Southwold - timeless, traditional family destination

Posted on: 27 May 2010 by Gareth Hargreaves

Southwold is unspoilt by the gaudy seaside trappings favoured by many of the UK's coastal towns. Sitting on the Suffolk Heritage Coast it's a real family treat and as a bonus is the home of Adnams Brewery, writes Stewart Andersen.

Southwold's summer's visitors are arriving, the hotels and the B&Bs are filling up and children can be seen building sandcastles on the beach.

One of the great things about Southwold is that it’s still a family destination and very often the parents and the grandparents of those same children will also have made sandcastles on that same part of the beach.

Change happens and like anything else, the character of Southwold is changing as well. The small store, Wards, which sold everything from straw baskets to beds and carpets and which was located on the outskirts of the town has gone and been replaced by a clothing store more akin to a city shopping street.

MumfordsMumfords on Southwold's High Street is a treasure trove

The fishmonger shut up shop about a year ago and there’s a proliferation of estate agents, delis and smart boutiques but thankfully, Mumfords the ironmongers is still there, selling everything from balls of string to batteries and obscure tins of varnish to loose screws and nails.

And the pubs are there, the Nelson, the Sole Bay, the Kings Head, all selling locally brewed Adnams ales and fish and chips, Hutsons the butchers are still at 23 Market Place and the Crown and the Swan Hotels are still serving cream teas to eager visitors.
The Walberswick side

Take a stroll to the harbour and there are several huts selling freshly caught local fish. Then walk to the far end of the harbour and you’ll come to the Harbour Inn. To get to the other bank of the River Blyth and the neighbouring village of Walberswick, you can either cross over on the Bailey Bridge or take the small ferry across the river (80p per person). On the Walberswick side there are two pubs and several small shops that sell souvenirs and postcards.

St Edmund churchSt Edmund Church

And, of course, if all of this isn’t strenuous enough for you, there’s always the Southwold golf course. Established over 120 years ago, the course comprises a 9-hole, heathland layout. Visitors are always welcome and the club professional has a well-stocked shop. Other sports include bowls, tennis and rugby.

One claim to this part of the Heritage Coast is that Walberswick, and by association, Southwold, is home to the The British Open Crabbing Championship. Open to children of all ages, the Crabbing Championship raises funds for charities and good causes. It also provides an enormous amount of fun, the cost of entering is £1.00 and in 2009 there were 1,252 entrants. The winner is the one who, after 90 minutes, has landed the heaviest crab.

Southwold high streetSouthwold beach is the perfect place for the whole family

It’s been said that Southwold has become stuck in the 1950s. Whether that is true or not this town, which is situated on what is almost an island, attracts thousands of devotees every year.

The property market may have dipped slightly during the last few months but many people are talking to estate agents about the availability of homes for sale and there’s clearly a shortage of properties if prices are anything to go by.

A combination of the wonderfully attractive beach huts, the pier, the lighthouse, the Southwold Museum, St Edmund Church (it was built over a period of about 60 years from the 1430s to the 1490s) the Fishermen’s Reading Room and of course, the bracing sea air ensure that the town remains a family favourite.

Good place, Southwold!

How to get there:

By car:

Most people use the A12, via Chelmsford, Colchester and Ipswich. The A12 goes through Blythburgh and then almost immediately take the turning to the right to Southwold.

By train:

There are various choices. Most people start in London’s Liverpool Street where they take the train to Ipswich. There it’s necessary to change and catch the small train to Darsham. This station is about 10 miles from Southwold. To get from Darsham to Southwold, go on-line and enter Darsham Taxis for details of various taxi companies.


Stewart Andersen has worked on a variety of magazines for more than 25 years as a journalist and editor, writing on a wide range of topics but recently specialising on property and travel, both in the UK and overseas. The publications have ranged from Boardroom magazine to Homes Overseas and Your New Home to the easyJet in-flight magazine, Sunday Times, the Daily Express, Daily Mail and the Independent. His first book ‘Wild Thyme in Ibiza’ was published recently and this year he launched homesandtravel.co.uk.

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