The first stop on many holidays is at the beach. It doesn’t get much better than the sandy shores of the Jurassic Coast. Lyme Regis is a great starting point. It’s not only renowned for its beach scene and fishing trips, but there’s a lovely harbour and quaint town of narrow, winding streets for some retail browsing. Important fossil collector and palaeontologist Mary Anning was born here and the Lyme Regis Museum stands on the site of her birthplace. It’s filled with a huge collection of fossils and runs regular fossil hunting walks.
The West Country is in a great place, not just geographically but in terms of everything it offers for a short break away. Its pastoral landscapes and quaint towns and villages make it one of Britain’s sleepier places – so perfect for pressing pause on everyday life and moving to a refreshingly unhurried rhythm.
There are no shortage of things to enjoy in Somerset. For outdoorsy types, walking routes come thick and fast – as do the outstanding views – among the Quantocks and Blackdown Hills, both Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The county is one of the largest producers of cider too and many farms and apple orchards are more than happy to open their doors and welcome visitors for tours and tastings. Following all or part of the Somerset Cider Trail helps find local producers.
A taste of the sea air is never far away, either, with steam railways and leisurely routes winding their way towards the coast where traditional seaside resorts like Minehead and Weston-super-Mare go big on the fun with piers, promenades, fish and chips and miles of golden sand.
Just over the county border, Dorset and East Devon demonstrate why they are both so deserving of their Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty status. This part of the world boasts a historic pedigree that goes back 185 million years with the coastline from Exmouth to Studland the guardian of fabulous beaches and limestone cliffs still layered with fossils from the mighty age of the dinosaur.
Read on to find out about the best sights, attractions and activities to enjoy while taking a relaxing break in the West Country.
Events to enjoy in Somerset and the neighbouring counties
Festivals, themed days and annual shows keep the social calendar busy in this part of the country. Somerset and Dorset events and carnivals offer the opportunity to learn about a new tradition and uncover more of the area’s history, or just to have a bit of fun, usually washed down with local food and drink.
Taunton Flower Show. Often described as the ‘Chelsea of the West’, this is Britain’s longest-running flower show, filling Taunton’s Vivary Park with blooms and inspirational display gardens to extol the wonders of gardening. Live music on stage, marching bands, local food and Q&As with gardening experts make it a complete day out. 2-3 August 2019
Lyme Regis Regatta and Carnival Week. A carnival procession, regatta races, power boat rides, live music, quizzes and fireworks at The Cobb guarantee a party atmosphere in the town, all week long. 3-11 August 2019
Crewkerne End of Summer Show. This annual horse and dog show is fun and friendly with horses and their owners participating in show jumping and dressage competitions and dogs competing in a variety of pedigree and novelty classes. 8 September 2019
Somerset Arts Week. Venues across Somerset throw open their doors for this celebration of contemporary art showcasing the work of painters, sculptors, glassblowers, wood carvers and more. There are workshops, have-a-go activities and special events, with most exhibitions and studio visits free of charge. 21 September-6 October 2019
Great seaside activities in Dorset and Devon
With lovely seaside places and fossil hotspots within easy reach, days out in the West Country can be as leisurely, educational, or as lively as you like.
Pinhay Bay and Monmouth Beach are just a few minutes' drive from Lyme Regis, while further west there’s the pretty village of Beer – famed for its fresh mackerel – and Seaton where there’s a large beach and narrow gauge heritage trams running through the Axe Valley. Heading east, popular Hive Beach has coarse sand overlooked by cliffs and fields.
South West Coast path
Another way to enjoy the coastline is from the South West Coast Path. It runs from Minehead in Somerset for 630 miles all the way along to Dorset’s Poole Harbour, making it England’s longest footpath. It means that you can turn left or right on just about any beach in the South West to find it and begin anything from casual strolls to more challenging hikes, all with far-reaching views.
If you’d like to enjoy the area for yourself, why not book a short break away at Cricket St. Thomas Hotel in Somerset?