We love a wintry weekend away at the end of January, with the dogs.
You may remember we enjoyed a lovely weekend in Rye Harbour, last January, you can read about it here. Obviously, in January, there is the risk of horrible weather, but we don’t mind it so much, we have wet weather walking gear, thermals, warm winter woolies and boots. So a must for any cottage we book is a fire, or log burner, to warm us up after our chilly walks.
This year we decided to visit Southwold for a few days, because we know so many people who have been there and have never heard a bad thing said about it.
Southwold is in Suffolk, about 2.5 hours from London, for us the quickest route was round the M25, through the Dartford Tunnel and straight up the A12, so it’s a pretty easy journey (well, in January it is!). There’s only one road in and out of Southwold, which is surrounded by water; the North Sea and the Blyth River. It has a lovely sandy/shingle beach and, for such a small town, it also boasts a lighthouse and a thriving pier!
Southwold may not be very big but it is a pretty market town, with a mixture of Georgian/Victorian buildings. The High Street is full of shops, both well-known ones and independent ones, cafes, restaurants, pubs and has it’s very own brewery, Adnams.
Parking can be a problem, as a lot of the roads are narrow, there aren’t a lot of houses with parking spaces or driveways, although we didn’t have a problem parking in January, but you may find yourself parking a short walk from the house you are staying in. Once parked, you can forget about your car until home time, because everything in Southwold is within walking distance.
Southwold is possibly the most dog-friendly place we have visited, there are dogs everywhere! Outside most of the shops are dog water bowls, I forgot to ask someone, but I assumed that a shop which had a water bowl outside meant it was dog-friendly, and most places also had signs in the window saying they were dog-friendly. Many of the shops and cafes/restaurants are dog-friendly so you can take your dog with you to have a wander round the shops and have lunch at the same time too. It is lovely not to have to leave the dogs behind.
We noticed that a lot of the houses weren’t occupied and a local, we were chatting to, told us that around 70%-80% of the properties were holiday homes, so it was pretty quiet in January (which, by the way, we loved). Although January is out of season, it was still quite busy on Sunday, with lots of families walking their dogs on the beach and staying for lunch or a drink. We didn’t have to worry about shops/restaurants being shut because of the time of year, they were all open, since Southwold is an all year seaside place to visit.
Where We Stayed ~ Fisherman’s Cottage
We booked our house through Suffolk Secrets, which was recommended by friends who visit Southwold every year.
We collected the keys from Suffolk Secrets’ office on Market Place and it was a short, very short, drive to the cottage. Fisherman’s Cottage is the perfect location for everything in Southwold. The cottage is a lovely terraced house, close to the beach and The Nelly (if you know, you know), and opposite an ice-cream parlour. From the outside it is very deceptive! Once through the blue door, Fisherman’s Cottage is bright, welcoming and has everything you could need in a home from home.
The narrow passageway (great for storing your coats and shoes) takes you into the kitchen which is a good size and equipped with dishwasher, washing machine etc. There are two reception rooms, great for families – kids in one, adults in the other (there’s a tv in each room). Not only are they cosy (not small) and welcoming they also have very comfortable sofas (so many places we have stayed at don’t have comfortable seating, which doesn’t help you relax, which is one of the reason for going away).
There’s a separate dining room and when it’s chilly (it was freezing and even snowed while we were there) you can light one of the 3 wood burners!
Upstairs there are 3 bedrooms, a family bathroom and one en suite shower room. There are two rooms with king beds in and one with twin beds. The bed was very comfortable and I slept well, which is unusual for me, as I don’t usually sleep well when we go away.
We never felt cold in the cottage, which, considering outside was bitterly cold and snowing, is really great. It was lovely to come back to our cosy cottage after our walks and exploring Southwold.
The Beach & Walks
Southwold’s beach is a part shingle, part sand beach which is very popular with dog walkers. There are some restrictions for dogs; from April to October dogs are not allowed on the beach, or promenade, unless on a lead. However, once past Gun Hill and up on the dunes, you are free to let them off and enjoy watching them chase each other around the sand dunes, then continue the walk up towards the harbour. We pretty much had the beach to ourselves everyday, apart from Sunday when it was noticeably busier.
On the promenade you will see the brightly coloured beach huts, and there are a couple of places to get a drink or something to eat (they weren’t open when we were there). Head south along the beach towards the harbour or head north towards Southwold Pier, where you can find a cafe (which was open and I enjoyed a lovely cup of tea), amusements and pavilion.
