The Cliff End Hotel, Bournemouth

Some months ago I purchased an Ion PICS 2 SD scanner, with the aim of converting all of my old photographs and negatives into digital format. I’ve not made a huge amount of progress so far, but I did come across a number of photographs taken one October half term in the late 1970s at the Cliff End Hotel in Bournemouth (or Boscombe, to be precise).

The Terrace at the Cliff End Hotel, late 1970s
Me, my father and mother on the terrace at the Cliff End Hotel, late 1970s

I think one of the reasons that I remember that holiday so vividly is for three specific firsts.

Usually, our holidays involved caravanning expeditions (usually to Wales or Scotland) rather than staying in hotels. If this wasn’t the first time I’d stayed in a hotel (I’m fairly sure an October break in Blackpool to see the illuminations pre-dated this occasion), then it was certainly the first time my brother and I had been old enough to have a room separate from our parents. I’m certain that it was the first time (and quite probably the last) that I’d eaten oxtail as a main course rather than as an ingredient in a soup (!) and most importantly for the development of my future career, I’m also certain that it was the first time that I ever bought a copy of Practical Electronics magazine.

Other things I remember from the hotel was the games room with its pinball table (and not realising that there were flippers on the side to keep the ball in play), the bar with its strange red PVC chairs and glitter ball as well as the slightly intimidating reception desk and clock. One of the highlights of the holiday was visiting the motor museum at Beaulieu. I remember with great fondness the enthusiasm of my father for all of the exhibits and the realisation now that he’d have probably enjoyed the whole experience a lot more without me and my brother constantly sniping at each other.

Having such fond memories, I decided to have a quick search on the interwebs to see what the place was like today – and perhaps seeing about staying there the next time I ended up working in or around Dorset. I quickly discovered there was a significant problem with that plan …

Legal battle looming over Cliff End Hotel

Future of the Cliff End Hotel in Boscombe remains uncertain

and perhaps most interesting and sad of all, a report and set of photographs on an urban exploration website from 2009.

So in the words of Bill Bryson:

There are things you just can’t do in life. You can’t beat the phone company, you can’t make a waiter see you until he’s ready to see you, and you can’t go home again.

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Reader Comments

  1. Tony

    I too have many happy memories of The Cliff End. My Dad won a competition in the main ballroom when I was but a toddler. The prize was enough to pay for my first bike.

    I ran off with the key (on those massive key rings, designed so you would hand them in when you went out, not take them with you!)

    A few years later, I learned to swim in their pool, down below the terrace, with a little shop off to the side.

    And every single day, several times a day if I’m honest, I was off down to Boscome Chine to play crazy golf and drive the little cars and boats…

    Child heaven. I went back in the late 90’s, camped somewhere on the outskirts and drove in. It was still open then but looking a little dated.

    And then two years ago, which is the first time I saw it was derelict. It was very sad. The crazy golf has been replaced with a new one which is in the same style (green carpets and geometry, not a windmill in sight!) The cars and boats have long since gone but Boscome Chine is still very much the same place to be.

    And then two days ago. The Chine is still the same, the new crazy golf is flourishing… The Cliff End is still dilapidated. An eye-sore now.

    It made me a little sad, but the memories are still there…

    • tim

      Hi Tony,

      I remember the crazy golf on the Chine too. We used to compete to see who could get a hole in one. If I remember correctly, it was my Mother who seemed to win more often than not!

      It’s a real shame to see the place as it is now and it looks as if not very much can be done to save it. Still, maybe there’s hope. The Roundhouse on Pride Park in Derby lay derelict for more than a decade and now it forms a spectacular centrepiece of the Derby College campus.


  2. Roger

    So sad to see it like this. I used to attend training courses there in the early 70s, really enjoyed staying there, beat Rusilip into a cocked hat! They should demolish the annexes and restore the original house.

  3. Damon

    My Mum and I holidayed there for 10 consecutive years around 1986 before changing to Hinton Firs at the other end of Manor Road. I was a kid and have so many memories of the terrace, the pool and the shop in the corner, the children’s entertainer, getting non alcoholic ‘cocktails’ from the bar with umbrellas cherries and plastic animals (a health and safety timebomb). The gardens with their crazy golf, water cannons, radio control boats and cars and the sit on trikes (the silver one was the fastest). Most of all though, I remember the seating area under the main stairs as all the kids that were there at the same time, most of which came the same weeks, would take over in the evenings, no adult dare venture into our area, it was an unspoken rule. Just thinking about it takes me back to being a kid, I’m 37 now and I just saw that it caught fire after a lightening strike on Boxing Day. So sad, I’d love to see it back to it’s former glory but all seems lost now.

    On a sidenote, you’ve probably got it that my Mum loved Bournemouth, well she moved down there 18months ago about a 2 minute drive away from the Cliff End so I have to drive by and see it every time.


    • Nick Symons

      Hi Damon,I was one of those kids under the stair’s, loved your thoughts and memories, I think I remember you as you were a fair bit younger than myself. I think your mum used to socialize with my parents Anne and Dave ,I’m Nick and my brother was Richard still is☺, we have such happy memories of the Cliff End ,I recently found a picture of myself aged 3 by the pool and I still went when I was 17 for a couple of days when my parents were there.Such a shame to see it in ruin and now knocked down and I’m a builder these days, makes me quite sad that I never got go take my kid’s there,but I have taken my Youngest on the crazy golf a few years ago.It was a special hotel and meeting up that same week every year with friends you saw once a year for a week ,it was like a kind of summer time Christmas as a child,always loved it!

  4. Jane walker

    I holidayed there as a child with my 2 sisters and parents I remember the race nights and the trips to the ten pin bowling when I got married my husband booked our honeymoon there as a surprise

  5. Paul Mcfarlane

    My uncle Bob Leonard own the hotel 70s I stayed there as a junior soldier fond memories learn to swim in the tiny swimming pool I remember a little ice cream shop just buy the swimming pool

    • Roger

      I remember Bob Leonard – One course i was on really upset him when we removed the goals from the table football machine so we could play for free. He came down to watch us and couldn’t understand why we were trying not to score goals! He decided to show us how it was done and eventually he scored a gaol and the ball dropped into the wastepaper basket under the table. He was not a happy bunny!

  6. Paul Mcfarlane

    I have just remembered the games that were out in the main oven not just for children for adults involving the wooden horses game too hard to explain how you got the horses to where you were sad but such fun my uncle Bob had some bets on with all his staff who would win

  7. John L

    I am currently at the Cumberland up the road with wife and lad who’s 13. I spent a number of fabulous holidays at The Cliff End in the mid to late seventies. They still rank as some of the best holidays of my life and I’ve had some good ones. Seeing it as it is breaks my heart but if I close my eyes I can still picture endless sunny days by the pool, parents in their finery dressing for dinner, the brilliant horse racing nights and, as someone has mentioned, card games under the stairs with other kids while adults swirled around the dance floor.

    I also remember the owner and was terrified of him as he ruled with an iron rod. Consequently, kids were well behaved. I remember he acquired another hotel (The East Cliff??) and spent more of his time up there. The Cliff End was never quite the same after that. If only it could be restored to its former glory……….if only!

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