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South West Exploring the Seaside Town of Lyme Regis

Lyme Regis, a popular tourist and beach destination in South West England on the Dorset coast, is part of the Jurassic Coast, a World Heritage Site that stretches from Exmouth in East Devon to Studland Bay in Dorset. It is a good base to explore West Dorset and East Devon and it is a fun town to spend time in.

Lyme Regis is an ancient town listed in the Domesday Book of 1086 and was a major port in the 13th century. “Regis” was added to the town name in 1284 when it received a Royal Charter. It has been a popular seaside destination since the 18th century.

The town is associated with the 18th century author Jane Austen who set a key scene in “Persuasion” there, the 19th century fossil collector Mary Anning who changed how the world looked at prehistoric life and the 20th century author John Fowles whose novel The “French Lieutenant's Woman” was set there (made into a movie in 1981 with Meryl Streep and Jeremy Irons).

The town’s memorable feature is The Cobb, an historic harbour wall that stretches out into the sea at the western end of the seafront.

The population of Lyme Regis is under 5,000. Bridport, a 20 minute drive to the east, is the closest market town.


View of the beach and The Cobb from the gardens.

Lyme Regis sprawls down a hill with the town centre along the seaside. The main street is the A3052 which comes into town from Charmouth in the east, goes down to the seaside and then back up the hill going towards East Devon to the west. The first part is called Church Street, but the name changes to Broad Street in the centre.

The centre of town is by the Guildhall and Cobb Gate car park (small parking lot by the water). Most of the shops are on the main street (Broad Street) heading uphill and west from the centre. Coombe Street goes out along the river from the centre with more shops along it.

There is a long promenade along the sea that goes from the eastern edge of town to The Cobb at the western edge.


The center of Lyme Regis.

There is a long stretch of beach from the centre of town to The Cobb. As is typical in this area, the beaches are stone (shingle), but there is one large sandy beach (the sand is imported). Swimming is good here and there are lifeguards in summer. Traditional beach huts are available to rent along the promenade.


The beaches are full in the summer.

The Cobb
The Cobb, the town's harbour wall, dates from the 14th century when it was made of wood and large boulders to provide a breakwater. It has been rebuilt several times. The latest version was built in 1820 of Portland stone.

There is an upper walk and a lower walk on The Cobb. The upper walk is not for those nervous of heights.


The Cobb - walking on the upper part.

Mary Anning and Fossil Hunting
The Lyme Regis Museum, built on the site of Mary Anning's birthplace, has a good display of local fossils and offers fossil hunting walks. Mary Anning lived in Lyme in the 19th century and found many fossils in the cliffs. She changed how the world looked at prehistoric life. She is buried in the local churchyard. Tracy Chevalier's 2009 novel "Remarkable Creatures" is about the life of Mary Anning. The 2019 movie “Ammonite” starring Kate Winslet is about her life and was filmed in Lyme Regis.

If you want to go fossil hunting talk to the people at the Tourist Office first for advice. Every year people get stuck in the mud on the cliffs and have to be rescued. The cliffs are unstable in this area. Always take care near them and do not walk too close above or underneath.

Jane Austen
Lyme Regis is the setting for part of the Jane Austen novel “Persuasion”. In a pivotal scene a character falls from steps on The Cobb. These steps are the Grannys Teeth, about mid-way along The Cobb, and are still there (and still a bit dangerous). The Cobb was built in the 13th century and clad with Portland stone in the 19th century.

Persuasion, Chapter 12: "There was too much wind to make the high part of the new Cobb pleasant for the ladies, and they agreed to get down the steps to the lower, and all were contented to pass quietly and carefully down the steep flight, excepting Louisa; she must be jumped down them by Captain Wentworth. In all their walks, he had had to jump her from the stiles; the sensation was delightful to her. The hardness of the pavement for her feet, made him less willing upon the present occasion; he did it, however. She was safely down, and instantly, to show her enjoyment, ran up the steps to be jumped down again. He advised her against it, thought the jar too great; but no, he reasoned and talked in vain, she smiled and said, “I am determined I will:” he put out his hands; she was too precipitate by half a second, she fell on the pavement on the Lower Cobb, and was taken up lifeless!"

Persuasion is Jane Austen's last completed novel. She began it soon after she had finished Emma and completed it in August 1816. Persuasion was published in 1818 after her death in 1817. The Tree Cups Hotel at 18 Broad Street dates from 1807 (now closed and undergoing renovation). It was Hiscott's Boarding House when Jane Austen stayed there in 1804.


The Cobb - Steve going up the Grannys Teeth where Jane Austen's character Louisa fell.

There are many B&Bs, Inns and vacation rentals (holiday rentals) in Lyme Regis. For vacation rentals have a look at these agencies:
Food & Drink
There are a few good independent coffee shops on the main street. The Gallery Café and the Good Food Café are recommended. There are a variety of restaurants in Lyme. Vegetarians will enjoy Tierra Kitchen on Coombe Street.

These are my recommendations in the nearby area:
  • The Rousden Village Bakery, Rousden.
  • The Anchor Inn, Seatown (Chideock, between Lyme and Bridport). Very good pub beside the beach.
  • The Hive Beach Café, Burton Bradstock, east of Bridport. Seafood restaurant beside the beach. Breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea.
  • Symondsbury Café, Symondsbury. Lunch or afternoon tea.
There a few small food shops on the main street in Lyme but the best food shopping is in Bridport, 20 minutes to the east. In Bridport there is a supermarket (Waitrose) on West Street, a natural food shop (Naturalife) on South Street, a good vegetable shop (Bridget’s) on East Street and a good bakery (Leaker’s) on East Street.
To get to Bridport take the A35 east, taking the first exit into Bridport. You come in on East Street. At the first roundabout in town go straight and then right at the next one towards the bus station and police department, winding your way until you see the Waitrose parking lot on your left. There are other car parks in town but this one is easy to get to.

