The first thing that strikes you about Lyme Regis is its ability to be both bustling and tranquil in equal measure.
Take a stroll along the coast from Broad Street, down Marine Parade as far as the harbour and the Cobb to the West, or along Church Cliff Beach towards Charmouth to the East, and you will find yourself absorbed and becalmed by the lapping waves and utter peace of the sea.
But head down the main streets and you will find all the amenities of every major town – pharmacies, small supermarkets and newsagents – as well as a plethora of independent craft, gift and food shops to keep every visitor amused for hours on end.
The town itself can brim with people, especially in later summer months. On our last trip to this magical coastline we came in early July. This time we have chosen to visit in mid-to-late June where, in theory, avoiding large throngs of tourists should be easier.
Once again we are staying in the same rented house as last time, booked through local rental company Lyme Bay Holidays. The house is in neighbouring Uplyme and is just a couple of minutes drive into Lyme Regis itself.
Upon arrival the early morning sunshine, which caused me to awake with a spring in my step, has sadly given way for dark, potentially even stormy clouds – the kind capable of dampening even the sunniest of moods.
But Lyme Regis bills itself as a ‘town for all seasons’ and it certainly is true. There is something bedazzling about the place even when the sun has a day off.
Parking can be occasionally fraught but is plentiful in the town, especially near the seafront and harbour. We pull up in the ideally-situated Broad Street Car Park and set off on a wander.
There is a new coastal defence system in Lyme Regis which was completed in 2015 and provides the opportunity to walk along the coast to neighbouring Charmouth. We take a brief walk along the coast in that direction, crossing over the river en route.
Next we wander West along Marine Parade, taking a detour onto the pebbled beach to marvel at the lapping tide. To our right, a row of colourful beach huts light up the front, bringing with that touch of classic British seaside charm.
Move ahead and you’ll find award-winning eatery ‘By The Bay’, along with many other places to sample the local delicacies through a delightful back street. The Harbour Inn, Lyme’ Fish Bar and Poco Pizza all look wonderfully tempting (even at 9.30am) before you reach the Cobb Arms which stands proud on the corner of the Cobb.
Now, doing something for fitness is all fine and good, but having walked away from the bottom of the main shopping streets, the thought of retracing our steps before ascending the rather steep Broad Street was an unappealing prospect.
So we took a chance that a walk through the laid-out Langmoor and Lister Gardens might bring us to the top of the shops – and leave us with a much-more appetising descent back to the car.
What a treat it proved to be. The gardens themselves are lovely, with paths winding through flowers and bushes. But the views back down to the beach, harbour and Cobb are well worth making the trip up for.
And indeed we were right, the gardens lead us to the top of Broad Street opposite the Post Office, and we now indulged in Lyme Regis’ other delight – shopping!
You soon come across ‘Ammonite Fine Foods’ which is an absolute gem of a shop. Packed with local produce from jams and chutney’s to bitter and a huge array of gins, there is something for everyone here. I also picked up a charming Lyme Regis clock, made across the road in gift, craft and dog shop ‘Pug and Puffin’.
There are many shops along this main street, stocking local food produce as well as individual souvenirs and gift ideas. Lyme Regis truly is a delight at every turn, moving from the calm waters of the coast to the energised shops and eateries of its main streets.
After a large amount of shopping, it was time to return home for a spot of lunch, before heading out again. On the agenda – a ten-mile drive along the coast to West Bay, famous as the filming location for ITV’s hit crime drama Broadchurch.
West Bay is more in-your-face as a seaside town than Lyme Regis. There is less tranquility here, it knows what it is and it plays on its geography. With more fish and chip huts and shops than you can shake a stick at – you’re never far away from a battered cod here.
Fishing is a primary part of the town and its harbour is packed full of local fisherman unloading the fruits of their labour. That’s what gives West Bay its character and charm. Yes this is a busy tourist town, but scratch the surface and you will find yourself engaged by the trawlers bringing in their cockles and mussels.
A walk down the harbour side reveals the beauty of the beach at West Bay, made famous as the place where Danny Latimer’s body was discovered in Broadchurch. The cliffs are majestically imposing and provide a dramatic backdrop for those enjoying a frolic on the sands.
Also known as Bridport harbour, West Bay is a small town packed full of action. With shops, pubs and the odd camp site, bustling is what it does best. Even on a cloudy day in mid June it was pretty hectic so if visiting in the height of summer, be prepared to face the crowds.
But for its harbour and buzzing vibe, West Bay is well worth a visit and any fans of Broadchurch will have as much fun as I did by picking out scenes and shops they’ve seen on the telly.
A return home for a quick change and freshen up is in order before heading out for some food. The Cobb Arms has won the ‘which pub/restaurant looks most appealing’ competition. Fingers crossed!
Lyme Bay Holidays: https://www.lymebayholidays.co.uk
Lyme Regis tourist information is available at: http://www.lymeregis.org
Ammonite Fine Foods: http://www.ammonitedorset.co.uk
Pug & Puffin: http://pugandpuffin.co.uk
By The Bay: http://www.bythebay.co.uk
The Cobb Arms: http://thecobbarms.co.uk