The walk from Lyme Regis to Charmouth in Dorset is a lovely, short coast walk of around 5 miles. Climb through woodlands over the cliffs between the two seaside towns, then return along the beach, fossil hunting as you go!
You’ll follow an inland route (due to diversions) over the back of the Spittles – a sloping cliff known for its fossil-rich layers of clay. Pass through peaceful woodlands which are particularly lovely during spring, when the floor is carpeted with bluebells. Finally, cross the Lyme Regis Golf Course and descend down to Charmouth Beach.
The route is well signposted and easy to follow, so you may find that you only really need Step One of my instructions below. But I’ve also included a few noteworthy sites and things to look out for, so hopefully the whole guide is useful!
To come back, walk along the beach from Charmouth to Lyme Regis – fossil hunting as you go! Be sure to time your return with low tide, as the beach can be cut off around high tide.
Lyme Regis to Charmouth Walk – Details And Map
- Distance: 8km / 4.9 miles
- Time: 2 – 2.5 hours
- Elevation Gain: 178m
- Difficulty: Easy-Moderate
- Accessibility: Large portions of this route are off-road, following grassy or dirt tracks. The walk back is along a rather rocky beach. There are no styles but a couple of narrow kissing gates. The route includes a few steps and some quite steep ascents and descents.
- Parking: Paid parking at Cobb Gate carpark (DT7 3QD) – £4 for 3 hours during summer. It’s a very small carpark, many more spaces can be found at the nearby Monmouth Beach carpark (DT7 3LE) – £1.40 per hour.
To make following this walk easier, feel free to use my GPS trail route on Wikiloc. It’s a free app where people can share hiking routes! You’ll probably still find my instructions below helpful, though.
Halve the Walk
Short on time (or energy)? You can walk from Lyme Regis to Charmouth, then take the X53 or X51 bus back to the start point. Or vice versa! Look up the timetables here.
Lyme Regis to Charmouth 5 Mile Circular Walk – Route Instructions
Step One – Lyme Regis to Timber Hill Woods
Start at the Clocktower at the Cobb Gate carpark. Turn right onto Broad Street and follow the road through Lyme Regis town centre, then onto Church Street.
Optional Extention: To include Lyme Regis beach on your walk, start at Monmouth Beach carpark and follow the South West Coast Path along the promenade to the Cobb Gate carpark.
Follow Church Street uphill for about 10 minutes, passing St Michael the Archangel Church on your right, a pretty and historic church with roots in Saxon times (around AD 980). Keep heading uphill until you reach Charmouth Road Long Stay Carpark.
Optional: For a slightly shorter walk, you could park here and begin the route from this carpark. There is an X53 and X51 bus stop here so you can also park here, walk to Charmouth, then take a bus back to your car in Lyme Regis.
Walk past the carpark. Just after the football club on your right, you will come to a wooden kissing gate with a wooden fingerpost for the SW Coast Path.
Be careful not to take the concrete path on your right leading straight forward; you need to pass through the wooden kissing gate and cut diagonally across the field towards the woods ahead.
After rain, this field can be pretty muddy and occasionally has a very shallow stream running across it, so take care.
At the top of the field, pass through another wooden kissing gate and cross a small wooden footbridge. Turn around here for an excellent view of Lyme Regis behind you. Then continue uphill across another field.
South West Coast Path Diversion
The South West Coast Path was diverted inland back in 2013, following some pretty hefty landslides. The diversion was meant to be temporary. However, it appears this is now the permanent route!
The new route is well signposted with wooden fingerposts marked with the SW Coast Path acorn symbol.
Step Two – Through Timber Hill Woods
Eventually, you’ll come to another wooden kissing gate at the edge of a small woodland. During spring this is one of the best places in Dorset to see bluebells; the woodland floor is carpeted with them!
Turn left, as directed by the signpost, then turn right at the next sign, following a yellow Council Footpath arrow-marker into the woods. The path leads quite steeply uphill at this point.
