IT was the fresh sea air that first drew holidaymakers to the Victorian health resort of Bournemouth.

However, you can have too much of a good thing.


Hyperventilating at the top of the pier’s new zip-line tower, I was at risk of overdosing on the seaside town’s curative currents.

I distracted myself watching surfers carve through the waves below and managed to calm down by looking out at the seven miles of sandy beaches and dramatic cliffs.

Leaping from the 25-metre tower at PierZip was quite the adrenalin rush as I raced above the waves to land on the beach below.

The Dorset town was originally marketed as a restful health resort by its 19th-century founder, Lewis Tregonwell, but today’s visitors are just as likely to lighten their mood at the nerve-racking attraction as they are to take a calming stroll along the promenade.

The pier, built in 1880, is now an extreme sports haven, the all-weather RockReef centre. The indoor attraction includes 28 themed climbing walls for all abilities and ages from four to 94.

Other activities include a Vertical Slide drop, a Leap Of Faith jumping challenge, a HighLine high ropes aerial obstacle course and the Pier Cave, a 65-metre-long artificial cave experience.

Those looking for a more sedate seaside jaunt are still spoilt for choice on Bournemouth’s seafront.

Great for kids is the mesmerising Oceanarium aquarium, or you can put your skills to the test at the Smugglers Cove Adventure Golf Course.


The name is a nod to the smugglers who used Bournemouth’s cliff chines, or gorges, to bring their swag ashore undetected before the town was founded by Tregonwell in 1810.

My digs for the weekend was the Bournemouth Sands Hotel, which stands just a few hundred yards back from the staggering West Cliff.

The 3H hotel has a small sun terrace out front, and a new one at the rear over the recently extended restaurant, which is a fantastic sun trap in the afternoon and evening.

There’s a coffee shop, two guest lounges and a pool table, with an entertain-ment room with nightly live entertainment.

It’s just a short walk from Bournemouth’s listed pleasure gardens and shops in the town centre.

If it’s history you’re after, the grave of Frankenstein author Mary Shelley sits in her family’s plot in St Peter’s churchyard, along with the heart of her poet husband, Percy Bysshe Shelley.

The remains of Mary Wollstonecraft, Mary’s mum, were also moved to the same grave from their original site in the Old St Pancras churchyard in London.

It must have been an awkward posthumous reunion, as Mary Junior famously lost her virginity to her husband Percy on top of her mother’s original grave.

The thought may be enough to leave you needing a drink — which, Covid rules permitting, you can get at the Mary Shelley, a Wetherspoons pub with a Frankenstein logo across the road.

For a taste of something a bit more local, I strongly recommend the outrageously tasty beer from Dorset firm Barefaced Brewing.


GO: Bournemouth

STAYING THERE: Four nights’ half- board at the Bournemouth Sands Hotel is from £209pp.

Kids under five stay free. First child aged six to 12 is free and the second half-price.

See daishs.com/bournemouth/sands-hotel.

OUT & ABOUT: PierZip is from £20pp in summer, while tickets to Clip ’n’ Climb are from £11pp off-peak at rockreef.co.uk.

I knocked back a couple of its Flash IPAs, along with a Gouda cheese-topped hot dog at restaurant Mighty Wieners, which makes the most indulgent vegan food I’ve ever tasted.

For traditionalists, you can’t do much better than the Harry Ramsden’s fish and chip shop on the seafront — which was once the biggest chippy in the world when it opened, seating 417 diners.

Currently open for outdoor dining and takeaways, it’s still serving delicious fish and chips — with a side helping of that all-important fresh air.

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