Happy to spend time leading a shingle life

The pretty houses on the seafront in Aldeburgh, Suffolk.
The pretty houses on the seafront in Aldeburgh, Suffolk.
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It’s known to some as London-on-Sea - and it’s not hard to figure out why.

That’s because every Friday there’s a stream of 4x4s leaving the claustrophobic confines of the capital and heading for a slower-paced weekend breathing in the sea air.

The historic town of Aldeburgh, once home to celebrated composer Benjamin Britten, is a popular place to have a little bolthole in which to unwind and enjoy life on the Suffolk coast.

People love the laid-back atmosphere - Andrew Marr is among those fond of the place - because it is the complete opposite of metropolitan hustle and bustle.

But if you aren’t well-heeled enough to afford a second home here, don’t worry.

This part of the country, boasting 40 miles of heritage coastline set in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, has plenty of self-catering or hotel/b&b accommodation for occasional visitors.

After a relatively straightforward drive around London, up to Ipswich and beyond, we began our stay at Beaver Cottage, an annexe to a beautiful Georgian manor house.

The three-bedroom place just outside Aldeburgh had a nice lived-in feel, ideal if you have two boisterous boys.

Owners Tony and Debbie Bone made us very welcome, encouraging the boys to use a trampoline and tree seat in their 11-acre garden, plus run around and throw a stick for Jake the collie dog.

But for them - and us - the best bit about Beaver Cottage was having access to the Bone family’s own private beach, reached via open fields and a lovely unspoilt wooded area.

I bet this spot is heavenly in the summer. The Bones are happy to let guests use their kayaks for a leisurely pootle around an island in the River Alde and reckon you could well spot some seals.

But our trip was at Easter during some extremely cold weather, when kayaking may have meant fingers being frozen on to the paddles. So we made a note to have a go if we returned in warmer weather.

From Beaver Cottage we decamped for a very different experience - a night in the Brudenell Hotel.

This four-star 44-bedroom hotel is enviably located right on the front at Aldeburgh, literally a pebble’s throw from the waves crashing on to the shingle beach.

Once part of the Trust House Forte empire, it is now privately-owned and underwent a full refurbishment in 2010.

Rooms are smart, contemporary, clean and well-equipped - ours had a Victorian-style bath in which to wallow - and the uninterrupted view out to sea was a real treat.

Because of the kids, we opted to eat early in the evening from the all-day menu and found the food excellent. Compliments to head chef James Barber and his team.

Next day, after braving the icy wind to play skimmers and throw a rugby ball around on the beach, Aldeburgh’s famous fish and chips were warming and welcome and just as good as I remembered from my last visit.

Venturing out of town, we enjoyed a trip to Thorpeness, a village built by a wealthy Scottish barrister, Stuart Ogilvie, with a penchant for mock Tudor and Jacobean architecture.

A go on the boating lake convinced me I’m no Steve Redgrave.

We also liked Snape Maltings, where 19th century brick and slate buildings have been converted into shops, galleries, cafes and homes.


To make a reservation at the Brudenell Hotel, call 01728 452071 or go to brudenellhotel.co.uk.

Prices start from around £180 B&B for two sharing an inland-facing room. Check website for special deals.

Beaver Cottage is priced £390 - £490 per week in low season and £490 - £670 per week in high season. For information, go to www.ixxi.co.uk/beaver/.

For ideas on where to go and what to do in Suffolk, log on to visitsuffolk.com