The Bull Hotel

Bridport, Dorset, United Kingdom Book from £90

A colourful coaching inn serving local food and fantastic cocktails in the heart of coastal Bridport
While it’s often referred to as the ‘Gateway to the Jurassic Coast’, we prefer to think of Bridport as geography’s answer to surf’n’turf. Flanked by 2 rivers which lead to West Bay, it’s a charming rural market town with over 1,000 listed buildings (including this 17th-century coaching inn), where even the town centre offers verdant West Country views. And its dual appeal isn’t limited to the immediate vicinity either; miles of dramatic coastline and endless Dorset countryside provide ample opportunity for a weekend's rambling.

In Bridport’s midst sits the imposing, inky-blue exterior of The Bull Hotel. After a stylish makeover it emerged with 19 eclectic bedrooms, their décor ranging from Art Deco mirrors and floral Cole & Son wallpaper, to antique Mongolian dressers and brushed-brass beds. In the evening, guests dine on fresh seafood in the restaurant before invariably ending up in the convivial Venner Bar for a sloe gin fizz or a flaming Mai Tai. Most guests are couples, but it’s good for families too and kids can run around the ballroom or play table football in the Ostler room - great fun!

Highs

  • Fab for foodies: the hotel has an excellent restaurant, a pizzeria next door and the Axminster River Cottage Canteen is a short drive away
  • A vibrant area where the adventurous relish the water sports, the genteel wander the higgledy-piggledy villages and, in summer, many arrive for staycations by the beach
  • The Venner Bar's original recipe cocktails and sumptuous furnishings make it destination in itself
  • Great for families: friendly staff, spacious bedrooms and plenty of toys and games
  • West Bay's sandy beach, pretty harbour, dramatic cliffs and retro beach huts serving fish 'n' chips are just 2.5km away

Lows

  • Extensive renovations taking place in early 2016, so our review may not accurately reflect the hotel's latest incarnation
  • The Petite and Single Rooms are small (7-8 sq.m.) and best suited to those who plan to be out for most of the day
  • Some details have been overlooked (e.g. no conditioner/body lotion) and our room had very low water pressure in the shower (however the hotel assures us that this has now been fixed)
  • You’ll need a car to explore the surrounding area; the beach is 2.5km away (approx. 1.5 miles)
  • A strict cancellation policy

Best time to go

The Jurassic Coast is popular with tourists for most of the year. If you're hoping for sunshine and seaside swimming you'll want to come in the summer, though this time of year also brings crowds (particularly during the school holidays). Those seeking a romantic, relaxing or restorative rural break will be happier in spring or autumn; both bring pretty scenery and mild temperatures. Of course, a hearty dinner and festive cocktails make for a great winter stay as well.

Our top tips

Head to the bar - the Venner Bar to be precise. Hidden upstairs behind the ballroom, you'll find a steer skull presiding theatrically over the spirits, while gilded mirrors and maroon chesterfields accent the rich chocolate walls. But, mixologist Lloyd and his creative cocktails steal the show with their unusual infusions, flaming spirits, fanciful vessels and an overriding sense of fun. We tried the ‘Twinkle’ (invented by Lloyd) which features elderflower liquor and the only vodka in the world made from milk (from Dorset no less) - it was divine.

Great for...

Beach
Family
Foodie
Great Outdoors
  • = Recommended
  • = Best in region
  • = World favourite
  • Boutique Hotel
  • 19
  • Restaurant + 2 bars (open daily)
  • All ages welcome
  • Closed: 2 Jan 2016 - 13 Feb 2016
  • Pool
  • Spa Treatments
  • WiFi
  • Pet Friendly
  • Disabled Access
  • Beach Nearby
  • Off-street Parking
  • Restaurants Nearby
  • Air Conditioning
  • Guest Lounge
  • Terrace
  • Garden
  • Gym
  • Courtyard
  • Wii on request
  • Table football
Room:

Rooms

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).

Features include:

  • Bathrobes
  • Central heating
  • Coffee tea making
  • Cots Available
  • Dvd player
  • Extra beds
  • Fan
  • Freeview TV
  • Hairdryer
  • Phone
  • Toiletries
  • Wifi internet
  • Wifi internet

Eating

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.

Features include:

  • Bar
  • Children meals
  • Coffee tea making
  • Packed lunches
  • Restaurant
  • Vegetarian menu
  • Walk to restaurants
Eating:
Activity: Bridport Market

Activities

  • You're at the 'Gateway to the Jurassic Coast' so grab your walking boots and head out. The hotel can recommend routes, provide maps or help arrange a guided walk. They'll even prepare a packed lunch for you
  • For instant retro seaside fun, West Bay is just 2.5km down the road. Golden sandstone cliffs frame the beach where kids can paddle and play to their heart’s content
  • Wander around Bridport. This historic market town is chock full of listed buildings and has some great independent shops. On Wednesdays and Saturdays the Bridport Market fills the centre of town and there’s an excellent annual literary festival
  • Drive a little further along the coast to Lyme Regis. The beach is great for summer swimming and there's an impressive array of independent shops, pretty cottages and cosy pubs
  • There’s a country house for everyone here. Romantics will love Mapperton House (voted finest manor house by Country Life magazine), while families can explore Kingston Maurward Animal Park (various gardens, a petting zoo and regular kids’ clubs)
  • The Bridport & West Dorset Golf Club is well regarded and offers impressive views of the landscape and shoreline
  • The hotel has a great relationship with Bridport’s talented artisans - workshops can be arranged in various fields including painting, drawing, sculpture, woodwork and weaving
  • Looking for a more adventurous activity? Horse riding, paragliding and speedboat trips can also booked through reception (advance notice required)

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Art classes
  • Boat trips
  • Fossil hunting
  • Golf
  • Hiking
  • Historical sites
  • Horse-riding
  • Mountain biking
  • Museums / galleries
  • Paragliding
  • Shopping / markets
  • Swimming
  • Well being
  • Wildlife

Kids

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.

Best for:

Babies (0-1 years), Children (4-12 years)

Family friendly accommodation:

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:

Babysitting can be arranged on request.

Baby equipment:

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

Children's meals:

The main restaurant can provide children's meals on request; the Venner Bar even serves mocktails!

Kids Activities on site:

  • Ostler room: sofa, TV, football table & Wii on request
  • Children are welcome to play in the ballroom (when it's not in use)
  • DVD library

Kids Activities nearby:

  • Beaches (West Bay is 2.5km away)
  • Guided fossil hunts at Charmouth beach's World Heritage Site centre
  • Abbotsbury Children's Farm
  • Kingston Maurward Animal Park
  • Horse riding
  • Cycling
  • Water sports

Families Should Know:

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.

Distances:

  • Airport: 50 minutes (Exeter)
  • Hospital: 5 minutes (or 24-hour emergency unit 14 miles away)
  • Nearest shop: 5 minutes (the hotel is on the town high street)
Kid Friendly:

Our guests' ratings...

8/
Rooms
9/
Food
9/
Service
8/
Value
9/
Overall

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