The cliffs around Lyme are made up of a complex layer of limestone, greensand and unstable clay, a perfect medium for preserving fossils, which are exposed by landslips of the waterlogged clays. In 1811, after a fierce storm caused parts of the cliffs to collapse, 12-year-old Mary Anning, a keen fossil-hunter, discovered an almost complete dinosaur skeleton, a 30ft ichthyosaurus now displayed in London’s Natural History Museum.

Hands-off inspection of the area’s complex geology can be enjoyed all around the town: as you walk along the seafront and out towards The Cobb, look for the outlines of ammonites in the walls and paving stones. To the west of Lyme, the Undercliff is a fascinating jumble of overgrown landslips, now a nature reserve, where a great path wends its way through the undergrowth for around seven miles to neighbouring Seaton in Devon. East of Lyme, a huge landslip in 2008 closed the Dorset Coast Path to Charmouth (Jane Austen’s favourite resort), as well as blocking the two-mile beach route to the resort, which was previously walkable at low tide. At Charmouth, you can rejoin the coastal path leading to the headland of Golden Cap, whose brilliant outcrop of auburn sandstone is crowned with gorse.

Book through Rough Guides’ trusted travel partners

England features

The latest articles, galleries, quizzes and videos.

The best pub walks in Britain

The best pub walks in Britain

From its dramatic coastline to its upland mountains, from its stirring moorland to its bucolic inland shires, Britain’s wildly diverse landscapes make for som…

28 Mar 2018 • Daniel Neilson insert_drive_file Article
Taking the plunge: the joys of wild swimming in Britain

Taking the plunge: the joys of wild swimming in Britain

Travel writer and wild swimmer Joe Minihane travels from London to the Isle of Skye in search of one of Britain's most remote wild swimming spots. A pair of …

22 Mar 2018 • Joe Minihane local_activity Special feature
The many faces of Bristol: Britain's coolest city

The many faces of Bristol: Britain's coolest city

Bristol's enterprising spirit is one reason we named it the coolest city in Britain earlier this year. And this spirit is all down to the chefs and artists a…

21 Dec 2017 • Ruth-Ellen Davis local_activity Special feature
View more featureschevron_right