Top tips for visiting the Dorset Jurassic Coast

A UNESCO Word Heritage Site, this speculator coastline is well worth visiting. It has plenty of delightful villages and seaside resorts and a very well signposted south west coastal path alongside Chesil Beach and up and over the cliffs.

East Cliff, West BayFor those of you with bus passes, this region has one of the most spectacular bus journeys in the country. Take the X53 from Weymouth to Lyme Regis or in reverse and enjoy travelling along the clifftops and through the market town of Bridport, West Bay, and the villages of Burton Bradstock and Charmouth. Inland the county town of Dorchester and the small market town of Beaminster are also linked to the bus network.

One trip well worth considering is to take the Jurassic Coaster bus to Weymouth and then link up with the open topped bus 501 which runs in the summer months past the National Sailing Academy and out to the lighthouse at the end of Portland. Here you can get an excellent meal in the Lobster Pot Restaurant. The food is really wholesome and freshly prepared. You can also enjoy visiting the lighthouse and exploring the pathways and cabins close to the Lobster Pot. Do check the bus times and connections before making this trip which takes in some very spectacular views across Portland and back towards Chesil Beach.

View over Chesil BeachThere are some excellent walks around the coast, not only along the cliffs but also from West Bay inland to the market town of Bridport across the fields. It starts by walking through the caravan site at West Bay and then cross the fields until you get to Palmers Brewery and Bridport Football Club Ground. The path then takes you along the river and into the town.

Bridport has a busy market every Wednesday and Saturday which stretches along the main streets. There is usually a band playing in Buckey Doo Square by the town hall. Bridport has an excellent free museum, a fascinating Quaker House and burial grounds and the Electric Palace which is a renovated art deco cinema featuring variety of bands and current films. The town has a wealth of charity shops and an intriguing hat shop and clothing store which reminds me somewhat of the TV series Are You Being Served. Bridport has strong connections with the rope making industry which is evident in the wide streets and deep buildings which line the High Street and surrounding roads. It is often described as the Notting Hill of the West Country. A favourite cafe close to the main square is the Beach and Barnicott.

Footpath along the Jurassic CoastIf you’re looking for somewhere different to eat then you should consider the restaurant on the Symondsbury Estate which is located on the road out of Bridport town centre in the direction of Lyme Regis.

Dorchester, the county town, is a short bus ride from the coast and has plenty to offer visitors. It has strong connections with the author Thomas Hardy. There is a weekly market, a county museum and plenty of shops.  It is well served by public transport and has two railway stations.

Lyme Regis has a rich and colourful history and a walk along the seafront to the famous Cobb is very popular. From here you can go past the lifeboat station and along the sea wall. There are plenty of places to eat or have a drink near the front. The town centre, which is located on a steep hill, has a number of independent shops. It is also well worth investigating the local museum to find out more about the famous fossil hunter and palaeontologist Mary Anning.

There are lots of cafes and places to eat along this coastline. However some of my favourites include the Watch House Cafe at West Bay, the Hive Beach Cafe near Burton Bradstock and for something a bit special The Clubhouse at West Bexington.

West Bay HarbourThere are currently major sea defences working along the beach at West Bay which is likely to last until well into 2019. However, there is still plenty to see in the Discovery Centre and around the harbour. West Bay featured the TV series Broadchurch starring Olivia Colman and David Tennant and also Harbour Lights.

Abbotsbury has its famous Swannery and for the seaside there is Weymouth with its large sweeping sandy beach. Easy to get to from London, Bath and Bristol, my favourite spots include the harbour near the swing bridge, the area on the other side of the river close to the lifeboat station and the marina.

Look out for some local products when you are in the area. These include Dorset Knobs, Palmers Beers and Black Cow Vodka which is made in part from milk. Locally produced, you should be able to get it in most local pubs.

There are lots of local footpaths which are well maintained and marked. However be warned that some of the cliffs along this coastline can be dangerous and it is best to keep well back.

Images courtesy of Godfrey Hall

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Godfrey Hall

Award-winning travel writer

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