Your Route Number 2:
Weymouth to Lyme Regis
Following the Dorset coast westwards from Weymouth to Lyme Regis offers a unique driving adventure. It’s not only that you’ll be driving entirely within one of the country’s largest Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, you’ll also be passing the extraordinary landscapes of the Jurassic Coast, the UK’s only natural World Heritage Site.
The highlights of this stretch include Chesil Beach, one of the world’s finest and longest pebble barriers, and the strange orange sandstone of Golden Cap, the highest cliff along the whole southern English coastline.
Discover one of the geological wonders of the world...
The 17-mile-long natural barrier of Chesil Beach is one of the geological wonders of the world. This narrow curving strip of stones is composed of 180 billion pebbles separating the sea from a lagoon behind it that’s packed with wildlife. Tidal forces mean Chesil’s pebbles start as small as peas near Burton Bradstock and get gradually bigger heading east – until they are the size of fridges at the Portland end.
During your trip
Pretty stone cottages line Abbotsbury’s streets making it a picturesque and popular stop for refreshments or browsing artsy crafty shops. Village highlights include visiting the Swannery for the unique sensation of wandering through the middle of a colony of 600 swans, who are all looking back at you. A little more relaxing is exploring acres of exotic vegetation at the Subtropical Gardens.
Another immaculate chocolate-box village, Burton Bradstock’s teashops and gift shops stand behind sandstone cliffs that mark the start of the Chesil Beach. It’s a good spot to park up for a leisurely stroll. Find the National Trust’s Hive Beach for an award-winning seafood beach café or explore the crumbling rocks for frequently exposed fossils.
Bridport & WEST BAY
The scenic coast road meets the faster A35 trunk road at Bridport, a bustling and bohemian market town full of interesting independent traders and quirky historic buildings, including a thatched brewery and central town hall clock tower. Wednesday and Saturday markets can slow traffic but offer distractingly varied stalls lining the streets.
Pastel painted cottages lead back up a sheltered valley from the beaches, harbours and seafood restaurants at Lyme Regis. The narrow winding main street is a traffic bottleneck but at least it’s lined by grandly attractive buildings. Stop to find Lyme’s excellent range of shops, bars, cafes and pubs.
Best picnic spot
Black Down and the Hardy Monument
Hop onto a boat from Poole Quay or Sandbanks to see red squirrels on the National Trust’s Brownsea Island or simply park on the harbourside to gaze across the vast natural harbour. It’s always busy with watersporters.
A few yards away, the seafront beach is long, clean and sandy. Then admire the superhomes of the rich and famous as you drive through Sandbanks to the ferry. The four-minute crossing reaches Studland peninsula, a nature reserve of dunes and heath with another long sandy beach leading to the spectacular King Harry Rocks.
Discover somewhere new
Take a detour
North of the A35 between Winterbourne Abbas and Bridport there’s a wide area of classic Dorset rolling countryside. The grassy hills and quiet villages seem little changed from a century ago when this area featured in many of Thomas Hardy’s books.
Eggardon Hill is a prehistoric hill fort in the lanes between West Compton and Powerstock. Potter along Kings Lane, with grass growing down the middle, for a drive you’ll remember for the glorious views. There are small lay-bys to stop and stroll up to the earthworks at the summit if you feel energetic – or simply gasp at the scenery unfolding through your car window.
Staying in the area
The Bull Hotel
- Bed and Breakfast
Moonfleet Manor Hotel