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12 reasons to visit Bournemouth and Poole whatever the weather
(Picture: Alamy)

When the sun comes out everyone flocks to the Bournemouth area for sand and sea, fish and chips and 99s by the beach.

But the area has plenty going on whatever the weather and, in fact, if you head down out of sunburn season you’ll be pleasantly surprised – and won’t have to battle through the beach crowds.

With its varied nightlife (all within staggering distance), small but perfectly formed shopping centre, it’s greenery and wildlife, not to mention the coastline, it’s a truly beautiful area.

Here’s 12 reasons to visit Bournemouth and Poole whatever the weather.

The Lower Gardens

the-lower-gardens-bournemouth bournemouth.co.uk
(Picture: Bournemouth.co.uk)

These manicured gardens in the heart of Bournemouth, between the High Street and the sea, are gorgeous all year round.

In the summer you can barely move for the crowds, but things calm down a bit later on, and you can enjoy the floral displays, aviary, rock garden and, when it’s back in action, go up to admire views from the tethered Bournemouth Balloon, which is currently being repaired.

Russell-Cotes Art Galley And Museum

russell-cotes-exterior- pic - russell cotes
(Picture: The Russell Cotes Art Gallery And Museum)

This Victorian villa is jam-packed with art, sculptures and curios.

But it’s the house itself that is the real draw, with themed rooms inspired by the owners’ travels such as The Mikado’s Room.

It’s open Tuesday to Sunday, 10am-5pm and entry costs £6.

Bournemouth Pier

12 reasons to visit Bournemouth and Poole whatever the weather
(Picture: Getty)

There’s more going on at the pier now than ever before.

At one end you have the arcade and a few shops, at the other Key West bar and grill, which serves everything from big breakfasts to lunchtime salads to steaks and cakes.

There’s also a pier to shore zip wire, which you can have a go on now through til Christmas Eve, a climbing wall and fishing opportunities.

Entrance to the pier costs £1.10.

Poole Quay

12 reasons to visit Bournemouth and Poole whatever the weather
(Picture: Getty)

The quay is the heart of Poole – come here to look round Poole Pottery, go crabbing or simply admire the beautiful range of boats.

A short walk away is Poole Museum, which tells the tale of the area (there’s pirates involved), as well as hosting art exhibitions.

The current one, Lines of Thought, which runs until November 6, features drawings by Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci.

There’s free entry and the museum is open 10am-5pm Monday to Saturday and noon-5pm on Sunday.

Sandbanks

12 reasons to visit Bournemouth and Poole whatever the weather
The view from Sandbanks of Studland and Old Harry Rocks (Picture: Getty)

One of the best – if not THE best beach in Britain, Sandbanks is a calming stretch of seaside away from the busier Bournemouth.

In this area you’ll also find crazy golf and a Rick Stein restaurant, with beautiful views out the back and, naturally, fresh fish on the three-course set lunch for £25.

There’s also Caff, a great greasy spoon with top breakfasts and milkshakes.

If you’re staying at Bournemouth you can have a lovely day walking from there to Sandbanks along the beach and promenade (it will take a few hours), then you can get a bus back from the stop near the Ferry point.

Brownsea Island

12 reasons to visit Bournemouth and Poole whatever the weather
(Picture: Getty)

Right at the end of Sandbanks is the ferry across to Studland (where there’s a naturist beach, the one where the beginning of Monty Python’s Flying Circus was filmed) and Brownsea Island.

Brownsea Island is a National Trust property famed for its red squirrels and its history.

It’s seen monks, a clay industry, the first Scout camp, fires and the fascinating Mary Bonham-Christie, a recluse who bought the island for £125,000 in 1927.

Today it’s just great for a wander round to see the wildlife – although don’t get too excited about that castle in the picture, it’s owned by John Lewis and only their staff can stay there.

Compton Acres

12 reasons to visit Bournemouth and Poole whatever the weather
The Italian Garden (Picture: Getty)

For something a little more manicured visit these 10 acres of privately-owned gardens in Poole.

The stars are the Japanese Garden, particularly stunning in autumn, and the Italian Garden and Villa, which is a popular wedding venue. Plus there’s a lovely tea room.

Entry costs £8.45 and the gardens are open from 10am-6pm until October 31, then 10am-4pm the rest of the year (last entry an hour before times given).

Watersports

12 reasons to visit Bournemouth and Poole whatever the weather
(Picture: Getty)

If it’s raining you might as well get wetter.

This is the perfect place to finally have a go at paddle boarding, windsurfing, kitesurfing, waterskiing or sailing.

There’s also surf schools, based around the artificial reef, although the area as a whole is pretty poor for waves.

