Visitors have long been attracted to the pretty seaside resort of Lyme Regis. With its iconic Cobb harbour, in use since the 13th century, and long history of fossil finding dating back to the days of Mary Anning in the early 1800’s, the resort has great appeal. Doug Goodman explains what is on offer.
Delightful coastal walks, sandy beaches and a thriving arts scene offer something for every visitor. But now Lyme Regis on the Dorset and Devon border is becoming known for its fine dining, quality food and wine, and micro-brewery beers.
Fine-dining, fish and chips and more
There’s a huge choice of restaurants - from fine-dining at Mark Hix with superb views over the Cobb, to fish and chips eaten on the beach. Around the Cobb area alone visitors have a choice of three fine pubs, six restaurants, fresh fish stalls, ice cream and fast food shops.
One of the best value restaurants is The Harbour Inn with tables on the beach. It offers huge portions at reasonable prices. The Cobb Arms and Standard Inn are nearby and the adjacent fish and chippy always has a long queue.
Walking along the ancient promenade you’ll pass by The Bay and Largigis restaurants. Stop for a quick ice cream and with any luck watch Adrian Gray creating his stone-balancing sculptures on the beach. He’s an international star and his skill is amazing.
Two more of Lyme’s nine pubs can be found by the clock tower; the Pilot Boat Inn does great ploughman’s lunches. Walk uphill along Broad Street and you’ll find the 16th Century Fudge Kitchen. Peter and Teresa make arguably the south west’s finest - flavours include sea spray caramel, Dorset crumble and rich choc. They’ve been serving their fudge for eight years and offer 20 different flavours.
Almost next door is the Cornish pasty shop Pasty Presto. Try to be there around closing time when a bell announces a big price reduction on the day’s goodies.
Further up hill is the historic Alexandra hotel. Drop in for a fantastic cream tea in their gardens or stay for fine dining. It’s been included by The Sunday Times travel magazine as ‘one of the ultimate 100 British hotels’.
Descending towards the centre of town stop for coffee, or indeed lunch, at Penny Black – go through the post office and antique stalls to find it.
A teddy bear hospital
If you happen to have a teddy bear in need of repair then call into Alice’s Real Bear Shop. The teddy hospital is full of bears awaiting treatment. Look around the shop for a new bear for someone special and then visit the fossil workshop in the basement. Paddy will show you how to clean your fossils.
Turn into Coombe Street and you’ll see Tierra Kitchen offering vegetarian dishes only; they do a great tagine. Pop into the Mill Bakery for coffee at a communal table and relax with the newspapers. Buy your bread on the way out. Lyme’s Fish Bar on your right is always packed on a Friday and Saturday but the wait is worthwhile.
At the Town Mill as well as several art galleries, a pottery and working mill, you’ll find the Town Mill Cheesemonger, where Justin will show off his award winning cheeses. Opposite is The Town Mill Brewery making delicious, traditional light and dark beers. The Mill Café and Supper Club specialises in Italian home cooking and the Millside Restaurant provides light meals or a full restaurant menu.
A walk and fossils
After so much eating you’ll need exercise so for walkers there’s the eight mile Undercliff between Lyme and Axmouth. It’s tough going in a beautiful wild landscape. Do not do it alone or without the right clothes. Take one of the guided walks offered by local historian Natalie Manifold who also runs ‘Literary Lyme Tours.
The Philpot Museum has a fascinating collection of fossils and describes the geology and history of the Jurassic Coast. It tells you about the town’s links with artists and writers such as J M Whistler, Jane Austen and John Fowles whose book The French Lieutenant’s Woman’, made into the famous film with Merryl Streep, was shot in Lyme. Talking of films did you know that Lyme is the smallest town to have its own cinema?
Lyme gets busy in the summer season and at weekends, so it’s sensible to book a table at the restaurant of your choice. The tourist information centre between the Town Hall and Marine Theatre has a huge amount of useful literature and very helpful staff. www.lymeregis.org