Taste of a place – Southwold
We love visiting the seaside in Winter. Just before Christmas, we took advantage of the brief window between lockdowns that meant we managed to get away, albeit only for 24 hours (and under tier 2 restrictions), to celebrate our 20th wedding anniversary!
There’s not much to say about Southwold that hasn’t already been said. We’ve been visiting this quaint little town for 25 years and are such fans that we even spent our honeymoon here.
Southwold really has it all; a restored pier, tea rooms, beach huts, mini golf and amusement arcades. A lighthouse, a mini museum, a beautiful sandy beach and of course, Adnams, its world beating brewery.
Undoubtedly, our favourite part of Southwold is the harbour, just a short walk from the town centre, past the campsite. Always a hive of activity with colourfully named boats arriving or leaving. The popular rowboat ferry taking people across the estuary. The freshest of fish for sale at the fisherman’s shacks.
In more ordinary times, a pint (or two) of Adnams at the lovely, old Harbour Inn is non-negotiable and usually top of the agenda.
Often, we will stop at Mrs T’s long-established fish and chip hut, taking a pew at the harbourside benches and waiting for our name to be called over the loudhailer. Fish and chips here are always steaming hot and top notch. There is often a slight air of jeopardy with the seagulls circling overhead, seemingly about to swoop at any moment, but I’ve yet to see it happen….
However, this time was different for us; with it being a special occasion (and restrictions meaning an ad hoc pint was not on the cards), we had made a booking at the Sole Bay Fish Company, also on the harbourside. This was our first visit to this welcoming and cosy “wood shack”. The smokehouse catches and prepares its own fish, and you walk past the fish counter to get to the restaurant, so you can get a good idea of the delights on offer… The Sole Bay offers our very favourite kind of casual dining, with bare wooden tables and kitchen paper rolls on the tables, a short, well priced wine list and the freshest of fayre.
We ate heartily (and randomly) from the unfussy menu. Perfect for the indecisive (and the greedy), small plates give the option of trying several dishes. We opted for oysters (chargrilled), crevettes and a home cured kipper. We followed these with a main of mussels mariniere, served with a warm baguette and butter. Each dish more delicious than the last. If only we hadn’t had a dinner reservation we would have stayed all afternoon and tried everything…(a challenge for the future us, I think!).
Following a substantial lunch, you can take a leisurely stroll around the harbour and cross the water to the charming Georgian village of Walberswick. Walberswick also has several great pubs offering good food. You can while away the afternoon checking out the beautiful, unspoilt sand and shingle beach backed by grassy dunes and its fishermans’ huts.
Another option is to walk off lunch is to take a stroll along the seafront towards the pier (unfortunately closed during this visit). During this brief visit, we were blessed with beautiful sunshine. With the sunshine came a strong easterly wind, which churned the sea up for added dramatic effect. For the first time, we saw a few hardy surfers battling against the elements to stay vertical.
Later that evening, we headed to The Crown in the centre of town. A nostalgic place for us, having visited many times over the years. Again, just the right level of formality for us (ie. not very much!). We had a great meal, the highlights included: a squash and local cheese salad, slightly smoked fish pie with turmeric mash, truffle fries and a beautiful blood orange sorbet with cherries and macadamia nuts. In truth, we had dined so heartily at lunch we were not able to fully apply ourselves to the task in hand!
We stayed at the laid back and friendly Sail Loft – well appointed; close to both town and the Harbour and just a few metres from the beautiful sandy beach. The Sail Loft impressed with the spacious room, the chatty service and the hearty breakfast. (Great granola, eggs benedict, or royale and doorstep sandwiches). We hope this will be the first of many stays.
The next morning involved our annual Christmas retail ½ hour. No trip to Southwold would be complete without a trip to traditional hardware shop, Mumfords, where you can pick up just about anything; from a special mushroom cleaning brush, to a charcoal sketch of Ronaldo… (excellent for eclectic gifts and stocking fillers!). The comfy familiarity of this shop makes it a “must do” for us!
The Adnams Store & Café always features on our itinerary. Anything that is of the Adnams brewery is on sale here. Also some really nice glassware, ceramics, kitchenware. A great place for a boozy gift. We always manage to pick up at least a couple of bottles and a random piece of bar/kitchen equipment…
Something quite extraordinary was going on at the brewery this time; as we walked in the street behind the brewery buildings, we witnessed a cascade of hot beer bubbling over the roofs and hitting the pavement – trouble at Mill, so to speak! We did not linger…
Our final hitching post was another favourite, The Gun Hill tea hut – perfect for a restorative coffee, with a blustery sea view. Just what was needed after the “hectic retail experience” of Southwold town centre, before hitting the A14 home.
All in all, a wonderful, rejuvenating 24 hours. Nothing restores like the sea air and the Christmassy feel is so present here, even during these strange days. For mini breaks at any time of the year, Southwold never disappoints. Rest assured any slight easing of the restrictions and we’ll be back like a shot, for (much) more of the same….