I have visited Lyme Regis in sunshine and in storms but it always, always retains its exquisite charms. I think, testament to this, is the fact that my daughter, now 18 still clamours to visit the town whenever we are in the vicinity for a holiday. I have the first photo of her there when she was just two months old. The perspective I will give is that of a day visitor.
Lyme Regis is in Dorset, near the towns of Axminster and Bridport. It consists of a town which dips steeply to the sea with a road going through this up and down experience. I usually travel by car from the direction of Bridport and take the first turning off the main road that is signposted to Lyme. Fairly close to the town centre, on the left is a big car park which costs just £1 for a day ticket (until 6pm). What a bargain - and it saves you from the stress of having to drive through the town on the busy narrow road. The car park also has public toilets. From the word go, you feel looked after in this town. As long as you do not have mobility issues, a walk down to the town is a pleasant experience. The walk back up later is not too bad either. There is also a park and ride availability (but I think the car park is a better option) and regular buses. The 31 service goes from Axminster through Lyme to Bridport.
The Look of the Town
Lyme Regis is a very attractive town consisting of many old buildings from some different eras - including that of Jane Austen's time. This makes the shopping here quite a delightful activity. If you are like me you can retreat into your own little period drama fantasy as you potter about (does not work in Tesco though). Some of the houses on the sea front are painted in lovely colours (like pink) and have thatched roofs. It is very picturesque. The main walkway along the seafront is called 'Marine Parade'. There are shops, cafes and some period cottages that can be rented there.
There are plenty of clean public toilets I the town and on the sea front.
One of the first shops you come to on the walk down to the town is 'The Fossil Shop'. My daughter is always in like a shot, marveling at the dinosaur fossil displays and picking out fossil treasures to buy. There is a great deal of fun to be had just by picking up chunks of quartz, selecting necklaces with shells/ fossils on them, looking at insects trapped inside blocks of amber through the looking glasses carefully. positioned for you to peer through. Prices here seem to be very reasonable - especially when you consider that much of the stuff is millions and millions of years old.
The great thing about this shop also, is that it inspires my daughter to hunt for her own natural wonders on the beach. I felt very happy the next day, watching her poke about under the cliffs finding her own fossils and seeing her place them carefully into her bag (she had previously removed all the usual make up and tat to do this).
There are also a couple of other fossil and stone shops in the town.
Very close to 'The Fossil Shop' (virtually next door) is a cheap shop where you can buy just about anything you forgot to bring for your day out. There are beach chairs, inflatables, body boards, camping stuff, flip flops, umbrellas, sun cream etc etc. I love this shop. I bought a picnic rug, some camping cutlery and a water carrier (approx £11).
Again very close, is a tiny gallery where you can look at some really inspiring sea side themed art. The pieces there are very affordable and range from some handcrafted mermaid type dolls ("Oh, I love seeing these!" my daughter exclaims as we go in), beautiful enamel work and fused glass pieces which cost around £10. I always leave vowing to do more painting.
Other shops include Boots, a Tesco Express and a Coop. There are a couple of delis selling organic produce with one or two things that vegans would find useful. We were able to craft a picnic from shopping there. They looked popular as there were queues.
Other shops that Lyme Regis did not go short of were bakeries. There are a lot of rather delicious looking cakes and pastries on display.
If you like sweet stuff there are a couple of fudge shops. I found a cute but expensive shop selling mainly Cath Kidston wares which had a mark up of around a third higher than in other shops in Dorset. It put me off but the shop was stuffed with women.
There are one or two clothes shops and hardware shops as well as the seafront shops selling the obligatory buckets and spades.
There is also quite a large antiques shop on the seafront which was a good browse.
The Beach and the Sea
Closer to the town, the beach consists of pebbles and groynes and a clean sea that lots of people were swimming and playing with boats in. Moving away from the town, some of the beach areas were sandy. In fact one area was hosting a 'Family Olympics' which I think consisted of some running.
This is the bit where you get to play 'The French Lieutenants Woman' whilst walking along the curling rock man-made promontory which protects the town against the battering the sea can give. The Cobb was made famous in the film which featured Meryl Streep looking windswept and torturously beautiful walking along. It has also features in a Jane Austen adaptation. I can picture a young lady in a long, empire line frock twisting her ankle as she walks down somme of the steps down from The Cobb.
