The suburb of Boscombe, a mile to the east of its more illustrious neighbour Bournemouth doesn’t always get a good press – in the past it’s been voted one of the ten worst places to live in Britain. Most visitors head straight for the beach and don’t get to see what else Boscombe has to offer. So what is there to see, if you can be prise yourself away from your beach towel?
Visit the beach
Obviously, Boscombe Beach is the town’s top attraction. In the middle of a ten mile stretch of golden sand which runs from Sandbanks to Hengistbury Head, it is the perfect location to enjoy the sea and sand. If you want to get more active, there is also surfing, bouldering and beach volleyball available.
Take a wander along the pier
The renovated Victorian Pier is a lovely place to take a walk and admire the view across the bay; on a good day you can see the Isle of Wight and Old Harry in the Purbecks. In addition, there is a series of music themed activities (anyone for a verse of ‘I do like to be beside the seaside?).
Stroll through the Gardens
Boscombe boasts some beautiful gardens; accessed just behind the pier are Boscombe Chine Gardens. Here, you can enjoy the floral displays, play more crazy golf or get a drink at the cafe. For children, there’s a water themed play area.
To the east of the pier are Boscombe Cliff Gardens. In addition to the pretty Italianate gardens, you may also spot goats grazing on the cliffs below.
Follow the Arts Trail
Commissioned to tempt beachgoers into town, is the Boscombe Arts Trail. Walk up Sea Road from the pier to the pedestrian precinct and you will spot seven sculptures by Dorset artist Andy Kirkby.
Admire some Street Art
Boscombe has its fair share of street art. Take a wander around, see what you can spot, or follow my trail which covers all the works I’ve come across. In addition, work by the same artists can be spotted in several of the shops and restaurants in the town.
In addition to the pedestrian precinct, which houses most of your usual high street shops, there are two arcades. The modern Sovereign Centre mostly contains more chain stores. While, in the Royal Arcade, you can find more quirky independent shops. There is also a popular market in the precinct on Thursdays and Saturdays from 9 am to 5 pm.
Take in some live music
The O2 Academy Bournemouth is actually in Boscombe. This Victorian venue has been entertaining people since 1895. It hosts many top name artists – past performers include the likes of David Bowie and Led Zeppelin. A current What’s On list can be found here.
There is also plenty of live local music on offer at the more intimate Chaplin’s Cellar Bar.
Go to the theatre
Sir Percy Shelley used to live in Boscombe and had a theatre built adjacent to his home to entertain himself and his guests. This has been refurbished and opened as The Shelley Theatre, hosting live performances, films and other events. It hasn’t yet reopened post-Covid, but hopefully, will be able to do so soon.
Alternatively, for a mix of entertainment, there’s The Black Cherry; a theatre themed Café/Bar. It hosts a variety of theatre, music and comedy performances.
Watch Premiership Football
Kings Park has plenty of activities on offer. It is the home to AFC Bournemouth’s Vitality Stadium, who return to the Premiership in 2022. If football isn’t your thing, there’s also a skate park, bowling, cricket and an athletics stadium. On Saturday mornings, parkrun takes place here. If AFC Bournemouth are at home, you may run past a player or two…
If you don’t fancy any sporting endeavours, just take a walk around the park. Unlike the more formal gardens in the town, areas have been planted with wildflowers which look spectacular in spring/summer. There is also a nursery where you can buy surplus stock grown for the council gardens.
Eat some great food
There are plenty of great bars, cafes and restaurants. If you’re at beach, try Urban Reef. In town, there are lots of options, like Chaplins, which has a formal restaurant (Modern Times). Alternatively, order from the bar menu and eat in the beer garden which boasts an unusual mural; a man with a living beard.