There was this euphoric travel moment that has always stuck with me throughout my life. It was this moment as a kid, when my dad would signal right off the dual carriageway, weave the car around some pretty crazy bends then up and down a steep hill making my stomach flip with a mix of pure excitement and joy that we were nearly at our destination. Upon the last little stretch, there were woods either side that would reveal the white static caravans through little cracks that made up our temporary holiday home for the next week. And it was that moment, that annual family trip that makes me still go back there every year without fail.
The Jurassic coast is its historical name; given to a 95 mile stretch of Southern English coastline along the Counties of Dorset and East Devon. Now before you ask, no, it isn’t the setting of the next Jurassic Park movie (imagine the retirees’ reaction to that news)? No, but it does have some strong links with dinosaurs – The layers of sedimentary rock along the Jurassic Coast reveal the history of the Earth across 185 million years ago and form a near complete record of the Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous periods (a nice little bit of history for you there).
Stunning Lyme Regis
And one place in particular, which I like to call my UK hotspot, is called Lyme Regis. Lyme is a small coastal town embedded in the heart of the Jurassic coast. Lyme, with its historic Cobb and harbour is packed with museums and shops linked with the Dinosaur theme. One fossil shop in particular has a huge T-Rex head in the window which makes every dad in the world turn into some sort of Alan Grant character from the movie as they suddenly out of nowhere cough up their hidden pre-historic knowledge for their kid. I’ve never heard so much rubbish in all my life but the kids don’t know any different – especially when they’re laughing at their dads dancing around and making fake dino claws it always makes me chuckle at how geeky this place can be. To be fair though, that’s just why I love this little town so much, I mean what’s not to like here? Stunning cliff tops, boutique jewellery shops, dinosaur museums, the best fish and chips, classic British pubs selling local ales, the sound of seagulls, classic old antique stores and old school arcades make this town a kind of upmarket classic British seaside destination.
British Summer Fun For Families
It’s a family friendly place alright, the summers here get pretty packed with the annual carnival and lifeboat week’s – the promenade at the front littered with smiley old people with bright white hair, kids with ice cream all over their clothes, seagulls pretty much everywhere there’s food in sight, and sand literally everywhere. If you’ve been on the beach that day, you better believe there will be sand in your sandwich, sand in your sunglasses, sand in your beer and sand in your shoe – which you never realised until you get back to your caravan and spray all over the carpet. But it’s great – people down here, families, couples, youngsters and elderly folk just, sort of, well don’t have a care in the world really. They’re just chilled, enjoying the British sunshine, sitting on the beach, walking along the hilly walk to the little mini golf course at the top, watching the fishing boats go in and out the harbour and generally relaxing. There is honestly no other place in the world that makes me feel this peaceful – unless I’m on the mini golf course that is – then my competitiveness side rears its ugly head. No one wants to see me on a mini golf course, I own that patch of land!
Take the kids crabbing
When we were younger, me and my brother would use our holiday spending money to buy a bit of mackerel bait from the local fresh fish shop, buy a cheap line and hook set and walk over to the other side of the beach to do some crabbing. This basically involves walking and balancing over rock pools that have formed when the tide goes right out, leaving you to dip your line and bait in and out, in and out until you catch a massive crab and poke him in the eye for no other reason than the fact that you’re just a horrible kid! You then realise you’ve been doing it for three solid hours but watching my mum try and walk out to catch us was worth it too, her yelling out to us ‘get back here now’ hardly did anything to stop us.
And even now, all grown up I still really enjoy it here. The winter is just as good, when the long pebble beach becomes completely deserted, wrapping up in a big coat and braving the cold is well worth a decent walk along. Most shops remain open, apart from a few summer shacks, but there are many little souvenir shops and scenery to make it a worthwhile trip. The iconic arcade on the front promenade is still a favourite of mine; as a 30 year old I can still admit that going on a 2p machine to win a plastic egg that contains a key-ring, is still worth me shelling £15 out my pocket for. The antique shop on the front is a bit like an old lady hoarders basement, but look past the idea that it’s all junk because it’s not, there’s something for everyone in there – old football programmes from years ago, old furniture and jewellery as well as cutlery. The old folks love it to be fair so just leave your kids outside.
And although it has always kept its old charm, the town has seen significant changes over the last few years. It now boasts modern coffee shops, more convenience stores so you can stock your fridge up for the week, cool surf-type designer clothes shops and also more classy restaurants with Chinese, Italian and Indian cuisine to name a few.
Of course I am always going to be bias towards Lyme Regis, it is after all home from home, but there are plenty of other big seaside towns along this coastline that are well worth a visit too.
Beer isn’t just a drink here
The little village of Beer, approx a 15 minute drive from Lyme is a beautiful little place, the lane going down to it seems a bit narrow but brave it because at the bottom is a stunning little place, with breathtaking walks above white cliffs, cute shops in the centre and a generally really laid back place. There is also a little shack restaurant that sits on top of the pebble beach at the bottom of the high street, where you can sit and enjoy the sea breeze with a cup of English cream tea and a scone.
Sidmouth is another place my parents used to take me regularly, and again probably a 20 minute drive from Lyme, it’s well worth a visit too. Sidmouth is a picturesque seaside town nestled beneath majestic Triassic red cliffs and the green hills of the glorious Sid valley. It has a great walk down some big wooden steps called Jacob’s ladder which leads from some stunning gardens at the top down to the sandy front. It also boasts another great mini golf course and is also a reasonable sized town where you could easily spend the day with some nice pubs restaurants and ice-cream parlours to spoil you for choice.
Weymouth and Exmouth are the bigger towns that lie along the Jurassic coast. Weymouth is one of the most popular seaside resorts in Britain due to its sheltered and shallow waters of its golden sandy beach which are ideal for bathing, and Weymouth enjoys more sunshine than anywhere else in England, even in winter. Meanwhile Exmouth is also a popular destination for a variety of watersports including kite surfing, kayaking and windsurfing. The nearby Exe estuary is one of the most beautiful in Britain, and is a haven for birdlife.
There are also a variety of other towns that are worth exploring too like Charmouth, Abbotsbury, Branscombe, Bridport & West Bay, Budleigh Salterton, Kimmeridge, Portland, Seaton, Swanage and West Lulworth. All have their own unique charm and different view points of the stunning cliffs along the Jurassic coast.
So although this area isn’t ideal if you are a young club reveller, or looking for a city bustling with energy. Nope this is like a little slice of British relaxation, where people go to chill and take their families. If you are from Britain you’ll know exactly the sort of place this is, but if you aren’t then here might give you a great insight into the real British seaside culture. Cornwall and North Wales get many of the headlines for overseas visitors but I highly recommend trying this area of the UK, just ensure you go to Lyme Regis as it will always be my favourite place in the world. (P.S. I don’t work for their tourism board I promise).