It consists of huge chunks of rock cemented and stapled together. It is not flat to walk on but is at an angle - and has no railings. Many a parent will have felt queasy sensations whilst walking a child along there. I still felt those immobilizing fear-cramps as I watched my bouncy 18 yr old speeding ahead.
She made me smile when she observed, "Footwear not to be worn on the cobb - those trainers with wheels on!" I immediately pictured someone's precious offspring doing a spectacular wheel-skid into the sea.
On the Cobb, you can get great views of the town and the coastline and watch people in their little boats.
Places to Eat and Drink
There are lots - ranging from chip shops (several and quite nice) to quite nice eateries along Marine Parade including some pub meals. There are plenteous places to have coffee and cream teas. My favourite is 'The Harbour' which is on a little raised paved area just as the sea front starts. You climb steps to it and there are tables outside or in. In the past, I have had some cream teas there and they were delicious (I'm fussy about scones). It is a delightful place to sit on a warm day. One or two wasps were annoying but they were everywhere in the heat.
Once, whilst I was there, a Town Crier came and did some of his bell ringing and shouting. Some pesky teenage girls were next to him. Whilst he was in full flow, one of them grabbed his arse firmly and then they both ran away. When the Crier had finished, he turned around and said to me, "Was that you?" Ah, happy seaside memories.
Other things to do
Lyme Regis has a little museum and a little cinema with only one screen but they do the Orange Wednesday promotion! There is also a small amusement arcade along Marine Parade. There is a lovely almost vertical park which rises up from Marine Parade. It is formally laid out and has some crazy golf going on there.
It is lovely and makes for a great day out shopping, being on the beach, eating, walking. What are you waiting for? Go and visit it!
Lyme Regis - What can I say??
My Fiance and I are big fans of this beautiful place, we visit 3-4 times per year and are moving there next year after our wedding.
It has something for everyone, beautiful beaches, wonderful eateries (I will come to those in a minute!), lovely walks and history galore. Our favourite walk is along the Monmouth under cliffs - fab views and our number one dog walking spot!
Our favourite pubs in Lyme Regis are:
The Cobb Arms - Lovely, traditional food at a good price. Right by the sea, it offers wonderful views and a perfect place to spend your evening. Prices are £8-£11 for a main course.
The Harbour Inn - Right on the sea front, have only eaten in there once, bit pricey and offers 'posher' food than what we like! Has something for everyone but you will pay £15 + for a main course. We have enjoyed many hot chocolates by the sea.
The Royal Standard - This is next to The Harbour Inn. Similar food to The Cobb Arms, similar prices also. Yummy, home cooked food.
Hong Kong Inn Chinese Takeaway - Our Number 1!! We get chinese about 3 times a week when we visit. Its lush and cant praise it enough!
Obviously, there is more to Lyme Regis than the food. The low crime rate, the beautiful views drenched in history. Visit - you will not regret it!!
