30 minutes from Sidmouth and just across the Dorset border is Lyme Regis, one of the West Country’s most loved resorts. Visitors return year after year to enjoy the charming town centre, it’s fossil rich beaches and harbour.
Lyme Regis town and beaches
Lyme Regis is a lively resort with cafés, restaurants and unique independent shops as well as family friendly beaches. There are art galleries, museums, a theatre and cinema.
Lyme has three main beaches:
- Monmouth beach to the West of the harbour is pebbly and low tides uncover rock pools. Walk to Chippel Bay at the far Western end of the beach to find the ‘ammonite pavement’.
- The main town, or Cobb beach, is sandy and very popular in the summer.
- The East beach is a mixture of sand and shingle and is the main beach for fossil hunting. Here low tides also reveal rock pools teeming with sea life.
During the summer season regular boat trips run from the Cobb and you can try your hand at mackerel or deep sea fishing.
Lyme and the Jurassic coast
It was here in 1811 that Mary Anning was the first person to discover the fossil of an icthyosaur and correctly identify it. Her find sparked some lively debates between religious circles and the new geological scientists.
Today the cliffs and beaches around Lyme Regis and neighbouring Charmouth are still rich with fossils. Some are preserved in the rocks such as the ammonite pavement to the West of the town, others are lying on the beach waiting to be found by keen eyed fossil hunters. Remember to avoid the cliffs if you are fossil hunting – they can be loose and unstable and, with patience, you will usually be able to find fossils on the beach.
If you don’t find any fossils of your own there are, of course, fossil shops where you can buy polished local fossils as well as specimens from all over the world.
Explore the town’s Jurassic past at the Lyme Regis museum and the Dinosaurland fossil collection.
Annual events in Lyme Regis
- Jazz Festival in late May/early June.
- Lifeboat week at the end of July, usually including a breathtaking display by the Red Arrows. The gardens on the hillside overlooking the beach are the perfect place to watch the display.
- Lyme Regis regatta and carnival week at the beginning of August.
- Artsfest in September with exhibitions and workshops in venues around the town.
Literary Lyme Regis
If you’re looking for some holiday (or pre-holiday) reading several books have featured Lyme Regis over the years.
- Jane Austen (1775 – 1817) was one of Lyme Regis’s most famous literary visitors and set part of her novel ‘Persuasion’ in the town.
- John Fowles (1926 – 2005) was a writer as well as one time curator of the town museum and his book ‘The French Lieutenant’s Woman’ is set in Lyme and later inspired a successful movie of the same name.
- PG Wodehouse (1881 – 1975) visited Lyme as a young man, and his early novel ‘Love Among the Chickens’, was originally set in Lyme Regis, although in later editions he changed the name of the town to Combe Regis.
- Colin Dexter (born 1930), author of the Inspector Morse novels once described Lyme Regis as his “favourite place on Earth” and his Morse novel ‘The Way Through the Woods’ is partly set in Lyme.
- Tracy Chevalier (born 1962), author of the best selling ‘Girl with a Pearl Earring’, wrote the novel ‘Remarkable Creatures’ about Lyme’s early 19th Century fossil-hunter Mary Anning.
Parking in Lyme
Parking is, not surprisingly, easier outside of the peak summer months. If you approach Lyme from the West on the A3052 the first car park you come to is Holmbush on your right, DT7 3LD on your sat nav. This is a good option with a walk down a side road that brings you out by the harbour, or into gardens overlooking the town and bay.
On quieter days we prefer to drive past this one, right through the town centre and up the hill on the other side of Lyme. As the road climbs out of the town there’s the Charmouth Road car park on the right – DT7 3DW on your sat nav. We like to park here because at the back of this car park is a footpath down the cliffs onto the sea wall. From here there’s a walkway along the top of the sea wall into the town, or, if the tide’s out, we can go straight on to the beach for some rock pooling and fossil hunting.
Lyme Regis park and ride
In the busy summer season (June, July and August) we recommend avoiding driving through the town centre altogether. There’s a useful park and ride scheme that runs from either side of the town. Keep an eye out for it on your left as you approach Lyme from Sidmouth on the A3052 – it’s in a field just after the turning for Ware (DT7 3EU on your sat nav) and it’s well before you reach the town itself so it’s easy to overshoot.
The park and ride bus drops off near the harbour and picks up from the same place.
Cost: around £5 for a typical family car for the day (£3 if you arrive after 3pm).
Dates and times: 1030am – 630pm at weekends from April to September and every day during the school holidays (mid July to the end of August).
There’s a park and ride on the East side of the town too (DT7 3UE) so if the West park and ride is full you can try that one. Remember to avoid driving through the town centre if you can find an alternative route, maybe via Pound Road, Silver Street and Colway Lane.
If you’re not in a hurry and want to let someone else do the driving while you sit back and enjoy the scenery then try the Jurassic Coast bus X52. It takes just under an hour from Sidford and you can break the journey in Seaton on the way.