LYME REGIS, Dorset’s most westerly town, shelters snugly between steep, fossil-filled cliffs. Its intimate size and photogenic qualities make this a popular and congested spot in high summer, with some upmarket literary associations – Jane Austen summered in a seafront cottage and set part of Persuasion in Lyme (the town appears in the 1995 film version), while novelist John Fowles lived here until his death in 2005 (the film adaptation of his book, The French Lieutenant’s Woman, was shot here).
Colourwashed cottages and elegant Regency and Victorian villas line its seafront and flanking streets, but Lyme’s best-known feature is a practical reminder of its commercial origins: the Cobb, a curving harbour wall originally built in the thirteenth century. It has suffered many alterations since, most notably in the nineteenth century, when its massive boulders were clad in neater blocks of Portland stone. On Bridge Street, the excellent Lyme Regis Museum displays artefacts related to the town’s literary connections, including John Fowles’ office chair, and provides a crash course in local history and geology, while Dinosaurland on Coombe Street, fills out the story of ammonites and other local fossils. Foodies should head to the Town Mill Complex in Mill Lane, just off Coombe Street, where as well as a working mill, pottery and art gallery there’s a fantastic cheese shop, local brewery and café/tearoom.