Lyme Regis, a coastal down in the southern part of England, plays a substantial role in Jane Austen’s novel "Persuasion". Jane and her family visited the town in 1803 and again in 1804. Even then, it was a popular tourist spot and a place to take in the sea air. Other famous authors and poets who spent time on holiday in Lyme Regis include J.R.R. Tolkien, Alfred Lord Tennyson, G.K. Chesterton and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Nestled in the western border of Dorset County, it once provided a convenient spot for a military base during World War II, but those areas were returned to public use once the war ended. Lyme Regis has been called "the Pearl of Dorset" and is proud to have remained a small friendly coastal town.
The geologic importance of Lyme Regis is internationally known. The coast is home to an assortment of rocks and fossils formed in multiple periods of time. For this reason, it is largely known as the Jurassic Coast and is a World Heritage Site. The cliffs at the shoreline are comprised of geologic formations created during the Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous Periods during the Mesozoic Era. Field studies by geologists and earth scientists are ongoing. The largest sand ammonite fossil was found here and its shape is a popular decoration accent around the town.
The large boulder breakwater, known as the Cobb, served to create a quiet harbor and allowed for shipping and trade from the 16th to the 18th century. It is most famous to Jane Austen fans as the location of Louisa Musgrove’s fall in the novel "Persuasion".
The adventurous and active visitor can walk the South West Coastal Path. This 16-mile hike from Lyme Regis to Golden Cap (the tallest part of southern England) takes two days and veers away from the coast only at Lyme Regis (due to dangerous landslips along the shoreline). Those looking for a more leisurely visit can stick to the coast of Lyme Bay and walk its beachfront while taking in the salty air and crashing waves. For those driving to Lyme Regis, it is a lovely drive through Dorset County, which offers stunning views as well as rapid, dramatic changes in elevation. Lyme Regis, itself, sits on a hill and its streets are narrow. A small car lot offers public parking right along the beach on Bridge Street, but those parking spaces fill up quickly. More public parking is available, literally up the street, and the steep incline may tax a small car’s engine. The parking fee is minimal and most lots are within easy walking distance of the shore.
The Lyme Regis Museum offers visitors a look at the geologic history of the area. Many stores and restaurants are available for 'drier' diversions. In the summer, ice cream parlours are abundant. Those looking to stay overnight will find plenty of places to stay.
On its own, Lyme Regis is a great excursion for those craving the coast and a little time away. A walk along the Cobb and time spent gazing out at the ocean can restore a little vitality and may be exactly what Jane Austen did herself!