Route details, maps, pubs, features, local history and folklore for a wide variety of walks focusing primarily on Norfolk and Suffolk

Sunday, 6 May 2012

Southwold Circular Walk

An 6 mile circular walk around Southwold

This walk navigates from Southwold Harbour and around the northern part of the Blyth estuary known as Buss Creek, returning via the seafront to the harbour. One cannot miss out on a wander around the pier to take in the amazing sights of the quirky The Under the Pier show, the creation of Tim Hunkin and typical British eccentricity at its best.

Southwold Harbour Circular Walk - Essential Information

Walk Statistics:

Start point
Southwold Harbour View in OS Map | View in Google Map
End Point
Southwold Harbour View in OS Map | View in Google Map
Total Walk distance
6 miles
Walk difficulty


The following maps and services can assist in navigating this route. The links include published hard copy as well as online plots and downloadable GPX route data for importing into navigational software and apps.

Ordnance Survey Explorer Map
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Online Ordnance Survey Route
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Online OpenStreetMap Route
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Online Google Route
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GPX data for route (download)

Walk Data

Date of Walk
Walk Time
11:00 to 15:30
Griffmonster, Kat
Weather Conditions
Blustery, heavy showers

Walk Notes

Still suffering from a chest infection, our original walk for the day was postponed and we decided to take this pleasant little stroll. At only six miles, it was one of those walks which can be done in a spare afternoon. Until this instance I have never walked the full route - one of those that has been put off so many times. This really does circumnavigate Southwold along Buss creek, which branches off the Blyth estuary and runs west and north of the town almost making Southwold an island and creating a natural boundary with the town and Reydon and Easton Beavants. The name of the creek is thought to have been derived from the Busses, the name given to Dutch sailing craft that used to trade along this part of the coast.

There is free parking alongside the common from where the lane continues to the harbour. The creek begins just past the footbridge, which incidentally, is the old Southwold railway bridge.

Southwold is a charming traditional seaside town. It is everything that somewhere like Great Yarmouth is not, and the pier is somewhere I always like to parade up and down whereas other town piers don't appeal to me in the same way. The pier is a truly unique and fascinating experience. The railings are decorated with hundreds of brass plaques dedicated by people and pets who have enjoyed their holidays in Southwold. There is a novel water clock with humorous animated characters that parade out on the hour including a chap having a bath whose bathwater makes the flowers below grow, then some juvenile pees on the flowers and they wilt back into the pot. The Under The Pier show is something that you really cannot miss on a visit to Southwold. Each year I like to have a look for any new machines in this unique games arcade and it is always a pleasure to watch people trying these novel mechanisms out for the first time just to witness the expressions on their faces. More recently a Quantum Tunneling Telescope has been added to the end of the pier. This allows a viewer to see something a little more than a boring horizon beyond the end of the pier. Views through this amazing machine include world leaders on jet skis, oil rig raves, Sizewell emergencies, shark attacks, beach-huts washed out to sea, oil slicks, mermaids and dolphins, climate change, and Southwold's property boom. What else could one ask for an end of the pier telescope.! Also at the end of the pier people have liberally thrown coins to try to get them to rest on the end supports, I guess it must be a sort of take on a wishing well.

Throughout the walk there is the constant sight of Southwold church and lighthouse. The lighthouse is an iconic symbol of the town, much used by Adnams, the towns brewery, in their publicity. In the last year the power of the light has been increased to compensate for the closure of the Orfordness lighthouse in the south. It is quite amazing that the light can cover such a distance which is nearly 30 miles as the seagull flies. From the cliff top Sizewell Power Station is clearly visible but nothing beyond this. One day I will pay the lighthouse a visit and see what can be seen from the top.

The harbour area is a hive of activity at anytime of the year. The lifeboat museum, housed in the former Cromer lifeboat house, is worth while visiting with free entry though there is a voluntary donation box. Along the harbourside are numerous sailing vessels and fishermans huts selling their catches and the Walberswick ferry is always at hand. One thing that did annoy me was the number of cars that drove up and down this section. There has to be access for the boat owners but I am sure, from looking at the people in these cars, most were just driving for the view. They really do not know what they are missing in their enclosed metal cages.

On this walk we decided to pay The Lord Nelson pub a visit. This is not out of favouritism, but because we had not popped in here for some time. There are other pubs, notably The Red Lion and The Sole Bay Inn which are both in town, the Harbour Inn, quite naturally down by the harbour and frequently flooded by storm surges, plus up near the common is The Kings Head. Of course, being Southwold, all these pubs are Adnams houses.

The Alfred Cory in Southwold Lifeboat Museum, housed in the former Cromer Lifeboat shedOne of the many brass remembrance plates on the rails of Southwold Pier
On the left The Alfred Cory in Southwold Lifeboat Museum, housed in the former Cromer Lifeboat shed; On the right One of the many brass remembrance plates on the rails of Southwold Pier


An easy ramble around the perimeter of Southwold. This can be included as a circular walk on the Suffolk Coast Path which it follows along the coastal section.

