True, 191m (627ft) hardly makes a mountain. But Golden Cap – which glows bright yellow, but is made of (somewhat misnamed) greensand – is the highest point on Britain’s south shore, and probably the oldest.
The rocks on Dorset’s 155km-long Jurassic Coast chart around 185 million years of the planet’s history. Fossil hunters have long scoured the area for treasures while walkers on the South West Coast Path are lead up and over Golden Cap, for fine views out to Chesil Beach, Lyme Bay and Dartmoor beyond.
Walking with dinosaurs
The South West Coast Path signposts will guide you along this coastal stroll. Start on Lyme Regis’s iconic Cobb, the curved 13th-century harbour made famous in books by Jane Austen and John Fowles. Follow the seafront past the Tourist Information Centre and turn up Church Street to leave the town.
Just beyond the football club car park, turn right into fields, cutting through the woods and up Timber Hill, following diversion signs (due to landslides) that lead you via the A3052 and a golf course. After Fern Hill coppice, rejoin the A3052, turning right and heading over the roundabout into fossil capital Charmouth.
Walk down Higher Sea Lane until you reach the Heritage Coast Centre, full of information about the rocky remains. Further landslips mean more detours: from the Heritage Centre, head inland, following River Way and Bridge Road to the main street.
Go right up Stonebarrow Lane, to the top of Stonebarrow Down. Further inland there is a National Trust visitor centre, or you can follow the Coast Path along the cliff top to Golden Cap.
View from the top
The Cap’s honey-coloured sandstone is actually the tail end of a seam running down from the Cotswolds. It’s a steep haul up but your effort is rewarded with cracking views. On a clear day you can see east to Portland Bill and inland to the granite tops of Dartmoor. The route down veers inland (and is steep in places, so take care), eventually bringing you to Seatown.
The small hamlet is home to the Anchor Inn, a traditional smugglers’ den thought to be home to the notorious Chideock Gang in the 19th century. To return, jump on the X53 bus
back to Lyme Regis.
HOW TO GET THERE
The A35 and A303 are the nearest major roads to Lyme Regis; the A3052 and B3165 run into the town. The nearest train station is at Axminster, from where the 31 bus connects to Lyme (20 minutes). The X53 bus connects Seatown to Lyme Regis (which takes around 30 minutes).
FIND OUT MORE
Lyme Regis Tourist Information Centre
Church St, Lyme Regis, Dorset DT7 3BS
The South West Coast Path site has plenty of information about planning walks in the area.
Silver St, Lyme Regis,
Dorset DT7 3HS
This 17th-century coaching inn has had a clean, bright revamp; there are comfy rooms and a pretty garden with bay views.
Town Mill Bakery
2 Coombe St, Lyme Regis, Dorset DT7 3PY
Treat yourself in this organic bakery that makes incredible breads. The breakfasts (toast, homemade jam), lunches (stews, salads) and afternoon cakes are all recommended.
Lower Sea Lane, Charmouth, Dorset DT6 6LL
Enjoy a fabulous fossil collection and geological displays, plus year-round activities including fossil forages and rockpooling.