It would be hard to beat a road trip to Bridport, a cool and laid back market town which is right by the sea and has shops and cafes to suit every taste, however specialist.
Visit on a Saturday and you’ll have the treat of the market which sprawls right through town and is known as the ‘Portobello of the South.’ It’s an apt description, wandering from stall to stall took me right back to the Portobello Saturdays of my youth. I could have spent hours mooching about looking at brass door knobs, an antique sewing box, paste jewellery, bundles of bone-handled knives, second hand books, vintage clothes, a squeeze box and the biggest collection of CDs I’ve ever seen on a stall. You need time here, a long, slow potter taking in the artistry of the stallholders, each one somehow managing to elicit more excitement than the last. Of course there are distractions to left and right for Bridport is full of the kind of patisseries, butchers, greengrocers, health stores and book shops it is literally impossible to pass. Step inside Bridport Old Books to that evocative smell of musty papyrus and find old copies of the Picture Post, perfect editions of WH Auden and Muriel Spark, and all those wonderful, classic childrens' books you somehow lost along the way. I can’t think of a better place to source a godchild’s birthday present. Across the road is another total gem, Wild and Homeless Books which has second hand books nestling amongst wonderful first editions such as British Birds, four volumes packed with beautiful colourplates, the perfect present for ornithologist and bibliophile. Give me an hour in here over Waterstone’s any day. Next stop caffeine hit. There are good looking cafes on virtually every turn but we opted for a blow your head off cappuccino at Beach and Barnicott. Then it was easy to throw together a stunning picnic of sausage rolls and pizza slices from Leaker’s Bakery and a meltingly soft Dorset apple cake from Bella’s Patisserie with her museum worthy window display (another shop you won’t be able to pass). And then, just out of town, the delights of West Bay beach with its sharp shingle shelving down into yellow sand, the perfect place for an afternoon of running and rolling and racing up the crumbling Jurassic cliff. At the nearby café we refuelled with Lovington’s knock out ice creams (go blackberry and white chocolate) and then discovered the mother of all playgrounds. Yes even Bridport's playgrounds are cool. This one blew everyone’s minds, even the adults, being that most unusual combination of tasteful and thrilling. Bridport is famous for its rope-making industry and this entire playground is made from rope - everything you can think of from a giant swingboat to a huge trapeze climbing frame. Whatever you do, whether it’s a first thing cappuccino, a late morning Bloody Mary or a full blown dinner, you need to leave time for The Bull, Bridport’s own Babington House and now quite possibly my favourite pub in Britain. They’ve just got everything right here – cool décor, brilliantly friendly staff, delicious coffee and really good food. It has a clubby, rock n roll country house feel yet manages to be completely unpretentious at the same time. I’d quite like to move in. We opted for early evening pizzas in The Stables which deftly blends a low key cider house with a rustic pizzeria; long shared refectory tables, the odd hay bale. Nowhere better for kids or adults than here munching on Dorset Blue Vinney and spinach pizza washed down with every kind of cider you can think of. Prices are reasonable, food is immense. Oh Bridport, we’re missing you.