Tower Park

tower-park-in-poole-ta pic - tower park
(Picture: Tower Park)

This place is so much fun and, when the weather’s truly awful, it’s a Godsend.

There’s Splashdown – the waterpark, a 10 screen cinema, a bowling alley and restaurants including Nando’s, TGI Friday’s and Pizza Hut.

Basically it’s a teenage birthday party but for all ages.

The food

The best fish and chips in the area (or possibly the country) can be found at Chez Fred in Westbourne (between Bournemouth and Sandbanks).

For mouthwatering burgers and delicious desserts head to Sixty Million Postcards.

It’s also the place to go if you’re a beer connoisseur as it has a huge range.

The restaurant / bar is achingly cool and turns into a club later at night.

Sixty million postcards bar 2
(Picture: Sixty Million Postcards)

They also host regular quiz nights and have information on the latest gigs and nightlife in the area.

The shopping

12 reasons to visit Bournemouth and Poole whatever the weather
(Picture: Getty)

Bournemouth is the better, prettier and more compact high street compared to Poole, with department stores, a big book shop and plenty of cafes along with way.

If you’re a fan of vintage shops, try Christchurch Road in Pokesdown too.

Try to spend at least a day in Boscombe too – the village along from Bournemouth with a big personality.

The festivals and nightlife

pic - alamy F3PX4W Bournemouth, Dorset, UK - 11th October 2015. Creatmosphere - A River of Light at Bournemouth Lower Gardens, Bournemouth, Dorset, UK. The event is part of the Bournemouth Arts by the Sea Festival. Floating objects were created during the day and were launched on the river Bourne at 7pm, which lit up the river as they floated down stream in front of hundreds of spectators lined up along the river bank - Picture: Graham Hunt/Alamy Live News
A River Of Light at Bournemouth Lower Gardens during their Arts By The Sea Festival (Picture: Alamy)

Bournemouth is a great night out, popular with students, stag and hen dos and all ages.

Most of the clubs and bars are around Old Christchurch Road and Exeter Road.

You can start at Aruba bar at the pier for cocktails and dancing, walk through the Lower Gardens then make your way to Halo or Le Chic among others.

For sophisticated drinks with a stunning view head up to Level8ight The Sky Bar in the Bournemouth Hilton.

There’s also events and festivals throughout the year, the next big one being Arts By The Sea from October 8-15.

Where to stay

Hilton_Bournemouth_Exterior
(Picture: Hilton Bournemouth)

I stayed at the Bournemouth Hilton which is slap bang in the middle of all the action – a few minutes’ walk from the shops, clubs, pubs and The Lower Gardens.

It’s also about 15 minutes’ walk to the beach.

The ground floor, all-day restaurant, Schpoons & Forx, serves up every kind of breakfast imaginable.

349A8736
(Picture: Hilton Bournemouth)

The hotel is interspersed with fun, quirky decor ideas such as a whole wall of bells at the front desk, bowler hats as lights and old-fashioned phones on the wall in the business lounge and pinwheel motifs in the gorgeous, box fresh rooms –

Copyright of Pellier Photography
(Picture: Pellier Photography for Hilton Bournemouth)

But the showstopper here is the aforementioned Sky Bar which is worth a visit whether you’re a guest or not.

Mary's Trio
(Picture: Hilton Bournemouth)

Rooms at the hotel cost from £101 for a king guest room.

How to get there

South West Trains run direct services from London Waterloo to Bournemouth from £51.80 return travelling off-peak.

Make sure you check the trains beforehand – you can do the journey in 1 hour 45 minutes but, if you get a stopping train, it can take more than three hours.

By Sarah Adams in www.southafrican.com

While the allure of Europe is difficult to outshine, these English cities are just perfect for weekend getaways.

Our ultimate list of English cities to escape to for a weekend.

Words by Geordie Palmer

Windsor

Just under an hour on the train from London Waterloo, Windsor is a great day trip. Most famously it is the home of the world’s largest and oldest castle that is still lived in. It is of course Queen Elizabeth II who lives at Windsor Castle, although not all the time – her weekend house if you like. If the flag is raised then Lizzie is there.

English City Wikipedia/Diliff
Otherwise you can stroll about in Windsor Great Park or cross the bridge into Eton and visit one of the most famous schools in the world and its pupils in their funny little penguin uniforms.

Brighton

Starting in the late 18th Century with the then Prince of Wales, Brighton built its reputation as a weekend retreat for the unfaithful, kind of like a 19th Century Ashley Madison. Today, Brighton is Britain’s bohemian seaside resort, the eccentric family member that everyone adores.

