Highlight: A 7 Day Itinerary
Precipitous cliffs, beaches packed with fossils, incredible eateries and coastal villages await as you Walk Through Time in this action-packed area. You can Download the 7-day itinerary here or mix and match your own days below:
- Fossil hunting in Charmouth and hill climbing on Golden Cap
- Lyme Bay crab, fossils, film and literature in Lyme Regis
- Watersports, crafts and a riverside walk in Lyme Regis
- A Jurassic ‘jungle’ walk and Seaton’s historic tramway
- Marshwood Vale bike tour, Lewesdon Hill and Forde Abbey
- Jurassic time-travel in Seaton, ‘hike and dine’ at River Cottage HQ
- The Hooken Cliffs walk at Beer and Branscombe
The Timeless Coast Itinerary
Day 1: Fossil hunting in Charmouth and hill climbing on Golden Cap
Lace up your hiking boots in Seatown, a small seaside hamlet at the heart of the Jurassic Coast (4.8 miles/7.7km east of Charmouth). Take the path out of Seatown, up towards the summit of Golden Cap (a strenuous, 30-45-minute hike). At the top, catch your breath and enjoy the far-reaching views of Lyme Bay. At 191 metres (627 feet), you’ll have conquered the highest point on the south coast of England. From the summit you have three choices. 1: Return the same way. 2: Follow the 4.5-mile (7.2km) circular route past the ruins of the 13th Century St Gabriel’s Chapel (around the wooded slopes of Langdon Hill) before dropping back into Seatown. 3: Continue westwards along the Coast Path and walk the three miles (4.8km) down to Charmouth.
If you’re back in Seatown, stop for lunch at the beachside pub, then drive west for five miles (8km), or catch the Jurassic Coaster bus (30 minutes, from Chideock), to charming Charmouth (where there’s also a café). Here you can learn all about the Jurassic Coast at the Charmouth Heritage Coast Centre. Educate yourself with the help of interactive displays, then hook up with a guide on a fossil hunting tour of the local beach and cliffs.
Day 2: Lyme Bay crab, fossils, film and literature in Lyme Regis
Today is one of the milder days out in this collection – it involves wandering around a museum and gentle strolling along a harbour and beach. Welcome to Lyme Regis, a small town which tumbles down the high street to the beach, where multi-coloured Georgian houses mingle on the promenade overlooking the sweeping blue arc of Lyme Bay. There’s no escaping fossils in Lyme. Even the lampposts are ammonite-shaped. Spare some time to peruse the Lyme Regis Museum to learn more about the area’s natural history and the life of prolific fossil hunter, Mary Anning, who became famous in 1811 with the discovery of an enormous Ichthyosaur skeleton.
When you’ve had your fill of fossils, take a stroll along the promenade to the Cobb, a long, stone harbour wall which juts out into the sea affording great views of the beach and coastline. The Cobb has provided a backdrop to scenes in many famous books, films and TV dramas including Jane Austen’s Persuasion and John Fowles’ The French Lieutenant’s Woman. Don’t leave the Cobb area without sampling local delicacies such as Lyme Bay crab, mussels or fresh fish pulled straight from boat to table at the seafront restaurants and cafés. If the tide is low, continue west along the beach for 500 metres (1,640 feet), past the last beach huts to reach the famous ammonite graveyard (this involves a gentle scramble across rocks in places). Here you’ll find hundreds of ammonites – some of which are up to a metre across – exposed on a natural rock platform.
Day 3: Watersports, crafts and a riverside walk in Lyme Regis
Weave your way through the narrow streets of Lyme Regis to the Town Mill – a 700-year-old working water mill which now showcases the wares of local craftsmen. Stop for a bite to eat at one of the cafés or sample a tipple from the resident micro-brewery, before continuing up the wooded valley beside the River Lym on the 1.5-mile (2.4km) footpath from Lyme Regis to Uplyme and back.
If you’re still feeling active after the morning stroll, why not experience one of the water sports available at the beach? If the sea is calm, join a stand up paddle board tour or hire a kayak. This is your chance to walk on water and get a different perspective of the natural coastal scenery. If paddling a giant surfboard is not your thing there are plenty of boat tours and high speed rib tours which will give you a marine outlook on the area.
Day 4: A Jurassic ‘jungle’ walk and Seaton’s historic tramway
Fuel up on a hearty English breakfast. You’re going to need it as you tackle one of the Jurassic Coast’s wildest walks, the challenging, seven-mile (11.3km) route from Lyme Regis to Seaton. Head west out of Lyme Regis and you soon get to a stretch of path through the Undercliffs National Nature Reserve. Created by a series of landslips, the Undercliffs are only accessible on foot. Here you can immerse yourself in a ‘jungle’ of thick vegetation, which is home to over 40 different species of birds. Visiting this untamed wilderness is like stepping back in time. Watch your step on the rugged trail which eventually pops out onto the cliff-tops above Seaton.
