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 at 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. Discovering quickly that Uber hadn’t caught on to the beauty of Bournemouth yet, we hopped 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 Green House 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 is calm, and serene. Whilst I could’ve happily stayed pottering around, we only had 72 hours to explore, so channelling our inner Dora The Explorer, we set off in search of the sea.
More like the Med than the English coastline, a walk through Bournemouth is a sight for sore eyes. Granted we were lucky with stunning weather but there’s something about the town’s layout and architecture that gives it a continental feel. That afternoon we got our bearings, strolled through the gardens, up to the high street and back to Pier Approach again.
As the sun began to dip it was time to head back to the hotel restaurant for dinner. Arbor had a reputation all on its own and we were presented with some world-class dishes that still make my mouth water.
Up at the crack of dawn, we started our day with a walk along the seaside to Boscombe, our seaside accommodation for the night. Glamping has never been something I’ve been desperate to try but the Bournemouth Beach Lodges had all the comforts of home. Fully furnished and kitted out with a modern kitchen, the huts on Boscombe promenade sleep up to four adults and are the perfect option for a weekend escape with a difference.
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 foodie Instagram pics, 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. Bournemouth has quite a few quirky spots tucked away down its streets. Following an 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 that 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 charge for each person.
A short walk from Pause café, old-fashioned 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.
Located next to Boscombe Pier, Urban Reef is the perfect spot for sunsets and sun-downers. Washing our 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.
Bright and early, it was time to decamp to 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 with cool, ocean-themed decor. As the name suggests, the Oceana Collection hotel also offers an array of spa treatments and an outdoor swimming pool. We were lucky enough to be checked into an ocean view room - just in case I missed 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 around the house built by Merton Russell-Cotes for his wife Annie. Its grandeur, attention to detail, colours and artefacts make this a must-see when in Bournemouth.
We could have spent the whole day at Russell-Cotes Art Gallery but an English breakfast of champions was calling at Frieda’s Tearoom. 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. And it gets 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. We were pleasantly surprised at the inventiveness of this indoor adventure golf course. 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, you can even enjoy a drink or two when you play a round. 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.
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 comes close. Before you even taste anything, you’re greeted by an airy, bright space fronted by floor to ceiling glass windows overlooking the beach and pier. 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!
Not yet convinced? Pack your flip flops, whip out the old shades and hop on a plane to understand for yourself why Dorset’s Bournemouth really is the coast with the most - make sure to tag us in your photos of things to do in Bournemouth using the hashtag #ryanairstories for the chance to be featured on Ryanair’s social media channels
Flights to Bournemouth
- Lucy Norris