Coastal Walking in Dunwich & Southwold

Dunwich HeathLast month MiMi and I were in Suffolk on the East Coast of England, looking for sea-breeze walks and rural culture.  We stayed at the Ship Inn, Dunwich – about 8-miles from Southwold.

Walk from Southwold to Walberswick & back, via the foot ferry – about 1 1/2-hours

From Southwold
Southwold FerryWe parked opposite the seafood restaurant shacks along the end of Ferry Road, Southwold-side of the River Blythe, and crossed the river mouth to Walberswick. This little 12-seater ferry is rowed by a burley Scot and licensed as a regular service.  At Walberswick, footpaths run along the river bank to an old footbridge about half-an hour away. If you have time call in at the nearby Bell Inn. The Southwold path on the way back passes the Sailing Club Pub, and I’d recommend local seafood at one of the little eateries further along.

Sole Bay Inn, SouthwoldSouthwold itself is a magical little town I used to visit regularly. Slightly spoilt by affluent Londoners seeking romance by the sea. Prices there have gone through the roof with beach huts selling for over £50,000 and the cheapest B&Bs charging £90 a night.

However, £3.40 for a pint of Adnams at the Sole Bay Inn, below the lighthouse and right opposite the brewery, is well worth it.  If you’re sick of pub food, take fish & chips from the shop on the main road to a bench in the nearby churchyard. Careful feeding the seagulls though, as they’re over-tame.

Circular Walk from the ancient city of Dunwich to Minsmere & back – about 4 1/2-hours

The Ship DunwichDunwich is a tiny coastal village, all that remains of the capital of the East Angles Kingdom. The  Domesday Book of 1086 records it as one of the tenth largest cities in England with a population of  around 3,000. It became a thriving international port, similar in size to 14th-century London, where it sent two members to parliament.

Its decline began in 1286 when a storm hit the East Anglian coast bringing the sea inland, with further winter erosion gradually reducing the population to under 100 today.  Only one church remains, moved inland in the early 20-centry. A popular local legend tells of bells that can still be heard from the other seven churches lost beneath the waves. Don’t miss the excellent Dunwich Museum with a model of how the city once was, and the car park beach cafe serves home-made food all year.

Start from Dunwich
Nigel at Dunwich HeathFrom Dunwich’s 17th-century Ship Inn, follow the footpath on the left just past the bend on the Minsmere Road (by the pub) to the cliff top. Thirty-five-years ago I used to drive up this trail and camp on the cliff.  It’s impossible to get any vehicle up now.  Several yards of the cliff have been lost to erosion, but there’s still space to safely pitch a small tent.

Turn right past the remains of a 13th-century Franciscan priory, and follow the trail inland onto Dunwich Heath. It’s hard to avoid country roads part of the way, but at least the majority of the route is along footpaths.

Dunwich Heath
Dunwich Deer and wildlifeThe heath is a serene and wild habitat of sandy heather crisscrossed by bridleways. Home to rare wildlife like the Dartford warbler, nightjar, woodlark, ant-lion, adders and herds of native deer.

With the help of National Trust signs and maps at major junctions, you should be able to reach a wooden wildlife viewing platform – where it’s sign-posted to the RSPB Discovery Centre at Minsmere with a cafe, shop, nature trails, and guides.

RSPB Discovery Centre at Minsmire The exhibition here shows how birds migrate 3,000-miles onto the nearby cliff face, from North America and the Antartic.  Otters can be seen in the island meres and birds like Bitterns only found in East Anglia – along with an abundance of dragonflies, mash harriers, and other rare birds.

If the hike from Dunwich is too much for you, it’s only 20-minutes along the beach from Dunwich Heath NT car park or Sizewell Beach.

Way Back
Minsmere Coast, SuffolkTo return, walk behind the cafe and follow signs through the nature reserve towards the sea.  Walk along the headland.  It’s about a mile to the National Trust Dunwich Heath Cafe, and then over an hour back to the Ship Inn. Don’t walk along the beach as it’s hard work on the shingle.  Follow the footpath as close to the coast as you can, then cut inland partly along the road.

Useful Sites
Ferry Website:

A PDF detailing1,000-years of Dunwich can be downloaded at

Combine a holiday at the Norfolk Broads – a great riverside cottage only an hour from these walks: Bure Cottage

Dunwich & Southwold Map

See my personal site:


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *