Let's staycation in...Aldeburgh
- Credit: Matt Finch
What do you think of when you imagine a typical British beach holiday? Kiss me quick shops? A rickety pier? Arcades? Sandy beaches thronging with tourists?
If that sounds like your idea of hell, but you still fancy an escape to the coast...let us suggest Aldeburgh.
Genteel and charming in every way, with a long shingle beach, high street of smart shops and eateries, and a pastel-coloured chocolate box seafront, there’s more to this town than meets the eye.
Within its boundaries you’ll find the latest fashions, award-winning gin, chocolate and bread, art, and a calendar bursting with culture.
Where to stay in Aldeburgh
Admiring vistas looking directly out to sea, The Brudenell is a modern coastal hotel that has creature comforts at its heart.
Bed down in one of the cosy rooms, where a bath with shower, HD TV, free Wifi and hospitality tray come as standard. Single, twin and double accommodation is available, with the ‘best’ option if you’re pushing the boat out being the Superior Deluxe Sea View. As well as a larger bed, you’ll enjoy a lounge area overlooking the beach – very romantic.
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Breakfast, lunch, light bites and dinner are available at the hotel’s Seafood & Grill restaurant, which has a terrace for warmer days – where dogs are welcome and can lap up their own menu!
Diners can sample Tapas by the Sea, or tuck into dishes such as Orford oysters with shallot vinaigrette, game terrine with brandy-soaked prunes and poached pear, or whole plaice with chicken butter sauce, roasted Jerusalem artichokes and creamed potato.
While you’re in the town, general manager Richard Howard has a few suggestions for how to spend your time.
Top of his list is a Fireside Tour at Fisher’s Gin Distillery next to the hotel. Available from 12noon Thursday to Sunday, the visit includes a tour, seafood lunch platter, a seasonal cocktail and G & T, and your very own Fisher’s enamel mug and tote bag.
Richard also recommends a visit to Aldeburgh Cinema (which has been in the community for over 100 years), and a walk following the ‘footsteps’ of steam trains gone by along the embankment from Aldeburgh to Thorpeness. “On the right day, at the right time, the 1919 bus will bring you back to Aldeburgh.”
Find out more at brudenellhotel.co.uk
Book direct for the best rates. Currently deals on selected dates include 25% off bookings on Thursdays and Sundays, and a 15% discount for bookings made 30 days in advance.
What to do in Aldeburgh
Catch a show: Jubilee Hall hosts a brilliant series of events annually, from music to theatre. Coming up are a piano recital with Ronan Magill on November 26, singing on December 12 with A Few of Our Favourite Things, and Common Ground Theatre’s humorous romp, Sherlock Holmes meets Count Dracula on January 3 to 5.
Admire art: Pay a visit to one of the galleries in the town – these include Aldeburgh Gallery, South Lookout, Aldeburgh Contemporary Arts, and the impressive new Ballroom Arts venue, which opens with its premier show (following the Art for Cure Feast exhibition) from December 6 to 12, featuring the works of Scottish plein air artist James Lockhart.
Walk to Thorpeness: As Richard has already pointed out, this is a fantastic walk – taking in Maggi Hambling’s scallop sculpture on the beach along the way. When you get to Thorpeness pay for a boat trip on the Meare after a mug of cocoa at the tearoom, go admire the House in the Clouds, book a session at the village golf club, or head for lunch at The Dolphin Inn.
Fish and chips on the beach: You really can’t visit Aldeburgh without engaging in the town’s most popular past time. Pick up a steaming bag of the British classic from one of the high street shops, pull on your thickest coat and head for the sea wall. If fish and chips aren’t your bag, go grab an ice cream from another institution - Ives ice cream parlour.
Watch a film: Aldeburgh Cinema hosts events and mainstream and indy films. It is such a pleasure to catch a flick here. Current showings are Mothering Sunday, Spencer and The Many Saints of Newark.
Swim in the sea: Even when it’s chilly outside, you’ll find quite a few folk wild swimming off the beach. It’s not lifeguarded, so please don’t go on your own, and stay close to the shore.
