The show’s writer, Chris Chibnall, describes Broadchurch as a “love letter to the scenery of the Jurassic Coast”. The cliffs, the sea and the beach all play key roles in the story.
Here’s how to relive the drama while exploring Dorset’s dramatic scenery.
Bridport – where the cast stayed
Most of the cast stayed in the arty market town of Bridport in a 16th century hotel called The Bull while filming series two, including David Tenant, Olivia Colman and – as I discovered from housekeeping – Will Mellor, who stayed in my very room (203).
Matthew Gravelle, who played Joe Miller, stayed elsewhere: he couldn’t be seen in the same hotel as the cast, as people would realise he’d be returning for series two.
The hotel hosted wrap parties in the ballroom, laid on early breakfasts and late-night deli boards for the cast, and fended off fans who snuck into the courtyard. While all the cast were approachable, and happy to share a drink with staff and guests, it was Olivia Colman who seemed to win everyone over.
“She was so friendly, and just like her on-screen character,” said receptionist Katy Laver. “Ditsy in a way, but clever, too.”
“They were all really nice,” added waitress Katherine. “Olivia was friendly, and so was David, although he tended to wear a cap and keep himself to himself a bit more.”
One of the highlights of Dorset’s social calendar is Bridport Carnival in August. Local Di Thomas explained that when the mayor dropped out of the evening torchlit procession, Olivia Colman jumped in, together with James D’Arcy, who played villain Lee Ashworth. The actors led thousands of people down from Bridport to West Bay, where they lit a bonfire to mark the end of the Bridport Carnival.
“She was just wonderful. She loved it,” said Di. “None of us could believe it when we saw who was leading it.”
Although the historical market town doesn’t actually feature in Broadchurch, writer Chris Chibnall is from Bridport, and has gone from being a likeable ordinary guy to a local hero (I met his plumber and waitress, among others). His homage to the Dorset Coast includes subtle references to the county’s most famous author novelist and poet, Thomas Hardy. For example, Tennant’s character is called DI Hardy.
I asked Di Thomas whether Chibnall took inspiration for the plot from the residents of Bridport. “Gosh, no. Not at all,” she exclaimed. “We’re a really happy community. What the show did do for the town is illustrate just how beautiful this part of the coast is. We feel really proud.”
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West Bay – the beach scenes
Half an hour’s walk from Bridport is the fishing village of West Bay, where most of Broadchurch’s beach scenes were filmed. In series two, it’s the location of Jocelyn Knight’s house, the beach where Jocelyn meets defence lawyer Sharon Bishop, and the blue chalet by the water where DI Hardy lives. In series one, it’s where Danny’s body is found and where Beth Latimer goes jogging.
West Bay is tiny – just a handful of shops, cafés and hotels. It was mostly used for exteriors. The high street and many of the interior shots were actually filmed in Clevedon near Bristol.
The newsagents and the Sea Brigade Hall
West Bay’s Harbour News doubles for the newsagents in series one and business has been booming ever since the show aired. Tim Attrill, whose father owns the shop, explained that they’d had customers from New Zealand, Germany, Holland and Denmark – quite a contrast from the newsagents in Broadchurch, which was run into the ground when he became a murder suspect.
Seeing the nearby Old Methodist Church, which was dressed as the Sea Brigade Hall for the show, reminded me of the frightening mob scene in series one, where Jack would have been lynched were it not for Mark Latimer’s intervention.
For the cast’s favourite ice-cream kiosk and the murder hut, see the next page…