Think of the English seaside, and candyfloss, funfairs, piers and saucy postcards come to mind. But there are pockets that remain uncontaminated by donkey rides and illuminations, and Aldeburgh in Suffolk is one such. It is the cultural centre of a rather rarefied stretch of coastline. Opera, modern music, literary festivals (the most recent of which took place only this month) and birdwatching are the entertainment here. Instead of a helter-skelter, the northern end of Aldeburgh's beach boasts a 12ft sculpture of a scallop, by Maggi Hambling, inscribed "I hear those voices that will not be drowned", from Benjamin Britten's opera Peter Grimes.
Aldeburgh is intimately associated with Britten; he lived at nearby Snape for years, later moving into Aldeburgh. Britten, his companion and collaborator Peter Pears, and the librettist Eric Crozier founded the Aldeburgh Festival of Music and the Arts at Snape in 1948. In 1967, Snape Maltings, a concert hall in converted malthouses, was opened - musical events are still frequently held there.
A once-important port and fishing village that now relies on tourism, Aldeburgh is located on the pricey east side of the A12, north-east of Ipswich, just down the coast from Southwold. Here, large family homes and barn conversions can set you back between £500,000 and £2m. But flats and small houses are available for £100,000-£200,000 in Aldeburgh itself and in nearby Leiston and Saxmundham.
You can find cheaper properties further north along the coast, in Lowestoft and Great Yarmouth, but these are too remote for the tastes of many commuters, and lack the upmarket allure of Aldeburgh.
The country-house specialist William Sadler, of Bidwells in Ipswich, says: "Aldeburgh's shops, restaurants, cultural facilities, sailing club and other clubs attract many people from outside the county, particularly London. Younger families are buying second homes here, and so are people with City bonus money. Many plan to retire here at some point in the future."
Among the architectural styles are Georgian and Victorian houses, many with painted façades. In the 450-year-old timber-framed Moot Hall is the local museum. It was originally located in the town centre, but owing to coastal erosion, everything to the east has fallen into the sea and it's now on the promenade.
WHAT DO PROPERTIES COST HERE?
One-bedroom flats convenient for the town centre start at about £125,000, and two- and three-bedroom flats and houses are available for less than £200,000. Many large homes selling for £750,000 in and around Aldeburgh are new builds.
HOW'S THE TRANSPORT?
Saxmundham station is eight miles from Aldeburgh. There is also a station at Woodbridge, but many commuters need faster or more frequent services and drive 25 miles to Ipswich station.
WHAT IS THERE TO DO?
Popular eateries include the Wentworth Hotel, the Anchor Inn gastro-pub, the restaurant at Snape concert hall, and a smattering of seafood, French and Italian restaurants. Aldeburgh's cinema favours first-run and art-house movies. Immediately north are several nature reserves and golf courses, and Sizewell nuclear power plant.
WHAT ABOUT THE LOCAL SCHOOLS?
Leiston middle and secondary schools are average, whilst Orford CE primary (five miles from Aldeburgh) and Eyke CE primary (10 miles) achieve excellent results. Independent schools are in Bury St Edmonds, Woodbridge and Ipswich.
TELL ME SOME MORE ABOUT SNAPE
The Aldeburgh music festival occurs over 17 days in June, and is devoted to classical and contemporary music, opera and the visual arts. The venue hosts events throughout the year.
AND FINALLY, ONE FOR THE PUB QUIZ
How is Elizabeth Garrett Anderson (1836-1917) - Londoner, doctor, suffragette - linked with Aldeburgh?
Answer: England's first woman doctor, Anderson retired to the town in 1902 and became the first female mayor in the country.Reuse content