Southwold: a quintessentially English seaside resort

By | Category: Travel destinations

HighStSouthwoldSouthwold, on the east coast, is one of the few spots in England where time seems to have stood still. It’s the sort of place where people wished me ‘good morning’ as they passed me in the street. Its beaches are sandy and lined with pastel coloured beach huts, some of which can be rented.

The traditional 19th century pier has several restaurants one of which serves freshly caught fish and chips. There are also several gift shops, and a quirky amusement arcade. Towards the end of the pier is one of the “must–sees” of this Suffolk town – a water clock made of metal that incorporates the silhouette of two gentlemen. When the clock chimes, the men drop their trousers and their pee waters the flowers, which then blossom. When the chimes stop, the trousers come up and the flowers go down.  At the very end of the pier, whatever time of the year, there are always people braving the North Sea winds with their fishing rods.

Near the pier, but set back from the sea, is the Southwold Boating Lake & Café. The cafe has a veranda overlooking a children’s boating lake, and is a lovely spot to stop for a coffee or afternoon tea. A nice touch is that the owners have thoughtfully provided rugs to shield against the wind. Around the lake, plots have been given to the local primary schools for children to develop miniature gardens. This also seems to be a heaven for ducks to congregate. A small area at the back of the café, where I was able to walk, has been developed as a natural wildlife habitat.

AdnamsBreweryBrewing in Southwold goes back to the 1600s, and the town is well known as the home of Adnams, who established a brewery here in 1872. In November 2010 Adnams expanded, opening a distillery producing gin, vodka, and whiskey. Tours of the brewery and distillery run throughout the week, finishing with a tasting in their warehouse shop, just off the main high street. The shop, which also has a café, is a great place for finding interesting presents. The sort of things I stock up with when I visit – bottles of wine, spirits, and lots of novel cooking utensils.

The majority of the shops in the high street are still independent. One of the them houses the Amber Museum, the only one in the UK dedicated to amber. On Monday and Thursday mornings, the market place in front of the town hall has stalls selling fruit, vegetable, flowers and household items. While on Friday mornings, the local Woman’s Institute sells homemade bread, cakes and jams at the United Reform Church Hall but you need to get there early. I arrived at 11.30am to find that the bread and cakes had all gone.

Southwold Pier

Southwold Pier

I always thought lighthouses were positioned on a cliff head, and not in town. Southwold’s lighthouse is inland, a white tower, nestling between several houses, and can be visited. There is a climb of 113 steps, but worth it for the panoramic views of not just the North Sea, but south to the Sizewell Nuclear Power Stations, and north to Lowestoft.

Southwold is a great place for eating local, freshly caught fish, particularly fish and chips. Along the sea front by the harbour the River Blythe goes into the sea. Here you can still buy fish and chips to take away from a wooden shack, known as Mrs T’s. Sadly standards have dropped, which might be why another eaterie the Sole Bay Fish, has opened close by. Rather than a take-away, it is a restaurant, recently enlarged, as well as a shop. From a large display, I was able to buy freshly caught fish as apparently the restaurant has its own fishing boat. Not all of it could have been caught locally because of the large choice. However, they do smoke their own fish. The decor has, for the 2014 summer season, been spriced up with a stylish outdoor area overlooking fields at the back, and the restaurant is now dog-friendly. In the evening the seafood platters are the reason to come here to eat. A great plus is that as well as the menu you can also make your own selection. Their wine licence only comes into effect in the evening so at lunchtime you can save on your bill by bringing your own. For a review of this restaurant in another publication, click here.

the famed beach huts

the famed beach huts

The harbour is also where the local ferry, a manned rowing boat, provides a quick way rather than going by foot via a bridge, to visit the neighbouring village of Walberswick.

Southwold has various activities going on throughout the year. The summer has an excellent theatre season from 9 July to 13 September putting on performances of a high standard for both adults and children. For the first time this year, Southwold is holding an arts festival from 28 June to 5 July. Events twice daily cover music, art, drama, poetry readings and entertainment with well-know people such as broadcaster and political journalist Andrew Marr, and classical violinist Tasmin Little. During this time, there will also be supporting activities such as open gardens and restaurant offers.

PicturePalaceHidden in the back streets a cinema, the Electric Picture Palace, in what looks like a converted garage, harps back to times gone by. A glass of sherry is served in the interval, and the national anthem is played at the end of the film.

A short drive from Southwold at Saxmundham, bordering on the sea, the woodlands and wetlands of RSPB Minsmere cater for everyone who loves nature. It is very easy to spend a whole day here. I sadly didn’t think to take binoculars with me but fortunately they can be hired from their shop. Dotted around the area are several different covered look out posts, all have pictures showing the type of birds that we were likely to see. This made it so much easier when trying to guess what we were looking at. Fortunately too I found that the bird watchers I met were delighted to help, and share their knowledge. Adjacent to the shop, a café serves home-cooked light lunches.

For more information about Southwold, click here.

For more information about Suffolk, click here.



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