Written by Emma Marshall
Lyme Regis in west Dorset is an ideal getaway for a UK staycation. Known as the ‘Pearl of Dorset’, it’s an attractive, picturesque seaside town which is within easy reach of many other local attractions.
I grew up nearby and loved my childhood visits here.
If you are thinking of going to Lyme, then my post is all you need to give you information on the main attractions and the 26 top things to do in Lyme Regis.
Read on for more information and practical information on how to get to Lyme Regis, where to eat, and where to stay.
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Where is Lyme Regis?
Lyme Regis is a small coastal town on Dorset’s Jurassic Coast bordering east Devon. It is just over 150 miles from London, 33 miles from Exeter and around 30 miles from Weymouth.
Lyme is also just a few miles from the Devon border so it’s an ideal location if you wanted to explore this part of the coast. Or you could head inland to places such as Dorchester or Exeter.
What is Lyme Regis famous for?
Lyme Regis is probably best known for its 14th century Cobb – a distinctive wall that snakes around the small harbour to protect it from the sea and stormy weather.
You can walk along this local landmark right to the very end to get stunning views out to sea and around the surrounding coastline.
Film buffs will also recognise Lyme Regis. Jane Austen’s ‘Persuasion’ was filmed here in the early 1970s, as well as the 1949 film ‘All Over the Town’.
However, perhaps the most famous movie shot here is John Fowles’ ‘The French Lieutenant’s Woman’. If you’ve seen this, you’ll remember the iconic scene where Meryl Streep stands at the end of The Cobb in a fierce storm with the waves crashing around her.
More recently, ‘Ammonite’ has been filmed here. Starring Kate Winslet and Saoirse Ronan, it is based on the life of Mary Anning, the English palaeontologist who lived in Lyme Regis (if you’re interested in fossils or her work, there is a museum dedicated to her in the town – read on for further details).
26 top things to do in Lyme Regis
There’s no shortage of things to do in Lyme Regis (at least 26 of them!).
My post outlines the best things to do on a short trip here. It gives a taste of what to do in Lyme Regis and some of the main attractions on offer here and nearby.
Enjoy the coastline and beaches
I’m guessing that if you’re heading to Lyme, you’re keen to see the coastline and get some of that sea air into your lungs.
Lyme Regis is an ideal spot to do just that. You can stroll along the seafront, up through the gardens and along the sea wall.
There are several beaches in Lyme to choose from. The main town beach is sandy and is a popular place in the summer, with people settling in for a day of sun worshiping and picnicking on the sand.
By contrast, on the other side of The Cobb wall, there is Monmouth Beach. This is a pebble beach more suited to those of you who are looking to hunt fossils, a famous pastime in the town.
There is also Church Cliff Beach and East Cliff Beach. You can reach these via a lovely stroll along the pedestrianised Gun Cliff Walk.
The East Cliff Beach is also apparently another good place for fossiling, but there are warnings that this area can be cut off by the sea at high tide.
Stroll along the promenade
Lyme’s main beach is backed by an old Victorian promenade with pretty historic houses. The short stroll along here is lovely.
You can look out over the sandy beach and see over to the Lyme Regis harbour by the Cobb, with its boats bobbing up and down in the water.
There are also a couple of souvenir shops here, places to grab an ice-cream and an old fashioned fudge shop on the corner.
And for a bit of fun, you can pop into the Lyme Regis amusements to play on the penny arcades and slot machines (another favourite on my childhood afternoons out here!).
Re-enact Meryl Streep’s famous scene on the windswept Cobb Lyme Regis
You can’t visit Lyme without seeing the Cobb. This is one of the top things to do in Lyme Regis.
The Cobb is essentially a sea wall that curves around the harbour and protects the town from the elements. It’s almost 900 metres long and dates back to the 14th century.
You are afforded some breathtaking views from this spot – either back over to the town or further around the coastline. Meryl Streep stood at the end in a famous scene in ‘The French Lieutenant’s Woman’, cloaked all in black, staring out to sea with the wind whipping around her.
You can just wander along the bottom of the wall: this will take you around the harbour and to the aquarium at the end.
Or you can climb up to the top of the wall, taking the narrow stone steps (known as “Granny’s Teeth”) that you’ll find at intervals along the side.
I’d recommend this for the best views. However, note that the top of the wall does have a slope which can be a little unnerving if you’re walking along it on a particularly windy or rainy day. Make sure you take care!
