With the wildly inconsistent British summer, I was extremely fortunate to have timed my stay at the Alexandra hotel, Lyme Regis for one of the hottest days of the year so far. While the hotel would be a perfectly nice place to stay in during all sorts of weather, it really comes into its own when the sun is shining.
For a start, it boasts a vast lawn at the back of the hotel where guests and visitors can have lunch, afternoon tea or just soak up the rays on one of several cushioned loungers dotted about. Dinner is served in a long glass-walled conservatory which overlooks the lawn and is a great place to watch the sun go down.
Tucked away right at the end of the garden is a little decking area perched right on the edge of the cliffs with chairs and tables from which you can really appreciate the view of the coastline including the famous Cobb harbour.
Built in 1735 for the Dowager Countess Poulett, the Alexandra became a hotel in 1901 and is a Grade-II listed house (there’s also a neighbouring chapel, derelict for years, which the owners are currently restoring).
The 24-room hotel was easy to find, being right on the main road coming into town, and as I’ve always found finding a car parking space in Lyme Regis almost impossible it was a relief to find the Alexandra has its own car park at the front of the hotel. (The cars were parked three deep so guests leave their keys at reception – the staff have fun trying to extricate the embedded cars when their owners want to leave).
As all the rooms in the main hotel building were taken, I was put up in one of two family apartments, which are newly refurbished. As well as a bathroom and well-stocked kitchen there were three bedrooms – one double, one twin and one with bunkbeds – and a lounge area upstairs.
There was a comprehensive information pack about the hotel, a very useful map of Lyme Regis, a list of local attractions and even a friendly welcome note with some chocolates in the shape of locally-found fossils.
Even though I was bearing foodie delights from my day at the River Cottage cookery course – review here – I was booked to have dinner in the hotel restaurant, back in the main building and overlooking the lawn.
The menu was on a classic British theme, with five starters and six main courses, including West Country sole, Brixham pollock and a shellfish platter to share. I went for the home cured gravalax which turned up looking like an Instagrammers dream, and then chicken breast wrapped in pancetta.
The food was tasty and served promptly, and while I was too full to take advantage of the dessert menu – panna cotta, Eton mess, West country cheeses, or a plate of mixed chocolate desserts – I didn’t miss out as I was given a large tray of petit fours along with my coffee.
I was still feeling full at breakfast the next day but couldn’t resist a freshly-cooked Eggs Florentine as the sun streamed in over the large buffet. Then the Alexandra’s location really came into its own. As well as the great views there’s a path leading from the garden straight into the lovely public gardens overlooking the bay and within just a few minutes I was on the beach.
Children were making sandcastles, grown-ups were buying ice-creams and some brave people were even swimming in the sea, as everyone rushed to take advantage of the unexpectedly lovely weather.
Lyme Regis is a delight to wander around and I spent all morning exploring its steep winding streets and many shops, as well as walking along the coastal path towards the cliffs made famous by the TV series Broadchurch. So much walking in the sun was thirsty work and it was a relief to complete the circular route back up to the welcoming lawns of the Alexandra.
For those who want an even better view, a quiet place in write to write a novel or proposed to their loved one, there’s even a tower in the garden which can be hired for private use. As for me, I was happy to collapse onto a lounger and enjoy the all too rare summer sunshine.
The Alexandra hotel,
Dorset DT7 3HZ
An overnight stay at the hotel costs from £180 per room / £90 pp (two sharing) including full English breakfast. The hotel also has two self-catering Alexandra Cottage Apartments (sleeping four and six) which cost from £315 per night (£79 pp).