Monday 31 July 2017

Five fab things to do in Dorset

About 10 years ago, when the kids were small, we stayed in Croyde, Devon, and it rained for the entire holiday. In fact, it bucketed down, all day every day until the morning we left, when the sun came out in force. After that, I told my husband in no uncertain terms that summer holidays in England were off the agenda. For the decade that followed, we only ventured down to Cornwall or Devon in the Easter hols with reasonably low expectations about the weather.

Jurassic coast, Durdle Door
The stunning Jurassic coast
Credit: William Lam
Last summer, however, I was persuaded to stay with friends in South Devon. For seven days, the temperature soared and we nearly collapsed in the heat. Croyde became a distant memory and the English south coast shimmered in the sunshine, a breathtaking palette of blues and greens. There was no better place to be.

This year, we booked another week with the same friends on the Devon-Dorset border near Lyme Regis. Although the weather was more changeable, we did enjoy a few summery spells. And, despite one or two grey days, we managed to keep everyone entertained.

Keeping busy in Dorset

Our first stop was the beach at Charmouth to do some fossil-hunting along the Jurassic coast. My friend organised a two-hour session with the Charmouth Heritage Centre, which included an introductory talk followed by a guided walk along the beach to seek out our own fossils. I was amazed at how easy it was to unearth real fossils, 150 million years old. Our finds included tiny belemnites, ammonites and clumps of fool's gold.

Belemnite fossils
A handful of belemnite fossils

The boys tried crabbing off the Cobb at Lyme Regis, but they weren't as successful as they were last year in Salcombe. Somehow we didn't hit on the right spot! Nevertheless, the boutiques on the main high street gave up other spoils on a dull and rainy morning. I was rather pleased with a double string of vintage pearls, complete with an amethyst clasp, that I bought from Papa Luca on Broad Street.

Lyme Regis beach
Lyme Regis beach
Credit: William Lam

One member of our party celebrated her birthday while we were away and elected to climb Golden Cap, the highest point on the south coast, as her birthday treat. After a run-in with some cows and their calves (they were blocking a gate in typical bovine style) we ended up taking the scenic route down, a diversion that took twice as long. 

View from Golden Cap, Dorset
View from Golden Cap
Credit: William Lam
Never mind - once down we rewarded ourselves with a delicious lunch at the Anchor Inn, Seatown, overlooking the blue, blue sea. It was the best fish, chips and mushy peas that I've had in a long time.

Other notable eateries included the Wheelwright Inn at Colyford (ask for their 'wheelie good burger') and the Hive Beach Cafe at Burton Bradstock, if fresh fish is more your thing. Get there early as it's very popular and you can't reserve a table.

Durdle Door
Durdle Door
My favourite vista of the holiday was standing on the cliffs above Durdle Door with the sun glinting on the waves. I could have stayed there for hours looking out longingly to sea, like the French Lieutenant's Woman. We clambered up the path from car park at Lulworth Cove with a couple of moany kids and an exuberant Labrador who kept threatening to throw himself over the cliff. But it was definitely worth the climb!

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