A week in Lyme Regis

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We’re just back home after spending a week on holiday in Lyme Regis- an attractive small  seaside town on the south coast in Dorset – just as it’s close to the border with Devon. Its our second visit, having stayed there four years ago.

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We were quite lucky with the weather – we had sunshine every day with no rain to speak of – and although we took it relatively easy, we kept ourselves busy with fossil hunting, walking along the south west coastal path and hanging around the sea front and harbour.

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The town has literary connections, appearing in Persuasion, by Jane Austen and The French Lieutenant’s Woman by John Fowles who lived and worked in the town (and for a while was also the curator of the town’s Philpott Museum). Personally I’m not a fan of Jane Austen’s Georgian “chick lit” but John Fowles’ modernist novel is a favourite of mine. The Cobb, the distinctive,sinuous harbour wall, features in both novels and also in the 1981 film of The French Lieutenant’s Woman, the memorable opening scenes of which has Meryl Streep, wrapped in a hooded cape, standing on the edge of the Cobb in stormy seas.

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The coast surrounding the town, and, indeed the land on which it is built, is made up of very unstable rocks – mainly shales, clays and mudstones – which are very susceptible to avalanche and landslips.

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The rocks in the cliffs are full of fossils which end up on the beach following landslides after the sea washes the mud away. As during our previous visit we went on a fossil walk organised by the local museum and, once again, it was one of the highlights of the holiday.

Lyme became a highly fashionable resort during the Georgian and Regency period, which is reflected in the architecture, and there were plenty of interesting buildings to look at.

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Belmont House on Pound Street at the junction with Cobb Road. A former owner was Eleanor Coade (1733–1821), the proprietor of a company which manufactured a type of artificial “reconstituted” stone called “Coade stone” which was used to manufacture decorative elements and statues and the facade of the house is embellished with decorative features made from her product. Very durable and resistant to weathering, it was very popular during the Georgian period.

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The last resident was  the author John Fowles. After his death it fell into disrepair but it has since been restored  by the Landmark Trust and can now be rented for holidays.

This time, as we booked late, we couldn’t get a cottage or flat with a sea view, but managed to find a Georgian style cottage by the river at Jordan, just a few minutes walk down to the sea shore via Mill Green and Coombe Street.

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This stained glass window installed in the wall between the dining room and lounge was a particularly attractive feature

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It was a good, relaxing holiday. But we kept ourselves busy, so plenty to write up!

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19 thoughts on “A week in Lyme Regis

  1. Very pleased to see this as I will be in Lyme Regis for three nights the beginning of August. I’m staying at the Old Lyme Guesthouse which seems to be central, if without sea views. Good to see the report on the fossil walk, as that is on my agenda if the weather is good. I had read that the Southwest Coast path was in bad shape in that area – sounds like that was not the case? I am not a beach person and wasn’t planning to bring a swimsuit, but I think II should find plenty of other things to do?

    • There’s plenty to occupy you in Lyme other than lying around on the beach. Keep you’re eyes on my blog as I’ll be uploading a few more posts. There are places of interest you can drive to or take the bus to on rainy days too.
      The fossil walk is a must – even if the wether isn’t brilliany (in fact it’s better if the weather has been a bit rough as you’ll find more fossils). Probably best to book online before you go as you’ll be there during the peak holiday period.

      The coastal path to the west is fully open – but conditions underfoot in the undercliff are rough and muddy at the best of times. There are diversions to the east, but we found ways of avoiding the road. I’ll be writing up our walks along the path but email me if you’d like some more tips.

      • Thanks! I won’t have a car, so will be using buses. The Guest House suggested waiting until a couple of days ahead so I could check the weather forecast before booking the walk. I have booked dinner for Friday and Saturday nights! Unlike you, I am a Jane Austen fan, so cool to read about the post box!

    • Oh, and the Old Lyme Guest House is 2 minutes walk from the front (we passed it on our way there). It used to be the post office in Georgian times and they still have the oldpost box where Jane Ausen, allegedly, used to post letters to her sister!

  2. I wondered why I’d heard of this beautiful seaside town – The French Lieutenant’s Woman! What an interesting place to spend your vacation. Looking forward to more posts!

    • we watched the film (dvd) the first evening during our stay and it was fun to sport the locations as we explored the town and vicinity – the Cobb, the Undercliff and Broad Street all featured in the film.
      There’s a third book set in the town, too – Remarkable Creatured by Tracey Chevalier

  3. Visited Lyme Regis some years ago on the strength of both those novels. Jane Austen fan here – definitely more than Georgian chick lit! I’ve read the Fowles 3 times and changed my choice of ending on each reading. We also walked along the coast to Sea-something where there were old trams (I think).

    • Apologies for being facetious about Jane Austen, Anabel. We studied Northanger Abbey at school in the 2nd year when I was 13 and it put me right off her.
      Sounds like you walked through the Undercliff to Axmouth and Seaton. We intended to do the same (but the other direction). However we changed our plans as we were short of time so walked just over a couple of miles into that fascinating landscape and turned back

      • Seaton! That was it. I think any books you study at school tend to put you off for life. I came to Jane Austen myself, and my English teacher was very sniffy about her so that probably served to encourage my devotion.

      • Like Annabel, I’m also a JA fan BUT I have to agree with you about Northanger Abbey – what a bad choice for 13 year olds it took me another 8 years to rediscover this wonderful author and I could now read and re-read and still make new discoveries. But I only re-read Northanger Abbey once.
        I did a JA walking tour on my last visit to Lyme :
        https://miladysboudoir.wordpress.com/2012/08/29/literary-lyme-from-jane-austen-to-little-pig-robinson/
        If I may be so bold as to link to my own ‘work’.

      • Yes, teaching literature at school can be off putting. Having said thst It would have taken a lot to put me off reading and I did have two good English literature teachers – both female – who inspired an interest in Shakespeare and the WW1 and 1930’s poets.

        And you’re always welcome to plug your posts! I can add that I’ve read and enjoyed that particular one (and all you others too 😉)

    • You know, I think that I first made contact with you by commenting on that very post!
      I hope the weather is good in North Wales this week. We’re off to Dolgellau on Tuesday. Fingers crossed. Cadair Idris here we come!

      • I can’t remember when exactly you came across ‘miladysboudoir’ but it was early on in my blogging ‘career’ ;-). Funny that it should have been a south coast post. Yes, fingers crossed for the weather for you. North Wales possibly not as reliable weatherwise as Lyme Regis. Cader Idris, eh? Good luck. Have another great week and enjoy the contrasts. Barbara

    • And I am insanely jealous about you staying at Belmont. I looked up on the Property’s website as I have a significant birthday next February and thought about staying there as a treat, but it seems to be completely booked up already ☹️

      • I think you would have to be very quick off the mark to even book for 2018. Don’t worry you will be able to enjoy a visit vicariously through my posts ;-). You may have seen the TV programmes about the work of Landmark last autumn which will have added to Belmont’s popularity. However, I’m sure there are lots of other suitable locations (coming in at lower prices, too!). Barbara

  4. Pingback: A week in Whitby | Down by the Dougie

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