Lyme Regis, Dorset
Just over the East Devon border in Dorset is the old fishing town of Lyme Regis, part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site Jurassic Coast. This is where Mary Anning found the first complete icthyosaur fossil, and where The French Lieutenant’s Woman was filmed. It's a place with a lot of charm, hence the busyness of summer when locals and tourists come to stroll around and find out what all the fuss is about. The main street rolls down to the sea and is lined with independent shops, cafes and bakeries where you're spoilt for choice when it comes to that delight among savouries - the West Country pasty.
Stroll along the promenade to the harbour, and out along the Cobb to Victoria Pier where there's a little marine aquarium. You can book boat trips from here - mackerel fishing, deep sea fishing, sightseeing, or an exhilarating wind-in-your-face rib ride. When you've got your land legs back head up through the town gardens, stopping to admire the fullness of the sea views, and perhaps for a game of crazy golf.
What you'll notice about Lyme Regis is that it doesn't matter if it's busy or quiet - the ambience is still the same; peaceful and safe, somewhere you feel you can take your time to wander round and take in the surroundings. Explore the narrow backstreets and The Town Mill where there are art galleries and a rather good cafe. If you're looking for things to do as a family, go to Dinosaurland Fossil Museum - we would edge our bets that it's one of the few places in the world where you can see a huge lump of dinosaur poo! The town museum is good too, with a fantastic collection of fossils and interesting exhibitions about the town's literary connections (John Fowles, Jane Austen, Tracey Chevalier) and the landslips which formed the unique Undercliff Nature Reserve between Lyme and Axmouth.
There are four beaches; the main one, Town Beach is a mix of sand and shingle so that's where most people tend to go, Church Cliff Beach is good for rockpooling and either end of town, East Cliff beach and the pebbly Monmouth Beach are great for dog walkers. It all gets very lively when one of the annual events is on - Regatta & Carnival Week, Life Boat Week, the Jazz Festival or Fossil Festival; best of all is the atmospheric Candles on the Cobb, Bonfire Night and Red Arrows Day when the famous RAF team take to the skies for a spectacular aerobatic display.
When you’re hungry grab one of those hot pasties or fish and chips to eat on the beach, otherwise head to SWiM on the seafront, The Harbour Inn, overlooking, yep, the harbour, and for exquisite seafood from Mark Hix, The Oyster and Fish House on the way up the hill.