Harbour – Walberswick Walk
We took a lovely walk to the harbour and looped round, through the golf course, back to Southwold – this took us about 1.5 hours (we did stop for a cuppa, in the most lovely seafood restaurant, The Smokehouse. We wished we had found the restaurant earlier. It looks like a beach shack from the outside, but inside it was cosy with a roaring fire and more like an alpine ski chalet, but they only open for lunch and we discovered it on our last day.)
Or, once at the harbour you can get the foot ferry (seasonal, wasn’t operating when we were there), or walk up to the bridge and cross over into Walberswick (a much longer walk). Walberswick doesn’t have the shops and restaurants that Southwold has, but there are two pubs The Bell Inn and The Anchor Inn which both offer food and are dog-friendly.
Eating & Drinking in Southwold
Lots of our friends gave us recommendations for places to visit and eat in, which was fantastic but, sadly, we weren’t there long enough to try them all out! Below are the ones we did try.
Two Magpies Bakery
Our favourite cafe was the Two Magpies Bakery, I think everyone told us to go there for the bacon sandwich (‘the best ever bacon sandwich’). Well, they weren’t wrong, after taking the dogs for a walk along the beach, we had breakfast here. Apart from one morning when hubby wanted a full English breakfast, we went to The Swan Hotel, so he could fulfil his craving for a full English and, I have to say, it was disappointing, for me, but hubby enjoyed his.
I had crushed avocado and poached egg on sourdough bread and hubby had a bacon sandwich. The portion size was very generous, so what we ended up doing was sharing our choices, so we both had the best of both breakfasts. Every town should have a Two Magpies, it really is a lovely, lively friendly cafe, full of delicious food, bread and cakes.
If you ever go to Southwold, you HAVE to go to the Two Magpies, but beware, it’s not very big and it gets busy (although you can get takeaway). The Two Magpies is very dog-friendly inside, not just sitting outside and if you have breakfast, make sure you leave room for a cake, or two, to take back with you!
The Little Fish & Chip Shop
Another one that was recommended a lot, The Little Fish & Chip Shop is a short walk from the cottage and was our first evening meal when we arrived. The shop, is so lovely inside, really different for a chip shop, it also has a little bar, so you can have a drink while you wait for your order. Now, I love chips (I struggle to walk past a chip shop and not go in to get some chips, oh the smell! anyone else?) but hubby isn’t that fussed to be honest. We both had fish and chips (obvs) and both said how delicious the fish was. Fresh and beautifully cooked with the best batter I’ve ever tasted. So, this was a great recommendation, we really enjoyed it.
The Swan Hotel
The Swan Hotel has recently been refurbished, very stylish. There’s a pub, The Tap Room (at the back) and a restaurant, The Still Room. We had dinner there one evening, in The Still Room, it was quiet, the service was good, the seats were comfortable, but to be honest, I was a bit underwhelmed by my food. My husband enjoyed his meal and mine wasn’t horrible but it didn’t really wow me, I wouldn’t go back there for dinner. Oh, and the hotel isn’t dog-friendly.
A very unassuming restaurant, in fact, you could easily walk past it and not notice it at all, however, we loved it so much that we went there twice for dinner. Not a big restaurant, inside looks more like a cafe than a formal restaurant, the staff were really friendly and the service was great.
The food was definitely a wow, on both nights. We really enjoyed our choices and shared, the most delicious sticky toffee pudding with ginger ice cream, oh it was soooo gooooood!
The Nelson Pub
Fisherman’s Cottage is just opposite The Nelson Pub (The Nelly), not even a stone’s throw away! A perfect place to stop and have a drink, or two, after our afternoon walks with the dog (yes, it’s dog-friendly). The Nelly is a traditional pub, it’s not big inside, but in the winter there’s a roaring fire and it’s very welcoming on a snowy day!
It does serve food, but while we were there the kitchen was shut for refurbishment, however, we are reliably informed that the food is really good and the Sunday lunch is a feast (probably why it was so busy on Sunday, but I’m sure there were a lot of disappointed customers as only crisps or peanuts were on offer!).
These are all the places that we had time to try, but there is so much choice in Southwold when it comes to restaurants, cafes and pubs. However, booking is always recommended, especially if you find somewhere you love.
Shops in Southwold
Southwold is a vibrant town, with lots of shops for all tastes and members of the family. You can spend an afternoon wandering and browsing shops like Fat Face, Joules, Seasalt of Cornwall, Quba, Jack Wills, to name but a few. There’s gift shops, independent clothes shops, a couple of antique shops and the cutest book shop, where I could’ve whiled away a couple of hours just looking at books.
I can really see why everyone loves Southwold, it’s so pretty, everyone was chatty and friendly, it’s very dog-friendly, what’s not to love?
Have you been to Southwold, do you have a favourite restaurant or shop, we’d love to know for the next time we visit.