Walk the Jurassic Coast
If you’re looking for Lyme Regis walks, you’ll be spoilt for choice here.
Lyme sits on the stunning Jurassic Coast that runs through Devon and Dorset and covers 95 miles. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that reflects “the universal value of its rocks, fossils and landforms”. It is part of the longer South West Coast Path.
There are lots of different walks along the coastline, depending on how much time you have to spare and how long you want to walk for. This makes a trip to Lyme Regis a perfect place for a healthy, hiking weekend away with the added bonus of spectacular views out to sea.
There are also plenty of towns and local areas, other than Lyme Regis, you could visit as part of your walk. These include Sidmouth, Beer, and Seaton in Devon, and West Bay, Weymouth and Swanage in Dorset.
Learn about geology and fossils
Lyme Regis is famous for its fossils, in particular its abundance of ammonite fossils (the spiral shapes you commonly see in fossils which come from sea creatures that were wiped out with the dinosaurs – click here for more information).
Sitting as it does on the Jurassic Coastline, fossils can be found scattered along the beaches as the cliffs weather and erode.
Apparently, fossil hunting became popular during the Georgian period when visitors holidayed in the area. At the same time, a young local resident by the name of Mary Anning made the first of a series of discoveries (for example, the first ichthyosaur in 1811).
Tragically, she was not credited for much of her pioneering work. So much so that the Natural History Museum’s website labels her “the unsung hero of fossil discovery”.
Some of Annings’ discoveries are in the Natural History Museum in London. You can also learn more about her life and work in the Lyme Regis Museum (also referred to as the Lyme Regis Philpot Museum). This stands on the site of her former home where she lived until 1826.
In 2017, the museum opened a new wing, specifically dedicated to Mary Anning. This includes an interactive geology gallery and a Fine Foundation Learning Centre.
There is also a fossil shop in the museum and you can book a place on its fossil walks.
Visit the dinosaurs
If discovering about Mary Anning in the Lyme Regis Museum has whetted your appetite, you can also walk the short distance to the Dinosaurland Fossil Museum. Here you can learn more about the fossils found in Lyme Regis and browse the 16,000 specimens on display.
The museum has a Time Gallery that focuses on geological change over time and which also demonstrates how vast geological time is.
There is also a Natural History Room containing an amazing selection of shells and skeletons, which is designed to illustrate the link between present day life and life at the time of the dinosaurs.
This place is definitely one for the children – although the museum states that it is aimed at “children aged 5 to 85 with an interest in fossils and dinosaurs”!
The museum is located on Coombe Street. Entry is £6 for adults and £5 for children who are five and over. You can also buy a family ticket for £20.
Get out on the water
Getting out on the water is a great way to see the coastline in the area. There are a range of different activities you can try here.
You can take sightseeing boat trips around the coast (for £15 per person, this company offers one hour trips from Spring until late October and also in winter, depending on the weather). Or for a more exhilarating experience, consider Lyme Rib Rides where you can book high speed boat trips of various lengths around parts of the coastline.
You can also partake in water sports on a trip here, including kayaking and body boarding. Lyme Kayak Hire on Marine Parade rents out the necessary equipment, including for novices.
And if you’re into Stand Up Paddle Boarding, head for nearby is Boylos Watersports. Here you can buy and hire all manner of equipment and accessories and also book lessons.
Go on a fishing trip
If you want to get out on the water but also enjoy fishing, then another highlight in Lyme Regis is the opportunity to do this in the local waters. Mackerel fishing is particularly popular and a good number of businesses offer short trips out along the coast.
These include Nick’s Mackerel Fishing and Boat Trips, Lyme Bay Boat Trips and Jurassic Boat Trips. In some of these, you get to keep any fish you catch – perfect if you’re staying in a nearby cottage and fancy a summer barbecue.
There are also longer deep-sea rod fishing trips that you can book, as well as trips that are more geared towards sightseeing. These will take you to various points of interest along the coastline.
Explore Lyme Regis town
Lyme Regis town centre is delightful. It might be small, but it’s a lovely place to wander around; parts of it are very hilly, which adds to its unique character.
As well as the well-known high street names you find in all town centres, there are plenty of independent outlets. These include book shops, art galleries, clothes shops and gift shops.
