COASTAL DREAMS IN CHRISTCHURCH, DORSET

We all want that holiday feeling. You know the one. That feeling that you’re somewhere else, away from the daily grind, able to truly relax, whether it’s a gorgeous sunny day or a blustery autumn afternoon, we’ve found the perfect place right here on our doorstep – Christchurch in Dorset, nestled between two rivers and home to the largest parish church in England, it really is Olde England at its best.

A walk around the cobbled streets of Christchurch itself leads you to boutique shops, pavement cafes, seafood restaurants and the ruins of the town’s historic castle, most with quayside views. It’s here at the quayside that you can hire a self-drive leisure boat from Quayside Leisure tosteer yourself up and down the beautiful River Stour, enjoying the peaceful ambience of the water lapping against the boat or drooling over the multimillion pound houses all lining this idyllic stretch of water.

Christchucrch has so many beautiful places to stay, whether it’s a self-catering cottage, luxurious hotel, a glamping pod, or historic country house, the choice is yours. We decided to stay at The Captains Club Hotel and Spa situated directly on the banks of the River Stour, not only are the views stunning so is the sleek, smooth and ultra-modern design. There are a host of luxury offerings here including spa treatments, champagne on the terrace, cocktails at the bar, seafood for dinner and rooms with the most spectacular views.

Throughout the hotel the style is chic and contemporary, with soft furnishings in blues, whites and yellows creating a nod towards the maritime surroundings. Sleek furnishings adorn the uncluttered spaces and floor to ceiling windows entice you to just sit and while away the hours watching the boats sail past.

The hotel has 29 rooms and suites, all of which face towards the river. We were lucky enough to be staying in aluxurious two-bedroomsuite, complete with cinema room, two bathrooms and a living space that incorporates a fully fitted kitchen area that is far larger than any luxury apartment in London.

The suite has nautical influences and textures subtly added to the décor, think blue and white coastal cushions, deep blue and grey hues on the walls, and leather blue arm chairs all which blend together effortlessly to create a stylish andinnovative space to relax and unwind in.

And of course, each room (except for the cinema room) has floor to ceiling windows that give you access to views over the water day and night – it really is an indulgent treat and the most ideal space to literally sit by the window, glass of wine in hand and watch the calm flow of the river below.

Dining is another delight in Christchurch, there are so many amazing restaurants to choose from especially if you’re a seafood lover, but don’t worry if you’re not there’s still plenty of delicious food available everywhere.

On our first night we decided to dine in the hotel’s restaurant, aptly named ‘Captain’s Table’ offering award-winning dining that obviously includes a great selection of fish and seafood.  We began our evening with a cool glass of Olivier Coste Rosé as we tempted our taste buds with the freshest prawn cocktail and scallop dishes, both of which had an array of delightful flavours to whet our appetite. Catch of the day (seabass) and seafood linguine followed, the portions were incredibly generous and boasted plenty of sumptuous mouth-watering fish and seafood to devour. The strong flavours and textures were the perfect way to elevate the palette.

Continuing with the seafood and fish theme a visit to The Noisy Lobster, situated on the stunning Avon beach in Mudeford is just perfect for a lunchtime or evening feast.

Be sure to try the oysters with a passionfruit mignonette oil or the Noisy Platter for one that includes a half lobster with garlic & herb butter, seared scallops, tempura prawns, rocket & pink onion salad, the array of flavours are amazing, and if you’re not such a seafood lover like me why not opt for the traditional beer battered fish and chips, regardless of whatever you choose you’re guaranteed the ultimate treat on your palette.

The idyllic views of Mudeford Bay and the Isle of Wight add to the ambience of this little gem, providing the perfect backdrop for your wining and dining experience and of course once you’ve finished it’s a must to grab an ice cream from the parlour outside and sit on the beach watching the world go by for a few hours.

If you want to head out a little further then Westbeach restaurant housed within the promenade on the golden sands of Bournemouth is the place to go.

Using locally sourced ingredients, including of course fresh seafood and fish, the menu is another mouth-watering delight.

Delicious honeybaked Danish feta and a perfectly cooked steak were my choices, whereas hubbie opted for lots of small plates so he could explore the different textures and tastes each dish offered. Dishes includedcrispy whitebait, smokedmackerelpate, salt and pepper crispy squid and tiger prawns, all dishes were expertly delivered and produced bursts of flavour that was simply delicious.

Along with all the appetizing dining, there’s something for everyone here in Christchurch – be sure to explore the traditional fishing village of Mudeford for olde worlde charm. You’ll see signs of the fishing heritage everywhere, whether it’s the boats, quaint fishermen’s cottages or the children hanging over the quayside with their buckets and nets crabbing.

It’s also from here that you can get the ferry to take you across to Hengisbury Head, an unspoilt beach surrounded by sand dunes, and almost 300 colourful beach huts. Unlike other beach huts these ones are residential and can be stayed in overnight from April to October. Many of the huts are like tiny houses with kitchens and bedrooms upstairs! (I sense this could be my next trip).

If you feel like walking follow the paths to the top of the Headland to get spectacular panoramic views of, Christchurch Harbour, Mudeford Sandbank, Mudeford Quay, Poole Bay and across to the Needles on the Isle of Wight, or if like me you prefer just to sit amongst the dunes, watching the sea lap against the rocks its perfect, grab a drink from the nearby Beach House Café and just enjoy the serenity.

Christchurch and the surrounding areas of Dorset are one of my favourite places to visit, sometimes I have to remind myself I am still in England, the scenery is simply stunning.

There’s a beach around every corner, hidden coves, harbours, history, traditional towns and of course fresh fish and seafood. You can do as much or as little as you want, if you’re an adrenalin junkie then try out kayaking or water-skiing, and for the less adventurous, just sit back eat, drink and enjoy the sand in your toes and the sea breeze on your face.

BOOK IT

The Captains Club Hotel & Spa  – Prices start from £239 for a double/twin room and from £400 for an apartment. Dogs are welcome in certain rooms.www.captainsclubhotel.com

Quay Leisure Boat Hire – Boat hire starts from £25 for half hour and £35 for an hour.

www.willowwaymarina.co.uk/boat-hire

The Noisy Lobster – For bookings please visit, www.avonbeach.noisylobster.co.uk

Westbeach – For bookings please visit, www.west-beach.co.uk

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