Written by Emma Marshall
Lyme Regis in Dorset is an ideal getaway for a UK staycation. Known as the ‘Pearl of Dorset’, it’s an attractive, picturesque town by the sea 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 there, then my post is all you need to give you information on the main attractions and the 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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Lead image (c) Ollie Taylor/ Dreamstime.com
Where is Lyme Regis?
Lyme Regis is a small coastal town on Dorset’s Jurassic Coast. 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.
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 and/or the significance of her work, there is a museum dedicated to her in the town – read on for further details).
The film is due for release in April 2021.
Things to do in Lyme Regis
There’s no shortage of things to do in Lyme Regis.
My post provides more information. It gives a taste of what to do in Lyme Regis and some of the Lyme Regis attractions on offer.
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 past the Victorian promenade and look out over the sandy beach. This is a popular place in the summer with people settling in for a day of sun worshiping and picnicking on the sand.
From here you can see over to the small harbour by The Cobb, with its boats bobbing up and down in the water.
By contrast, on the other side of The Cobb wall, there is Monmouth Beach. This is a stony beach more suited to those of you who are looking to hunt fossils.
Further round, past the Lyme Regis Museum and theatre, there is also the 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.
For sweeping views of the amazing coastline, walk along to the end of the Cobb or up to the Langmoor and Lister Gardens.
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 key 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 incredible 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.
Entry costs £11.90 for up to two people and £14.75 for a family ticket.
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 £5.00 for adults and £4 for children who are five and over. You can also buy a family ticket for £16.00.
Go on a fishing trip
Another highlight in Lyme Regis is the opportunity to go fishing 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 and the Lyme Bay 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 a local fossil as a souvenir to take home, pop into one of these (see, for example The Old Forge Fossil Shop Ltd, The Lyme Fossil Shop 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. For those of you with a sweet tooth, there is also Roly’s Fudge Shop and the 16th century Fudge Kitchen, where you can buy freshly made fudge.
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 Lym that runs through part of the town.
See some local marine life in the aquarium
Lyme Regis’ 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 £6.00 for adults and £4.50 for children (there’s also no charge for kids under three).
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.
The 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.
There’s also a small mini golf course you can potter around. A round on the green was one of the highlights of my childhood trips to Lyme!
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 £3 for adults and £1.50 for children.
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 an 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.
Explore further afield – things to do near Lyme Regis
There is a plethora of places to visit near Lyme Regis. You might want to consider the following.
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.
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 in Lyme, 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.
Beer, around 7 miles from Lyme, and within walking distance of Seaton, is a personal favourite of mine. It’s really pretty, with a small stone beach in a cove that can be found at the bottom of the main street. If you time it right, you can buy fresh fish and seafood.
You should definitely 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.
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.
There’s also the Beer Height’s Light Railway that offers a one-mile ride which takes in breath-taking 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 is £210 and for this you get to bring along two passengers. As part of the price, you are provided with all-day refreshments. If you’re a train buff, you’ll love it.
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. Tickets are £10.90 return for adults and £8.70 for children aged 2 to 15 years. Fares are reduced if you only travel to the half way stop at Colyford.
This trip was another firm favourite in my childhood. The trams have open tops 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. It is priced at £50 return, plus £15 for guests.
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 suggestions are 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.
- The Pilot Boat: Situated literally a stone’s throw from the sea, some of the rooms in this recently renovated pub/restaurant have sea views thrown in. The rooms look stunning (and the bathrooms look amazing!) and it gets good reviews. If you also want to eat here, there is an extensive menu that includes locally caught fish as well as seafood, pizza, pasta and burgers.
- Charnwood Guesthouse: Scoring the top 5.0 for ratings on TripAdvisor, the Charnwood Guesthouse is a short walk from the seafront, alongside the small river Lym that flows through part of the town. Nonetheless it’s still just a few minutes’ walk into town and some rooms do have a sea view. Breakfast comes with the room rate.
- Lyme Townhouse: a guest house with seven ensuite bedrooms, this property is just a few minutes’ walk from everything. Breakfast comes included in the price. This property gets good ratings on TripAdvisor.
- The Cobb Arms: If you want to relive Meryl Streep’s windswept walk along The Cobb and then literally roll into bed, check out the Cobb Arms. Rooms are all ensuite with breakfast included in the room rate. The pub downstairs serves food if you don’t want to walk far for your evening meal.
To explore more options, click here.
Alternatively, you may prefer something more self-contained or to stay somewhere that caters for larger groups. These holiday cottages provide some options, both in Lyme and in the surrounding area.
Best Places to eat in Lyme Regis
In addition to there being lots of things to do in Lyme Regis, there are lots of eateries where you can get some great food, be this lunch or dinner, a mid-morning snack or afternoon tea. As would be expected, it’s a particularly great area for seafood lovers.
I have listed out some suggestions below, covering both fish and seafood restaurants, as well as other places that cater more widely or for vegetarians and vegans.
All these suggestions get at least 4.5 stars out of 5 for their TripAdvisor ratings.
- 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.
- LBK Burger Bar: If seafood is not your thing, you might prefer to treat yourself to a burger. The LBK Burger bar has a restaurant as well as providing the option to order a takeaway. In addition to burgers (of which there are 11 varieties on the menu), you can order steak, fish and chips, and chicken salad.
- 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!
- The Galley Café: great for breakfast and lunch, especially if you want to find somewhere more reasonably priced. Dishes on the breakfast menu include sausage or egg baps, smoked salmon and scrambled eggs or full cooked breakfasts (including vegetarian and vegan varieties). Lunches include sandwiches, salads, jacket potatoes and pasties. The café gets really good reviews.
- 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 at a cost of £55. I’ve checked out the menu and it looks fabulous!
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 Axminister (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:
For ideas for European or worldwide short breaks, click here.
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