Ironically enough, I count myself lucky that G lives down on the Norfolk-Suffolk border, a good 40 minute drive away from me. Although it’s a pain to get to, staying at his for a few days provides a golden opportunity to explore parts of my county that I’ve never seen before, and opens the door to Suffolk and even Essex for daytrips that might otherwise be just that bit too far. He took a day off on Friday and we spent the afternoon in the charming town of Southwold on the north Suffolk coast, once home to George Orwell.
Southwold has everything you could ever want in a timeless seaside town – a stunning coastline, rows of beach huts, an attractive pier, and a local museum to name but a few – and is a perfect destination for a daytrip or long weekend. It’s extremely popular with tourists and can get busy in peak season, but is lovely to visit at any time of the year. (It’s also 100% Instagram, if that’s the kind of thing you look for in a place.)
Eat… lunch in The Boardwalk on the Pier
The Boardwalk isn’t the cheapest place to eat in Southwold (around £20 a head for two courses) but given its location and tasty food I thought they could have got away with higher prices. If you want to sit inside you might have to wait a little for a table at peak hours, but even at one-thirty pm on a Friday in the school holidays one was found for us within minutes. The lunch menu ranges from fish and chips to a whole lobster (though at £42 that might be a bit of a stretch) plus a number of non-seafood and vegetarian options. Dessert choices are abundant too, including brownie, pannacotta, and various cakes, ice creams, and sundaes. We were served quickly and cheerfully and our table had a lovely view out on to the sea and the shoreline – we even got to see the RNLI in training! Once you’re finished you’ll be all set for more coastal exploring!
Go… on a guided tour of Southwold Lighthouse
Southwold Lighthouse began operating in September 1890 and then automated and electrified in 1938 (thanks, Wikipedia). Just six days after it was put to work its original oil lamp caught fire, but the building was saved and continues to operate today, despite calls for it and the neighbouring Lowestoft Lighthouse to be closed in 2005. Its 150-watt lamp has a range of 28 miles (24 nautical miles/44km). The Lighthouse has had a number of television appearances and is the namesake of Adnams’ Lighthouse beer. Today, visitors can take tours of the Lighthouse courtesy of the Southwold Millennium Foundation through the Southwold Lighthouse Visitor Centre (adults £4, children £3, families (2 adults + up to 3 children) £12; no need to book except for group visits).
Walk… along the seafront
Perhaps this is a bit obvious, but if you want a gorgeous stretch of coast to walk along then look no further. Southwold beach is a lovely sand/shingle combination with some beautiful dunes further down the beach a short way from the town. You can pick your favourite beach hut name (ours was ‘Jabba the Hut’), skim stones, swim, kayak, fish, or even learn to surf at the school. Best of all though, whichever way you look you’ll have a beautiful view – either of picturesque town, the water stretching out as far as you can see, or the beautiful pier jutting far out into the sea. I’m a huge fan of the north Norfolk coast but Southwold’s shoreline is a definite rival.
Find… the Adnams Brewery
Adnams is Southwold’s largest single employer. The company not only brews it famous beers but also makes spirits and imports wines alongside running three hotels and a charity which awards grants to causes benefiting those within 25 miles of Southwold. The first record of beer being made in Southwold is way back in 1345, and the town’s brewing history has continued ever since, but Adnams wasn’t itself established until 1872. Since then, they’ve focused on supporting local produce and small businesses as well as sustainability, waste reduction and giving back to the community. They run various community-based events throughout the year including beach cleans, cycling days, and a 10k race. If you’re over 18 you can take a tour of the brewery (£12 per person) which features a tutored beer tasting, or partake in a Make Your Own Gin experience (£70 per person)!
Photograph… the view from the Pier
Southwold Pier is a daytrip in itself. Known as Britain’s only 21st Century Pier, it’s undergone a huge rebrand in the past year or so and is full of novelty attractions including a mirror walk, a water clock and a traditional arcade. You’ll also find the Under The Pier Show, a collection of bizarre, hand-built machines designed by Tim Hunkin. There’s souvenir shopping to be done in the Treasure Chest and Seaweed & Salt, and further refreshment besides The Boardwalk restaurant in The Beach Café or The Clockhouse, and if it’s something sweet you’re after check out the Treat Parlour. But besides all that the Pier has to offer, it’s a joy just to walk along. You won’t find a better view on a postcard, so take the shot yourself as a memento!
Have you ever been to Southwold? Where is your favourite seaside town? Let me know in the comments!