Walking the Jurassic Coast from Lyme Regis to Exmouth
on the South West Coastal Path in England
Recently we had the happy occurrence of my brother and nephew coming to visit while Taido and Simon were off for Easter Holidays. Visitors don’t always coincide with time off from school for the rest of us, so it worked out beautifully that we could all take off for a few days and head south of Bristol to the Jurassic Coast.
Being an island, Great Britain has a lot of coastline. And you can walk most of it. We did lots of coastal walking when we lived in Scotland and even though we were often nearly blown off the cliffs by the wind, it was some of the most beautiful hiking I’ve done.
But before this trip, we hadn’t explored the southern coast of England at all. I’ve earmarked the South West Coastal Path as a walk I want to do, but the whole path is 630 miles.
So for my brother’s visit I researched sections that were just south of us and we picked a 30-mile stretch to walk over three days.
We woke up early on a Thursday morning in April and caught a bus to the train station, and then a train to Axminster. From there, I had a cab booked to take us to Lyme Regis, which is right on the coast.
Lyme Regis was bustling when we arrived. We were making our trek over the Easter Holidays here in England so all the coastal towns we wandered through were fairly busy.
We quickly grabbed some early lunch and coffee and then headed off down the beach and followed a the trail markings into the woods. We walked through woodland trails that climbed up and down for most of the afternoon. I was surprised that for much of this section, we couldn’t see the sea at all. We seemed to be sort of between the sea and the cliffs above us, so we caught glimpses of the limestone through the trees.
Also the fog settled in heavily, so we might have been able to see out into the water but the view was shrouded anyway.
For the whole coastal trail, there was a lot of climbing and then descending. We would get high above the coastline and then descend all the way down to pebble beaches before climbing up again on the next section. I might not have prepared my crew for all the climbing, but they were troopers!
Simon and my nephew, Wilson, stayed well ahead of us for the whole walk. And Taido took turns between catching up with them and waiting for Peter and me. Whenever we were all back together, I would try to snap a quick photo before the boys ran off ahead of us again.
Around 4:30pm, we reached the town of Seaton, another sea town where folks were hanging out on the pebble beach, even in the fog. We stopped long enough in Seaton to eat the best blueberry ice cream I’ve ever tasted, and then we were climbing again up the hill.
We had just another hour or so to get to Beer, and then maybe a bit longer to walk from the coastline in Beer up to the YHA where we were staying. Everyone was moaning for the last little bit, but we celebrated with drinks at the YHA bar when we arrived.
Then we quickly showered and walked back into town for a lovely celebration dinner. I had a veggie pizza, which I devoured. And Peter, Wilson and Simon all had seafood linguine. Taido got some other kind of fish. Everything tasted amazing. After we’d all finished our meal, Taido looked at the boys and decided to order them a pizza. After all the miles of walking, they probably could have eaten two more pizzas. Good decision.
We wandered back to our bunk room and crawled into bed with full bellies and tired legs.
The next morning Peter and I woke up first so we got out and going ahead of the faster hikers. It was a gorgeous morning in Beer and we were excited that we were going to be able to see all the cliffs and coastlines that had been covered in fog the previous day.
We grabbed coffee, fruit and pastries out of the only open shop before getting on our way.
Every step of this day was drop dead gorgeous. I kept stopping to take pictures and to make profound statements like…”COME ON!!! Can you even believe??”
This sweeping scenery is what I had come for.
It was straight out of a Thomas Hardy novel, and I was gobsmacked by the beauty of it.
The boys soon caught up with us. They stopped for long enough to greet us and get a photo and then on they went, practically running ahead of us.
We stayed high for much of the morning so we could see all that we had walked the day before and where we were headed now.
As the morning wore on, we could see fog settling in up ahead but we seemed to be pushing it further away from us as we walked. We could still see well in almost every direction, a total contrast to the previous day.
A little before 10, we followed a steep descent into Branscombe.
The path looked like it was dropping off a cliff, but really it was just a steep staircase down to the water.
There was a tea shop right by the water in Branscombe. Peter and I had tea and scones with clotted cream of course.
The boys had milkshakes and muffins.
After our rest stop we climbed back up from Branscombe to the cliff tops.
Once we got up to the top, we stayed high for a longer stretch, which was lovely.
The fog came and went, but never entirely blocked our view of the sea.
In the afternoon we walked inland just a bit through another village and then just before we reached our destination of Sidmouth, we entered a forest.
When we emerged, we could see Sidmouth just below us. We were all excited to get to town so much earlier than we had the day before.
Sidmouth is another darling holiday coastal town.
We stayed (and ate) at Duke’s Inn right on the water (an upgrade from our hostel the night before). Since we reached Sidmouth in the early afternoon, we had plenty of time to explore and enjoy the area.
We all said we’d love to return to Sidmouth and spend more time there one day.
It was all blue sky when we walked out the next morning for Day 3 of walking, the final stretch from Sidmouth to Exmouth.
At the edge of town, the walkway runs along these gorgeous red cliffs. It was so striking on such a blue sky day.
All these cliffs are part of why this whole coastline is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The temperature had not even hit 50 degrees F yet and folks were swimming in the sea!
Above the red cliffs, there were houses or fortresses where people actually live and stay in this cutie town.
From the beach area, we began to climb again, of course.
Soon we were high above the sea again and looking back at Sidmouth.
I spent a moment trying to decide which day was the most beautiful walking, but really all three were amazing in their own ways.
As we walked over the green grassy-topped cliff, I decided I could happily turn around at the end and do the whole route again.
We pushed on along the trail, stopping every so often to rest.
Then we were off to another small beach area.
All along this trail, you can see an area way ahead that you know you will be descending down to, and then it gets closer and closer.
Eventually, the path descends down to the sea. Sometimes it carries on along a boardwalk and sometimes you walk right on the beach.
But before you know it, you are walking up the other side of it and turning back to catch the view of all you just walked.
Quickly it gets further and further behind you.
And then you carry on along the cliff top until you reach the next beach area or resort village.
I marked these spots out on my map and counted out hours we would be walking by estimating when we would get to each one.
I got to where I loved the rhythm of this trail, even with all the ups and downs.
I loved watching where I was walking to. The clear way forward.
The third day had longer flat stretches on top where I could spot Simon and Wilson far ahead of us.
When they reached a place where a river was flowing into the sea, and the trail was going to take us inland a couple of miles in order to cross it, they found a spot further in the opposite direction (towards the sea) where we could wade across.
Determined to save walking a couple of miles, we all stripped down to underpants and waded across the freezing water.
Then we debated whether it was worth it or not as we walked along the pebble beach towards the next part of the trail.
Once Exmouth came into view, everyone walked faster, ready to be at the end. I was a little sad our walk was almost over, but also so grateful for the time together walking.
We reached the beach at Exmouth in the afternoon, so after getting ice cream from a cart on the boardwalk, we went and found a pub to hang out in for a while before catching our train back to Bristol.
Everyone agreed that it was a great three days and that we’d had the best views and the best possible weather for our spring adventure together!
I’m always thankful when someone I love is willing to come for a walk with me!
What a gift to have hours and hours to talk with my brother as we walked behind our boys! I can’t wait to do it again!
Here was our itinerary for if you want to walk this beautiful coastline:
Day 1: Lyme Regis to Beer (8 miles)
Day 2: Beer to Sidmouth (8.5 miles)
Day 3: Sidmouth to Exmouth (13 miles)