What a Century! ******************* In 1821 Mary Anning discovered the first complete ichthyosaurus while wading and searching for fossils under the dangerous, crumbling cliffs in her home town of Lyme Regis in West Dorset, on the coast of South West England. What would this proud, uneducated working class woman think of the latest news? In 1834, the six men now known as The Tolpuddle Martyrs, the founders of the Trade Union movement, were found guilty of Mutiny in the County Court of Dorchester, the County town of Dorset, and sentenced to seven years transportation to Australia. What would these Dorset farm labourers who altered the social structure in England, think of the latest news? In 1840 Thomas Hardy the Dorset author was born, yet to write his world famous classical literature to include ‘Far From the Madding Crowd’ ‘Tess of the D’Ubervilles’ and the ‘Mayor of Casterbridge’ based on a fictional area called Wessex. What would he think of the latest news? In 1801 William Barnes the celebrated poet and curate was born near Sturminster Newton, Dorset. Barnes wrote beautiful, tender poetry in the Dorset dialect. What would he think of the latest news? In the early 1800s, seventeen year old Thomas Hine left Beaminster in Dorset to find fortune in France and was to become the renowned producer of Hine Cognac, one of the finest connoisseur brandies in the world. What would he think of this latest news? So What’s The News? ****************** The Chairman of the Dorset Coast Forum, Professor Denys Brunsden, has spent the last seven years organising the bid to get awarded the World Heritage Status from UNESCO for the Jurassic Coast of Dorset and East Devon. It looks likely to get it too! This is eighty five miles of coastline between Swanage in Dorset to Exmouth in Devon. This magnificent news puts this wonderful part of England on a par with The Grand Canyon
and The Great Barrier Reef and will be the first time mainland Britain has been awarded such status. The significance of this recognition is only just registering with me. The whole Dorset coastline would be internationally recognised as one of outstanding universal value, and ranked with the most famous and exciting heritage sites in the world. World Heritage brings with it a responsibility to ensure that a Site, identified as of global importance, should be conserved for future generations and has the Governments full backing and commitment. In my excited state, I would call this Dorset’s own natural Theme Park. It’s better than Disney, and it’s real, interactive and fun for adults and children alike. It’s Dinosaurland! A Walk Through Time ******************* The Dorset Coast Path forms part of the South West Coast Path that runs from Studland to Minehead in Somerset. Try to imagine this. A walk along this proposed World Heritage site will take you through a time span of two hundred million years! Between Exmouth in Devon and Old Harry Rocks near Swanage in Dorset can be found one of the most complete sequences through the Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous periods of geological time anywhere in the world. On the fossil rich beaches of Charmouth and Lyme Regis, where the celebrated Mary Anning made her discovery, the explorer may find something as stunning as a roaming Dinosaur footprint to a simple ammonite that the enthusiastic collector can take home with them. Some of the ammonites are enormous and mustn’t be moved because of the threat of landslides, as during wet winters mudflows spill onto the beaches from the rocks and cliffs above. But this is exciting as the natural displacement throws up hundreds of fossils for geologists and the curious amateur to discover. The rocks also contain evidence of life on the land in the form of fossil wood and insects that were washed into the sea
some two hundred million years ago. It has to be imagined that in the forming of the world, Lyme Regis has been a desert as well as under the sea, illustrated with the discovery of fossilised tropical fish that lived here during the Jurassic period. Dorset Isn’t Just Jurassic Though ***************************** Much of Dorset is designated as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The countryside has rolling hills, pretty villages, great pubs, interesting churches and all steeped in history and culture. Most of the towns and villages have museums recording historical events and giving the visitor an insight into how life was lived in Dorset in past times, including Jurassic and fossil museums. You don’t have to be interested in fossils to enjoy a visit to Dorset. The county offers the opportunity for traditional beach holidays such as in the Georgian fronted Weymouth, caravanning in some beautifully situated caravan parks, luxury hotels, inns, bed and breakfast, camping and self catering. To a large extent these facilities are the same as the many other beautiful counties in the West Country have to offer, but they don’t have their own natural Jurassic Park! But I could all go literary on you and tell you about T. E. Lawrence (of Arabia) who is buried in Moreton and encourage you to visit his home, Cloud’s Hill. I could tell you to call at Lyme Regis and see the house where Jane Austen stayed while writing ‘Persuasion’. I could tell you to visit the cemetery in Dorchester and see the grave of Sir Frederick Treves, author of ‘The Elephant Man’ I could urge you to take a chance on spotting John Fowles, author of ‘The French Lieutenant’s Woman’ who lives in Lyme Regis. I could tempt you with the offer of a visit to Hardy’s cottage and birthplace at Higher Bockhampton. But I won’t! I could tell you to seek the ancient Iron Age hill fort of Maide
