South West Coast Path : West Bay to Lyme Regis walk

Coast walk via Golden Cap (hill) overlooking the majestic sweep of Lyme Regis Bay

under construction

Warning

The last section of this walk (Charmouth to Lyme Regis) is best done along the beach, just before low tide, and on a falling tide only. Alternatively, you can cut the walk short, or use a longer inland detour with some road walking.

If you do other parts of the walk at beach level, do so on a falling tide, and be aware of frequent cliff falls

Length

8.8 miles (14.2 km) with 2200 feet (675 m) of elevation (low tide option)

The SWCP inland diversion at Timber Hills adds 2km and 600ft of ascent (mid and high tide option)

OS Maps OS Explorer 116 Lyme Regis and Bridport
Toughness 7 out of 10 - good paths but lots of ups and downs
Walk Notes

This is an hilly cliff top walk following the South West Coast Path(SWCP) along a remote section of the Dorset coast with 2,200 to 2,750 ft of ascent. The highlights are Seatown, Golden Cap (summit), Charmouth (fossils), and Lyme Regis (historic port town).

The walk starts in West Bay, where the 'Broadchurch' TV series was set. Its a small coastal village with a harbour, several eateries, and many new builds. There is a large car park just outside town, and the Weymouth station - Axemouth station bus service stops here.

You leave town following a gentle cliff top path, and after 1.5km come to Eype Mouth beach (car park, no facilities).

The cliff top path ascends Thorncombe Beacon (155m), then Doghouse Hill (132m), before coming down to Seatown beach (2.5km)

Seatown has a gastro pub, with a lovely terrace overlooking the beach.

After lunch, ascend Golden Cap (191m, trig point, view point), the highest point on the south coast. (1.5km)

Then its an undulating path down to St Gabriel's mouth (beach access closed), then back up to Stonebarrow Hill (155m) that eventually heads down to Charmouth (3.5km)

Charmouth is famous for fossil collecting. There nearby cliffs are slowly collapsing into the sea, depositing fossils on the beach as they do. There is a sea front visitor centre with a cafe.

Here you have a choice as the next section of coast past Timber Hill / Black Ven is fast eroding with regular landslips, and the land under the old footpaths has collapsed. At low tide you can walk along the beach to Lyme Regis, you can finish here, or you can use the inland SWCP detour which involves some road walking. There is a plan to improve it. See below.

The beach walk to Lyme Regis (2.5km) past the fossil collectors takes about 45 mins. It is best done just before low tide on a falling tide only. You will be cut off by mid tide - people are often rescued here by the Lyme Regis lifeboat. If you find any dinosaur bones along the way, you must report it.

The paths and waymarking are being upgraded by the England Coast Path project.

Options

The coast here is prone to landslips, particularly at the end of the walk between between Golden Cap and Lyme Regis See SWCP route changes for the latest updates.

Golden Cap : St Galbriel's Mouth beach

The NT maintained staircase down to the beach is closed. No beach access between Seatown and Charmouth.

Golden Cap to Charmouth : Stonebarrow Hill / Cain's Folly

Follow the coast path, not the inland SWCP diversion shown on OS maps. The coast path had fallen into the sea, but has been (is being) reinstated as part of the England Coast Path review. There was a long inland detour, but "most" people still used the cliff top path anyway (by trespassing on the farmer's field to go around it - which is why the diversion was the 'official' route).

If you do use the inland detour (along Stonebarrow Road), you have to cross the river, don't be tempted to use the path on the east side of Charmouth river down to the sea, it's "closed" as well.

Stonebarrow Hill - geology and photos

Charmouth to Lyme Regis : Timber Hill

On the coast between these 2 towns is Timber Hill. It's summit has a trig point and golf course. The coast side of the hill is very unstable. There are regular landslips, especially at 'Black Ven'. The hill is (slowly) sliding into the sea, depositing fossils on the beach as it does. See photos and geology of the area.

Two footpaths, one along the coast at the base of Timber Hill, and another along the top of hill (south of the golf course), both shown on the current Landranger map (but not the Explorer map) have been abandoned - the land under them has collapsed.

This leaves the following options

  • the recommended route (at low tide, on a falling tide, only), avoids the hill, by going along the beach. Do not linger, and keep away from the base of the cliff.
  • finish the walk in Charmouth, and catch the coast bus from there.
  • [April'19] the 'official' SWCP route is a long detour inland around Timber Hill with too much road walking on the Charmouth side. Once you reach the golf course at the top of the hill, there are nice views, and a rhododendron wood on they way down to Lyme Regis. On the way down to Charmouth, go through the large coast park for a new staircase down to the promenade along the new sea defence wall.
  • [not yet open] the above SWCP inland detour is being re-routed on a new footpath between Charmouth and the golf course on top of the hill. This will remove nearly all the road walking. It will still be 1km from the sea, but will have nice sea and inland views.

The recent England Coast Path review looked at repairing the closed hill top footpath in front of the golf course, but decided that "it is not viable to reinstate the closed footpath due to the unstable ground and risk of further landslips" and "there is not enough room between the sheer cliff edge and the ... golf course to safely accommodate a path". It looks like they came to a compromise, and routed the SWCP on a new path behind the golf course instead. See the ECP Report, especially Map 1B and 1C, which shows these paths, and the landslip areas clearly.

For the very intrepid, there is a open but dead-end footpath (shown on the Explorer map) on the Lyme Regis side of Timber Hill, but there is a gap in the middle (landslip area), and then a closed footpath on the Charmouth side (more landslips).

