9 of the best things to do in Bridport & West Bay
- Credit: Archant
This West Dorset market town and harbour was famous for its rope and net making industries. Now it is renowned for a vibrant arts scene, award-winning local food, its eclectic range of shops and legendary vintage quarter, as Andy Greeves discovers.
Please note, some events may not currently be occurring due to restrictions. Book ahead wherever possible to avoid disappointment.
Step into the past
Bridport Museum at 25 South Street reveals the fascinating history of Bridport’s famous net and rope making industry, including the hang man’s noose or ‘Bridport Dagger’. The museum is open Monday-Saturday, April to October, 10am and 5pm and entry is free.
Strike a warrior pose
Yogaspace is a fully equipped yoga studio which opened in 2015 in an airy, converted barn at Crepe Farm. Situated just five minutes from the heart of Bridport town and with views over Colmers Hill, it is a wonderful place to practise the many aspects of yoga.
Opened last spring, the Soulshine Café at 76 South Street has quickly established itself as one of Bridport’s favourite hangouts. This urban family-friendly café, with sunny courtyard, offers locally baked artisan bread and bagels, breakfast, light lunches, hearty soups and healthy salads. For more details go to soulshinecafe.co.uk.
The Green Yard Café is a delightful café and tearoom on Barrack Street, just off Bridport’s main street. Owners Elizabeth McNeice and Beverley Capewell are dedicated vegetarians, so offer scrumptious meat-free meals as well as locally sourced meat and fish dishes. Open Tuesdays to Saturdays, 9am to 4.30pm and 12 noon to 4pm on the first Sunday of the month when booking is essential 01308 459466 or visit their Facebook.
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Food and art in the Bay
West Bay is where you will find Bridport Harbour and the stunning golden cliffs that provided the distinctive backdrop for ITV’s award-winning drama Broadchurch. It is also where you will find Sladers Yard, a contemporary art gallery with an ever changing programme of solo and group exhibitions from some of the finest artists in the South West. The gallery is also the showroom for furniture designer Petter Southall whose beautiful pieces set a high benchmark for all the work in the gallery. The venue hosts regular evening music, poetry and prose suppers in its licensed cafe.
Linger for longer
For those wishing to linger longer in the heart of town The Bull Hotel on East Street is ideally placed. The 16th-century coaching inn is now a stylish boutique hotel, and its former stables are where The Stable pizza, pie and cider house brand started in 2006. It continues serving gourmet pizza with local toppings as well as a dazzling array of West Country ciders. The Bull is also home to the Venner Bar, where resident mixologist Lloyd Brown can create a Dorset-inspired cocktail before you can utter the words ‘mine’s a Dirty Cow Martini’ which uses the creamy tasting Black Cow vodka made from West Dorset cow’s milk.
If you fancy some seaside nostalgia then seek out The Seaside Boarding House on Cliff Road in nearby Burton Bradstock. This Edwardian cliff-top villa has been stylish refurbished to incorporate an airy restaurant, cocktail bar and eight luxurious bedrooms. The sea views from this lofty location are sensational, whatever the weather you will have uninterrupted views of the magnificent Jurassic Coast.
The butcher, the baker…
Not only is RJ Balson the oldest family business in Bridport, it’s also the oldest direct lineage family firm in the UK. Based at 9 West Allington, the family butcher celebrates its 500th birthday this year, having been founded in 1515 – six years into the reign of Henry VIII. Now run by the 26th generation of the Balson family, the establishment sells high quality meat, poultry and game including award-winning sausages and home cured bacon - rjbalson.co.uk.
And from butcher to baker - Leakers Bakery at 29 East Street has been baking in Bridport, using their traditional brick-floored ovens, for over 100 years. They recently won a Great Taste Award for their Crusty Country White and 5 Seed Malted Sourdough. Try their handmade Cheese & Cider cottage loaf, featuring traditional cider from an authentic Dorset cider shed, or their legendary Dorset Apple cake, made to the original Leaker family recipe - leakersbakery.co.uk
A Toast to Bridport
Bridport’s Palmers Brewery was founded in 1794 by the Gundry family and purchased in late 19th century by the Palmer brothers, John Cleeves and Robert Henry. Today, the business is run by their great grandsons John and Cleeves Palmer and is among the best of the UK’s small independent brewers.
The original Old Brewery, the only working thatched brewery in Britain, is where its five fine ales are brewed including Dorset Gold and Tally Ho! You can discover more on a brewery tour. The company have also recently branched out into cider, using apples from local orchards, so look out for Apple Bee and First Press in Palmers Pubs.
If you enjoy a glass of fizz then make your way to Furleigh Estate Vineyard at Salway Ash, two and half miles outside Bridport. Furleigh Estate produces award-winning sparkling and still wines (red, white and rosé) and also run vineyard tours concluding with a tasting of a selection of their wines. The 90 minute tours are at 2.30pm on Fridays and Saturdays and cost £10 per person.
Bridport is renowned for its independent shopping scene, which includes Malabar Trading at 33 South Street. Selling textiles, ceramics, jewellery and clothing, many items are sourced directly from their country of origin and have been made exclusively for Malabar.
St Michael’s Trading Estate is an area well worth a browse with its many artists’ studios and eclectic range of vintage-inspired shops. You may also find some rich picking at St Michael’s legendary Vintage Market held on the last Sunday of every month from April to October.
The elegant Art Deco interior of the Electric Palace, at 35 South Street, hosts a packed programme of film, theatre, music and comedy including some major names, as well as regular art exhibitions.
The Lyric, at 9 Barrack Street, is a little gem of a place which offers live performances and theatre workshops.
The town lends its name to the annual Bridport Prize which was founded by Bridport Arts Centre in 1973 and continues to encourage emerging writers. The 2015 winners will be announced in mid-September. The Bridport Literary Festival always attracts a glittering array of big names - this year’s line-up includes Sebastian Faulks and Alexander McCall Smith. Talks are at a host of venues including the Bull Hotel, Electric Palace, Sladers Yard and The Seaside Boarding House at Burton Bradstock. More details can be found at bridlit.com.
Bridport also hosts From Page to Screen the UK’s only film festival that celebrates the art of adaption. Events take place during April at Bridport Arts Centre and other venues with film screenings as well as Q&As and masterclasses with authors, screenwriters and directors.
This article was updated by Martha Griffiths in July 2021.