Things To Do
Charmouth Heritage Coast Centre & Guided Fossil-Hunting Walks
Come face-to-face with one of the best-preserved dinosaurs found in Britain, as well as impressive displays of ammonites, belemnites, crinoids and tubeworms. Once you’ve genned up on fossils with the help of the interactive displays, head off on a two-hour fossil-hunting session with an experienced warden.
Sift through 185 million years of history on Charmouth beach, one of Dorset’s most popular fossil-hunting beaches and part of a World Heritage Site spanning 95 miles of coastline between East Devon and Swanage. Collected fistfuls of fossilised ammonites and seashells, or you might even come up trumps and discover rare ichthyosaur bones.
It’s not only the Christmas Day dip that lures swimmers here – with gently shelving sands, crystal-clear waters and stunning scenery, this is an idyllic spot for wild swimming at any time of year. People have flocked to the south coast to experience the health benefits of saltwater bathing since the 16th century, and swimming still tops the list of water sports here.
Walk along the coast or hop on the bus service to Lyme Regis, where you can come face-to-face with the underwater world at the Marine Aquarium, find out about the area’s most prolific fossil hunter at the town’s museum and gen up on the area’s Jurassic treasures at the Dinosaur Fossil Museum. Take in the scenery atop The Cobb harbour wall or from Langmoor and Lister Gardens, then fuel up on fresh seafood in one of the many seafront eateries.
Axe Valley Wildlife Park
Young children will simply love this small and friendly zoo situated just 10 minutes’ drive from Charmouth. Here you can handle a variety of animals, feed the free-range birds and enjoy close encounters with the likes of antelopes, wallabies and bearded dragons. There are plenty of play areas, too.
It’s only 20 minutes’ drive to this awe-inspiring 12th century priory that served as a monastery for 400 years, before becoming home to a succession of wealthy landowners. Pick your own summer fruits, follow sculpture trails around the sprawling grounds and delve further into the region’s history that’s etched into the house and gardens.
Eat And Drink
Soft Rock Café
Bang on the sand at East Cliff Beach, this is the perfect pit stop for fossil hunters to fuel up on wedges of Dorset cakes, sandwiches stuffed with locally caught crab and traditional fish and chips. You can even hire hammers to help with your fossil hunting and book mackerel fishing or sightseeing trips aboard the owner’s fishing boat.
Bank House Café
Fancy a hearty fry up, light lunch or delectable cream tea? This family-friendly café in the middle of Charmouth serves homemade goodies and local produce for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Take a seat on the terrace or hunker down by the log fire and sample local ales from Palmer’s Brewery in nearby Bridport. As well as serving a decent pint and award-winning wines, the Royal Oak serves up a hearty selection of food from the region’s suppliers. Dogs are welcome and there are darts, table skittles and dominoes to keep you entertained.
Hix Oyster and Fish House, Lyme Regis
You can’t mention eating anywhere near Lyme Regis without reference to this world-class seafood restaurant overlooking Lyme Bay. From prawns and oysters to crab and cockles, almost everything served is plucked from the ocean in view. Celeb chef Mark Hix keeps his style simple and elegant, leaving the quality of the local ingredients to do the talking.
The River Cottage Canteen, Axminster
It’s only a 10-minute drive to the famous River Cottage Canteen run by local food hero Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall. Here you can tuck into all manner of seasonal produce, from Lyme Bay plaice and Portland brown crab to rabbit ragu and Devon rose veal burgers.
Walk to Lyme Regis
Due to landslips the 3-mile walk to Lyme Regis along the South West Coast Path has currently been diverted to include some sections of road. However, if you’re careful to time your walk with low tide, you can stroll all the way along the beach to the neighbouring town. Be prepared to clamber over a few boulders, pause for fossils and take a pit stop on the pretty seafront when you get there – you can always hop on the bus back to Charmouth.
Charmouth to Seatown
Lace up your hiking boots and head east out of Charmouth for a rollercoaster 4.7-mile walk along the coast path, via the highest peak on the south coast of England. The challenging 30-minute detour to reach the 191-metre summit of Golden Cap is worth it for the eye-popping views over Lyme Bay, Dartmoor and the sculpted cliffs of this World Heritage coastline.
If you want to conquer the south coast’s highest peak without tackling the entire stretch of coast path to Seatown, park up in one of the National Trust’s car parks at Langdon Hill or Stonebarrow Hill. From here there’s much less distance to cover to reach the summit, and if you can’t hack the calf-busting climb, there are always the 25 miles of easier footpaths circulating the estate.
Why not take a break from the undulating coastal paths and take an easy-going countryside walk along the River Char? Follow the footpath from the centre of the village towards Wootton, and just after the bypass bridge veer towards Whitchurch Canonicorum. When you reach Whitchurch it’s worth popping into the ancient ‘Cathedral of the Vale’ and taking a look at the shrine to St Whit.
Events & Festivals
Easter Bonnet Parade, Lyme Regis
Check out the Easter Bonnet Parade and Duck Race in Lyme Regis, and look out for Easter Egg hunts at Stonebarrow Hill, Forde Abbey and Abbotsbury Gardens.
Lyme Regis Fossil festival, Lyme Regis – 4th May 2018
During this weekend of festivities celebrating the area’s prehistoric bounty, the whole family can enjoy fascinating talks and explore the past with a huge range of hands-on activities along the seafront.
Lyme Regis Jazz and Blues Weekend, Lyme Regis – 25th May 2018
It doesn’t matter whether or not the sun shines on the May Bank Holiday weekend – this toe-tapping jazz festival marks one of the busiest weekends of the year in Lyme Regis.
Jurassic Fields Music Festival, Bridport
This family-friendly festival showcases the region’s best music, comedy, food and entertainment.
Lyme Regis Lifeboat Week, Lyme Regis – 28th July 2018
Brace yourself for a week packed with events, activities and entertainment, from the bathtub race, tug-of-war and crab-fishing competition, to swimming challenges, Morris dancers, fireworks and live bands. www.facebook.com/LymeRegisLifeboatWeek/
Lyme Regis Red Arrows Day, Lyme Regis
Don’t miss the spectacular annual display of aerial acrobatics by the famous Red Arrows.
Lyme Folk Weekend, Lyme Regis – 31st August 2018
Take a seat at the iconic Marine Theatre and enjoy a weekend of easy listening to folk legends.
Bridport Literary Festival, Bridport
Hang out with literati and enjoy talks, events and entertainment from the region’s finest wordsmiths.
Christmas Day Fancy Dress Swim
Put on your festive fancy dress and head to nearby Charmouth beach for a festive dip. Don’t be late – the plunge takes place at 11am and most of the swimmers are out by a minute past.
Shop Til You Drop
The Forge Fossils
If you don’t manage to find fistfuls of fossils on the beach, head to this family-run fossil shop and take your pick of Jurassic treasures found on local shores.
Get your hands on unique gifts handmade by the local artists and makers behind this creative collective. As well as paintings, photographs, textiles and jewellery inspired by the coastal lifestyle, you will also find vintage and upcycled goods.
Enter this Aladdin’s cave of funky gifts and you won’t be able to resist filling your shopping bags with gorgeous goodies – from seaside artwork to silk scarves.