GUIDEBOOK : Discovering Lyme Regis

Getting there: There is no direct train service to Lyme Regis, but BritRail has nine trains a day to Axminster via Exeter. Hourly bus service is offered from Axminster to Lyme Regis, only nine miles away.

The principal highway along the south coast--A35--runs through Axminster and connects with two secondary roads--A3070 and A3052--to Lyme Regis.

Where to stay: The Alexandra, once popular with royalty, was built in 1735. All but two of its 26 period rooms have full baths. There are extensive gardens overlooking the harbor. Pound Street, Lyme Regis, Dorset DT7 3HZ. Prices for a double range from $110 to $150.

The Mariners Hotel, a former coaching inn, will be familiar to readers of Beatrix Potter. A drawing of the inn appears on the cover of one of her books. Fifteen of its 16 rooms have full bath, and all are done in a floral motif. There is a sweeping view of the sea and cliffs. Silver Street, Lyme Regis, Dorset DT7 3HG. Same price range as the Alexandra.

The Woodbury Park Country House Hotel occupies three hilltop acres, 400 yards up a narrow lane off A35, near its junction with A3070. Most of its 12 rooms have private baths and a view across the Axe Valley toward Axminster. Woodbury Cross, near Axminster, Devon EXl3 5TL. Prices run from $70 to $80.

There are many small hotels and B&Bs; in Lyme Regis and Axminster for travelers looking for less expensive lodging.

Where to eat: The Mariners Hotel has a gourmet menu with prices to match. An inglenook fireplace and antiques add warmth to the snug dining room overlooking the sea. Figure on a minimum of $25 per person without wine.

The Alexandra also has a first-class chef and, like the Mariners, features continental cuisine. The hotel is popular with locals because of its lavish Dorset cream teas, which are served either on the lawn above the sea or in the sun lounge on cooler days. Dinner prices match those of the Mariners.

For more information: Visit the Tourist Center, Bridge Street, Lyme Regis, Dorset DT7 3HZ. The center charges a modest fee for arranging accommodations.

Or contact the British Tourist Authority, 350 S. Figueroa St., Suite 450, Los Angeles 90071, (213) 628-3525.

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