In 1870, newly established railway connections led to a surge in summer and seaside visitors to the southern coastal town of Bournemouth. Eager bathers, particularly from London and the Midlands, began to arrive in droves, turning Bournemouth into a popular coastal resort town.
In the early 1900s, local authorities decided to improve access to the town’s seven-mile stretch of beaches. So, in 1908, they built the first two “cliff lifts,” the West Cliff Lift and the East Cliff Lift, to connect the seaside promenade and the beach with the clifftop and the town above it.
Later, in 1935, a third cliff lift was built, the Fisherman’s Walk Cliff Lift, located in the Southbourne suburb of Bournemouth (and therefore sometimes referred to as the Southbourne Cliff Lift). Like the other two lifts, the Fisherman’s Walk Cliff Lift is a funicular railway that uses cable traction to move cars up and down a steeply inclined slope. But the Fisherman’s Walk lift has one notable distinction: it was listed in the 2015 Guinness Book of Records as the shortest funicular railway in the world, a record it still holds today.
The Fisherman’s Walk Cliff Lift has a total track length of just 128 feet and conveys passengers through a vertical height of 91 feet. When it was first opened, it was powered by a 21 horsepower 500V DC motor, which pulled two 12-seater passenger cars up the rails. Both the motor and the cars have since been upgraded, but the lift still retains its historic charm.
Short as it may be, you certainly can’t question the lift’s utility. Since it opened in 1935, it’s estimated that more than four million people have traveled in the Fisherman’s Walk Cliff Lift. And with as many as 100,000 people coming to Bournemouth’s beaches on a busy summer weekend, the little lift is set to carry far more people in the future. That said, if you’re in a rush to hit the beach, it’s probably quicker to walk down the seafront stairs.
Know Before You Go
The Fisherman's Walk Cliff Lift is located just off Southbourne Overcliff Drive in the Southbourne suburb of Bournemouth. At the top of the lift are a café and children’s play area, and a building that serves as the lift entrance. Normally all three of Bournemouth's cliff lifts are open year-round at weekends and then every day between April and October, but the East Cliff Lift has been shut since 2016 following a landslip (it might reopen in 2019). The lifts operate between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m., although times may change slightly depending on the time of year. Standard one-way tickets cost £1.70 for adults, £1.20 for under-16s, and are free for children under the age of five. Weekend unlimited passes cost £10.00.