Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Southwold: a quintessentially English seaside resort

A favourite retreat of well-heeled Londoners, the genteel Suffolk seaside town of Southwold  is hugely popular because of its many old buildings, cosy cafes and trendy gastro pubs.

On the North Sea Coast at the mouth of the River Blyth, Southwold was an important fishing port at the time of the Domesday Book but is now home to just a couple of thousand people — although its population swells dramatically over the summer months.

It's the perfect English beach town in microcosm with a massive lighthouse, built in 1887, a pier constructed in 1900 and refurbished in 2001 that extends 190 metres into the sea and boasts a collection of coin-operated novelty machines, and a picturesque village green. 

The parish church of St Edmund was built between the 1430s and 1490s and the town was recently described as "the crown jewel of the Suffolk coast" by The Daily Express. It closely resembles the set for a period TV drama and has been used as the setting for numerous films and television programs

There is a rowing-boat ferry service between Southwold and nearby Walberswick while the PS Waverley, the last ocean-going paddle steamer in the world, sometimes berths at the pier, while the brightly coloured beach huts are much photographed .

Known as the childhood home of writer George Orwell, Southwold is also the base of Adnams, brewers of traditional ales, and in more recent years wine merchants of renown. 

Adnams own and operate several local pubs and The Swan and The Crown both have excellent restaurants specialising in local seafood.

 The Swan, 350-years-old, is an endearingly old-fashioned pub with a warm bar, a traditional a la carte menu and 42 refurbished rooms. 

The menu features dishes like roulade of Dingley Dell pork shoulder, or roast sea bass with Jerusalem artichoke, mussels, fondant potato, ceps and truffle oil.
The Adnams gourmet store, Cellar & Kitchen, under the same ownership, is a "must visit" for lovers of fine food and wine while brewery tours are also popular.

For a terribly British experience invest in some fish and chips from Mark's Fish Shop and eat them al fresco in the bracing local air. Just don't expect too much of the beach.  

Qantas has daily flights to London from major Australian capitals. See www.qantas.com.au for details. Southwold is a two-hour drive from central London, or visitors can catch a train from London Liverpool Street or Stratford to Darsham and then catch a local taxi. 

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