Known to locals as the "Pearl of Dorset", Lyme Regis nestles between the hills on the border between Devon and Dorset. The little town lies on Lyme Bay and a coastline that is a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The surrounding area is part of the Jurassic Coast, a World Heritage Site internationally renowned for a geological wealth spanning some 180 million years.
Lyme Regis owes its name to Edward I who granted the town royal charter status in 1284. Although tourism is the main industry, Lyme Regis has retained a classy feel. On your trip, you can check out the old town and walk by the River Lym through Lyme Regis' medieval back streets. Alternatively, walk by the seafront and keep a look out for fossils in the pavings and walls.
A maze of steep, narrow streets lined by colourful cottages lead down to the seafront which is fronted by sophisticated Regency and Victorian villas. However, it is the rounded harbour wall of the Cobb that is the major attraction at Lyme Regis. The lack of a natural harbour at Lyme Regis hindered the growth of the town so in the 13th century an artificial harbour was constructed here. The original Cobb was detached from the sea at high tide and was built of oak walls with huge rounded boulders inside. In 1756, the Cobb was joined to the land and then rebuilt out of Portland Stone in the 19th century. Although the Cobb may appear to be small by modern standards it enabled Lyme Regis to become a major port. In the 14th century, this was the second largest port in Dorset and goods were traded to the Mediterranean, North Africa, and the West Indies. By the 18th century shipping started to diminish but cargo boats landed here as late as the 20th century. Today the Cobb is a popular departure point for Sea Anglers and Deep Sea Divers. For more information or to book a tour go to the Lyme Regis Tourist Information Centre.
There's no denying Lyme Regis is a romantic spot and it's no wonder that some of England's greatest authors have used Lyme Regis to inspire their works. It was here that Jane Austen penned “Persuasion” but it was John Fowles who really put Lyme Regis on the literary and tourist trail. His classic, “The French Lieutenant's Woman” was set (and filmed) in Lyme Regis and used the fossil-laden Dorset cliffs as a setting.
As well as a summer resort, Lyme Regis is a gateway town for walkers heading to the Southwest Coast Path. The longest trail in Britain it runs for 95 miles between Minehead in Somerset and South Haven Point in Dorset and incorporates all of the Jurassic Coast. To the west of Lyme Regis you can walk part of the trail and do some fossil spotting in the Undercliff National Nature Reserve. To the east are more attractive coastal walks passing through Charmouth (Austen's favourite resort here) and the beautiful sandstone outcrop, the Golden Cap.