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Chill out in Christchurch this summer

PUBLISHED: 15:44 25 April 2014 | UPDATED: 15:44 25 April 2014

Mudeford Fun Day carousel © Christchurch Tourism

Mudeford Fun Day carousel © Christchurch Tourism

Archant

With its spectacular Priory, stunning natural harbour and gastro-themed events, Christchurch is another of Dorset’s must-see towns, writes Andy Greeves

Splashpark - Xch Quay © Christchurch TourismSplashpark - Xch Quay © Christchurch Tourism

A real highlight on the foodie calendar, Christchurch Food and Wine Festival is perhaps the town’s best known event. Returning on May 10 to 11, the festival will feature live demonstrations from celebrity chefs Lesley Waters and Cyrus Todiwala as well as a host of local cooks. The festival started off back in 2000 as a local Millennium Project and has gone from strength-to-strength ever since, now in its 15th year. New events that will feature this year include a Taste Trail and Real Ale Trail while throughout the month of May, local businesses will be putting on taster activities called ‘Festival Bites’.

Continuing the foodie theme, the Christchurch Cheese and Chilli Festival will be held at Chapel Gate, the home of Bournemouth Sports Club, on 21-22 June, with the opportunity to sample and buy cheese and chillies from all over the world. A Real Ale Festival, organised by Ringwood Brewery, will run alongside the event, so there will always something to cool your palate. Live music, a fun fair and face painting plus food and drink stalls make it a perfect day out for the whole family.

Other events for 2014 include the Christchurch Priory Music and Arts Festival from 15-22 June and Christchurch Music Festival on 4-6 July. The Regent Centre ( in Christchurch meanwhile will host a selection of live musical tributes to Queen (27 April), Count Basie (4 May), Buddy Holly (May 18) and Eric Clapton (September 13).

Highcliffe Castle © Christchurch TourismHighcliffe Castle © Christchurch Tourism

View from the top

Tower tours of the town’s most famous landmark, the Christchurch Priory (www.christchurchpriory.org), are available (subject to weather conditions) priced at £2.50 for adults, £1 for students and 50p for children. Christchurch Priory is open Monday-Saturday from 9:30am-5pm (9:30am-4pm between April and October) and 2:15pm-5:30pm on Sundays (subject to services) but call 01202 485804 in advance to make sure they are available on your planned date of visit.

Once a month (except May), the Priory also runs a special evening guided tour exploring areas not usually open to the public including crypts, belfry and roof space; the tours last 2 hours 45 minutes with tickets costing £10 per person. Booking is essential on 01202 485804.

If you’re there for the weekend, then there are plenty of other things to see and do in Christchurch besides the Priory. The Clay Studio Ceramics Café (www.theclaystudio.co.uk, 01202 475000) has over 200 different types of items in stock that you are able to hand paint while enjoying a bite to eat or a warming drink.

Zooma (www.zooma.co.uk, 01202 485020) is a real favourite with children because of its play area, which includes a ball pit, fun slide, ball shoot and toys as well as a separate baby zone. It’s also a winner with parents too with beauty treatments including Dermalogica facials, massage, manicures and pedicures (Shellac and Minx) and full hair salon services available while their kids play in a safe and secure environment.

Rest and Relax

In addition to providing fantastic accommodation, both the Captain’s Club Hotel (01202 475111) and the Christchurch Harbour Hotel (01202 483434) are home to luxurious spas. Facilities are free to use for hotel guests or alternatively you are able to pay for day spa access.

All 29 of the bedrooms at the Captain’s Club Hotel boast panoramic river views with 17 double rooms and 12 suits. All rooms feature crisp, contemporary furnishings as well as air conditioning, flat screen televisions and free Wi-Fi access. The 64 bedroom Christchurch Harbour Hotel meanwhile has light and airy rooms and en-suite bathrooms with power showers. There are a selection of restaurants onsite for visitors with the Upper Deck Bar & Restaurant and The Jetty Restaurant both offering fantastic views over Christchurch Harbour.

The town centre located Kings Arms Hotel (01202 588933), sister hotel of the Christchurch Harbour Hotel, also offers comfortable accommodation in the splendour of a Georgian building.

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