biggest night out in Bournemouth is the Opera
, home of Slinky plus albums and events of the same
name. This one is in fact an old converted opera house, giving
the main room a unique feel and providing a fascinating view from
above should all the bouncing wear you out. Great DJs and themed
nights cater for the many, but watch out for the fashion police
during the busy summer! This club’s out of the centre though,
so there aren’t so many pre-club bars for getting yourself in
the mood. Then again, you could test how awake the CCTV division
is and attempt your own party on the beach.

Daylight hours

There’s loads to do for those who’ve gotten out of bed
and braved the hair of the dog. Top of the list has to be the
beach: miles of sand, plenty of sunshine and lots of watersports
on offer. If you don’t like crowds you might have to walk for
a bit, but the many ice cream shacks and fish’n’chip shops will
gladly give you the energy to make it.

Next up are the shops: we have plenty of them, from the
usual high street brands to Aussie surf labels – just don’t expect
the waves to match – and since the town centre’s pedestrianised
you don’t have to worry about being run over.

If you’re looking for a little fun there’s also mini-golf
in the Gardens, along with open-air concerts during the summer,
and in August there are firework displays after dusk every

Check out the Tourist Office for more
ideas, but whatever you do I hope you have fun in Bournemouth!

Getting there

Coaches from London
Victoria are only £20 return, and trains
from Waterloo aren’t that much more expensive. If you have a car,
head southwest down the M3 then M27 – the signs should make life
easier from there.

You could try swimming across the Channel if you’re in France,
but the Poole-Cherbourg ferry’s good too. There’s also an international
airport, but that only stretches to Dublin right now 🙂

The Big Grey Monstrosity
There is a large grey building on the seafront, blocking some
of the lovely view and generally unpopular with all. One day,
we are told, this will be an IMAX cinema – but it was meant to
open in 2000 at the latest. There are a few pubs and a KFC renting
space in there, but for the most part it’s just a big grey blot
on the landscape. Try ignoring it and visit Harry Ramsden’s for
some fish’n’chips around the corner, please?

Around and About

On either side of Bournemouth are two historical towns in danger
of being swallowed by the upstart piggy in the middle. To the
east, Christchurch
features windy streets and a 900 year-old priory, plus the ancient
hill-fort of Hengistbury Head (technically in Bournemouth) is
great for views over the Isle of Wight. Poole,
on the other hand, has a lively quayside and the second largest
natural harbour in the world – after Sydney of course, though
Canadians in Halifax dispute the claim – full of boats to rent
and islands to visit.

Just to the east of Bournemouth is the New
, though it’s actually one of the oldest forests
in Britain and close to being made a national park. Highlights
include the beautiful heathland, many paths, pretty country villages,
and the ponies and deer which run wild. There’s also Beaulieu
National Motor Museum
, a must for anyone who’s ever gaped
at an engine, and neighbouring Bucklers Hard, preserving
the memory of a 19th century fishing village.

To the south is the Isle of Purbeck, a gorgeous mix of
green hills and plunging cliffs. You can visit the ruin of Corfe
, destroyed during Britain’s Civil War, or walk
around the beautiful coastline by Lulworth
. If the Army ranges are open you could also try spotting
the tank graveyard or some of the rare species which have actually
been preserved through the military’s ownership of the area.

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