The first thing you notice on the seafront at Southwold is the traditional seaside pier. Potter around the shops, stop for coffee and cake or a light lunch then take a bracing walk along the boards and fill your lungs with salty sea air. The pier is home to the quirkiest collection of games in ‘The Under The Pier Show’ and the cheeky Water Clock that chimes every half an hour.
The lighthouse, which dominates the skyline in the town, is still in use and candy coloured beach huts line the seafront. The beach is a mixture of sand and pebble perfect for playing, sunbathing, walking and even surfing if the weather is favourable.
The high street is full of independent shops for all tastes including designer clothes and shoes, food, children’s clothes, contemporary local art, glass, jewellery, crafts and antiques from the Southwold Antiques Centre There’s also an antiques fair at the end of August each year.
After a morning pottering around the shops it’s time for lunch at The Sole Bay Fish Company where you can share a seafood platter of lobster, crab, prawns, mussels and smoked salmon or try fish and chips, some fresh local bread and a glass of wine by the harbour.
A brewery or distillery tour of Adnams gives you a fabulous insight into how they brew their beer and make their spirits. Or you could even make gin for yourself or as a gift for friends or family on their special ‘Make Your Own Gin’ experience.
Aldeburgh is the place for fish and chips but be prepared to queue; it’s all part of the fun, with locals and visitors mingling together as the line snakes long the pavement. Don’t be surprised to see pints of Adnams ale being drunk and champagne corks popped as hungry people chat and wait patiently for what The Times called ‘the best fish and chips on the East Coast’. Take them to the beach to eat by the sea to capture the full experience.
The stony beach is lovely for a long walk and includes the Maggi Hambling ‘Scallop’ sculpture, which celebrates the life of former resident and composer Benjamin Britten. You’ll find no pier, amusement arcade or seaside rock in Aldeburgh, just elegant town houses lining the promenade, quaint traditional pubs and stalls on the beach selling fish straight from the sea.
The high street, which stretches the length of the town, provides a mixture of independent shops with a few quality high street names for fashion and shoes sprinkled amongst them. Art features heavily in the high street too with many galleries featuring local artists and their work.
There are a lot of places to eat out from a family friendly pasta chain to great quality fine dining. Or why not take home a superb piece of local meat? Salter and King Craft Butchers have a host of local, organic and free range meat and poultry to choose from and a wealth of experience in unusual cuts of meat and traditional recipes. They also stock a fine range of artisan cheeses, fruit and vegetables and their own pies, meatballs, sausages and burgers.
Step into Thorpeness and you’ll think you’ve entered a dream, and you’d be right. The village was created in 1910 as a private fantasy holiday retreat by a wealthy Scot, Stuart Ogilvie, with mock Tudor and Jacobean architecture and the iconic ‘House in the Clouds’, which hides the water tower. It’s a joy just to walk around and take in all the wonderful buildings and how they complement each other.
Or you could spend a day on the long unspoiled beach with lunch later on at Thorpeness Golf Club overlooking the course. You can play a round here or discover their beautiful gardens and tennis courts. The Dolphin Inn is also a great spot for a drink or a bite to eat or maybe take one of their homemade sausage rolls down to the beach, available at the village store in the pub.
Potter around the Thorpeness Emporium for antiques, vintage collectibles, glass, jewellery, furniture and art and then go boating on the Meare with its Peter Pan themed landings.
As you take a walk through this pretty Suffolk village and down to the quayside make sure you stop off at Orford Castle, a wonderful example of a complete castle keep. If you climb the 27 metres to the top of the tower then you will be rewarded with spectacular views over Orford Ness and the River Ore. Check out the open days at the iconic Orford Ness Lighthouse for a visit or for fans of military history take the short boat ride out to Orford Ness National Nature Reserve on Europe’s largest shingle spit.
Orford is a foodies’ paradise with locally grown oysters to be sampled at The Butley Orford Oysterage, or for something a little bit different try a dining cruise on the Lady Florence River Cruise Restaurant around the Ness, River Alde and River Ore for brunch, lunch, dinner and sunset cocktails.
Just a short stroll from Southwold over the Bailey bridge, or in the summer a ride on the foot ferry across the River Blyth, is the charming village of Walberswick. The landscape here is very distinctive with marshland leading to grassy dunes and finally a beautiful sandy beach for long walks and lazy days. The little bridge that links the marshes to the beach is home to a day’s crabbing with nets, lines and the bait of your choice but get there early to pick the best spot.
A meander around the village will reveal some fine architecture then you could pop into the art gallery or gift and craft shops before lunch at The Anchor pub They use local Lowestoft fish, Blythburgh pork as well as seasonal produce in their daily specials. There’s even freshly baked sourdough, baguettes and bread to buy at the bar and take away.
This resort has an altogether quieter feel than its nearby neighbours. With its long shingle beach, which welcomes dogs all year round, it’s perfect for walkers and nature lovers. Bring your binoculars, as Dunwich Heath is a haven for bird watchers and during the autumn herds of wild deer can be seen rutting there.
Dunwich is also the ideal place for history buffs with its museum, which traces the history of this once thriving city and sea port that has become victim to the cruelty of the sea. There’s also a church trail and the ruins of a Franciscan priory to visit.
Eating fish and chips fresh from the paper on Dunwich beach will make you feel just like a local in the know. The Ship (shipatdunwich.co.uk) with its traditional home cooked menu lunch and range of wines and beers is also a good option for lunch.