West Bay, Dorset

West Bay is often described as the harbour for Bridport, as though it does not have its own identity. However, situated one and a half miles south of Bridport, West Bay is quite distinct from Bridport. It has a small bustling harbour, packed with fishing boats and offering fishing trips and speed boat rides and is popular with holidaymakers.

West Bay on the Jurassic Coast

It is located on the Jurassic Coast, England’s first natural World Heritage Site, rivalling the Grand Canyon and The Great Barrier Reef, as one of the wonders of the natural world. This coast is stunningly beautiful and ever changing, with unpredictable landslides and rockfalls. The sandstone cliffs here at West Bay rise vertically from the shingle beach. The cliff path gives far reaching views from Portland to Brixham. Fossil hunting is a popular activity. In order to improve the sea defences, the Jurassic Pier was constructed and opened to the public in December 2004. The Pier, which is 204 metres long, allows visitors to enjoy the spectacular views along the Jurassic Coast.

Around the harbour, there are numerous traditional fish and chip kiosks, as well as pubs and restaurants. The now abandoned railway station has been converted to a tea shop called “The Tea Station”.

The setting for ‘Harbour Lights’ and ‘Broadchurch’

West Bay has been the setting for the BBC TV series, ‘Harbour Lights’, but the most recent publicity has resulted from the award winning ITV crime drama, ‘Broadchurch’, broadcast in three series between 2013 and 2017. It starred David Tennant and Olivia Colman as the detectives hunting for the murderer of an eleven year old boy in the first and second series and the subsequent trial. Charlotte Rampling, plays the role of a barrister leading the prosecution. The part was written specifically for her.

In the third series, David Tennant and Olivia Colman seek the rapist of a local Broadchurch woman, played by Julie Hesmondhalgh, who found fame as Hayley Cropper, Roy Cropper’s wife, in the long running soap opera, Coronation Street. The spectacular East Cliff and beach featured in the Series and Quay West, the apartment development, appears as the exterior of the police station.

‘Broadchurch’ won the award from the British Academy for the 2014 Best TV Drama and Olivia Colman, Best Leading Actress. Much of the Series was shot on location in West Bay and other Jurassic Coast sites, as it was critical for the mood and tone of the stories. Villages that have appeared in Broadchurch, have received a boost in tourism, especially West Bay and Bridport.

What is the Broadchurch connection with Thomas Hardy?

Chris Chibnall, the author of Broadchurch, has lived in Bridport, Dorset, for over ten years. It is not a coincidence that Broadchurch exhibits a number of features found in the novels of the famous Dorset author, Thomas Hardy. The name Broadchurch, in the Hardy tradition, is a combination of two Dorset villages’ names – Broadoak and Whitchurch. The detective, played by David Tennant, has been given the name, DI Hardy, who is employed by Wessex Police Force. Wessex was the fictitious county created by Thomas Hardy in his novels.