Saturday, 28 May 2016

A stop at Lyme Regis

Lyme Regis

I marked it on the map many years ago because of a movie scene in "The French Lieutenant's Wife" where it shows the Cobb harbour being battered by strong waves. It feels as if the waves will wash off everything in sight. I was mesmerised by that natural harbour, and how dramatic it all looked. So,  many decades later I finally made my way to that part of the country to check out on  the Cobb. Some people know about the Cobb from 'Persuasion' where Louisa Musgrave fell to her death  from the Cobb steps known as 'Granny's Teeth'. Lyme is sometimes referred to as 'the pearl of Dorset', but I just find this expression so off putting. I think moth balls and nana’s cardie which is just not attractive. Lyme seemed very much alive, and full of all sorts of people. It’s full of  hills so you’re either going up down. Its many narrow streets are full of attractive houses with quaint gardens, and out of season it has a very nice pace to it.  The last time I was there it was during the fossil festival so the town was quite crowded.
Pretty in Pink

One of the many pretty houses around town

The Millennium Clock
There are no train stations in Lyme so the options are either to drive or to take a train to the nearest station of Axminster and then a bus or cab to the town.  I chose to take the train to Axminster and then get a cab because the cab ride is short despite the crossing of the Devon-Dorset border.  I didn't explore Axminster at all. It was merely a pass through town to me. Perhaps I could  have squeezed in a meal at the River Cottage Canteen, maybe next time. 

 Langmoor and Lister Gardens

My hotel was on Pound Street which is on top of the high street. The hotel was lovely, with beautiful spaces and décor,  in an incredible location with the most spectacular view over Lyme bay and the harbour, and  I was lucky enough to get a room with a view. There's a path that takes you from the hotel onto Langmoor and Lister gardens overlooking the seafront. The gardens can also be reached from Pound Streetor from the sea front.  Close to the entrance off Pound Street, and past the path from the hotel there's a garden bench that would not look out of place at the Park Guell in Barcelona with its colourful mosaic. It was designed by young people from the town as part of a project involving the community. It's in a very strategic point with a great view of the harbour. Langmoor and Lister Gardens are pretty cool gardens that are sort of combined - I can't tell which part of the gardens is one or the other. All the plants chosen are there to support and encourage wildlife. There's a very Mediterranean feel to it (with the exception of the weather).  In one part of the garden there's  a shaded wooden walk through some tall trees that is quite beautiful. The whole area is full of benches and you have a fantastic view of the sea from there.  A reminder that you're on the Jurassic coast are the ammonite fossils on the lamp posts, dotting the gardens all the way down to the beachfront. Charming. During my stay I saw different types of people enjoying that space: old couples walking around hand in hand, young parents with a stroller, boys playing football, teenagers chatting and laughing. I'd say it's a success story project as it doesn’t segregate. Depending on your age group or personal interest, you can use the gardens for different reasons. You can just sit there on one of the benches, and do nothing but stare at the sea. Pretty cool in my books.

View from the Gardens

The lamp post with the ammonite symbol
reminds us that we're in the Jurassic Coast 
A protected place to sit and watch the world go by

The promenade and the beaches

As you get to the sea level you reach the promenade which goes from one end of the town to the other. Lime beaches are a mixture of sand and pebbles. Along the promenade you find Front beach which is sandy. There's also Cobb gate which is like an extension of Front beach but closer to the Cobb. On the other side of the harbour you find Monmouth beach which has pebbles and shelves.  Front beach and Cobb gate had a lot of activity when I was there: kids playing games, building sand castles and sandy sculptures, other kids playing football. Cobb gate had walkers - either couples, or people with dogs, and a handful of people actually swimming in the sea. Front beach or Cobb gate beach are my type of beach because of the sand, but I'd use Monmouth beach primarily to beachcomb and exercise - some people use it for fossil hunting (I’ll talk about that in a separate post). The pebbles are hard work to walk on. What a work out! Along and around the promenade there are loads of places to eat, an arcade, hotels, cafes and shops. The ones that are not obvious can be found in the roads behind the main promenade. I had a delicious crab sandwich at The Lyme Bay Sandwich Co. which is run by friendly people, and I had a bit of a chat whilst they prepared it. I just love talking to local people when I travel. You get a good feel of the place, learn a thing or two including useful tips. They did tell me that I should be careful when eating my sandwich on the beach because the gulls had become very 'hungry', and unruly.