The path winds a lot through the woods, but it is well signposted and easy to follow. Near the top of the woods, it curves the left, passing behind some houses, before opening out onto a side road.
Turn right and follow this road uphill until you reach the main road, where again you will see a wooden Coast Path sign.
Step Three – Cross the Golf Course
Follow the A3052 a very short way, until you reach another wooden fingerpost pointing you right onto the golf course.
Follow the grassy track diagonally across the course. If it’s open, pay attention in case of any flying golf balls.
Eventually, the track winds through some gorse bushes then gently downhill to reach the edge of another woodland. Ignore the white gravel path heading left and right here and instead head straight forward into the wood to continue along the SW Coast Path.
Now for a reasonably steep descent on a rocky dirt path down through the woods. This eventually comes back out onto the A3502, just to the left of the Fernhill Hotel.
Step Four – Down to Charmouth
Turn right and follow the road downhill. You will pass a white waymarker for the SW Coast Path diversion.
Just after the roundabout, you will see two blue benches on either side of the road and a green Coast Path signpost. The SW Coast Path continues on the other side of the road, so cross over and follow the road downhill into Charmouth town.
Turn right onto Higher Sea Lane (you’ll see another green sign) and walk down towards the sea.
Where the road begins to curve to the right, a footpath (with another wooden sign and diversion waymarkers) leads straight forward. Take this all the way down to the beach.
Looking along the beach here, the second cliff you can see is the Golden Cap, the highest point on the South Coast.
Take time to explore the Charmouth Heritage Centre, walk along the river, or try your hand at fossil hunting along the beach. There is a small cafe on the seafront or several shops and restaurants in town if you need refreshments.
Step Five – Charmouth to Lyme Regis along the Beach
When you’re finished in Charmouth, you can walk back to Lyme Regis along the beach. Be sure to look up tide times beforehand. You are not able to do this near high tide as the beach will be cut off. Check tide times for Charmouth on the Met Office website here.
Keep your head down while you walk, as this is one of the best beaches in Dorset to find fossils! Especially around the bases of the cliffs, where regular mudslides are constantly unearthing new treasures. However, please note that digging in the cliffs is forbidden (and very unsafe).
Although it seems more direct than the inland route from Lyme Regis to Charmouth, the walk back along the beach can still take a while. There are lots of large rocks and loose stones to traverse, so you need to take care as you walk, which makes the going quite slow.
The first cliff you pass on the right is Black Ven, while the second set of cliffs are called the Spittles. You passed through the bluebell woods at the top of the Spittles earlier.
‘Ven’ is a local word for ‘fen’ and refers to the boggy slopes of these constantly shifting and falling cliffs. You can see the layers of clay in both cliffs – these get wet when it rains and new fossils are constantly washing out.
The Spittles are where Mary Anning found her famous Ichthyosaurus! They’re made up of layers of Blue Lias: limestone and shale layers laid down in Triassic and early Jurassic times, between 195 and 200 million years ago.
Ammonites are the most common fossil here, and they’re easy to spot, so keep your eyes open!
Step Six – Back Through Lyme Regis
Eventually, you will come to some steps leading up to a promenade. This follows the base of the cliffs around and back to Lyme Regis town centre. Look down at the beach as you walk to see several huge ammonite imprints in the rocky floor.
Optional: If you parked in Charmouth Road Carpark then you can take a shortcut back from here by following the wooden staircase (the car park is signposted).
Follow the promenade back into Lyme Regis town centre and the Cobb (the town’s harbour). Just before you reach the harbour you will pass the Marine Theatre, a beautiful, historic building dating back to 1894.
Also worth a visit while you’re in this area is the excellent Lyme Regis Museum, with its fantastic new Mary Anning Wing. It’s the perfect place to learn a little more about the town’s history – and see some of the most impressive fossils found in the area.
There are plenty of cafes, shops, and restaurants to explore along the seafront and in the town centre itself. Spend some time relaxing on the beach with an ice cream, or treat yourself to some locally caught fish ‘n’ chips! You’ve earned it!