Unsurprisingly, given that Lyme Regis is an ideal spot for fossil hunting, there are shops that specialise in fossils. So, if you want to pick up your own fossils as souvenirs to take home, pop into one of these (see, for example The Old Forge Fossil Shop Ltd and Jurassic Gems).
Other gifts and souvenirs can be purchased at the Town Mill (see below for more details).
There is also no shortage of places to sample tea and scones. In fact Lyme Regis has a generous sprinkling of places to stop for a bite to eat.
Make sure you don’t miss some of the smaller side streets as well. These are particularly lovely. Some take you up to the small, peaceful pathway alongside the River Lim that runs through part of the town.
See some local marine life in the aquarium
The Lyme Regis marine aquarium is tiny, but it’s perfectly located at the end of the Cobb wall overlooking the harbour and sea. There’s lots to see and it’s a great place to learn more about the local marine life.
Amongst the creatures you can see are starfish, lobsters, crabs, bass fish, sea urchins and sea scorpions. Kids will love it as the aquarium features quite a few interactive activities, including feeding mullet fish and holding a starfish.
Tickets are £9 for adults and £7 for children (there’s also no charge for kids under three).
If you fancy seeing the marine life in its natural habitat, then you could go rockpooling. To the east of Lyme, on Church Cliff Beach there is a flat area of limestone known as Broad Ledge.
If you visit at low tide, you can walk around the rock and peer into lots of little pools and see the sea life living within them. This is a great activity for the whole family, but particularly for kids who no doubt will have a lot of fun discovering the creatures and naming a few of them.
You can pop out yourself to this area on a trip to Lyme Regis, or also take part in local rock rambles (the ‘Seashore Safari’) that are held here.
Visit the gardens and discover the outdoor sculpture
If you want to see Lyme from a vantage point high up, then I suggest you head for the Langmoor and Lister Gardens.
Opened in 1913, they are just a short walk from the centre of town situated on the slopes above the promenade. There are some beautiful flowers growing here.
Langmoor gardens offer a tranquil environment to sit and chill, and to admire the surroundings. If you do want a bit of a (low level!) activity, you can explore the gardens and try to find the outdoor art that’s part of the Lyme Regis Sculpture Trail. This showcases pieces of art from local artists.
Play mini golf
One for all the family, Lyme Regis even has a mini golf course!
It’s not the biggest course you’ve ever seen, but it’s good fun and its location – on the slopes overlooking the sea – is wonderful. Young kids in particular will love it here. I have very fond memories of my time playing golf at this place.
A round here is reasonably priced at £4 for adults and £2 for children. You can also hire table-tennis tables for £2 per person.
Get creative in the Town Mill
Lyme’s Town Mill calls itself “the creative heart of Lyme Regis”. Based on the site of a mill that dates back to the mid 14th century, the building was restored in the early 2000s and resumed milling flour. If you visit the mill, you can learn more about this, as well as see the water wheel that powers the equipment used in the milling process.
You will find quite a few galleries here which showcase art, as well as different workshops where you can watch artisans at work – after which you can buy some of their products to take home. This includes potters and jewellers and a dressmaker who runs courses on sewing.
There’s also a café on site serving food from the local area and a micro brewery next door (see below).
Sample beer in the town’s brewery
Amazingly, for a relatively small place, Lyme Regis has its own microbrewery. This comes complete with a tap room where you can try the beer and ale.
Located next to the Town Mill, the brewery offers a generous selection of beers, ciders and wines to either drink on the premises or to buy and take home.
The Town Mill also hosts live music during the summer months and there are tasting sessions that you can sign up for.
Indulge in some local cream tea
What’s better than a local cream tea by the sea?! It was a real treat for us growing up and every time I visit Lyme Regis, I have to indulge myself. No experience is better than this, especially if you’re visiting on a windy day and need some comfort food.
The harder question is: is it jam on the scone first and then cream, or cream then jam?!
Have a cultural evening out
For those that fancy an evening out at a play or a show, Lyme Regis has the Marine Theatre. This sits right on the seafront, literally steps from the water. Its picturesque setting is ideal and the perfect place to wander up to after a meal overlooking the sea.
The theatre has a full schedule of plays, music and comedy performances, as well as online reading groups. It also organises beer festivals.
Take a walk by the river
Spending time by the seafront in Lyme is wonderful. However, it can get busy during the summer holidays.
So if you want to be by some water in more peaceful surroundings, then consider a stroll alongside the town’s River Lim. The river is small, but worth wandering along. It flows through some lovely parts of the town and there are shaded parts which is ideal in the warm summer sun.