n Castle built by the Ancient Britons at Dorchester, view the magnificence and size of the fertility carving of the Cerne Abbas Giant in the chalk hills at Cerne Abbas. I could advocate you go to Corfe Castle and see the Norman settlements. Go to the Swannery and Nature Reserve at Abbotsbury and watch the cygnets hatching. I could tell you to visit the Tutankhamun Museum in Dorchester. But I don’t want to tell you that. I want to tell you about The Dorset Jurassic Coast and The World Heritage Status. World Heritage Status will benefit Dorset, principally by creating new opportunities to improve the educational use of the coast, support scientific study, and increase our potential in visitor management. We need tourism and recognition in Dorset. Many peoples livelihoods rely on the much required income they generate. Dorset is often overlooked by the exodus of visitors from the North, Midlands and the South East in the summer, and all year round, as they make their way to Devon and Cornwall, bypassing us. What an excellent opportunity for my wonderful adapted county to be renowned because its geology and physical geography is of international conservation importance. My Bit of Jurassic **************** I live on the coast in West Dorset, right at the centre of this natural phenomena. My six hundred year old cottage is built of local amber coloured building stone, complete with the occasional visibly imbedded coiled ammonite and pencil shaped belemnite. I dig my garden and they appear like stones in my soil. A walk on the beach at Charmouth, and instead of looking outwards to the horizon and the breathtaking scenery, I look down onto the beach and they appear like magic amongst the fallen rocks. Have you ever found a fossil? Imagine finding a Dinosaur egg? Have you been with a child and watch their eyes open in wonder as you explain the history they are holding in their hand with a simple ammonite? A family holiday on The Jur
assic Coast is the real thing. Not a film, a computer game, a book. When you come to the eighty five mile stretch of World Heritage Jurassic Coast in Dorset, and you will come, take some care if you go fossil hunting. The tides around in Lyme Bay can be dangerous, so walk along the beach as the tides are going out. The cliffs are unpredictable, some of the footpaths are closed or diverted as they are unsafe, and the mudflows can cause cliff falls, so the collector is able to stay further away from the threat of landslides when the tide is out. Sometimes people have hunted fossils directly under the cliffs, the tide has come in, there’s been a rock fall and the lives and resources of the Rescue Services have been put at risk whilst saving them. Be aware. Thinking of Mary Anning ********************* In an age when women had little social standing, especially the working class, Mary Anning proved to be an outstanding example of independence and belief in herself and her ability to find and recognise rare fossils. Many of her discoveries, like the long-necked plesiosaurs, found under the cliffs at Lyme were taken from her, exhibited, and attributed to the City ‘men in suits’ who considered geology had no place in a woman’s world, especially a poor, low class, uneducated woman. Her brilliance lay in the fact that she recognised the fossils as scientifically important and would painstakingly piece them together, just using her instinct and enthusiasm. You can walk through time for nearly two hundred million years along this coast, and this is the only place on earth you can do that! What would the pioneering Mary Anning have made of the news? Her beloved home of Lyme Regis in Dorset becoming part of a World Heritage Site! The Official Management Plan for the Jurassic Coast ********************************************** http://www.swgfl.org.uk/jurassic/mplan.htm
The beaches are clean, the locals are friendly, the food is excellent, but Lyme Regis holds a much more powerful attraction than the run of the mill beach resort. This particular stretch of coastline is an incredible area for paleontological studies. (Study of extinct life). The cliffs hold secrets from billions of years ago, allowing scientists to build a good picture of life here hundreds of millions of years ago. It all started in around the 1700's when local girl in her early 20's, Mary Anning was breaking open rocks from the cliffs for evidence of fossil trilobites and ammonites, which are plentiful, and came across the complete skeleton of an icthyosaurus (a sea dinosaur). This was the first of its kind, at least found in England, and suddenly opened up the possibility of other similar fossil skeletons of different species. Lyme, if you like, was the gateway to the hundreds of years of study that followed, and still goes on today. If you visit the Natural History Museum in Kensington, London, about 60% of all the large fossil skeletons of Plesiosaurs and Icthyosaurs mounted on the wall in the fossil gallery are from Lyme Regis, Dorset. Others are from Street in Somerset, about 30 miles north of Lyme. Every morning, after the tide has been and gone along the shores of Lyme, especially so in the tiny town of Charmouth a mile or so east, freshly fallen rocks lie on the beach awaiting the eager fossil hunters who come from far and wide to study and collect. Lyme appears to have such rich biodiversity millions of years ago, you never know what you may find. If you don't fancy taking your hammer and chisel to the beach to find fossils, in Lyme town centre there is a dinosaur museum. It has an excellent and informative display of relics, replicas and the real things and has a good display on local Mary Anning, hailed as the first female paleontologist. There are other various fossil shops which sell everything from small p
ocket guides, to the scientific master works from famous paleontologists. You can buy from an extensive range of beautiful local fossils, from the smallest, to the largest and most impressive. It's a good place to go for parents to relax and enjoy themselves, whilst the children can enjoy fossil hunting (as most kids do!) and it's educational for them. The best of both worlds and definitely worth a visit even if it's just the once. You may feel drawn back for more....
