Southwold is an elegant Victorian seaside town that provides a haven from the normal hustle and bustle of life. Sited on a low hill overlooking a sand and shingle beach, the seafront has a unique distinguished charm; famed for its rows of colourful beach huts.
Southwold Seafront © Travel About Britain
Sole Bay Inn © TAB
Originating as a Saxon fishing port at the mouth
of the River Blyth, the small town has gradually evolved
into a pleasant seaside resort. Its time old streets
are lined with a mix of Victorian terraces and brick,
flint and colour-washed fishermen's cottages. The centre
has a good selection of shops, restaurants and old
pubs, such as the the Sole Bay Inn. Established by
Ernest Adams in the late 19th-century, the Sole Bay
is now one of the country's most renowned real ale
breweries. Small brewhouses attached to
inns, like this, were once common in many small English
The town owes its numerous greens and open spaces to a devastating fire that raged through it in 1659. The greens were added as firebreaks to prevent such a disaster happening again.
Southwold's most unusual feature is the lighthouse in the centre of town. Its 101ft tower (1ft higher than the church tower) rises as a brilliant white column from among the houses. It was built as one of number of coastal warning beacons, arrayed along the east coast between 1887 and 1890. The history of its construction and workings are on display in the little Dutch-gabled museum and in the Sailors' Reading Room on the seafront.
The influence of the Dutch on the architecture can still be seen in some of the cottages along Church Street and the gables of the town museum on Bartholomew Green.
Southwold Pump and Swan Hotel © TAB
The 17th-c white windowed Swan Hotel dominates the market square, with the balconied Georgian Town Hall (1826) next door. Just outside, on the site of the medieval market cross stands a cast-iron pump dating from 1873, bearing St Edmund's symbol of a crown and crossed arrows.
The town's 15th-c parish church is dedicated
to St Edmund, a popular East
Anglian saint. Constructed in 1460, on the site of
an older priory chapel, it has attractive
flint flushwork and a very fine hammer-beam roof. A
figure of a soldier known as 'Southwold Jack', strikes the bell of the church clock, on the hour, with his battle axe.
The six Elizabethan 18-pound muzzle-loading cannons that face out to sea on Gun Hill are believed to have been presented to the town by the Duke of Cumberland, in gratitude for Southwold's support in the defeat of Bonnie Prince Charlie at Culloden. The nearby Victorian coastguard lookout is sited in what used to be a camera obscura.
Located in an old 17th-c weaver's cottage, the museum covers local and natural history, including the Anglo-Dutch naval battle of Sole Bay and details of the old Southwold narrow-gauge railway, which closed in 1929. The bridge that once carried the railway across the river is now a footpath to the nearby villages of Walberswick and Blythburgh.
During the Dutch Wars of 1672, a sea battle raged off the coast of Southwold between the English and French and the Dutch fleet under the command of Admiral de Ruyter. Despite early heavy English losses the Dutch eventually withdrew at nightfall.
Opening times: daily
from 2pm to 4 pm
Location: 9-11 Victoria St, Southwold IP18 6HZ
Tel: 07708 781317
Southwold's Victorian pier extends 623 feet (190 metres) into the North Sea. It was originally built as a landing point for steamships, which sailed up the channel from London. In 1934 the T-shaped landing point was swept away by a storm and the remaining part of the pier was transformed into amusement arcade and concert hall.
This little Grade II listed building contains a fascinating collection of local maritime memorabilia, including models of yawls and schooners. The room was built in 1864 to discourage sailors from overindulging in drink or going to sea on the Sabbath.
Opening times: daily
9am to 5pm.
Location: The Lord Nelson, 42 East St, Southwold IP18 6EJ