You can walk for a mile and a half along this into the neighbouring county of Devon. The leaflet provided on this site (put ‘River Lim walk’ in the search box) gives you more information on the history on the pathway, as well as the route you can take.
Play some games
Another firm favourite with the children and those still young at heart is the amusement arcade on the promenade overlooking the beach. This is a great place to pop into for a bit of fun, especially if you happen to visit on cold or wet and windy days and other things like water sports or the mini-golf are less of a good idea.
As well as the more traditional slot machines and ‘grab a cuddly toy’ challenges, there are also more modern games video type games and rides for the younger ones.
Eat some fresh local seafood
In addition to the abundance of things to do in Lyme Regis, there are lots of eateries where you can get some great food. As would be expected, it’s a particularly great area for seafood lovers.
Some suggestions for great places to eat are below. I have listed out some suggestions below (note they also cater for vegetarians and vegans if seafood is not your thing):
- The Millside: A great place for fish and seafood lovers in a central location in Lyme near to the Town Mill. It has an extensive menu that includes starters of fish and seafood tempura, Lyme Bay scallops, and cheese soufflé for vegetarians. Mains include fruits de mer platters, lobster, and spiced brill. There are oysters that you can order on a single basis if you just want to try one out.
- The Oyster and Fish House: this is chef Mark Hix’s solo restaurant (it was previously the HIX Oyster and Fish House). As its name suggests, it focuses on fish and seafood sourced from the local area. Dishes on the menu include oysters, Lyme Bay scallops, crab claws, Lyme Bay seabass, prawn burger and Dover sole. There’s also steak for anyone who prefers their red meat, as well as some vegetarian options. The restaurant is in a fabulous location sitting high up at the top of the town and looking out over the sea.
- The Bell Cliff Restaurant and Tea Rooms: this is an excellent spot for lunch or afternoon tea (on my last trip to Lyme I had a delicious cream tea here). More savoury offerings include scampi and chips, macaroni cheese, lasagne, fresh fish, sandwiches and toasties. The place is quaint and quite old-fashioned, but that’s all part of its charm!
- Tom’s Lyme Regis: billing itself as a restaurant to “recreate classical dishes with our creative twist”, the menu features dishes such crab omelette, pan roasted cod and melanzane parmigiana.
- Robin Wylde: Located on Silver Street, the Robin Wyle restaurant is one for a special evening out. It typically offers a set tasting menu of eight or nine courses. I’ve checked out the menu and it looks fabulous!
Stroll through the set of TV’s ‘Broadchurch’
I’ve written separately about West Bay, a small fishing town on the Dorset coast. Made famous by ITV’s “Broadchurch” series, it’s worth a few hours of your time if you’re in the area.
It has a small pier and a compact harbour, with huts where you can buy ice cream, seafood, fish and chips and doughnuts. You can take boat trips or fishing trips from here.
The real draw though is the huge craggy cliff that overlook the town’s East Beach. Formed of Bridport Sands rock, the cliffs rise almost vertically, with great patterns formed by the striations on the rock.
The weathering of the cliffs over the years mean that this is another great place for anyone who wants to fossil hunt. Otherwise, it’s ideal for a summer picnic.
West Bay sits on the Jurassic Coast so you might pass through it if you’re on a coastal hike. Alternatively, if you just want a short walk and fancy admiring the stunning coastal scenery from West Bay itself, climb to the top of the cliffs.
The walk up the East Beach cliff is a steep, but short climb. But it’s definitely worth it for the incredible views you get out to sea and back over the town.
Stroll along Seaton’s mile long beach
Seaton is about 8 miles from Lyme Regis, so a quick car drive across the border into Devon.
You can also walk between the two towns, although the information on the South West Coast Path website describes this as “a challenging walk over uneven terrain, and due to the clay soils sections of the path can be muddy and slippery after wet weather”.
However you decide to reach Seaton, it’s definitely worth visiting. The beach is longer and more sweeping than the Lyme Regis beach, which in my experience makes it a bit less crowded in the summer. There is a wide promenade that you can walk along.
You can also go for a ride on the Seaton to Colyton tram during your day out here. See below for more information.
Visit the pretty village of Beer
Beer, around 7 miles from Lyme, and within walking distance of Seaton, is a personal favourite of mine.