Beach

At low tide, you can walk along the beach for the entire route. See Jon's photos. (note that the beach may be narrower than shown in these photos due to erosion). You can 'mix and match' between cliff top and beach level, but beware

  • the cliffs are very unstable in places (fresh boulders on the beach indicate danger, and the extent of the 'missile hazard zone'). Landslips can happen not only after prolonged wet weather, but after dry weather as well (clay shrinkage). Keep as far away from the base of the cliff as possible and do not linger. The risk is small, but not zero.
  • there is no beach access for 5km between Seatown and Charmouth,
  • there's shingle walking, and boulders in places
  • you will be cut off in high tides/storms, and it will not remain low tide the entire way

See the geology of : West Bay, Golden Cap and Stonebarrow Hill

Travel

Trains go from London Waterloo to Dorchester / Weymouth (on one route) and Axminster (on another), and take about 3 hours. If you need to return from the other 'route', consider Advance Singles rather than a period return instead. There are (were?) occasional SWT Promotions, e.g. £15 day trips in summer 2014.

X53 bus : Weymouth (station) - Abbotsbury - West Bay - Bridport (inland, change for Dorchester) - Charmouth - Lyme Regis - Axminster (station).

X51 bus : Dorchester station - Bridport (2km inland from West Bay) - Charmouth - Lyme Regis - Axeminster (station)

The X53 Jurassic Coast bus route serves the entire route. Much more frequent in summer. [2019] Week tickets, and Group day tickets good value. Adult day tickets expensive. If you just miss a bus, consider walking 2km inland to Bridport for the X51.

Take the bus from Axminster (1 hr 5 mins) or Weymouth (45 ins) to West Bay.

Charmouth (47mins) or Lyme Regis (30 mins) to Axminster station (hourly) on either the X53 or X51.

Car drivers: park in West Bay (use the car park just outside the town on Station Road, £2/day). Bus X53 : Lyme Regis to West Bay, hourly, takes 40 mins

Eat

West Bay at the start has many places.

  • The Watch House Cafe is the only one right on the beach.
  • Over the bridge, on the far (north west) side of the harbour, and on the coast path, are Windy Corner Cafe (modern, picture windows, overlooking the beach) and Rachael's (small, terrace, overlooking the marina).

Eype's Mouth is a beach and a car park (£4/day). Just inland, the Caravan Park has a Tea Room. Further inland (not on the coast path, but handy for driver's on the A35) is Downhouse Farm cafe DT6 6AH (view, terrace, vegan and GF options)

Seatown is a pub and a car park (DT6 6JU, £5 all day, free if you spend £20 in the pub) at the end of a narrow 1-track lane. Beware early closing times.

  • Anchor Inn DT6 6JU, 01297 489215. Open all day. Great terrace overlooking the beach. Some parking, or pay car park opposite. Expensive for the area. Mains £15-19. But a free coffee with a bucket of rubbish from the beach!

Charmouth has many places inland, and a couple right on the beach

  • Soft Rock Cafe, DT6 6LS, tiny cafe with outside tables, right on the beach (East Beach, over the bridge from the centre)
  • The Heritage Centre (free entry) on the beach front has information about fossil hunting in the area, and a cafe

Lyme Regis has lots and lots of places!

Fossils

Charmouth is famous for fossil hunting. The cliffs at Charmouth consists of layers of mud and silt, which are easily eroded, especially after storms, depositing fossils on the beach.

Fossil Walks : The Charmouth Heritage Centre (on the seafront) runs tours for all ages. 2 hours. £8 (£4 child). Book in advance! Other local guides are Lyme Regis Fossils (groups) and Fossil Walks (groups, schools, and public on school holidays - £5)

Safety : The cliffs are very unstable - take care, especially near recent mudslides. In addition, only enter the beach area (under the high cliffs) on a falling tide - the route to Lyme Regis is cut off soon after low tide. If you use a hammer, use must use safety glasses - the rocks can splinter.

Collector's code : Don't dig, just look! Report anything significant you find to the heritage centre (if you do, you will be given ownership of it, if you don't, it's stealing from the landowner). The Heritage Centre has experienced collectors on standby. See the 'rocks and fossils' tab on the heritage centre website.

Tides
16-Jul : high: 07:16 low: 12:19 high: 19:27
17-Jul : low: 00:45 high: 07:53 low: 13:03 high: 20:03
18-Jul : low: 01:28 high: 08:27 low: 13:44 high: 20:39
19-Jul : low: 02:09 high: 09:00 low: 14:23 high: 21:14
20-Jul : low: 02:48 high: 09:34 low: 14:59 high: 21:49
21-Jul : low: 03:24 high: 10:08 low: 15:30 high: 22:21
22-Jul : low: 03:56 high: 10:41 low: 15:59 high: 22:49
Times for Lyme Regis. Corrected for BST if appropriate. Contains ADMIRALTY® tidal data: © Crown Copyright and database right.
Profile
Help Us!

After the walk, we would love to get your feedback

You can upload photos to the SWC Group on Flickr, and videos to Youtube. This walk's tags are:

swcwalks
swcwalk331
By Car

Start West Bay, Dorset Map Directions

Finish Lyme Regis, Dorset Map Directions

Amazon
Help

Start walking Large print Using GPS data

National Rail: 03457 48 49 50 • Travelline SE (bus times): 0871 200 2233 (12p/min) • TFL (London) : 0343 222 1234

Version

Apr-19

Copyright © Saturday Walkers Club. All Rights Reserved. No commercial use. No copying. No derivatives. Free with attribution for one time non-commercial use only. www.walkingclub.org.uk/site/license.shtml