Breakfast in ‘Broadchurch’
The first award-winning series of Broadchurch opened with a shot of distinctive honeycombed sandstone cliffs with a child’s body at the bottom. I may not have guessed who done it, even by the final episode, but I immediately recognised where.
Broadchurch is largely shot in West Bay on Dorset’s Jurassic coast, a few bays down from Lyme Regis and close to Bridport. I have family about 20 mins away so have dipped in here a few times over the years, had a mooch about and a crab sandwich or spent a bit of time on the lovely fine shingle beach beneath those now infamous cliffs.
One night last year when my Mum told me filming for series three was underway I took a detour on my drive home to Sussex and caught, OK, sadly not David Tennant, but a bit of TV action by the breakwater, with giant movie lights creating daytime in the dark.
So now that series three is actually underway I thought I’d drop in again and give you a bit of a walk around. Admittedly 8.30am on a March weekend is not the greatest time to visit the place but it was at least an excuse to get a stodgy brekkie with a friend before she made a long drive home herself.
There were only a few hardy fishermen finishing all-nighters when we arrived but come summer the beach is understandibly packed with families. You can hardly miss those distinctive cliffs plus the path heading up to …well in TVland the crime scene cottage in series one, the cottage of Jocelyn Knight (The Latimer’s barrister) in series two, and the church. In reality there is a walk to Jocelyn’s cottage (the church is actually in Clevedon, North Somerset where several other locations including key characters’ homes also are.)
The breakwater/pier which features in many scenes of brooding walks and chats, is easy to spot – in fact there are two close together. You also can’t fail to miss the police station, also near the seafront, (which I’ve always thought seemed rather large for somewhere the size of Broadchurch). In West Bay the distinctive round building houses shops and offices.
There’s a pretty central quay which is in several shots. DI Hardy’s lovely waterside cottage from the first two series is a few hundred metres further over on a bend in the river and painted a distinctive blue. A footpath through a field takes you behind it but the ground is marshy – at least at this time of year, so it’s best viewed from opposite. The large Riverside restaurant almost next door serves seafood.
That massive cafe on the beach with picture windows where in episode two of this series Trish Winterman first meets with Beth Latimer is the Watch House Cafe – the only one right on the beach. It serves good-looking wood-fired pizzas, fish and chips and seafood dishes.
You’ll also get plenty of foodie choice alfresco – buying crab sandwiches, fish and ships, burgers, candy floss and the like from the cute huts that surround the quay.
My friend and I plumped for breakfast at the only one that was open, where they did a very good double egg butty and we laughed at our choice of beverages – her a double shot coffee, me a wimpy camomile tea (I rarely go stronger than Earl Grey!)
Though there’s little obvious evidence of West Bay cashing in on its TV fame, at least not out of season – the hut did have a witty sign for a Broadchurch Burger – ‘like a cheeseburger but much more thesbian’ – which David Tennant himself tweeted a picture of a while back.
West Bay is a pretty family-friendly place to stay at warmer times, with one of the best beaches in the area. Broadchurch references its real location, mentioning the A35, which West Bay sits just off, and putting the scene of the crime in the current series at Axhampton – a fictious take on Axminster and Axmouth which are about 30 mins away.
The stately home where the party and alleged rape took place in this series is actually Bridehead House Estate and Waterfall at Littlebredy between Bridport and Dorchester. The grounds are often open to the public and in late April it’s planned to open the house with proceeds fittingly going to a Dorset sexual assault charity.
Lyme Regis – also under half an hour away – is the main star on this stretch of coast. A pretty town with its famous Cobb and literary connections and a range of increasingly chi chi cafes and boutiques and top end restaurant HIX Oyster & Fish House. (Mark Hix is also behind the local Food Rocks festival in August). Among many places to stay are HIX Townhouse and author John Fowles’ historic home.
My friend has come to Lyme several times with her partner on weekend breaks. It’s a also a big hit with families. The beach is partly sandy, you can fossil hunt at Lyme and nearby Chesil Beach and there are heaps of free activities during the (albiet packed) Carnival and Lifeboat Week – the latter this year features the Red Devils parachute display team.
Among the many signs for mackrel fishing excursions, I spotted posters for a return RIB water taxi service between Lyme Regis to West Bay, or vice versa. The trip with up to four hours ashore is £18 per person and £15 for under 12s. There’s also a cheaper Jurassic Coast cruise and high speed West Bay Blast.
See more details of Broadchurch locations at westbay.co.uk
After a few more ideas? Also in the area is Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s River Cottage – see Muddy Devon editor Sharon’s recent review of a cookery course there and her stay at quirky B&B Old Park Hall, both near Axminster.