Southwold is located at the mouth of the river Blyth on the North Sea coast in the county of Suffolk. It is approximately 120 miles NE of London and takes around 2-1/2 hours to drive by car.
Southwold received its town charter from Henry VII in 1489 and was the home of a number of Puritan emigrants to Massachusetts in the 1630’s. In 1659 fire devastated most of the town and damaged St. Edmund’s church whose original structure dates from the 12th century. The fire created a number of open spaces in town that are evident today.
Just above the beach on Gun Hill are six 18-pounder cannons commemorating the Battle of Sole Bay, fought in 1672 between English and French fleets against the Dutch. Although Southwold’s Harbor remains one of the main fishing ports on the Suffolk coastline, the main economy now focuses on services and tourism.
St. Edmund’s Church
St. Edmund was the boy king of East Anglia martyred in 869 AD for his faith by invading Danes who tied him to a tree and shot him with arrows. The chapel was built in 1200 by the Priors of Thetford & Wangford but was burned down in 1430. The present church was built from then until 1460 and is renowned for its East Anglian flushwork, especially on the tower. All the medieval glass was destroyed in the church by William Dowsing in 1644. A German bomb narrowly missed the church in WWII and ended up blowing out all the windows.
Built in 1900 and runs 800′ into the North Sea. Long enough to accommodate Belle steamers it was weakened in WWII by having two breaches blown in it and in 1955 a gale destroyed a large part of it. Entirely rebuilt in 2001 at a length of 610′ the pier enjoys popularity partly from the coin-operated novelty machines made by Tim Hunkin.
Our home base is currently Bury St. Edmund so our trip to Southwold took around 1 hour and 45 minutes. Before we arrived at Southwold, we stopped at Blythburgh and visited the Holy Trinity (Cathedral of the Marshes) church. Joseph Kennedy Jr., eldest brother of President John F. Kennedy was killed a mile south of the village when his plane crashed in World War II. After leaving Blythburgh we drove to Southwold then proceeded down Pier Avenue and stopped at the big parking lot near Southwold Pier. We arrived at around 10 am and was able to find parking which was good, because by 12 pm the parking lot was full.
Weather was cool and very breezy all day long with temps around 16 celsius (60 degrees fahrenheit). It was so breezy that it was hard to walk and enjoy things because of the wind, and it never let up all day long.
Our first walk was out the Southwold Pier which has a number of shops, a water-clock, and the The Under the Pier Show arcade. We had a cappuccino at one of the cafes which was excellent and then walked to the end of the pier for a great view of the beach and the town of Southwold. On the way back we stopped at the arcade and played some of the coin operated games: The Booth of Truth, Fly Drive, Quick-Fit, Alien Probe, and Doctor. It’s like an arcade out of the 70’s but it was a fun way to spend half an hour.
From the pier we walked along N Parade street until we reached Gun Hill. There we looked over the six cannons commemorating the Battle of Sole Bay. From Gun Hill we walked to Queen Street where we had a reservation at Coasters restaurant. We ate on the open patio at the back of the restaurant and the food was very good.
After our lunch at Coasters we walked along Queen Street towards High Street and stopped along a number of the shops along the way. Ice cream, food, beer, and clothing are all available in this area of town.
Our next destination was St. Edmund’s Church which is a short walk from High Street. On the way there we went in Adnam’s Cellar and Kitchen which has beer, wine, kitchenware, and a cafe. Very cool store. Once at the church we were impressed by the wood and the height of the ceiling. One of the stained glass windows depicts St. Edmund shot full of arrows.
Leaving the church we headed back to where we were parked at the pier and had a late snack at the Tea Room located on the shore of the boating pond.
For the Kids
If you have kids the pier area of Southwold is fantastic. There is a putting green, merry-go-round, paddle boat pond, model yacht pond, the arcade on the pier, and of course the beach. You could spend hours with the kids just in this area of the beach.
Two Digital Gypsy Rating – 3.5 stars
I’m sure the wind doesn’t blow all the time like it did when we were visiting Southwold. Other than that is was an enjoyable visit and if we’re in the area again it would be nice to stop by and spend some more time there.
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