English City
Postcards evoke a pebbly beach, a famously tacky pier and the opulent Royal Pavilion. But it’s Brighton’s cheery, colourful charm that brings the visitors in. As the UK’s biggest gay scene and home to two universities and an art college, Brighton can be summed up in one word: fun.

The summer is the best time to go as foreign students, tourists, festivals and quirky events all come to town; but Brighton is great all year round. And as it’s an hour outside of London, you really have no excuse.

Canterbury

Canterbury is another of England’s most famous cities. This is in large part due to the role of Canterbury Cathedral as the HQ for the Church of England, one of the UK’s most iconic Gothic structures and also the famous venue for the murder of St Thomas Becket in 1170.
English City Wikipedia/Diliff

Canterbury is a charming historical city and UNESCO World Heritage Site that boasts, as well as the Cathedral, an impressive Norman castle and pretty Tudor houses. It is well worth a visit and being only an hours train ride from London, you can visit just for the day.

Portsmouth

As an industrialised city that was heavily bombed in World War II, Portsmouth won’t be in the running for beauty contests anytime soon. However as a proper city, with a large university, there is plenty on offer in the way of nightlife. Elsewhere, if you like ships, Portsmouth may just tickle your fancy.

English City Wikipedia/eNil
Down in the Dockyard you can climb aboard Henry VIII’s 16th-century warship, the Mary Rose, that sank whilst fighting the French in 1545 and was raised in the 1980s and turned into a museum. Skip forward 250 years and you can visit HMS Victory, the boat on which Horatio Nelson won the Battle of Trafalgar against Napoleon, and another 150 years for a tour of WWII submarine HMS Alliance.

Portsmouth is still home to the British Navy, so the Dockyard provides an excellent timeline as to how a tiny little island once ruled the waves. One final thing we recommend doing is climbing Spinnaker Tower for some cracking panoramic views.

Bournemouth

Bournemouth earnt its reputation from the 7 miles of sandy award-winning beach that stretches across the city. Furthermore, just up the coast in Poole is one of, if not the largest natural harbour in the world and the UNESCO World Heritage Old Harry’s Rock.

English cities
Summertime in Bournemouth is a hub of weekenders, tourists and language students all praying for sunshine and enjoying the watersports. However in recent years Bournemouth has experienced a bit of a cultural renaissance and is increasingly becoming much much more than just its beach.

In fact, if you’re planning on exploring the South we recommend you base yourself here. It’s the nightlife in particular that has impressed: Bournemouth is shrugging off its former reputation as a destination for boozy stag-dos, to be an all year round major venue for touring bands, artists and DJs.

Oxford

Oxford is a historic city and home to one of the oldest and most famous universities in the world. While the city remains very much tied to its historical roots however, its large student population means that it’s also a fun place to go out and explore.

The city is littered with awesome old pubs and cafes and the university buildings that cover the city centre make it a lovely place to just wander about. You can visit the vast majority of the colleges, though it’s worth checking out the visiting times for each; all of them are a great visit, composed of networks of gardens and beautiful buildings, some of which are hundreds of years old.

English Cities Flickr/Tejvan PettingerThe largest and arguably most impressive of the colleges is Christchurch (incidentally provided a decent amount of the setting for Hogwarts in the Harry Potter films), which also has amazing parkland surrounding it.

The city’s pretty small so you can happily spend the whole time ranging around on foot or by bike, as many of the locals do. It’s fairly crowded with tourists throughout the summer, which is also when the students are on holidays, so there are certainly advantages to going at different times of the year – that and the fact that summer in the UK basically just means ‘sort of less wintery’ anyway. So much history and culture surrounds the city’s streets and buildings – there’s a reason it’s known as ‘the City of Dreaming Spires’.

An essential Oxford experience is going for a punt. A punt is a flat-bottomed boat not dissimilar to a gondola if you’ve ever been to Venice. You can pick up a punt from one of two places in the city, under Magdalen Bridge near the High Street or at the Cherwell Boathouse a little out of the city centre. The Covered Market, one of the oldest of its kind in the country and found just off the High Street is a great place to get a taste of local life and also quite an interesting exercise in navigation. Getting lost is guaranteed.

Bristol

Bristol, Bristol, Bristol. Bristol is rapidly making a name for itself as a worthy competitor for London. It serves up all that you could possibly want: architectural charm, a spanking new harbourside, a rich modern art scene lead by graffiti superstar Banksy (spot his murals around the city), community-run cafés, cool bars and live music venues, lush green parks, mega-clubs, festivals and even a beach (sort of). All this but without the chaos and claustrophobia of other big cities (although the traffic is horrendous).

