Holiday cottages on the Dorset coast

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Bridport is a small market town famous for its rope and net-making industries, which relied on hemp and flax being grown in the surrounding area. The town has pleasant wide streets which host regular markets, so if you're in a holiday cottage nearby come over on a Wednesday or Saturday for your shopping. On the south side of town is Palmers Brewery, Britain's oldest thatched brewery. You can take a guided tour and even sample some of Palmers famous ' Golden Cap Whisky'. West Bay, to the south of Bridport, was once known as Bridport Harbour. It's a pretty little village with two piers and a harbour lined with cottages and an early 19th century customs house. If you choose a cottage here, make sure you enjoy a fresh seafood supper in one of West Bay's restaurants.

Aptly named Seatown is one of Dorset's best places for fossil-hunting. During a low 'scouring' tide, even amateurs can find a good few ammonite fossils to examine. If you're looking for somewhere with good wheelchair access, this is a good spot since the car park is practically on the beach. West of Seatown is the Golden Cap, with the highest sea cliff on the south coast (at 191 metres). Trek up to the top of Golden Cap and you'll be rewarded with fantastic panoramic views. You can also see the remains of Stanton St Gabriel, where only a ruined farmhouse, cottage and church remain. Afterwards, why not relax and refuel in the cosy Anchor Inn, which nestles at the base of the cliff.

Another top fossil-hunting spot on the Jurassic Coast is Charmouth. There's a large shingle beach and the Heritage Coast Centre on the seafront is a good place to find out more about the local natural history. You can book guided walks from here, or make your own way around the beaches, cliffs and coves. There are some problems with erosion, so be careful to check that your route is safe and be prepared for footpaths to be shut off on occasion. Charmouth itself has no shortage of accommodation, pubs and shops.

The beautiful scenery continues on to Lyme Regis, where West Dorset's coast meets East Devon's. The town nestles in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. There are lovely sheltered south-facing beaches on the seafront, and a traditional line of deckchairs on the promenade in summer. Plenty of boat tours and fishing trips set out from Lyme Regis harbour. Visitors can explore by taking a stroll around Cobb wall, which dates from the 13th century. A pleasant walk around the narrow winding streets will also bring you to all sorts of independent shops, cafes, pubs and galleries. The river flowing through the town is the Lym, and turns the waterwheel at the newly restored Town Mill. Lyme Regis is also famous for its geological treasures, and fossil-hunters can find out more about the significance of local finds at Dinosaurland in Coombe Street or at the Philpot Museum on the seafront. Choose a cottage in Lyme Regis and you'll be in a great position to set out on some memorable walks along this spectacular stretch of Britain's coastline.