Sunset in West Bay

Sunset in West Bay – what a wonderful way to end the day! I had already spent two lovely hours exploring Lyme Regis this day, but it was still only 2 pm, so I decided to go further east while I had the opportunity. I wanted to explore the iconic cliffs at West Bay.

Welcome to West Bay

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Pub poster in West Bay
Detail from a pub in West Bay

Beautiful West Bay was once known as Bridport Harbour, as Bridport is just a mile away. West Bay is where the rivers Brit and Asker meet the sea, but it is more famous for its cliffs!

So what do you do when you get to West Bay?
You hike up one of the cliffs, of course!

But how do you decide which cliff to hike up?
You don’t. You hike ’em both, baby.

West Cliff, West Bay

View of East Cliff, West Bay
View of East Cliff, West Bay, from West Cliff, West Bay. Confused? Yeah, me neither.

I decided to hike up West Cliff first, because I figured it would give me the best view of the iconic East Cliff. It was probably a good idea, because the fishing village was very busy this Sunday. There was an MC meeting going on and there had been a boat race, so the place was full of motorcycles and vehicles transporting boats. Even so, it still had a very relaxing atmosphere. There were loads of kiosks selling food and ice cream, even on a Sunday afternoon, and people were fishing from the harbour and the two piers.

View from West Cliff
The weather was lovely and I could see really far – all the way to Weymouth.
Fishing boats outside a block of flats in West Bay
You know you’re by the seaside when people park their boats outside their flats.

East Cliff, West Bay

The beach in West Bay

After refuelling with a vegan pasty from The Cornish Bakery in Dorset (I am still not confused), I decided to hike up East Cliff. I wasn’t quite prepared for how steep it is, though. (As you know, I am not good with steep.)

The iconic East Cliff in West Bay

I managed to get up by not turning around while I was hiking. Then I followed the path along the cliffs a little bit. Having seen how porous these cliffs can be, I didn’t feel comfortable enough to follow the actual path. Instead, I crept along the fence to the golf club. That felt fractionally safer. And it definitely was funnier. I ended up having a laugh with some golfers about whether one of them was cheating.

Two people hiking along the clifftop path
The view to the west from the top of East Cliff, West Bay. Still not confused.

What goes up must come down

Getting back down East Cliff was a different matter, though. I mean, I had seen people doing it, even with dogs on leads (exceptionally well-behaved dogs, mind), so I knew it had to be doable. It’s just that I can be very clumsy sometimes…

View of West Bay from the top of East Cliff
Yeah, it’s kinda steep. But there is a path down here somewhere…

Then there was the question of whether I was most likely to slip and fall on the loose earth or the damp grass. And the ‘how good is the thread on my new hiking shoes anyway’ problem. In the end I wound up psyching myself up for the descent by making up a little ditty about how there is only one way down and that is one step at a time. Interspersed with refrains of “I hate this, I hate this, I hate this”.

Random thoughts kept popping into my head, like the idea that maybe the safest thing would be to just lie down and roll all the way to the bottom of the cliff. (Errr, no.) Because, you know, getting down isn’t the problem. The problem is getting down in one piece. The relief when I was finally back on the beach was overwhelming. I must have seemed completely mental while I was making my way down that cliff. Thank goodness there was no one else around just then!

West Bay AKA Broadchurch

Broadchurch poster, image credit: ITV
Image credit: ITV

Fans of British crime dramas will have no problem recognising the iconic East Cliff in West Bay from the ITV series Broadchurch. And that isn’t the only landmark that you will recognise from the three seasons of the TV series, which starred David Tennant and Olivia Colman. On my little jaunt to the fishing village, I stumbled across the ‘police station’, the clifftop cabin where Danny met his killer, the cliff Danny was found beneath (not the same cliff, actually!), the caravan park, the harbour and the pier. Oh, and DI Hardy’s blue cabin on the river and the QCs home from season 2.

The police station is really a block of flats
The Broadchurch police station is right by the harbour, but it is really a block of flats.
Eypemouth, near West Bay
The cabin where Danny met his killer is at Eypemouth, on the other side of West Cliff, and has a great view of the South West Coast Path that leads to Golden Cap. The caravan park is just behind it. Lyme Regis in the distance.
View of East Cliff from the beach in West Bay
But Danny was found beneath East Cliff. The 50-metre high cliff wall is undoubtedly a more dramatic setting!

Geeking out in Broadchurch

If you’re wondering whether strolling through West Bay and taking pictures of all things Broadchurch makes you feel a bit silly, the answer is yes. It does. But it is such a good crime drama and I must admit I have seen it three times! It is just very relatable, as I live in a small place right on the Jurassic Coast, too. The sea and the cliffs and the seagulls and the oddly quiet streets at night… It just made it all seem very real to me. I guess I will have to watch it all again now. I want to see just how many locations I can recognise from my visit!

The shabby chick sea scouts and sea cadets huts
The Sea Brigade is probably based on the local Sea Scouts and Sea Cadets – but the show used a Methodist church as the Sea Brigade hut.
The harbour just before sunset
West Bay harbour with West Cliff in the background.
The home of the QC in Broadchurch season 2
The home of QC Jocelyn Knight lies halfway up West Cliff.
DI Hardy was here. The Broadchurch location at sunset in West Bay
DI Hardy’s riverside home – which is for sale!

The trouble with exploring The Jurassic Coast

There is one big problem with exploring The Jurassic Coast, and that is that the places are so moreish. I mean, I went to Lyme Regis earlier that day and now I just want to go back and spend at least a week there. It is the same with West Bay. There are so many places to explore and cliffs to hike! I got talking to a local up on West Cliff who told me about some of the hikes in the area, and they have all got to be done at some point. Golden Cap has been on my ‘to hike’ list for a long time, but do I do it from Lyme Regis or from West Bay? Or maybe from Eypemouth? (Update Sep 2021: I did the hike from West Bay to Golden Cap.)

Anyway, full of impressions and with very tired legs, I made my way back to Blueberry, my car. I had parked in West Bay Road Car park, which is right next to the Spar, so I nipped in there to get a chocolate and a caffeinated beverage to revive me before the long drive home. I was happy that it was still light outside, so I wouldn’t have to drive home in the dark.

Sunset at West Bay

However, just as I pulled out of my parking space, I noticed that the sky had gone purple. And sort of orangey pink. Thankfully, I had paid the £2 for a full day’s parking (how cheap is that?), so I quickly manoeuvred Blueberry into another parking space and ran for it. If I could make it in time, I could capture the sunset in West Bay from the beach.

It was an excellent decision.

The iconic East Cliff at sunset in West Bay
The East Cliff at sunset in West Bay
The Rise reflecting in the river
The darkening skies turned the river into a mirror.
Orange-red tones at sunset in West Bay
You can see all the way to Orcombe Point from here, which is where The Jurassic Coast starts in East Devon.
View out to sea during sunset in West Bay
View of Lyme Regis at sunset in West Bay
The twinkling lights from Lyme Regis and West Cliff, West Bay.

Experiencing the stunning sunset at West Bay was definitely worth the drive home in the dark! But as the orange glow turned to darkness, I suddenly realised I now had to do something I had promised myself I wouldn’t do.

I had to walk through the streets of Broadchurch alone at night. Ooops.