The historic county of Suffolk lies at the heart of East Anglia and its 50-mile stretch of coastline is a thing of beauty. Largely undisturbed, it is home to stunning landscapes and dramatic open skies but it’s not all about the great outdoors – bustling market towns and quaint fishing villages make it a magnet for tourists. The locally-sourced food and annual arts festivals are also hugely popular and help make the Suffolk Heritage Coast a feast for the mind, body and soul.
WHAT ARE THE MUST-SEES? Southwold is a great place to start. This charming seaside town has a lot to offer visitors, from beaches to boutique shops. Dogs are allowed inside many of them – including the flagship store of Adnams Brewery. If you like your beer, the shop is well worth a visit and it also stocks locally-produced gin and vodka, as well as quirky kitchen gadgets. I can also recommend the £20 brewery tour – but you’ll have to leave your dog at home for that one.
Southwold Pier is also a must if you’re in the area. Home to several shops and restaurants – The Beach Café is dog-friendly – it’s been done up in a vibrant steampunk-style which really attracts the crowds. Look out for the hand-crafted metal figurines and make sure you visit the hall of mirrors, the “tunnelling telescope” and the Waterclock, which puts on an impressive display every 30 minutes.
Snape Maltings – home to the annual Aldeburgh Festival – is a great place to while away a few hours, too. This “creative campus” is a thriving arts and music hub, thanks to former local resident, composer Benjamin Britten.
Here, in this former Victorian industrial complex, you’ll find one of the world’s leading music centres, alongside an eclectic collection of galleries and shops selling everything from antiques to crafts. Dogs are allowed in a handful of the independent boutiques, and the onsite pub, the Plough & Sail. When we visited, there was a food market going on so Ernie loved sampling the locally-produced meats and cheeses!
Nearby Aldeburgh is fantastically dog-friendly, too. We loved exploring the pebble beach while nosing at the colourful houses and popping in and out of the welcoming shops, such as Collen and Clare. I’ve never been anywhere with so many dog water bowls by the front doors – a sure sign your four-legged friend will be welcome inside.
Further north, there’s the East Anglia Transport Museum, near Lowestoft. Here, you can take a trip back in time on one of many old buses or trams – and your dog can even join you for a ride. Entry costs £9 for adults while dogs are allowed in for free.
Easton Farm Park, near Woodbridge, also makes for a great day out. This family-friendly attraction offers pony rides, cuddles with baby animals such as pigs and sheep and a miniature railway. Tickets cost £9 for adults and well-behaved dogs on leads are welcome to explore the grounds.
If horses are your thing, you’ll be pleased to hear dogs are also welcome at The Suffolk Punch Trust in Hollesley. Find out how the county’s famous horses shaped the local landscape before enjoying one of three signposted walks around the farm. Again, entry costs £9 for adults and is free for dogs.
WHERE’S GOOD FOR WALKIES? Suffolk isn’t short of beaches but if you want to have one almost to yourself, head to Dunwich. Known as “the lost city of England”, this tiny village was once a bustling port but essentially, it washed away during the Middle Ages. Only a handful of people live in the village now but there’s still a great pub (see below) and you can’t beat a stroll on the beach beneath the cliffs. Don’t forget to listen for the ghostly church bells tolling out at sea.
Just up the road you’ll find the Dunwich Heath & Beach nature reserve, which is owned by the National Trust. Its website has some great suggestions for dog walks and although the reserve is beautiful all year round, during the summer months, colourful heather carpets the ground.
From Southwold, you can walk to the neighbouring village of Walberswick in around 40 minutes by following the riverbank and crossing the Bailey Bridge. If your legs are aching – or you only want to walk one way – hop aboard the Walberswick Ferry. This traditional rowboat service has been offered by the Church family for more than 125 years. Operating during the summer months only, a single fare is just £1 for adults while dogs travel free.
There’s more to Snape Maltings than just shops, too. The River Alde runs right alongside it and the surrounding marshland is popular with both walkers and bird watchers. There are plenty of popular walking trails in Snape Maltings, too.
BEST PLACE TO GRAB A BITE? Aldeburgh is renowned for its fish and chips and it would be criminal to miss out. The original and best come from the imaginatively-named Aldeburgh Fish & Chip Shop, which has been frying fresh, East Coast fish the same way for more than 50 years. There’s a reason the queue is always out of the door!
If you can’t be bothered to queue, check out the family-run fish shop’s other locations in town – The Golden Galleon and The Upper Deck, where the food served is just as good. The traditional serving suggestion is to eat your meal by the beach with a side of bracing sea air – great news for dogs.
Many of the pubs in Southwold are pet-friendly but The Lord Nelson is our favourite. This nautical but nice pub serves a great range of pub grub, from scampi to steak, and you can wash your dinner down with a pint of Adnams or two. A lot of pubs and restaurants really champion Suffolk produce, which is great to see.
WHERE SHOULD I STAY? We love The Ship at Dunwich and The Westleton Crown, both historic pubs with rooms that are fantastically dog-friendly. The food they serve is excellent, too – think Adnams battered fish and chips and free range ham from up the road in Blythburgh. Read my review of both properties here.
GET ME THERE: The Suffolk Heritage Coast is surprisingly easy to reach. Roadwise, the A12, which starts in East London, runs through the heart of Suffolk via the county town of Ipswich. It takes approximately two hours to reach from London. The coastline is well served by the rail network, too.
FIND OUT MORE: To find out more about the Suffolk Heritage Coast or get ideas for dog-friendly things to do, see VisitSuffolk.com.