What the beachside town of Bournemouth lacked in quantity, it made up for in quality when it came to taking on the world record sandcastle building attempt on a sunny Saturday in mid-October.
Bournemouth’s town centre, with ornate Victorian ballustrades and classical pediments topping modern shopfronts, is a short walk from the pier and the seafront, through pretty formal gardens where the squirrels are over-fed, very tame and scamper around in abundance.
On a sunny Saturday in mid-October, a couple of hundred holidaymakers and locals made their way through the park and along the seafront to gather on the sandy beach alongside the pier. The occasion was to mark the 21st anniversary of the Big Issue Magazine with `The Big Sandcastle Build’, an attempt to snatch the world record from current holders, Scarborough.
Bournemouth has seven miles of golden sand, stretching east and west from the pier and Oceanarium on the sea-front, making it an ideal sand-castle building location and not at all bad for an autumn weekend away.
Although over 200 people took part in the sandcastle competition, and built more than the current record of 683 castles, only 678 sandcastles were deemed as being tall enough. Harsh, but true, as the rules stated that each sandcastle had to be 2ft wide and 2ft tall (60cm by 60cm) and have four turrets, to ensure they were approved by the verifiers.
Bournemouth may have fallen just five castles short of the record, but in the warm autumn sunshine, the sight than the hundreds of turreted sand-castles, topped with Big Issue flags, glinting in the sunshine made for a fabulous sight and a great photo opportunity.
Alice Cooper, the Moscow Ballet and Fireman Sam were also in Bournemouth that month, giving an indication of how eclectic this cosmopolitan resort is.
Now a colourful and lively shopping, eating, drinking and relaxing seaside destination, Bournemouth was built as a seaside village in the early to mid 19th century, in a similar vein to resorts such as Brighton and Weymouth. In 1856 the pier was built, only to be struck by worm in the 1860s, by a gale a year later and a storm in the 1970s. When it re-opened in 1880, it was 835’ long (255.4m), and by 1909 it was more than 1000ft long (304.8m).
The pier is a focal point on the town’s sea-front, housing predictable ‘penny’ arcades and flanked by the beach and the town’s well stocked and well laid out Oceanarium.
Either side of the pier another of Bournemouth’s attractions, the colourful yellow and blue Land Train that travels along the sea front to Boscombe Beach, the town and back. The journey is highly recommended for its sea views, the chance to sit down and because you can hop off in the lovely Boscombe Chine Gardens, with its mini-golf, highly recommended café and kids’ water play area.
Take the train on the other side of the pier, and you’ll find yourself a shorter distance away at Alum Chine with its Treasure Island-themed children’s play area, a paddling pool, tropical garden on the cliff face and Blue Flag award-winning beach.
The weekend ended as all successful holiday weekends in a classic British seaside resort should, with fish and chips on the sea-front, in this case in the café-style interior of Harry Ramsden’s; the sandcastles by now just moguls in the sand.
Read more about Bournemouth’s world record sandcastle attempt.
Where to stay
Silver Travel Advisor’s star writer stayed at the 4-star Norfolk Royale Hotel, a short walk from the sea-front just above the main shopping centre.
This elegant pink fronted hotel, with its ornate Art Deco veranda, glass roofed heated indoor pool, whirlpool, steam room and sauna, is comfortable and well located for the town and the beaches.
Rooms are spacious, bathrooms sparkling white and staff were polite and helpful – though an extension of the 10am Sunday breakfast curfew would have been appreciated!
Dinner in Echoes Restaurant was of very good quality; grilled prawns, a Greek salad and two steaks which were cooked exactly as requested and the cuisine was a credit to the hotel’s kitchen team.
A stay at the Norfolk Royale including 3-course dinner, a bottle of chilled Prosecco in the room on arrival & full breakfast costs from £74.50 per person, per night with Classic British Hotels.