Thursday, April 15, 2010
Where Devon meets Dorset you will find the fascinating and welcoming town of Lyme Regis, now officially part of England’s first natural World Heritage Site and renowned for its historic fossils and as the birthplace of modern geology.
Situated at the mouth of the River Lym, and officially designated an area of outstanding natural beauty, there are miles of lovely coastal footpaths. The view from the top of Timber Hill is superb, giving panoramic views of the blue waters of the bay and surrounding countryside.
Visitors have flocked to Lyme Regis since the 18th century, many returning year after year, attracted by its delightful maze of streets. The towns ancient Cobb breakwater was originally constructed in the 13th century and featured in many novels and films, including the French Lieutenants Woman. It also boasts a superb range of craft shops selling everything from African art to 450 million-year-old fossils. There are lots of superb eating places to choose from too.
There is much to enjoy for all ages. The towns sheltered beaches are ideal for safe bathing. Or perhaps you would prefer to stroll along the traffic free promenade. Visitors should also make time to take a walk along the striking Gun Cliff Walk, which runs from Cobb Gate towards East Cliff, and has won awards for its design.
Shopping and dining
Shopping in Lyme Regis is a real pleasure, and offers everything from basic essentials to gifts and souvenirs and, for a special memento, browse around the fossil shops, where you can find an amazing selection of fossils, in all sizes and prices.
When flagging energy and appetite demands, there is a huge selection of eating establishments offering everything from light refreshments to superb full meals, plus of course a warming tea or coffee, or a tasty ice-cream. There are numerous cafs and restaurants, coffee shops and tea-rooms, pubs and takeaways, ensuring that whatever you fancy you can get excellent value for money and a friendly welcome.
Simply strolling through the lovely maze of streets in Lyme will give you a real taste of the towns history, and the seafront is a wonderful place to rest and drink in the atmosphere.
Enjoy a visit to the Fossil Museum at Dinosaurland, the Lyme Regis Fossil Shop & Museum, the fascinating Philpot Museum, and the lovely Church of St Michael. There is much more to see, and the Tourist Information Centre in Church Street can give you full information you can also visit their website on www.lymeregistourism. co.uk or westdorset.com or phone them on (01297) 442 138.
There are excellent guided tours every Tuesday and Thursday, starting at the Guildhall at 2.30pm, and led by the well-known historian Richard J Fox MBE, formerly three times World Champion Town Crier, and a great character. In the evenings on the same days at 7.30pm he leads Ghost Tours, great fun and certainly not for the faint hearted.
Sport and leisure
For the children the first port of call will inevitably be the beach, and they will not be disappointed the low-tide golden sands and rocky outcrops beg to be explored.
Naturally, the sea is a great attraction to all ages, and the clear safe waters are ideal for swimming, sailing, wind-surfing or water skiing. The local sailing club will gladly welcome you as a temporary holiday member.
Angling is very popular, either from the beach or the pier, or on one of the many deep sea and mackerel trips if you just want to relax and enjoy the views, there are many scenic trips available too, accompanied by tales of smuggling and local history. And you can enjoy a fascinating visit to the local Lifeboat Station.
There are many land-based sporting activities also, including bowling, golf, pony trekking and cycling ask at the Tourist Information Centre for more details.
The area is also ideal for walking, and the surrounding coastline is truly beautiful you can enjoy a short leisurely stroll, and for the more energetic there are miles of Heritage Coast footpaths to explore, featuring a fabulous range of flora and fauna.
If you fancy just relaxing and drinking in the lovely scenery, the beautiful Langmoor and Lister gardens overlooking the Cobb harbour offer a visual feast of floral displays. Amenities for the family include mini golf, table tennis, pool table, and putting green.
Entertainment and events
Lyme Regis offers a whole range of entertainment and events throughout the year for all ages to enjoy.
The town has its own traditional seaside theatre, the Marine Theatre, overlooking Gun Cliff Walk, offering varied entertainment all year round, from music, drama and dancing to antiques and craft fairs. For details telephone (01297) 442 394.
There is also a local cinema, offering a complete programme of films including the latest releases.
If you are a music lover, the Lyme Regis Town Band performs Music by the Sea every Tuesday throughout July and August at 8pm at the Marine Parade.
You can also enjoy the annual Lyme Regis Jazz Festival from July 1 to 3, with numerous bands providing a feast of entertainment at various venues throughout the town.
A highlight of the year is the RNLI Lifeboat Week, this year from July 23 to July 31, with a huge range of events including lifeboat and helicopter exercises, a display by the famous Red Arrows, RAF Falcon Parachutes, discos, barbeques, sand-sports, swimming races, classic cars, and much more.
Just as exciting is the Regatta and Carnival week, from August 6 to 14, also featuring a whole range of events, and climaxing with the grand parade and firework display.
Programmes for both these events will be available from the Tourist Information Centre.
There are lots more events throughout the year, including special displays in the museum and at the Town Mill, and all year round there are guided fossil hunting tours. Information on all events is available from the Tourist Information Centre.
Lyme Regis is renowned for its fossils. It is part of the World Heritage Coast that stretches from Swanage in the east to Exmouth in the west, and is Englands only natural world heritage site. Perhaps it is not so surprising that the area has been nick-named the Jurassic Coast.
Fossil collecting in Lyme became of real interest when local resident Mary Anning, then aged just 12 years old, unearthed the first Ichthyosaur in England, later becoming a professional collector, and spawning a hobby now pursued by thousands.
New materials are constantly being revealed, and although it takes patience and some good luck to find really good examples, you never know you could be the first person to gaze on something that has not seen the light of day for millions of years.
There are many venues in Lyme Regis featuring displays of some the finest finds, and also offering that very special souvenir to take home, and guided fossil hunting tours are available ask at the Tourist Information Centre for details.