English Cities - Flickr/Harshil Shah

The beauty of Bristol is that you have a blend of cultures and lifestyles all within walking distances of each other. Clifton is your traditional British market town with cosy pubs, delis, an impressive Suspension Bridge and the open-space of the Downs; Stokes Croft and Gloucester Road are a bohemian hub of culture and creativity with vintage clothes stores, cool cafés and trendy bars; Nelson Street, a street given over entirely to graffiti art, leads on to St Nicholas food market; whilst the harbourside is a juxtaposition of the historically significant SS Great Britain, the first iron steamer to cross the Atlantic, and the famous ship / music venue / nightclub Thekla.

The Bristolians know how to live and with several massive universities there is always something going on. It has one of Britain’s most influential music scenes producing the likes of Massive Attack in recent years and is slowly drawing young businesses away from the capital. Whilst you’re there, try and get hold of some of the local currency the Bristol Pound – it’s the same value as the British Pound but can only be spent in Bristol.

Bath

You could spend months parading around Britain’s countryside visiting all her spa and market towns until your heart’s content. Or you could just go to Bath. Ok, that’s unfair; every town is worthy of a visit, but if you’re short on time Bath has it all. The Georgian architecture makes the town one of Britain’s most attractive, and much pleasure can be derived from simply wandering the streets. Of course, Bath’s most famous attraction is the Roman Baths and a visit to the hot springs is an absolute must; at the very least it’s a fascinating insight into Roman lifestyle.

English Cities Wikipedia/Arpingstone

Where Bath really wins however is that there is plenty to do from dawn until dusk. You can visit on a simple day trip from Bristol (10 minutes on the train) or spend the night and join the university students in one of the town’s clubs. If you can, time your visit with a Bath rugby game – the stadium is right in the centre of town and tickets typically cost £15-35. With some cosy pubs, charming architecture and friendly atmosphere, Bath is the perfect place for that quintessential British experience.

Cambridge

Cambridge is one of Britain’s most famous destinations, thanks in most part to its world renowned University. If we compare it to Oxford, Cambridge is perhaps the more beautiful of the two and has changed less in its 800 rough years of existence than its neighbour.

English CitiesThe highlight is undoubtedly King’s College and the awe-inspiring Chapel. Most choose to stroll the stretch of grass behind the colleges know as The Backs or punt along the river (a flat-bottomed boat a bit like a gondola that you manoeuvre standing up with a long pole); this gives you the best views of the university.

An apt description is that Cambridge is a university with a town attached, whilst Oxford is a town with a university attached. Consequently, Oxford has more of a buzz to it than sleepy Cambridge, something to consider especially if you plan to spend the night.

Birmingham

Known as the ‘City of 1001 trades’, Birmingham was essentially created in the Industrial Revolution when its population tripled in 50 years. Now Birmingham is the 2nd largest city in Britain and also the most culturally and ethnically diverse. Recent renovations, not least of the old Custard Factory, are helping Birmingham restore some self-confidence, but it will be some time before it completely puts to bed its gloomy reputation.

English Cities Wikipedia/canal duskTrue, Birmingham is now recognised as a first-rate place to live and with several universities and a young workforce there’s a buzzing cultural scene and nightlife. However from a traveller’s perspective, Birmingham is way behind the UK’s other cities and can definitely be saved for another time.

Stratford-upon-Avon

This quiet little market town would probably be passed by unnoticed by travellers if it weren’t for one thing: in 1564 a boy called William was born here and grew up to be the greatest writer ever in the English language ever to have lived. Visitors flock in to see the house where Shakespeare was born and to visit his modest grave.

English Cities Wikipedia/DiliffTravelling to Stratford-upon-Avon simply to see where Shakespeare grew up however is not something we’d recommend. Watching one of Shakespeare’s plays in his hometown on the other hand is definitely an experience worth doing, but be aware that they are very long and difficult to understand for even the English themselves! The Swan and Royal Shakespeare Theatres are not where Shakespeare put on his plays, that was the Globe in London.

Liverpool

Liverpool is the UK’s success story of the last decade. In the 70s and 80s, Liverpool was a bad joke, known for its economic malaise, crime and violence; redeemed only by the successes of its beloved football team and The Beatles (among a number of other great bands). A recent renovation of the city centre and the Albert Docks, now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, have put Liverpool firmly back on the traveller’s map.

English cities Wikipedia/Beverley Goodwin
The European Capital of Culture 2008, Liverpool now boasts more museums than any other UK city excluding London. One thing you must do is head out to Crosby beach where the artist Antony Gormley (same bloke who designed the Angel of the North) has placed 100 cast-iron statues molded from his own body staring out to sea.

