Section 1. Lyme Regis to West Bay - Jurassic Coast Path Walking Holiday
Distance 10 miles Grade - 3 miles moderate, 7 miles strenuous -What these grades mean.
Highlights: Climbing Golden Cap, scouring the Fossil Beach at Charmouth, the lost church at St Gabriels.
Overnight stops in the Fossil Fever Town of Lyme Regis before you start your South West Coast Path Walking Holiday.
Your first section today to Charmouth introduces the living and moving coastline as you skirt the remains of the largest coastal mudslide in Europe by heading inland over the soft Black Ven cliffs and uphill through the woods of Timber Hill. Enjoy fine early views over the cliff face of the collisions and debris in Lyme Bay below you as you descend to the town of Charmouth for an early refreshment stop. The beach here is famous for its fossils and you should not leave without a quick hunt before you drag yourself away to start an ascent of the ominous Golden Cap.
After crossing the River Char you gain height immediately, climbing above the crumpled under cliff at Cairnes Folly. You can follow the hanging stream valley at Gabriels Mouth inland to find the atmospheric, ivy drenched ruins of the tiny 13th C St Gabriels Church. Said to have been built after a shipwrecked sailor prayed to the Angel Gabriel to deliver him from the mercy of the sea – these spooky remains on the flanks of Golden Cap are evidence he kept his promise. The ascent now begins in earnest with 600ft to climb through heather clad slopes to scale mighty Golden Cap, the highest cliff summit on the South West Coast Path between Lands End and Poole and named after the yellow gold sandstone adorning the top of the peak. It’s a twisting and toiling trail with a rope handrail in one section to help but all is forgotten as you break out of the bracken and gorse to top out on the grassy trig point, an old Napoleonic look out station with absolutely breathtaking views in all directions. You will still be smiling as you arrive back on the beach at Seatown after a long and welcome descent through the woods and pastures on the eastern slopes of the Cap. Seatown is where a drunk Henchard sold his wife at the village fair in the Mayor of Casterbridge, and after conquering Golden Cap you may well wish to celebrate with your own drink at The Anchor Inn.
Smaller climbs now take you over the grassy flanks of Ridge Cliff, with some testing trail past Doghouse Hill to Thorncombe Beacon where you will spot the lofty fire beacon which was first ignited to send the message along the coast that the Spanish Armada had been sighted. After satisfying views back to Golden Cap above you, descend to Eypes Mouth and if you're brave, cross the stream by stone steps just above the “Dragons Teeth” on the beach – old World War 2 tank traps that remain here. The last section of the Jurassic Coast Path today passes old quarries and lime kilns as views of the world famous Chesil Ridge Bank open up ahead. You finally arrive in the fascinating old harbour of West Bay, skirting the fishing boats via a little quayside path in a location famous until the late 19th Century as the coastal entrance for nearby Bridport, which you can reach by following the river Brit inland.