“This is one of the great wilderness areas of southern England. There are few opportunities to encounter nature so untamed and here, more than any other part of the Jurassic Coast, there is a sense that people are only passing through, guests of the wild inhabitants who are the true owners of this place.”
Stroll into Seaton for some well-earned fish and chips, available all over town including open-air food stalls. After the morning’s strenuous scramble, take the weight off your legs with a ride on the Seaton Tramway, a historic narrow gauge tram which travels through the nature reserves of the Axe estuary to the delightful Devon villages of Colyford and Colyton. After the sightseeing tram tour, hop on a bus for the 15-minute ride back to Lyme Regis.
Day 5: Marshwood Vale bike tour, Lewesdon Hill and Forde Abbey
The sea may be the biggest draw to the Jurassic Coast, but the Dorset countryside should not be missed. One of the easiest ways to see the landscape is to join a three-hour electric bike tour from Morcombelake (5.2 miles/8.4km from Lyme Regis) for a scenic journey through the Marshwood Vale. This rural idyll of rolling hills, remote farms and historic villages is crowned by the peaks of Lewesdon Hill (Dorset’s highest hill at 279 metres) and Pilsdon Pen. (You can make the short walk up to Pilsdon Pen with this bike tour.)
If you opt to drive through Marshwood Vale’s winding country lanes instead, stop in one of the picturesque villages for a pub lunch before heading on to fabulous Forde Abbey. This 12th Century priory served as a monastery for 400 years, before becoming home for a succession of wealthy landowners. Today, it’s possible to explore the house and gardens for further discovery of the region’s rich history. Head to Lyme Regis (12 miles/19.3km away) for sensational seafood at one of its many award-winning restaurants.
Day 6: Jurassic time-travel in Seaton, ‘hike and dine’ at River Cottage HQ
If you love natural history, head to the Devonshire seaside town of Seaton (7.8 miles/12.6km from Lyme Regis), where a fantastic visitor attraction awaits. At Seaton Jurassic you can go back in time and discover the secrets of the Jurassic Coast. This hands-on museum lets you examine fossils and discover the sea creatures that once lived in the tropical waters which covered this area.
Once you’ve worked up an appetite, head to nearby River Cottage HQ, the rural outpost of TV chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall. This is mainly a cookery school and kitchen garden, but it’s also possible to book in for dinner or seasonal lunches in the 17th Century barn. And during the summer, River Cottage has a Hike and Dine lunch designed in conjunction with the South West Coast Path Association.
Day 7: The Hooken Cliffs walk at Beer and Branscombe
Ten miles (16km) west of Lyme Regis lies the Devonshire village of Beer, the start of a wonderfully unique scenic walk on the Jurassic Coast. Take the path out of the village, following the Coast Path over Beer Head to Branscombe Beach, an area of ‘undercliff’ formed by a landslide (and only accessible on foot). This section of coastline is unique because it features white chalk cliffs in contrast to the reddish rock found elsewhere along the Jurassic Coast. Return via the Coast Path or continue on the 4.1-mile (6.6km) Hooken Cliffs walk by heading inland to the pretty village of Branscombe, with its thatched cottages, and then back across fields to Beer. Stop for lunch at one of the village pubs or head to the beach for freshly caught seafood.
Pass along the quaint high street of terraced town houses and thatched cottages in Beer, and walk down the steep slipway to the pebble beach. Sheltered by high cliffs, the bucolic beach is a sun trap in the summer. Sip a cup of coffee from one of the beach-front kiosks and soak up the scenery. Cap it all off with a visit to Beer Quarry Caves to learn about the fascinating history of quarrying of the world famous Beer stone.
Accommodation: The best place to base yourselves for an adventure on this stretch of coast is Lyme Regis, which has the largest selection of accommodation options. There are many smart hotels and laid back guesthouses. There are also campsites nearby. If you’re staying for the whole week, a self catering cottage or house might be more convenient. There is also plenty of lovely accommodation elsewhere along this section of coast, such as in the seaside town of Seaton or the fishing village of Beer.
Food & drink: Naturally lots of fish and seafood, including Lyme Bay crab and mussels, but also pies, pasties, cream teas, gourmet pubs, bakeries and quirky cafés.
Transport: It’s best to have a car if you want to get the most of the area. But hikers will also need to get the bus occasionally. The Jurassic Coaster travels up and down this stretch of coast. For exploring the countryside, bike travel can be rewarding but the hilly terrain can be very tiring. Buses don’t go into Seatown, so, if you’re using public transport to get about, you’ll need to walk inland to Chideock to catch the Jurassic Coaster.
For more walks and suggested itineraries on the South West Coast Path, visit www.southwestcoastpath.org.uk