As the sun goes down, the party loving Scousers (Liverpudlians [people from Liverpool]) come out to play in a city whose music scene is beginning to do justice to its rich heritage. Finally, a trip to Liverpool FC’s Anfield Stadium is absolutely imperative, especially if you can time it with match day.

Manchester

Famous the world over for being home to one of football’s greatest rivalries, Manchester has so much to offer any visitor that you’ll have to be extra careful to make enough time to visit the home grounds of Manchester United and Manchester City.

The city’s history is rooted in the industrial revolution and many of the buildings in and around the town centre are evidence of this, such as the old textile factories in Spinningfields.

English Cities Wikipedia/mark andrew On a typical day out you could go shopping in the Arndale centre, grab lunch in the food court, get a coffee by the canals, eat dinner on “Curry Mile” (the largest concentration of South Asian restaurants outside of India) and top it all off with a few cheap drinks at a trendy bar in the Northern Quarter. Manchester has something to offer everyone; whether you’re a sports fan, a history buff, or looking to enjoy the nightlife, it will not disappoint.

Blackpool

Ever found yourself confused by such phenomena as Costa del Sol, Ayia Napa, Ios and the Ibiza Strip? Well before young Brits relocated abroad for their furious summer partying, Blackpool was the go-to destination. Recognised by its Tower, three piers and famous Pleasure Beach amusement park, Blackpool is unashamedly tacky and over-the-top. And that’s what its 15 million visitors a year love about it.

English Cities Wikipedia/ Rept0n1x

Blackpool shouldn’t be anywhere near the top of your priority list, in fact it probably shouldn’t be anywhere near the list at all; besides, there is more than enough to satisfy your hedonistic urges in nearby Liverpool and Manchester. But perhaps you’re driving up the M6 in summertime and perhaps you feel a slight curiosity to just ‘see’ what’s going on, to just poke your head around the door; well just perhaps we’ll encourage you to check it out.

Leeds

Leeds is another northern city that has made a remarkable transformation in recent years. Built on the back of the textile industry, Leeds, like many industrial cities, went into rapid decline in the second half of the 20th-century; thankfully a full handbrake U-turn has seen Leeds reemerge as the ‘Knightsbridge of the North’, a nickname crediting the number of top fashion brands filling the fully restored Victorian shopping arcades.

English Cities Flickr/Leon FishmanDespite this ‘urban chic’, away from the centre Leeds is still pretty grimy, however with a large student base there’s a diverse nightlife on hand and a rich music scene. If it’s beautiful old architecture you’re after then you might have your work cut out in Leeds, but you can always spend the day in nearby York.

York

York occupied a leading role for much of British history. An early Roman fortress from which to conduct northern raids, before falling to the Vikings and renamed Jorvik, York was the capital of the North for centuries and was thus a centre of huge political, economic and religious influence. The Industrial Revolution saw York eclipsed by other northern powerhouse cities and is now largely dominated by tourism.

English Cities Flickr/York Minster

It is an absolute must-visit however and easy to do in a day from Leeds. The enormous gothic Minster cathedral is arguably one of the most beautiful in Europe, and The Shambles is the continent’s best-preserved medieval street and was mentioned in the 11th-century Domesday book. Finally there’s the Jorvik Viking Museum whose interactive approach with actors may put some off, but is still an interesting insight into the Viking era. Much of the North’s industrialisation passed York by, so a trip there is a surreal transition into medieval Britain.

Newcastle

Newcastle upon Tyne is a city whose mention brings a smile to every Brit’s face. It was badly damaged by the economic upheavals of the 1980s and is still one of the poorest cities in the UK, but there’s a certain charm about the city that is hard to explain. Perhaps it’s the friendly Geordies with their soothing accents and happy-go-lucky attitude, who knows, but you’re guaranteed a warm welcome and a lot of fun.

English Cities Wikipedia/Wilka HudsonIn fact the welcome begins with the Angel of the North, arms outstretched, embracing you on arrival. Recently immortalised in the reality TV series Geordie Shore, Newcastle’s nightlife is famous all over the country and in a few European resorts for being cheap and heavy. Try your hand (and liver) at a treble : 3 shots of vodka and mixer for £5!

Within the city, the new glitzy Sage Gateshead concert hall leads the city’s recent renovation and you’ll find one of the country’s best modern art galleries outside London in the Baltic Centre just across the sleek Millennium Bridge. Of course St James’ Park, home to Newcastle FC, is another landmark and should definitely be visited if there’s a game on. Outside you can easily visit Hadrian’s Wall and Durham.