• With Kids in the Westcountry

Outdoor play area, soft play & pub food at Highland’s End Holiday Park, Eype (Bridport)

Updated: Jun 7, 2020

#rainydayactivity #softplay #playground #childfriendly #pub #cafe

When I saw that Martin’s Bar at Highland’s End Holiday Park in Eype were opening an indoor soft play last year, I’m not going to deny my own excitement. After all, a new soft play option within 20 minutes of my door is always going to be a welcome development, and I’m not even being sarcastic – we need these places so that we can have a hope in hell of carrying out an adult conversation with friends, with the kids in tow!

Now, we are certified regulars and use it as a place to meet friends and family for coffee, breakfast or lunch, or as a handy wet-weather haven, though the outdoor play area is such a nice spot to sit with a drink in hand (wine, anyone??) on a sunny day too.

It’s one of those places that you might assume can only be used by the holiday park guests, but the bar (Martin’s Bar & Restaurant) and the soft play (called The Little Firestation due to the building’s fire engine theme – more to come on that in a minute!) – is very much open to the public.

Just off the A35 between Bridport and Chideock (20 minutes from Lyme Regis, 40 minutes from Honiton), Highland’s End perches on top of the headland at Eype, overlooking West Bay, Lyme Regis, and beyond. It’s had a recent mega makeover, bringing the facilities up to sparkling modern standards, including the addition of a great outdoor play park and a small soft play centre inside.

Credit - WDLH

The first time I brought my daughters here, they were aged 2 and 4, and I was relieved to find that the outdoor play area is fenced all the way around. (Both children had an annoying habit of making a bust for freedom towards the car park/barbed wire/brambly hedge wherever we went – why couldn’t they just enjoy the swings like normal kids!!).

There’s a tall fortress-type climbing structure, which is designed for age 5 plus – so you’ll need to keep a keen eye on younger ones if you’re going to let them go free range as there’s quite a few places where they could fall off at height. Having said that, the floor is covered in bouncy rubber chippings so at least it would be a soft landing… but that’s not to say the younger ones aren’t catered for. There’s a couple of baby swings, a basket swing and a wooden fire engine to climb on and drive, as well as some interactive sections of the play structure at toddler height (noughts and crosses and hidey holes.)

Older children will enjoy exploring the play fort, attempting the monkey bars, scaling the climbing ramps and using the slide.

They’ve recently added one of those giant deckchairs emblazoned with the Highland’s End logo (the pessimist in me says it’s just a clever marketing ploy, they just want you to stick your kids in it for a photograph so that you can advertise all over Facebook for them) – but who’s complaining, it’s a nice addition to the fun. I’ve been quite tempted to sit in it myself with a cocktail to be honest.

Grown-ups can make the most of the nearby bar and in-house Costa Coffee, sitting at picnic benches next to the outdoor play area – you can even order food to your table and enjoy the views over the Dorset countryside with the sea in the distance. It’s a really top spot for outdoor play and socialising and I’m looking forward to making use of it this summer.

But, this place isn’t just for warm, dry days. Inside, you’ll find a modern and spacious restaurant – there’s a more formal dining area, and a couple of other more relaxed areas where you can eat and let the children use the pool table or run around freely. Being a family holiday park, you can bring children here without fear – there’s free parking, plenty of space, high chairs, baby changing facilities and a full children’s menu for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

We’ve been in before for a mighty breakfast so that comes with my personal recommendation, available until 11.30am, or from 12.00 lunch is served – they’ve just started offering a great little kids lunchbox for £4.95 which you can upgrade to include a giant cookie for £1.

Kids lunchboxes - look good! Credit - WDLH

Before you reach the soft play at the far end of the restaurant (which is more like a relaxed holiday park style pub), beady-eyed kids will notice the two impressive vintage fire engines on display. The fire service theme runs throughout the venue with lots of interesting memorabilia, photos and displays - a collection built up by one of the park owners Martin Cox, who himself served many years as Retained Leading Firefighter with the Dorset Fire and Rescue Service. Both of our daughters enjoy looking through the glass at the huge wheels, hoses, reels and engines before finally dashing through to their beloved ball pool and slide.

Now, let’s talk soft play. Love it or hate it, this one is great for the under 7’s – no older, as the play structure has a height restriction of about 130cm. From an adult’s perspective, this is a good one as a) there are windows – daylight! – and views over the sea, b) there are tables right next to the play area so you can keep a close eye, and c) you can have Costa coffee goodies and pub-style food delivered from the bar. The soft play is quite small, which is good for the target age range as they’re not going to get lost and it’s not overly noisy or busy most of the time.

The only downside really is that the main play structure (play cage, as I like to call it) has been built into a recess, difficult to describe but you can only see one half of it. The other half goes back into a recess and it’s hard to see what your kids are up to – so you need to dial up your hearing aids and listen in, unless you want to climb in there and supervise in person. You can peer through the netting, but it’s a little tricky to keep an eye on that part of the room. It's a great play structure though with rollers and mirrors, a slide and some netting bridges to negotiate, suitable from age 2.5ish to 6.

Handily though, there’s a distinct and well-contained padded area for the younger ones (I’d say this area is suitable supervised babies able to sit up on their own through to age 5), complete with ball pool, stacking cubes, a wobbly padded man (great description!), and a cool little climbing ramp with slide and hiding dens – for a small area there’s a lot to keep them happy. This is right next to the seating area and very easy to police.

There is a cost to use the soft play - £2 for under 2s and £3.50 for ages 2-6, payable at the bar on arrival.

The younger kids' area (older kids' area behind the netting) - and the wobbly man! Credit - WDLH

Back to the food – I’ve mentioned that you can have coffee, cake and kids’ biscuits and cookies from the in-house Costa, and there’s a fully stocked bar for soft drinks or even a cheeky pint if the holiday mood takes you! Actually, I think the bar is well known for its huge range of gins so that might be of interest if you’re not the designated driver. The food available follows the lines of pub grub and pricing is on par with most family style pubs, I’ll leave the link to the menu here for you to take a look at.

Martin's Bar food menu

A little something I've just found out while writing this - on Mondays during the busier summer season, the soft play is open later (normally open 9-5pm, but extended to 6.30pm) to accommodate those wanting to have an early dinner while the kids play - see the image below. Do check the Facebook page for seasonal opening hours as it does vary.

Before I go, may I say that no visit is complete without a little tubs of amazing Digasaurus Purbeck ice cream from the freezer by the bar - kids can excavate their way through the ice cream to discover a chocolate dino in the middle! It takes them ages to dig it out with those little diggy ice cream spades which almost always buys us a good 15 minutes’ peace.

Unfortunately their nice-looking indoor pool isn’t open to the public but they do run a parent and toddler swimming group during the week if you’re in the local area and want to try it out. Follow Highland’s End on Facebook to keep in touch with opening times as it does close / have limited opening hours over the Christmas period.

Summing up, you can easily spend a good few hours here in between the indoor and outdoor facilities whatever the weather, without spending a fortune.

Have a great time if you pay a visit - might see you there!