Every month our friends at Cool Places give us a Top 10 of places that can be easily accessed from some key YHA hostels. This month it’s the brilliantly situated former school, YHA Blaxhall, not far from Aldeburgh, which is within easy distance of the best of the beautiful Suffolk Coast. Here are some of their favourite things to see and places to eat and drink…
Not far from Blaxhall, the pleasant village of Snape is best known for the complex of former malthouses known as Snape Maltings – main site of the Aldeburgh Music Festival and home to various craft shops and galleries, a food hall, a couple of cafés and a pub, the Plough & Sail. Well worth a visit, and a base too for boat trips on the river or idyllic walks through the marshes.
Aldeburgh isn’t a pubby sort of place, which is a shame as it has more places to eat than you can count. But this long-established local bar is, as they say themselves, “a local legend”, not just for the fact that its pristine art deco interior but also for the Thai street food café that operates from its courtyard every summer.
Down a quiet lane on the edge of Aldeburgh, the Red House is one of the town’s many Benjamin Britten landmarks, home to England’s greatest 20th century composer for the last decades of his life, and now open to the public during summer, with a terrific exhibition on his life and work.
Leiston is the Suffolk coast’s gritty, industrial heart, a refreshingly workaday place, where the Leiston Works, was a pioneer of steam-driven machinery and equipment in the 19th century until the nearby Sizewell nuclear power station replaced it as the town’s main employer. The old factory is now a museum and displays all manner of steam-driven machinery including fire engines, threshing machines, steam and traction engines.
This small, family-owned and run rustic local bakery is at the heart of the pretty creekside town of Orford but it’s much more than just a bread shop, serving lunches and weekend brunch dishes at a communal table in their rustic dining room, or in a small courtyard outside.
One of the RSPB’s most renowned reserves, this unusual and popular mix of woods, heath and marshland is truly one of the most glorious spots along the entire Suffolk coast. It can get crowded on summer weekends but on a quiet weekday its wet woodland and marsh can feel supremely untouched by anything except nature.
Hard to believe that Dunwich was once one of the biggest ports in the country. Now it’s a sleepy village at the end of the road to nowhere, but the Flora Tea Room is a rite of passage for those walking the Suffolk Coast Path, birdwatchers, or indeed for anyone visiting the village, serving big plates of excellent fish and chips fresh, caught locally and usually cooked to order. You can eat at the tables outside or take your feast onto the beach – no better place to eat fish and chips than Dunwich beach at sunset.
Ramsholt is not so much a village as a handful of houses and this riverside pub, which enjoys a fabulous setting looking across the Deben estuary, with big picture windows overlooking the water. It’s a homely, dog-friendly place with a large terrace, and serves decent food too.
Just a few miles inland from Dunwich, Westleton is a pretty village, but doesn’t have much to draw you apart from this updated old coaching inn, which has a light-filled dining room out the back, and serves a hearty menu of British food – though it’s maybe better known for the fact that Wills and Kate once stayed in one of the room upstairs!
Recently renovated, Southwold Pier is a wonderfully retro affair. It is, as they say, 623 feet of fun, but not in the same way as the more glitzier affairs of Brighton and Blackpool, with not a fairground ride in sight, Instead you get a handful of relatively tasteful gift shops, the excellent Boardwalk restaurant, and – our favourite – the Under the Pier Show of artsy, post-modernist and hard-to-resist, arcade games.