I've just seen a report on the channel four news about the landslides in Lyme Regis. It brought back memories of the two times I've visited there. The first time was about 10 years ago and we stayed in a small hotel set back from the front, up (and I mean up!) one of the small streets leading away from the harbour. Most recently (i.e. last August), we stayed in the Bay Hotel which, as the name suggests, is right on the front overlooking the promonade and beach. Part of the reason I booked it was a spectacular photograph they have (available on web sites and their own postcards) of a wave breaking on the sea wall and reaching nearly to the roof of the hotel. We were lucky enough to have a room at the front, right in the middle of building. The room was a good size, nice and clean and, although you can see it is a elderly building, it had a very modern bathroom. We didn't have dinner there, but if it's up to the standard of the breakfast it would be well worth a try. Lyme Regis seems to be split in two halves - there's bit around the harbour where there are plenty of bars and restaurants. And the other end of the prom where the town centre is. It was here we queued for almost an hour for fish and chips - I'm glad to say it was worth it. The pubs are mostly pretty good and several have live music. We spent a while sitting outside the Red Ensign (I think that's the name). Its small patio area opens out on to the equally small beach. A band was playing who weren't too bad, but, even in August it was getting pretty chilly. The town is extremely pretty although, sadly, there's a large grey wooden wall where a house or restaurant slipped last year. The walk on the famous cobb is obligatory. Nearby is the small port of West Bay, apparantly some TV show or other was filmed there (something to do with cops and robbers, although it doesn't really seem like the sort of place to have th
at much interesting crime!). To my mind, it's not a particularly pretty place as it has too many portable chip vans and the like. The good news is a fish restaurant which sadly we couldn't get into, but I did see it had a good review in the Observer recently. The beach is pretty good and there are excellent walks along the cliff tops (although there are some steepish hills). These cliffs are what are disappearing daily now. If you get the chance - go visit before it's too late. I'm sure you won't be disappointed.
Lyme Regis was a complete surprise to me. I'd never been to that part of Dorset before and it was nice driving through the pretty-as-a-postcard villages to get there. On arriving at Lyme Regis I was immediatly struck by how unspoilt it was. There was no ultra modern concrete-and-glass office complexes, no industrial estates,and no ugly multi-storey carparks (unfortunately Warwick and Stratford both suffer from all these). Instead everything olde worlde has been preserved...there are even thatched cottages close to the town centre. Although there is loads of car-parking, it is all tucked away discreetly, just out of the town centre. Kiss me quick hats and cheap souvenirs???...forget it. Lyme Regis has a host of small individual retailers who have decided not to go down the cheap-trash route. Instead there are craft shops, second hand booksellers, fossil shops etc etc. Lyme Regis has done what a lot more tourist haunts should do...and that is reflect the local area. The area is famous for fossils, seafish and Thomas Hardy amongst other things, so rather than just being another could-be-anywhere British seaside resort, the shops, pubs, and restaurants all use these assets to their advantage....but not in a tacky, plastic way. Its great to visit a town centre that is so totally different to everywhere else (no Curry's, Comet, Dorothy Perkins etc). Some other resorts along the coast ought to take note. There are some great places to eat (a lot of locally caught seafood)..the pubs are particularly good value. I can especially recommend the Royal Standard (by the quayside)...a 400 year old coaching inn that has a large menu, huge portions and is not expensive (16oz steak for under a tenner).The beers good too! As I say I'd never been before...but I shall definitely go again!!