Fossil Hunting English Seaside Town the Cobb

Go to sleep in a bookshop, wake up to a stormy sea and then go hunting for some dinosaurs. For a quiet seaside town, Lyme Regis offers a lot more than you might expect.

The best way to get to the town known as the Pearl of Dorset is by train; there are good connections to Axminster, where a regular bus service goes directly from the train station to the center of town (get off in front of the Post Office) in about 20 minutes. Once there, it is best to explore the compact town on foot, as there are many secret gardens, winding alleyways and surprising sea views to discover.

We stayed at the Book Lovers B&B, which sits just above The Sanctuary bookshop, where you can easily spend hours happily browsing the well-kept old volumes for sale. The B&B carries the theme and there are loaded bookshelves both in the bedrooms and the sitting room, so you won’t be short of a bedtime read or something to while away a few rainy hours.

Prices start at 25 per person including breakfast but can be lower if you go in Winter or stay multiple nights. The B&B is very central and right in front of the beach. Close enough, indeed for you to hear the rhythmic music of the waves washing through the countless pebbles that line it. Flat shoes are mandatory if you are walking by the sea as finding your footing can sometimes be treacherous. If you don’t fancy trudging through a few tons of rounded multicolored pebbles then there is a well-kept wide promenade just next to it so accessibility is not an issue.

On a sunny day enjoy a Mr Whippy ice cream and walk down to the arcade, where you can gamble away your pennies, or if you’re more adventurous and fancy a bit of deep-sea fishing or sightseeing with a difference, there are boat operators that run trips all year round.

The star attraction of Lyme Regis, however, has to be the Cobb, which inspired countless artists and writers such as Jane Austen. The opening scene of The French Lieutenant’s Woman with Meryl Streep and Jeremy Irons was shot there, and it is a breathtaking experience to stand atop its wall and face the sea.

Late April is a good time to visit because you can beat the summer rush and yet avoid the winter hibernation that inevitably hits a seaside town. Avoid coming on a Monday as many businesses close then and some pubs won’t serve food. The weather is very fickle and changes from one season to the next in a heartbeat, but although this might mean you will get wet, it will also give you a chance to appreciate the beauty of wild storms as well as the pleasant sunshiny moments.

A very highly recommended walk at this time of the year will take you to the famous Fossil Beach via the fairy tale-like National Trust Bluebell Woods. There is something about the light filtering through clouds that makes the endless fields of blue flowers growing between the trees in the woodland floor truly magical.

Fossil Beach, the star of the Jurassic Coast is where you can chip away at rocks in the hope of finding dinosaur bones. Famous fossilist Mary Anning found the first complete plesiosaur here in 1824, but what you are most likely to encounter these days are probably small ammonites. Still, it is great fun and when the kid inside you gets tired of all that, a walk along the beautiful beach wraps up the day very nicely. If you haven’t managed to get a fossil of your own, you could always buy one at the many shops that sell them near the beach and in Lyme Regis itself. There are also tours that guide you through the fossil hunting process and guarantee that you will get a fossil, or else they will provide you with one as part of the package.

There are a few good pubs and restaurants in Lyme Regis, and it is of course recommended that you try the seafood dishes as the produce is likely to be good value and local. For good pub food in big portions head for the Volunteer Inn, or for fresh seafood honestly priced go to the Jurassic Seafood Wine Bar, which has its own fishing boat. Don’t let the huge plastic dinosaurs put you off, it is a good quality restaurant and not just for the tourists. Both places are just a short walk up the hill from the beach.

There are also many places in town where you can enjoy a typical English Cream Tea, and indeed this old-fashioned seaside town provides most things that are quintessentially English, so it shouldn’t disappoint whatever the weather throws your way.