It’s a picturesque fishing village with several historical buildings, a 19th-century church, and interesting shops and galleries to browse.
There is also a small shingle beach in a pretty little cove overlooked by limestone cliffs. You can take fishing trips from here if this interests you. And If you time it right, you can buy fresh fish and seafood.
You can wander up onto the cliffs for the amazing views. And the Anchor pub has an excellent beer garden where you can grab a bite to eat whilst admiring the sea views.
It’s definitely worth a visit to Beer.
Ride the trains at Pecorama
If you needed any more reason to visit Beer, then it might be to visit Pecorama. This will delight adults and children alike, with its gardens and model railways. The whole family can have a great day out here.
There’s also the Beer Height’s Light Railway that offers a one-mile ride which takes in breathtaking views out over Lyme Bay and the surrounding coastline. According to the website, this Light Railway is “considered by many to be the finest 7 1/4-inch gauge railway in Britain”.
If you fancy it and can afford it, you can book a lesson to drive the train. The cost allows you to bring along two passengers. As part of the price, you are also provided with all-day refreshments. If you’re a train buff, you’ll love it.
Travel on the Seaton to Colyton Tramway
If you want to ride on a very special form of transport along a scenic route, then there’s the Seaton Tramway. Vintage trams travel along a narrow-gauge line beside the River Axe estuary, taking around half an hour each way.
In the summer months, there are between three and four trams departing an hour. This drops to two an hour in the more off-season months.
This trip was another firm favourite in my childhood. The trams have open tops in the summer which really adds to the experience and is real bonus for marvelling at the scenery in the summer months.
You can also book a “Driver’s Eye Experience”: this allows you to take the controls on a tram for part of its journey.
Visit Forde Abbey
Ten miles inland from the coast is Forde Abbey.
A Cistercian monastery for four hundred years from the 12th century, and more latterly home to the 19th century philosopher, Jeremy Bentham, the estate is now privately owned.
You can, however, visit the beautiful house and see its spectacular interior. This includes the chance to view the Mortlake Tapestries. The Abbey’s website cites these as “the most important works of art in the Abbey…woven from the cartoons painted by Raphael”.
The Abbey also has some beautiful gardens to spend time in. There is a walled garden, an arboretum, ponds, as well as England’s highest powered fountain (it’s apparently powered by a pump from the estate’s strawberry farm).
Places to stay in Lyme Regis
Lyme Regis is great to visit for the day if you are in the local area. The real draw, however, is staying overnight or for a few days. I’d definitely recommend this to get a proper feel for the place.
The following a few suggestions for places to stay in Lyme Regis.
Note that most accommodation is to be found in smaller properties (guest houses, pubs and cottages etc) rather than large chain hotels. However, with lots of bars and restaurants within walking distance of most of them, you won’t be short of facilities.
Rock Point Inn: 100 metres from the beach, some of the rooms here have stunning sea views. There is also a on-site restaurant.
The Mariners Hotel: Around 500 metres from both the beach and the town, the rooms in this hotel are in a 17th century former coaching inn. There is also a large garden at the back if you want to get away from the hustle and bustle of the town during busier times.
Lyme Regis renovated period seaside flat: If you want your own privacy, this flat sleeps two people and is around 200 metres from the sea. With sea views from some parts, it has all the amenities needed for a self-catering break.
To explore more options, click here.
How to get to Lyme Regis
If you’re travelling by car, a trip to Lyme Regis will take just over three hours from London.
You can, however, also catch the train to Lyme Regis. You’ll need to get off at Axminster, a journey of around two hours and 40 minutes from London Waterloo. From here you can catch a local bus to Lyme Regis which takes around 25 minutes.
Exeter is nearer, less than an hour away by train. The city is also on the same train line as London Waterloo, so again, you can travel to Axminster (around 35 minutes) and then catch the bus to Lyme.
From nearby Weymouth, you can catch the X53 bus which takes around an hour and a half. By car, the journey will take around 45 minutes.
Further information and Lyme Regis maps
I find this map – which can be downloaded or viewed digitally – really helpful. The website more generally provides some useful extra background historical information on Lyme.
Other ideas for UK staycations
I hope I have convinced you that there are are lots of things to do in Lyme Regis.
If you’re looking for ideas for other UK staycations, you may be interested in some of my other posts. Some of these will be useful if you are staying in the area for more than a few days as they provide information on things to do in nearby places.
For ideas for European or worldwide short breaks, click here.