Ask anyone who has visited Southwold what they remember about the town and they are likely to mention the beach huts (pictured above). Their neat rows provide a vivid splash of colour, and their names give a tantalising glimpse into other people's lives and personalities: Pook's Place, Chill Out, or Life's a Beach are three that stand out.
These brightly painted huts are the main feature of Southwold's beach area. They are lined up along the promenade; below is a sandy beach, divided up by breakwaters and occupied by a scattering of holidaymakers who might be digging sandcastles, eating ice creams or braving the chill of the North Sea, depending on the time of year. There are none of the tacky food stalls or arcades that mar so many modern seaside resorts - although there are amusements, more sophisticated and amusing than the average, on the fine Victorian pier. The original was badly damaged by a series of storms, but a century after it was built a restoration programme began, and it is now one of the marvels of the east coast.
The town itself is tiny, a promenade running along above the beach and, a couple of blocks inland, a market square surrounded by a cluster of attractive streets. A narrow channel, Buss Creek, loops round the back of the town, from the north end of the prom as far as the River Blyth, which forms Southwold's southern border and cuts it off from Walberswick, the upmarket village on the other side of the river.
Along the Southwold side of the river is the harbour, a 20-minute walk from the town, across the marshes. As harbours go it is unusual - just a river bank lined with huts instead of the usual partially-enclosed pool. There are wooden sheds all along here, although they lack the colour of the beach huts. These are where the boat-builders and fishermen operate from, and where the harbourmaster has his office. Mrs T sells fish and chips from here, the Sole Bay Fish Company sells wet fish caught daily in local waters, and Christine Cara has a smokehouse for preparing kippers and other delicacies.
The Coastal Voyager provides high-speed boat trips from the harbour along an otherwise peaceful coast, but this is the only excitement in town. But that is the charm of Southwold. The people who come here aren't looking for excitement, but what they find is exactly what a seaside resort should be: a place to relax and enjoy being beside the sea.
Southwold Tourist Information Centre, 69 High Street (01502 724729)Reuse content