Aldeburgh (pronounced ALL-bur-uh ) is a cute little town on the Suffolk coast with a lot of character and culture. You may have heard of the Aldeburgh Music Festival, but that is actually held in the nearby village of Snape. There is also the Aldeburgh Carnival, which is held every August going back 170 years! Aldeburgh used to be fairly big port with a shipbuilding industry – a couple of the most significant vessels in English history were built there. Today a lot of the old town has been lost to coastal erosion and Aldeburgh has become a picturesque fishing village and a seaside resort.
It is very serene, yet there is lots to do, let me explain:
- Fish & Chips – Yes, you can get fish & chips all over Britain, but Aldeburgh Fish & Chips has a reputation for some of the best in the country. Luckily, they have three locations – two takeaway shops at either end of the town (Aldeburgh Fish & Chips and The Golden Galleon) and a sit down restaurant upstairs (The Upper Deck). The restaurant is too small to accommodate strollers, so it does not cater for children under three. If the weather is decent, go to one of the takeaway shops and then you can eat your fish & chips on the sea wall looking out over the North Sea. The fish is so fresh, possibly caught that morning from one of the town’s fishermen. You can have cod, plaice, haddock, or scampi (shrimp), but the most traditional is cod. They have medium and large portions. Two people can easily share the large portion. While they also offer some other menu items that’s not why there are long lines. I even waited 30 minutes once. I would avoid the mushy peas though, it’s just wrong.
Got to one of the famous Fish & Chips shops before noon to be first in line!
- Ice Cream – After everyone has their fish & chips, they queue (British way of saying wait in line) for the Ive’s Ice Cream Parlour. On a warm day, you should try some if you still have room in your stomach. They stock over 30 different flavors of ice cream/sorbet/frozen yogurt made from locally sourced ingredients. They even have gluten-free cones!
- Walk along the beach to see the “Scallop” – Walks on the beach are always relaxing. Since this beach is a pebble one, not sand, it may be more comfortable to walk along the beach instead of on it. Just north of the town on the beach you will find a rather striking sculpture known as the “Scallop” by Maggi Hambling. It is meant to be a tribute to Benjamin Britten, a composer who spent much of his life in Aldeburgh. The phrase “I hear those voices that will not be drowned” (taken from one of Britten’s works) is written on the 15 foot high sculpture. I really like the sculpture but it is controversial because some people feel that it should not be located on the serene beach. You are encouraged to sit on the statue and many children love to climb it.
- Art Galleries – The “Scallop” is not the only artwork in Aldeburgh. There are several art galleries throughout the town. I recommend stopping in as many as you can. We made it to three. The largest gallery is Thompson’s, which also has a location in London.
- Shopping – There are several cute shops to check out along High Street. Adnams, a local brewery, has a store which sells wine, liquor, kitchen accessories, in addition to their beer. Additionally, Alde River limited has a lot of great gifts.
- Tea at the Brudenell – Afternoon tea is a great English Tradition. We had afternoon tea at the Brudenell, right on the water at the south end of the town. Afternoon tea here is pretty much a meal – sandwiches, scones, and other treats- and you get your own pot of your choice of tea. My favorite part of tea is the clotted cream (this is not the same as butter!) that you put on your scone. I would describe it as a sweeter creamier butter. Unfortunately, it is not really available outside of the UK.
- Pubs – As in pretty much all English towns, you have several pubs to choose from. The Mill Inn, located close to Moot Hall (the town hall that has been used for council meetings for over 400 years), is a good option.
Unfortunately, Aldeburgh does not have easy access to public transportation. From London, you would need to take a train from Liverpool Street Station to Ipswich (about an hour). From Ipswich you can catch a bus (another 1 1/2 hours) or take the train to Saxmundham and then a taxi to Aldeburgh. Additionally, if you drive to Aldeburgh, parking can be a problem during the summer tourist season. You might have to drive around a bit to find a space or park north of town and walk.
If you get the chance, Aldeburgh is definitely worth a visit. Have you been? I would love to hear about your experience.
- Go to the fish & chips location with the shortest line, they are all owned by the same family.
- If it is nice weather, eat on the sea wall.
- Walk along the beach and see the “Scallop.”