The hotspots in East and Coastal Suffolk. Part 1

  • Kings Head in Laxfield, IP13 8DW
  • Dunwich Beach, IP17 3DE
  • Southwold, IP18 6BN
  • Adnams Brewery Tour, IP18 6JW
  • St Peter’s Brewery, NR35 1NQ
  • Thorpeness Meare, IP16 4NW

East and Coastal Suffolk encompasses the area around Southwold, almost on the Norfolk border (Alan Partridge territory).

I have family ties in Suffolk and started visiting the county more often over the past two years. I say more often, it’s probably once every few months as the 3 hour drive from South West London is quite a mission & crossing the capital on a Friday evening is liable to trigger my latent road rage tendencies.    

It’s fun having a new area to explore and here are my top spots for tourists (like me) and culture vultures to visit:

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Kings Head (also known as the ‘Low House’) in Laxfield, IP13 8DW

Not only is the food top notch, it’s one of the few remaining pubs that still has a traditional tap room rather than a bar. To order a beverage there’s table service or you can linger in the doorway of the tap room, for beer tapped directly from the barrel. Being eyed up in a doorway doesn’t quite have the same ring to it as being chatted up at the bar!

It has a lovely atmosphere with lots of traditional oak; it’s strange getting used to a pub without a main area, instead comprising of adjoining rooms.

The pub has recently been refurbished although still has some of the original features, like cords to ring through to the tap room with equally charming messages:

“Pull the cord, ring the bell, give the landlord merry hell!”

“For you sit upon the bench, pull the cord to call a wench. She’ll bring you a jug; your thirst to quench.”

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Oh I do like to be beside the seeeaside…

Dunwich Beach, IP17 3DE is usually blissfully deserted. It’s a shingle beach and gets fairly windy. A fantastic place if you want alone time with your thoughts and after 5 minutes walking you’ll have the best salty-beach-bedhead-messy-hair any hairdresser could dream of (or have nightmares about).

The village of Dunwich had an almighty population of 183 in 2011, which is quite sad seeing as it used to be the capital of the Kingdom of the East Angles. During the Anglo-Saxon period it had an international port similar in size to 14th century London (thanks Wikipedia). The harbour and most of the town were washed away by several great storms and coastal erosion, but the National Trust coffee shop that wouldn’t have been there those hundreds of years ago serves cracking flapjack, so it’s not all miserable for the Dunwich locals.

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Southwold, IP18 6BN

First stop, Southwold Pier. Prepare yourself for the usual arcade extravaganza, when you’ve made it through a few coins lighter you’ll find yourself on the lovely wooden decked pier. All along the railings are plaques dedicated to family and loved ones. Some moving poems, memories, marriage proposals and remembrance to pensioners who used to enjoy eating fish and chips in the same very place.

The BEST part of the pier is the wonderful Pier Show, a random collection of homemade arcade games. Prepare yourself to be frisked, have a go at money laundering, try crossing the road on a zimmer frame,  try out the personal nuclear reactor, stick your hand inside a mad dog’s cage… I could go on, you won’t want to leave, you’ll want to have a go on everything at least twice.

*If Suffolk is too far and you’re feeling intrigued, there’s a twin arcade by the same creator in Holborn.

The bizarreness doesn’t stop there, make sure you’re near Tim Hunkin’s water clock at :00 or :30 to see two boys tinkle and some metal flowers pop up when the clock hands tick-tock.

Adnams Brewery Tour, Suffolk’s most famous beer!

It would be rude to miss this one off the list, Adams have been brewing in the area for over 150 years.  Book in advance for one of their renowned distillery or brewery tours, make sure you have a designated driver.

You could easily spend a couple of hours wandering the smallish high street visiting quirky gifts shops and cute boutiques.

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We all know that countryfolk love to stay hydrated, a few miles up the road in Bungay is:

St Peter’s Brewery, NR35 1NQ. A delightfully secret paradise for any strong-beer fan. Tucked away down a small country road, you wouldn’t suspect it churns out over 20 varieties of hoppy-goodness.

The brewery is accompanied by a hall dating back to 1280! It’s a charming venue, full of original wooden features and carvings. However it’s surrounded by a moat and includes a welcoming tombstone in the the entrance (a warning to any beer thieves or anyone who breaks the country code).

The brewery tour lasted around 2 hours and the guide was incredibly knowledgable. From facts about the unique shape of the brown squashed bottles (they look a bit like old fashioned medicine bottles) to the assorted beer flavours (alcohol-free was the worst, the Christmas ale was the bomb).

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At the bargain price of £7.50 per person, your tour ticket also includes a bottle of beer, fun-facts galore and leaves you smelling deliciously like a brewery (disclaimer: St Peter’s are not paying me for this post…)

Speaking of fun facts, here’s one to ensure you enjoy that post-work pint even more! Most brewers use isinglass (dried fish bladder) to speed up the clarification process (removing sediment), YUM!

Thorpeness Meare, IP16 4NW

This beautiful gigantic lake was originally created to be a playground for a Scottish barrister, the idea came about from his friend J.M. Barrie, creator of Peter Pan! Row around on any of the 100+ rainbow-coloured boats and explore the miniature islands within the water, including: Pirate’s Lair, Wendy’s Home, and Captain’s House.

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My photos don’t do the Meare any justice, on a beautiful sunny blue day there’s no better place to be. Although the swans seemed rather hungry and stalked us around the lake.

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A very suspicious looking “house”

Thorpeness is also renowned for it’s famous water tower sneakily (not-so sneakily) disguised as a house. The residents were so appalled with the eyesore they decided it needed a drastic makeover. Named the ‘house in the clouds‘ anyone can book to stay, with five floors to explore (a chair on each landing for those in need of a rest in between) it’s sure to offer stunning views.

To be continued…

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Flowers in teapots. Thorpeness Meare
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