From the town common, head down to the harbour, past the water tower. Turn right behind the harbour side houses and up to the bridge. Continue over the stile and alongside the river. The path soon follows around Buss Creek. Keep the creek to the left, ignoring paths that enable you to cross to the far side of the creek. At the roadbridge, cross directly over and continue along the creek path. This eventually emerges by the seafront carpark where access to the promenade is found on the Easton side of the beach huts. Walk along the prom to the pier. Access to the pier is free. Continue along the prom. Access to the town can be found just beyond the lighthouse, returning to the top of the cliffs at Gun Hill. Follow the path from Gun Hill down to the dunes at the end of the town and keep to these down to the harbour. The lifeboat house is on the left. Follow the river up to the Harbour Inn where there is access back up the road to the common parking.

Rent-a-dog arcade machine in the Under The Pier ShowThe water clock on Southwold Pier
On the left Rent-a-dog arcade machine in the Under The Pier Show; On the right The water clock on Southwold Pier


The Lord Nelson, Southwold View in OS Map | View in Google Map

Image of pub
The Lord Nelson, Southwold

The earliest record of this pub is from 1672 when it was called the Noah's Ark when it was recorded as an Inn as opposed to a tavern or alehouse. This meant that it offered accommodation for guests and lodgers. It is uncertain exactly when the name changed to The Lord Nelson but records show that this name was in use by 1805. A refurbishment was undertaken in 1996 which retained its fitting for the age of the pub.

The pub has a varied food menu and a good range of Adnams ales including seasonal ales.


Very busy on this occasion and offering a wide range of Adnams ales including the new Sole Star brew. This full bodied amber ale disguises the fact that it is only 2.8% alcohol, and is also low on the price. Very enjoyable and refreshing and perfect for a lunchtime pint during a walk.

Southwold iconic lighthouse
Southwold iconic lighthouse


Under the Pier ShowView in OS Map | View in Google Map

The Under the Pier Show is the work of eccentric Tim Hunkin. He began making the electro-mechanical arcade machines in the 1970's but it wasn't until 1999 that he placed his 'Instant Eclipse' machine in Southwold High Street which sparked complaints from the people living next door. It was then that he approached Chris Iredale, the owner of Southwold Pier, with view to placing his machine on the pier. Despite initial malfunctions due to the salty sea air, Chris was granted a small arcade to house this and other machines and in 2001 the Under The Pier Show opened. This was soon joined by the water-clock, another construction from Tim Hunkin and despite a change of pier ownership, the machines have gone from strength to strength with the new owners encouraging Tim to use more pier space for his creations which resulted in the Quantum Tunneling telescope being added to the end of the pier in 2006. Tim has also contributed to the noticeboards, litter bins and signage.

Current machines on the pier include:

Instant Eclipse - watch the sky darken and the stars come out to a soundtrack by Sarah Angliss.

Microbreak - a package holiday all from the comfort of an armchair.

Gene Forecaster - get your personal expiry date from DNA analysis of a hair sample.

Test Your Nerve - dares you to place your hand into the cage of a ferocious dog.

The Bathyscape - descend to the seabed and witness the many marvels that are down there.

Autofrisk - a full body frisk by a pair of rubber gloves.

Quickfit - fitness workout without any individual effort, the machine moving all those vital muscles for you.

Instant Weightloss - watch yourself lose weight in an instant.

Expressive Photobooth - a photobooth to create a wide range of facial expressions.

Rent-a-dog - take a dog for a walk from the comfort of a treadmill.

My-nuke - open the fuel box and load the fuel pellets into the reactor without dropping any. Dispenses edible nuclear waste at the end of each go.

Brainwash - have your brain scrubbed clean and watch the entire process without any anaesthetic involved.

The Doctor - let the doctor diagnose your complaint and write out an illegible prescription.

Quantum Tunneling Telescope - why waste time with an ordinary telescope when there is so much more to see with a quantum tunneling telescope

The Chiropodist - let the chiropodist inspect and manipulate your feet.

The Booth of Truth - mystic balls read your hand and deliver an accurate assessment of your character.

Is it Art - present any object to the expert and he will tell you authoritatively whether it is art or not.

The Disgusting Spectacle - a nose picking machine!

Mobility Masterclass - train to use a zimmer frame including advanced motorway use.

Decoration Direct - businessmen pay cash for their honours and now you can too!

Pet or Meat - spin the arrow to decide on the destiny of the lamb.

Art Apocalypse - shoot up a variety of different pieces of art.

Fly Drive - experience a fly's eye view of the world.

Whack a Banker - discipline the reckless bankers by whacking them on the head.

Lunar Lander - land the spacecraft on the moon.


Southwold Lifeboat MuseumView in OS Map | View in Google Map

Housed in the former Cromer Lifeboat shed, this fascinating little museum offers visitors an insight into the lives of the Southwold Lifeboat Crews from 1893 to 1918. The centre piece of the museum is the 'Alfred Corry' lifeboat, built by Beeching Brothers of Great Yarmouth in 1893 and after her active service in 1918 underwent several name changes until 1979 when she was bought by Captain John Cragie, the great-grandson of her first Coxwain, who restored her back to her original name. Further restoration and a return to Southwold occurred in 1991.

The Cromer Pier Lifeboat shed was moved in 1997 and the Alfred Cory placed within during 1998. There is always someone on hand to offer tales and stories of both the boat and the shed with many old photos and artifacts around the walls of the shed. Admission is free but there is a donation box.

Quantum Tunnelling Telescope
Quantum Tunnelling Telescope


Below are a selection of images taken from from the photo album for this walk. Feel free to browse through these or click on an image to view a larger version in the Gallery.

Summary of Document Changes

Last Updated: 2017-12-10


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