Places to eat at the sea front

There are many options of places to eat on the sea front

The Beach Huts

Monmouth Beach

Beach Huts at Monmouth Beach

The Cobb Harbour

After visiting  the gardenson my way to the harbour, I went to the Cobb straight away. Actually, the only thing I did en route was to grab my crab sandwich. The Cobb is not very big, and it's not a natural harbour. It's man made, and its earliest version dates as far back as 1313.  A drawing from 1539 shows a shape similar to the one we see now, but the closer to what we see nowadays dates back to 1824. The fact that I got to Lyme on a bright day and not on a stormy night as that of the movie, made the Cobb less scary and I did walk on top of it for that reason.  With trepidation I must say as I felt very vulnerable on top of that construction with a surface that slopes a bit - I just prayed that no waves would crash violently on it. I timidly and hesitantly walked its length. I could be biased, but the Cobb is quite impressive and every day I was in Lyme I made a point of 'popping round' to have a wee stroll on top even though I felt always nervous and anxious. And this one time when the wind was blowing quite hard and the waves crashed with a certain force spraying water on all of us, I felt good. I felt brave.  Near the Cobb there's an aquarium for the kids and grown ups. However, I did not visit it. There were loads of people fishing on the Cobb, kids crabbing with their parents. The harbour is a very lively spot.  There are loads of posters about diving trips, mackerel and deep sea fishing trips. One of the people organizing mackerel fishing trips said that I could join them just for the trip if I wanted – no need to fish. Maybe I’ll give fishing a go on a future trip.
View of town from the Harbour

Lyme seen from the Cobb
The Cobb from Monmouth Bridge

The Cobb

The High Street

The town has a wealth of independent shops which I found very attractive. Sometimes you go to a town that can be just about anywhere from a high street view point. Not in Lyme. There are shops selling gifts, jewellery, antiques, fossils (surprise surprise), home décor items, shops that sell local produce such as the toffee shops, bakeries and a fantastic deli.  Yes, alright you do find a Tesco and a co-op on the high street, but overall it’s pretty individual. You can eat to your heart’s content at the bottom of the high street, and walk it off as you walk to the top of the street and do some more shopping on the way.  
I’ll  tell you about the Jurassic coast, fossil hunting, walks in the area and my favourite places to eat in a future post. This one is a bit too long already.

One of the many alleyways between the High Street
and the sea front

Ammonite Deli on the high street - a wonderful space.
And great customer service

Some of the shops on top of the high street.
I love the angle - it's not straight, and it's hilly

How to get there:

The nearest station is Axminster on the mainline from London Waterloo to Exeter. takes around 2 h 30 min. Then  get a local bus  or a local cab.  The bus company is First Bus and it’s # 31 which runs hourly between  Axminster and Weymouth. Lyme Regis is just 20 min away.  I saw a bus stop outside the station. The cab ride is short and will cost you around 20 quid – agree the price in advance. I had to walk to a cab office in town as there were no cabs at the station when I arrived so I’d recommend getting a number/address in advance if you choose to cab.


I stayed at the Alexander Hotel which is in a historic building, very central and with fabulous views of the bay.  They staff are very pleasant, and I’d stay there again any time.  There are loads of options in Lyme so shop around for something that suits you and your budget. This is not a sponsored post.
Alexandra Hotel and Restaurant
Pound Street
Lyme Regis

The Alexander Hotel 

One of the  many beautiful hotel rooms

The Hotel Garden

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