West Bay and Bridport
West Bay grew up as the harbour for nearby Bridport and was Thomas Hardy’s ‘Port Bredy’ in his fictional Wessex. Set right on the coast path, it sits around a small harbour of fishing boats at the end of the River Brit, with two piers, two fine beaches, and a good selection of restaurants and inns for eating in.
If East Beach looks familiar, then it’s probably as it was here that the iconic opening sequence of Reginald Perrin was shot as he left his clothes on the beach to swim dramatically out to sea. Those with time can hire rowing boats out from the harbour and explore up the river Brit.
It’s a short walk into Bridport itself, and for those staying here it is a vibrant and lively market town set at the foot of the Dorset hills. A good-sized place, there are all the facilities you would expect with traditional shop fronts housing arts and crafts outlets along with frequent street and farmers markets. There is a strong artistic and literary feel to the place, the Bridport Literary Festival in November being an internationally visited event and the town has its own Art Deco Electric Palace cinema and a thriving arts centre.
Bridport has an open and airy feel to it, mainly a result of its unusually wide Georgian streets and pavements which were due to its success as a centre for rope production. Flax and hemp were dried on these wide pavements and in the deep courtyards finished rope for nets and rigging was stocked. Everything from the Bridport Dagger (the local name for the Hangman’s Noose) to netting for Wimbledon was spun from here. Bridport town museum, set in the Old Coach House, covers all of this and is worth a visit whilst wandering the wide streets complete with old alms-houses and fine Georgian buildings.
Finally, those needing a drink are in luck and can visit the Palmers Brewery and adjoining wine store which has been producing award winning ales here for over 200 years.