“A colourful coaching inn serving local food and fantastic cocktails in the heart of coastal Bridport”
Personality exudes from every room at The Bull, even the small ones. Those who pray at the altar of minimalism may be disappointed, but we loved the fun eclecticism here. Our spacious second-floor Suite (The Flowers) had Designers Guild wallpaper, an antique French stool, a mirrored dressing table and a painted wardrobe from China, not to mention the contents of the living room. Of course, crisp white sheets and a sumptuously comfortable mattress helped win our favour, too.
For romantics, we recommend splashing out on one of the Deluxe Rooms; Nandi (tucked away at the back of the property) has a gorgeous in-room slipper bathtub and a handmade Indian-style stained glass window, by local artist Flora Jamieson. Another of our favourites is Red which has acres of space, a freestanding in-room bathtub and a four-poster bed.
Family Rooms are just as fun and Black Beauty fans will be particularly thrilled with The Manger in the old stable block. It holds solid wood bunk beds and the original manger still sits in the corner. The Suite can be booked with an additional twin room to sleep 4-5, and smaller families could opt for a Master Room, as most can hold an extra bed and all have ensuites with bathtubs and showers.
Couples with a modest budget can bed-down in one of the Petite Rooms, which make a comfortable base if you plan to be out and about for most of your visit. Be aware that these rooms are small, and will not suit those wanting to spend time lounging in their room. The Single Room (Golden Fern) is similarly compact, with a double bed pushed against one wall.
Regardless of room size, all guests will receive some luxurious touches. We particularly liked the soft white towels, waffle robes and deliciously fragrant Bramley products. Techies won’t be disappointed either: all rooms have free WiFi, TVs and DVD players (DVD library available). If that doesn't offer enough entertainment, you can head down to the Ostler room for a game on the Wii (request at reception).
Fresh from a bracing walk around West Bay, we made a beeline for the restaurant and sat in a cosy booth to warm our cockles. On a sunny afternoon we’d place ourselves beside the bay windows overlooking the town centre.
The Bull takes great pride in sourcing almost all of its ingredients locally and the menu has subsections delineating whether dishes are from the land (meat), sea (fish) or field (veg). Being so close to the coast, we decided to focus on the seafood. Seared Lyme Bay scallops with parsnip purée and port reduction were followed by mains of moules frites (sizeable and tasty, but a little under-seasoned) and lemon sole with new potatoes, greens and a lemon-butter sauce (a triumph for quality ingredients and skilful cooking minus the gimmicks).
As the surrounding guests called it a night (murmurs of Downton Abbey permeated the room) we plumped for puddings: pear tart tartin with vanilla ice cream and the obligatory, ever-indulgent hot-chocolate fondant with clotted-cream ice cream (a yummy West-Country alternative to vanilla). When the dining is done, guests migrate upstairs to the hidden Venner Bar for cocktails.
Almost the entire breakfast is homemade or locally sourced. A buffet of cereals, pastries, jams, honey, yoghurt, fruit and juice is laid out in the restaurant, then guests choose from the cooked options: porridge with fresh berries, Dorset smoked kippers, a full English, or, my choice, eggs Benedict with seriously tasty dry-cured bacon from Denhay Farm (just 3 miles away).
Guests often combine their stay with a visit to the famous River Cottage Canteen: it's a 20-minute drive away in Axminster, but be sure to book well in advance. If you're spending the day at West Bay, a fun option is to get fish 'n' chips from one of the little beach huts (summertime only). Next door to the hotel, The Stable serves stone-baked pizzas, pies and West-Country cider - great for an informal lunch or family-friendly supper.
Children are warmly welcomed at The Bull and with the Dorset-Devon border being a popular summer holiday destination, there will be plenty of potential new friends to meet at the beach.
Babies (0-1 years), Children (4-12 years)
There are 3 Family Rooms; each has a double bed and a set of bunk-beds (sleeps 2 children). Of these, Mulberry has the added bonus of a second shower room, and The Manger will appeal to any little equestrian obsessives (set in the old stable block with solid wood bunks, a manger and a horse hoist at the entrance). Larger still is the Suite (The Flowers), which can booked for 2-3, or 4-5 people (see rates). Here, you get a large double room, an ensuite bathroom, a sitting room and (if booking for 4-5 people) a second twin bedroom with a sink. For families with 1 small child or a baby, we recommend a Master Room or a Deluxe Room.
Babysitting can be arranged on request.
Baby cots are available on request, and toys can be provided in the guest rooms.
Remember baby and child equipment may be limited or need pre-booking
The main restaurant can provide children's meals on request; the Venner Bar even serves mocktails!
The hotel is located on a road in the centre of town and there's no garden, just a pebbled courtyard with seating. Although this is a seaside town, the beach is actually 3km away (approx. 2 miles) making it a 5-minute drive or a 30-minute walk.