The ancient market town of Axminster is situated in the picturesque Axe Valley, surrounded by clusters of quaint villages and swathes of unspoilt rolling countryside. The town is popular among cyclists, walkers, and bird watchers who will enjoy spotting many different species on the mud flats of the Axe estuary, which can be accessed from the town.
Once famous for its carpets, Axminster is today better known as the home of celebrity chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's delightful River Cottage Canteen, Deli and Cookery School, specialising in fresh locally grown and organic produce. Food lovers will also enjoy pottering around Axminster’s vibrant farmer’s market, which takes place in the town centre every Thursday morning, and has been running in the town since 1204.
Axminster is nestled between three Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty - East Devon, Blackdown Hills and Dorset - all of which are within a very short drive of the town. It is also well placed for visiting the beautiful Cathedral City of Exeter, and accessing the stunning World Heritage Jurassic Coast at nearby Seaton, Lyme Regis, or Charmouth.
The traditional seaside town of Lyme Regis is just 15 minutes away by car, where you can spend the day learning about this unique stretch of coastline at the family-friendly Lyme Regis Museum, try your luck at fossil hunting, enjoy the beach, stroll along the famous Cobb, or treat yourself to a meal at one of the many bars, cafes and restaurants that line the seafront promenade.
A holiday cottage in Axminster offers the perfect base for a relaxing break, taking in the beauty of the surrounding countryside and nearby Dorset and East Devon coastlines.
The Axminster Heritage Centre is all about illustrating the history and heritage of the area across the ages, from original Axminster carpets from 1755 to portraits of prominent citizens, farming, industry and commerce. A proactive and interactive organization that thrives on events as well as information, they host everything from workshops to afternoon teas at their little spot at Thomas Whitty House (the founder of the area’s original carpet magnates). From craft days to sing-alongs and guided tours of the centre, there’s something for all ages. They’re open from Tuesday to Saturday and costs vary according to the events, so keep an eye on the website for the latest information.
A small zoo hidden in the Axe Valley, Axe Valley Wildlife Park is a charming day out for the family, primarily aimed at families with children under 12 years of age. You can get involved with feeding the free-range birds and joining in with the daily talks about various animals who live there. In the summer holidays they have handling sessions, and animals range from zebras and antelope to bearded dragons and plenty of creepy crawlies! Prices start at £9.50 for adults and £7.00 for children.
An atmospheric Baptist meeting house dating back to the 17th century, Loughwood is one of the earliest surviving Baptist churches in the country. Founded in secret during a time of persecution towards non-conformists, this beautiful chapel is set into the hillside overlooking the rolling east Devon countryside with views of the Axe Valley. When you visit, it’s like stepping back in time. The interior is virtually unchanged, and the chapel is still used twice a year by the local Kilmington Baptist Church. It is available for prayer and is essentially still a working church, so there aren’t any facilities, but it is a lovely site at which to take in the calm. As mentioned, services are held twice a year, but otherwise it’s open throughout the day, so take a peek at the website for up to date information.
Only open to the public four times a year, Shute Barton is a magnificent medieval house and National Trust property with royal ancestry. You can discover the great kitchen containing what is believed to be the largest fireplace in England and take a look at the attic room with its medieval roof structure. The house itself has no facilities or refreshments, but tea, cake and toilets are located at the nearby church during open weekends. It’s a charming place to visit for a wander around, daydreaming about its past. As we say, entry is a bit of a golden ticket as it’s only open on rare occasions, so for more information keep an eye on the website.
A little secret in East Devon, Burrow Farm Gardens are situated in the idyllic countryside between Axminster and Honiton. The 13-acre garden is brimming with colour throughout the year, providing a peaceful oasis with a variety of different planting styles which complement the rural views. It’s a chance to taste the different design styles within the garden and appreciate the naturalistic planting before sampling Devon cream teas that feature homemade scones, locally made cakes and homemade soups in the tea room, or popping into the nursery to purchase your favourite plants. Entrance to the garden is £7 for adults and £1 for children with group offers available.
Situated in the heart of the historic market town Axminster and a short drive from River Cottage HQ, the canteen offers guests a wonderful experience. The award-winning restaurant and deli celebrates fine seasonal food and is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Coffee, cake and snacks are available all day whilst regular live music features in the evening accompanied by a fantastic selection of cocktails and English wine. There is a dedicated children’s menu too and guests can also take home some of the local produce on offer throughout the menu.
River Cottage Canteen and Deli Trinity Square, Axminster EX13 5AN (T: 01297 631715)
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We had a fantastic meal there back in April and hope to visit again next year
One of the nicest places to eat in Devon, we've been twice and had lovely food
The Axminster Inn is a friendly, traditional pub near the town centre with a real log fire for the winter months, and a lovely enclosed beer garden to enjoy in the warmer weather. Offering a good range of real ales and good-value home-cooked food including breakfasts, lunchtime and evening meals and Sunday roasts.
