All About the Market Town of Southwold
Southwold is a delightful town and a great place to visit at any time of year, whether just for a day, a weekend, for a week, or longer.
You will find that this thriving resort is restricted by its natural setting and by the permanence of its nine greens and the Common. Everything is therefore condensed into a dignified but friendly working town which has much to offer the visitor.
Of course the sea and coastline have an enduring relationship with Southwold. The sea and the beach are there for all to enjoy (seasonal restrictions for dogs) with colourful beach huts, and kiosks for cups of tea and beach items. Near the pier are the boating lake, the small fun golf course and also a large car park. For a lovely view of the seafront and the town take a stroll along the Pier. Opened in 2001 to much acclaim it is a testament to the skills of the many local people involved in its construction. Entertainments, exhibitions, refreshments and shops are all there. The Pier clock is definitely different. To see it in full action will surely bring a smile to your face. Don’t forget to read the plaques on the Pier hand rails! Blythweb placed four – can you find them all?
To walk south along the beach will bring you to the entrance of the busy harbour. The often turbulent meeting here of the River Blyth and the North Sea means the spectator can while away time, with an ice-cream or two from the handy kiosk, watching sailors exercise their skills navigating their boats in to or out of the harbour. The Southwold Lifeboat and the Lifeboat Museum are nearby, as too is Coastal Voyager – book a trip to experience an exhilarating ride out to sea or to explore inland along the River Blyth. A stroll around the harbour is invariably interesting, with its various related businesses and many types of craft to see.
Across the river is Walberswick. To reach Walberswick from Southwold by car is a drive of about fifteen miles each way as the nearest road bridge is at Blythburgh (A12). Alternatively, here at the harbour there is a seasonal foot ferry which also carries dogs and bicycles. Or if you walk on inland, just passed the Harbour Inn, there is the footbridge. This is a lovely open area, with grazing marshes on either side of the river. When you turn to walk back to the town you will easily see that Southwold stands on rising ground, presenting a charming view. Roads and paths, including two footpaths, lead back to the town.
Despite the Great Fire of 1659, which destroyed much, Southwold contains many buildings of interest for those who care to observe. Certainly some older buildings escaped the ravages of the Fire, including the impressive St.Edmund’s Church, which had been completed some two hundred years before. From the church cross Bartholomew’s Green to Victoria Street to the Southwold Museum, housed in a post-1659 gem and always worth a visit.
Victoria Street meets the High Street near here, just by the Town Sign. Off the High Street on the opposite side of the road is Blackmill Road in which stands the bijou Electric Picture Palace Cinema. This is another triumph for local workmen, completed in 2002 but firmly rooted in1912 authenticity.
Returning to the High Street and heading towards the sea the many individual and interesting shops will no doubt delay arrival at the Market Place, home of the Town Pump and the Jubilee clock. From here the road leads on to Gun Hill where six cannon are sited, pointing out to sea. Or from the Market Place take the aptly-named East Street which will lead to the Sailors' Reading Room on East Cliff. Another fascinating place which welcomes visitors.
More cannon on St.James’ Green just to the north, off which is Stradbroke Road and the lighthouse. Operating since 1890 this landmark stands at 31 metres high and rhythmically flashes its red and white warning lights to shipping. Although also visible for several miles inland the lighthouse can prove very difficult to locate once you are in the town!
There is much more to see, explore or experience in Southwold - tea rooms, moonlight on the sea, play equipment on Tibby's Green near the Church, replica town stocks on Bartholomew's Green, seasonal events, the Town Crier, flagpoles and floral displays. For practical and helpful information about the town click here. To see Southwold from a very different angle take a look at our Panorama feature.