Bridport has a market Wednesday and Saturday, along East Street, West Street and South Street.

Walks from Lyme Regis

Walk along the Sea Front:
A long promenade goes along the seafront from the Cobb in the west almost to Charmouth in the east.

South West Coast Path to Seaton: Start at the Pound Street Car Park and follow the footpath signs at the western edge of the car park. It is about 7 miles to Seaton where you can get a bus back. Or walk out as far as you like and then walk back. The trail starts out in open fields and then goes into woods. This is the Undercliff area that John Fowles wrote about in “French Lieutenant’s Woman”. The trail is in the woods most of the way, with no view of the sea, but the woods are beautiful.

Lyme to Uplyme: 2.5 miles round trip. Start at Coombe Street and Church Street in the center of town. Follow Coombe Street. Left on Mill Lane into the Mill Shops. Keep straight to a path out in the north-west corner. Walk along the river. Where you reach Coombe Street again, look across the road, beside the river to see a Banksy on the wall. Across the river and right on Mill Green. Near the end of this road there is a footpath on the right that follows along the river. Follow this. Cross Woodmead Road. Now you are on a lane (footpath sign). Follow the footpath signs until you come to the main road in Uplyme. There is not much to see in Uplyme, so turn around and walk back to Lyme.


Walking on the South West Coast Path through the Undercliff (looking back towards Lyme).

A Few Interesting Things in the Area

Bridport and West Bay

Bridport is a lovely market town. The main highway, the A35, bypasses the town. The main streets are East and West Streets, and South Streets. There are several car parks.

West Bay is the seaside town a mile and a half from Bridport. Much of the TV Series Broadchurch was filmed here. Come into West Bay on West Bay Road. Park in the large parking lot on your left as you arrive, or if it is off season, continue into town where you will find more car parks.

Hells Lane/Shutes Lane – Holloways
A Holloway is a lane that has worn down over hundreds of years so that it has high banks on each side. The best in this area is a 1.5 mile walk round trip from Symondsbury. The main road brings you into Symondsbury but instead of following the road right in front of the church, go straight and park on that road. Walk along this road until it becomes a dirt lane. In about half a mile, walking gently uphill, the Shutes Lane Holloway starts. It ends when you come out into the open at an intersection of several paths. One of these, to the left, continues on to Hell Lane, another Holloway but it can be very muddy. Shutes Lane is the best part.

Golden Cap
This is the highest point on the Dorset coast and is a long climb up from Seatown (Chideock). But there is an easier way – park in the Langdon Hill National Trust Car Park! On the main road from Lyme to Bridport, once you go through Morecombe Lake and are coming up the hill, at the top, take a small lane on the right (there is no sign – it is just before you start going down to Chideock and past a pullout – it is the only right you can take after the Farm Shop). In a short distance take the lane on the left (signed). Go along this narrow and rutted lane to the car park. From the car park go to the path that makes a circle around Langdon Wood. Go left on the path and where it starts to make the circle back, there is a trail to Golden Cap. There is still a bit of a climb, but much less than coming from Seatown.

Mapperton House and Gardens
Mapperton House near Beaminster is a private estate with a small, but beautiful, garden. There are snowdrops there in the winter. Much of the recent movie “Far from the Madding Crowd” was filmed there. Closed Saturdays. Gardens open March to October. House and Café open April to October. mapperton.com

Chesil Beach
Formed over 6,000 years ago, Chesil Beach is one of the finest storm beaches in the world. It is 18 miles (29km) long, 660 feet wide, up to 50 feet high and made of 100 million tons of pebbles. The pebbles change in size from pea gravel in the west to potato sized cobbles in the east. The pebbles were pushed onshore by rising sea levels. Chesil Beach protects the Fleet, one of the most important lagoons in Europe.

Chesil Beach starts at the Isle of Portland and continues past Abbotsbury to end at Burton Bradstock near Bridport. The best place to see Chesil Beach is from the Visitor Center on the road to the Isle of Portland. You can also get to it from Abbotsbury (signed turning on the west side of town), West Bexington (signed from the Burton Bradstock to Abbotsbury road) or Burton Bradstock (Hive Beach). There is a very good view of the beach from the coast road west of Abbotsbury, at the top of the hill. If you want to walk it the South Coast National Trail takes you along Chesil Beach.

East Devon
Lyme Regis is in Dorset but is on the border with Devon. There are several charming seaside towns in East Devon. Going west from Lyme:
  • Seaton (not to be confused with Seatown near Chideock). Not that interesting but has a very nice long stone beach.
  • Beer. Charming village with fishing boats on the beach. Shops and tea rooms.
  • Branscombe. Another charming village. Drive through the village right down to the sea. Not much here, but beautiful beach and cliffs. You can walk out and back to Beer on the coast path, but it is not an easy trail.
  • Sidmouth. Nice town center and a long stone beach with a boardwalk. Large Waitrose near the A35.
  • Budleigh Salterton. Nice town center and beautiful beach.
The Tourist Office is in town center. www.lymeregis.org

More Photos

Pauline Kenny lives in Bridport, Dorset and has visited Lyme Regis many times.

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