There are plenty of places known for happy residents and a high quality of life. Finland, Austria, New Zealand and Canada constantly top the list of relaxed and pleasant places to live in lists compiled by companies such as Mercer, yet a bit closer to home, it was once claimed that Bournemouth was the happiest place in the UK. On the outset, it’s not hard to see why; its warmer climate and seaside location has earned it a lot of fans over the years.
However, there’s a lot more to Bournemouth than the simple ability to paddle on the beach in the sun; in fact, there’s plenty to celebrate – so much so that you could find yourself booking a break in the town in the coming months.
With just over 168,000 people living in the town, Bournemouth is the kind of place that will never feel overbearing, yet is somewhere that you can lose yourself and get the retreat you truly desire. While it’s quite far away from most people – on the coast of Dorset, next door to Devon and Somerset – it only bolsters its status as a hidden gem that’s not too overrun with tourists.
Bournemouth is primarily known for its long, sandy beaches while it has – alongside nearby Boscombe – a pier that has become the destination of choice for thousands of families heading to the area. As well as great views of the bay and nearby Isle of Wight, these piers offer a wide selection of attractions, entertainment options and retail outlets; concerts and theatre shows often grace its planks.
Shopping is not confined to impersonal and overpriced shopping centres in Bournemouth; instead, you’re presented with several primary shopping streets that linger just behind seafront houses and hotels, dotted on either side of the River Bourne. Footpaths attractively snake from the sea to the lower section of Bournemouth Central Gardens, where pedestrianised roads are lined with boutiques, shops and jewellers, alongside plenty of independent bars and cafés. Furthermore, the Westbourne district offers designer clothing and interior design shops, while Boscombe is home to countless antiques shops as well as a street market.
If festivals and events are your thing, Bournemouth is home to two major events; while they may not be your cup of tea, they’re fantastic times to experience the sights and sounds of the town when filled with revellers. There’s the gay pride festival known as Bourne Free, as well as the Bournemouth Air Festival over four days in August. The latter features the Red Arrows, as well as wing walkers, Lancaster Bombers, Hurricanes and Spitfires, as well as the last flying Vulcan – around one million people visit the town during this time.
History buffs may want to head to a number of places in and around Bournemouth; while the luscious Pleasure Gardens provide Victorian architecture and beautiful walkways, Corfe Castle – across Poole Harbour from the town – is one of the most stunning buildings in the surrounding region. Under the orders of Oliver Cromwell, Corfe was sacked for being one of the last royalist strongholds left in southern England. It still bears the scars of this siege, and in often eye-opening ways.
Finally, if you want to get the best view of the town, head across to the Bournemouth Eye. Unlike the London Eye, it’s not actually a wheel – it’s a helium-filled balloon attached to a steel cable. It suspends an enclosed gondola that is capable of carrying up to 30 people and rises to 390 ft (120 m) – the maximum height allowed by the Civil Aviation Authority.
So, what’s holding you back from a trip to the south coast? There’s all this, and more, to explore.