A trip to Beer is thirsty work. There’s plenty of superb walking (or lounging on a deckchair if you prefer) on offer here, while the beautiful views of the headland (tantalisingly called Beer Head – it’s as if the local publicans are bombarding you with subliminal messages) are well worth drinking in.
Thankfully though, despite the name, this pretty seaside village isn’t some boozy mecca for stag and hen parties; though it can get busy in the summer months, it’s far too quiet for that. Indeed, the name has nothing to do with pints and merriment – it is thought to derive from the Anglo-Saxon word bearu, meaning ‘grove’, as the area was once heavily wooded. By the time of the Domesday Book, the village was known as Bera, which evolved into Beer.
Nestled in the middle of Lyme Bay on the Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site, Beer is firmly entrenched in its very own stone age. The history, architecture and many of the main draws here revolve around the geology of this part of the Jurassic Coast.
In between the lines
If you look at the white cliffs, you can see dark lines of flint, a much sought-after building material that features in the pretty fishermen’s cottages throughout the village. However, the cliffs mainly consist of Cretaceous limestone, which is creamy white and easy to carve, and so it has also been mined extensively since Roman times.
This local stone has been used in the construction of several famous buildings, including the Tower of London and St Paul’s Cathedral, but here the real interest is in the network of caverns that have been left behind, known as Beer Quarry Caves. You can tour this vast network of man-made caves, today a Site of Special Scientific Interest due to the bats that live here, particularly the rare Bechstein’s bat.
But perhaps the most important rock formation here is the beach itself – an ever-moving, sheltered pebbly cove with a soothing ‘clack-clacking’ of pebbles on the tide. There is little chance of making sandcastles here, so leave the spade at home, but do bring your bucket and a net to explore the rockpools that are exposed when the tide is out.
Thanks to its sheltered position, this cove was once a haven for smugglers (rum and Beer doesn’t sound like a good idea, but it obviously worked for them). Today, it’s fishermen who take advantage of the shelter – boats are lined up on the shore.
If watching the boats and listening to sea is too sedentary for you, you could take the South West Coast Path to Branscombe. The views are outstanding, but if the walk from Beer seems easy, that’s because it’s downhill – the walk back is more challenging. Once you return to Beer – or even if you chose to explore the village without tackling the headland – it could just be time for a pint. Now, what to have?