The Jurassic Coast – Where is it?

The Jurassic Coast runs along approximately 96 miles along the South Coast from Exmouth in East Devon to Studland in Dorset and is one of the most popular destinations in Britain. 

It was awarded World Heritage Status in December 2001 by UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation) because of it’s outstanding Earth Science Inerest.  It was the first and only, Natural World Heritage Site.

It is the only place on Earth where 185 million years of the Earth’s history are sequentially exposed in dramatic cliffs, secluded coves, coastal stacks and barrier beaches. The ‘tilt’ of the rocks (like in the opening scene to Broadchurch) creates a unique ‘walk through time’ from 250 million to 65 million years ago, through the Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous periods as you walk eastwards along the Site. World Heritage Sites are carefully selected by UNESCO as places of ‘outstanding universal value. It is the highest global level of designation for a natural area.

The name comes from the best known of the geological periods found within it, but in fact the site includes rocks from the Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous periods.  The phrase ‘Jurassic Coast’ is very quickly becoming as familiar as the UK’s other natural wonders such as the Lake District and Giant’s Causeway. and events.

Some other World Heritage sites are the Great Barrier Reef, Grand Canyon and the Galapagos Islands.  That’s how fabuous the Jurassic Coast is. 

Top Places to visit

Golden Cap – is 190m above the sea.  It’s a famous landmark and is the highest point of the south coast.  It is a climb, and appears in my top 5 Dorset walks blog which can found at: https://www.lancombe.co.uk/dorset-holidays/updates/dorsets-top-5-walks

There are panoramic views in all directions from Portland to Dartmoor. 

The Isle of Portland, is the JC’s most most southerly point, and is joined to the mainland by just a thin strip at the southern end of the sweeping arc of Chesil Beach. Its isolated location and beautiful scenery, and of course famous lighthouse, make it a real must see.  You can walk around the Island by following the South West Coastal Path. 

Swanage is the most easterly town on the Jurassic Coast.   It’s been a popular holiday destination for families since Victorian times, and I used to go there each year for my family holiday as a child.  Whilst there you will also find the iconic chalk stacks of Old Harry Rocks, Durlston Head (more stunning views along the Jurassic Coast) where you can see the Isle of Wight.  The sandy beach of Swanage also holds the prestigious blue flag for beach cleanliness and rightly so!

Chesil Beach can be found just past the very old village of Abbotsbury and is also where Abbotsbury Children’s Farm and the Swannery is located. 

 The village itself is beautiful and has a history going back 6000 years.  Above the village you will find the 14th Century St Catherine’s Chapel, pilgamage and retreat for monks. 

Chesil is a shingle beach and stretches 18 miles born from landslides that eroded after the last ice age around 20,000 years ago.

Charmouth is a lovely seaside village and is nestled in the heart of Jurassic Coast fossil hunting country. Which will be covered later.  It’s also a great beach for walking, as it’s shingle with attractive routes along the South West Coastal Path. 

The famous West Bay hosts the golden cliffs of sand, where you will where the sea levels have fallen from about 175 million years ago. 

The historic seaside town of Lyme Regis is situated, like us, in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty where the West Dorset and East Devon coastlines meet – the heart of the Jurassic Coast. The town and the surrounding area are renowned for their natural beauty, and it has a fascinating history stretching back to the 8th century.

Lyme Regis is also famous as the birthplace of Mary Anning, one of history’s most important fossil collectors and palaeontologists.  It really is a popular place to visit.

Weymouth has long been one of the most popular seaside resorts in Britain.  Particularly since King George III was a regular visitor over 200 years ago.   It’s a beautiful and vast beach is sandy and it’s ideal for sunbathing and swimming…because it’s the most sunniest place in England, even in the winter.  It can be misty and foggy at Lancombe and our guests still return from Weymouth with sunburn!

Durdle Door is one of the Jurassic Coast’s most iconic landscapes. It is a natural arch, formed from a layer of hard limestone standing almost vertically out of the sea.

Lulworth Cove is a beautiful and secluded cove and a great day out for all ages.   

Fossil Hunting on the Jurassic Coast

Fossils can be found all along the Jurassic Coast, but the beaches between Charmouth and Lyme Regis are the best and safest places to find Fossils. 

My personal favourite is Charmouth.  This is based upon my own Fossil hunting adventures as a child, when I collected Fossils and precious stones.  We used to visit my Uncle (who wasn’t really my Uncle) and we had hours of fun finding fossils.  There are many guides you can use, however, half the fun is finding them yourself, and with a little bit of knowledge you can!  You don’t have to pay for it.

When I was a child I always went in winter time, the beaches are quieter and you are likely to find more fossils due to the rough weather causing erosion.  Although these days, it could be any time of year, with the weather being so unpredictable.  ALWAYS check when the tide is out though, for both safety reasons and a low or falling tide is the best time to find them.

If you want to see some fantastic displays of fossils without the patience, there are interactive hands on exhibits and information on fossils and fossil hunting t the Charmouth Heritage Coast Centre.  There are also Wardens and volunteers on hand who will be happy to help you identify your own finds.

There is free entry into the Charmouth Heritage Coast Centre, Lower Sea Lane, Charmouth, DT6 6LL.  This is open from April – November daily from 9.30a – 4.30pm and from November – March, Friday – Monday.

Most fossils can be found amongst the pebbles, screaming out to be found.  But don’t forget to take a bag or a bucket, as you will need it!

You can take a hammer, but please be careful and always wear some form of eye protection.  Do watch out for recent landslides and rockfalls, as these in particular should be avoided.