Where to eat in Aldeburgh
Regatta: Now under the patronage of brothers Alex and Oliver Burnside (who both started their careers here) the Regatta primarily offers a modern European take on seafood, supplemented by dishes made with prime local meat and vegetables. Typical dishes include their fish platters, local lobster (when available), and Mediterranean fish soup.
The Lighthouse: An award-winning brasserie that’s been a favourite with locals and visitors for more than 25 years. Reliably good, and known for exemplary service, The Lighthouse’s typical offerings range from salmon cured with their own Lighthouse 77 gin and beetroot, Lighthouse fish pie, and their speciality steaks with all the trimmings.
L’Escargot Sur Mer: Tucked down a thoroughfare en route to the sea, this restaurant was transported from London for a summer pop-up...and never left. Reviewers have been raving about the classic French fare, from snails with garlic butter, to lemon sole with Champagne sauce, and pot au chocolat.
Aldeburgh Market: Part fish counter, part deli, part restaurant. A globally-inspired menu is served from 10am onwards, Tuesday to Sunday, with dining into the evenings from Wednesday to Saturday. Expect the likes of potted shrimps with toasted sourdough, through to smoked haddock kedgeree with poached egg, mango chutney and cucumber raita.
Where to shop in Aldeburgh
Aldeburgh Book Shop: A superb independent book shop that is an utter treat for bibliophiles. You can get lost amongst the aisles, lined with best sellers, forgotten gems, the latest releases, and an extensive collection of local history tomes. There’s an excellent children’s section too. Plus some gifts, cards and wrapping paper. The shop organises the annual Aldeburgh Literary Festival, which has attracted lots of big names to the town over the years. The next festival will be held from May 5 to 8 in 2022 at Jubilee Hall.
Slate: The father/daughter team who own Slate and its sister shop in Southwold are crazy about cheese, and this little store in Aldeburgh brims with perfectly kept pieces of British and European farmhouse fromages, as well as all the accoutrements you need to pull together a fabulous feast. There’s chocolate, charcuterie, sausage rolls, pies and more to whet the appetite too.
Two Magpies: A bakery empire that started in Southwold, reached over to Aldeburgh, and now has expanded to the north Norfolk coast. The café/bakery is an ode to everything yummy. Billowing meringues, interesting sandwiches to-go, towering slices of layered cakes – incredible doughnuts. The coffee is excellent as well.
Fleur: A delightful women’s fashion and accessories shop, and sister store to O & C Butcher on the other side of the road, which is also a must-visit. Fleur has something for every occasion. SKA Shoes boots. Ichi Raincoats. Dresses you can glitz up for the festive season. Selected Femme jumpers. Colourful Happy Socks.
Alde River: A bit of an institution in Aldeburgh, the exterior display, window and shop itself are all busy with a huge collection of things to catch your eye, whether you’re after a funny sign, a scarf, bird box, or plush Jellycat toy. There are loads of stocking filler ideas in stock right now.
In the area
Snape Maltings: You could spend a whole morning, afternoon...or evening here at the home of Aldeburgh Festival – an internationally acclaimed series of events that attracts artists from all over the world. Book a show. Take a walk on one of the nature-filled routes from the site. Browse antiques and art at the onsite shops. And lose yourself in Snape’s enormous central lifestyle store and food hall, where you’ll find everything from artisan candles, throws, pottery and sofas, to local gin and artisan chocolate.
RSPB Minsmere: A favourite with BBC’s Springwatch, this spot has something to offer in every season. Depending on the time of year, birders could spy avocets, booming bitterns, marsh harriers and nightingales. There’s a visitor centre, café, nature tails and viewing points.
Tunstall Forest: Pack your bike and explore the broadleaf canopied pathways and conifer plantations of this quiet forest in the Suffolk Coasts and Heaths Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. There’s a BMX track too if you want to ramp up the adrenaline a bit though. The Green Man pub in the village of Tunstall is a nice pit stop for good food and fine real ales.