Axminster Inn, Silver St, Axminster EX13 5AH (T: 01297 34947)
Le Pisani is a restaurant in Axminster which serves great tasting Mediterranean food in comfortable, contemporary and stylish surroundings. Excellent foods and wine with attentive service. Renowned for their warm welcome and vibrant approach to food, encapsulating all things Mediterranean and Sunday traditional roast available with all the trimmings
Le Pisani, Church St, Axminster (T: 01297 631697)
Family and dog friendly pub offering unfussy, homemade food and specials. Conveniently positioned on the main A35 on the border of Dorset and Devon, near Axminster. Providing an extensive selection of dishes within the backdrop of the former coaching inn. Hot meals served throughout the day. A popular place for a relaxed meal or a light bite.
Hunters Lodge, Charmouth Rd. Raymond’s Hill, Axminster EX13 5SZ (T: 01297 33286)
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Brilliant food and hosts, very dog friendly (they even got treats). Do book as it can get very busy and it is worth the visit.
A fine shingle beach with sand at the water’s edge, East Cliff Beach is a beautiful place to spend the day with the family on summer holidays in Dorset. There’s lifeguard cover from July to September in the summer holidays on East Beach itself, but that doesn’t really cover East Cliff Beach, so just be careful when and where you swim and stay away from the cliff base to avoid falling stones. There’s a long stay car park behind East Beach and a smaller short stay car park just before entering the harbour area in front of the Bridport Arms Hotel. Toilets are located at the main West Bay Road car park and baby changing facilities are provided as well. Dogs are permitted on the beach all year round, but it is a clean zone that’s regularly patrolled by wardens imposing fines, so don’t forget to clean up after your pets!
Famous for its picturesque Jurassic coastline, as well as its array of fossils, Church Cliff Beach is on the edge of Lyme Regis town. Sandy in places, at low tide there is an extensive rock ledge with hundreds of rock pools where you can catch shrimp. The River Lym flows into the bay, so paddling is a necessity if you want to stroll on the sand. The beach is flanked by rock armour which protects the promenade, and the sand is covered at high tide. There’s paid parking close by, so don’t forget your change. There are facilities, restaurants and cafes in the town. There’s no lifeguard cover on this beach, and dogs are permitted all year round, which is great news for walkers as it also makes up part of the West Dorset Heritage Coast and its accompanying footpaths.
In the picturesque harbour town of Lyme Regis, Town Beach is covered in pebbles at one end thanks to the coastal protection scheme that placed them there to provide essential care for the Marine Parade and the buildings along it. At the other end the beach has been built up with sand, no longer gets covered at high tide and provides an extensive beach area manned by RNLI lifeguards in the summer. There are kiosks, cafes, shops and restaurants bordering the beach, so it’s ideal for visiting with family and spending the whole day on the sand if the weather allows. The main sandy beach in the area, it’s a delight and easy to get to when on holiday in Dorset. There is paid parking nearby, so don’t forget your change, and remember that dogs are not permitted from 1st April to 31st October, while from 1st November to 31st March they must be on leads.
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Excellent area and beach although extremely busy if the sun makes an appearance. I go to Lyme Regis whilst dogs are allowed on the beach (I do use it with my dog) and would like to see more policing re dogs off leads.
Named after the Duke of Monmouth who landed here in 1685 in an attempt to take the crown from King James II, Monmouth Beach is a large pebble and sand beach that stretches over a kilometer southwest from the Cobb wall. There are beach huts, a bowling green, the Lyme Regis Power Boat Club and paid car parks close by. Meanwhile, for those wishing to have their own exploratory adventures, you can find a layer of limestone called the ammonite graveyard at Monmouth Beach, containing a large number of (you guessed it) ammonites. There are numerous walks close by and dogs are allowed on the beach all year round. There is lifeguard cover in the summer, and all the town’s cafés, restaurants and amenities are within easy reach.
This pretty harbour town dates back to the 14th century, and is sheltered by a curving harbour wall, The Cobb, as its known contains a small sandy beach made famous in the opening shot of the film The French Lieutenant’s Woman. You reach the beach between the RNLI station and the slipway, and there is lifeguard cover in the summer months. Activities nearby include fishing, sailing, snorkeling, kayaking, swimming, surfing and water skiing, while facilities close to the beach include cafes and restaurants and toilets. There are lots of walks in the area including guided tours of the famous fossil bearing cliffs. There is paid parking nearby, Axminster train station is five minutes away as the crow flies and buses are available to the town centre. Dogs are allowed on the beach from 1st November to 30th March as long as they’re on the lead, but they are not permitted in the summer months.