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

Thursday, 13 December 2018

Southwold Circular Walk

An 5.5 mile circular walk around Southwold

This walk navigates from Southwold Harbour 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.

A Circumnavigation of Southwold - Essential Information

Walk Statistics:

  • Start location: Southwold Harbour 
  • Distance:   miles (  km)
  • Total Gain:   ft (  metre)
  • Total Descent:   ft (  metre)
  • Min Height:   ft (  metre)
  • Max Height:   ft (  metre)
  • Walk Time:  
  • Walk type: Circular
  • Walk Grade: Easy
  • Terrain: Footpaths, prom and duness


The following maps and services can assist in navigating this route. There are links to printed maps and links to downloadable GPX route data for importing into navigational software and apps.


Route Verification Details

  • Date of Walk: 2017-12-09
  • Walk Time: 11:00 to 15:30
  • Walkers: Griffmonster, Kat
  • Weather Conditions: Blustery, heavy showers

Walk Notes

At only six miles, this is one of those walks which can be undertaken in a spare afternoon. This walk has become an annual ramble during the depths of winter when few folk are about and Southwold is quiet and at its best. This specific route makes use of the free parking alongside the Green from which the harbour can be reached either continuing down the road or cutting across the golf course and onto the path down to the river bridge, the route of the old Southwold to Halesworth railway. There is also parking at Ferry Road and at the Pier which are both on the route. Take note that there are no exceptionally high tides when the harbour area can be subject to floods.

The route is circular and circumnavigates Southwold using paths, prom and dunes. The section from the Harbour around the back of the town uses footpaths following the river channels away from the River Blyth locally known as Buss creek. This creek virtually leaves Southwold as an island with only the Pier car park separating the northern side from the North Sea. The name of Buss Creek is thought to have been derived from the Busses, the name given to seagoing Dutch and Flemish sailing craft that used to be used for herring fishing in the 15th through early 19th centuries.

Southwold is a charming traditional seaside town. It is everything that somewhere like the more commercial resorts such as Great Yarmouth is not. The pier is somewhere that even the most contrary pier detester will find it difficult to hold back their delight in its unique quality and exquisite appeal. The pier provides a fascinating experience that will have one coming back for more year after year. The walkway onto the pier features a wall crawled with sketches and quotes from George Orwell, whom Southwold was a constant theme throughout his life having lived in the area many times throughout his life. The pier railings are decorated with hundreds of brass plaques dedicated by people and pets who have enjoyed their holidays in Southwold. Moving down the pier one encounter a novel water clock with humorous animated characters that parade out on the hour. Under the clock face is a metal bath tub with two metal men spouting water from their mouths. The bath is plumbed into a toilet cistern on the level below and either side of the toilet basin are two metal kids whos pants drop and they pee into the loo, missing horrendously, resulting in them watering the metal tulips at the bottom of the structure. It is a wonder. A real delight to watch and something original, quirky and unique to Southwold.

Further along the pier is a pavilion that house The Under The Pier show. This is an amusement arcade with a difference. There's no slot machines here, no noisy electronics. There are a dozen or more interactive machines that are all as quirky as the clock. One can experience walking a dog, have your head examined, go on a package holiday as well as taking a trip under the pier. This is all the work of eccentric Tim Hunkin. Quirky, off-the-wall, unconventional, wacky and damned weird but oh so inviting.

At the end of the pier is a Quantum Tunneling Telescope. This allows the viewer to see something a little more than the mere horizon or distant sea craft. The quantum world is a law unto itself and as such this telescope allows one to witness 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.

Throughout the walk there is the constant reminder of the iconic Southwold lighthouse, the symbol of the town itself as well as the Adnams brewery which is locate close by. In recent years 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.

The top path that runs along the seafront cliff is known as The Ladies Walk, which is quite apt considering the TV comedy series Little Britain filmed one of their episodes in Southwold. For those who are not familiar with the series, it features two rather dodgy transvestites, Emily and Florence, who attempt to convince all and sundry that they are merely ladies going about their ladylike business and walking their Ladies Walks in Southwold.

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 ferry providing a service across to neighbouring Walberswick.

There are numerous pubs in the town and they are all Adnams houses. It has to be said that the beer quality is excellent with the brewery located just behind the High Street. It should be worth mentioning that one does pay a premium for this beer, mainly down to the distribution costs of getting the barrels from the Brewery to the High Street which is an intrepid journey. One notable pub is the Harbour Inn, which has markings on its walls of the level of the floods that it has been through. The River Blyth regularly bursts its banks and the Inns catchphrase of being by the river and sometime in it is a very apt collection of words.

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
East Street, 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.


A lovely cosy little pub. The ale is always good and so it should be with the brewery just up the road.

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: 2021-12-07

2012-05-06 : Initial publication
2018-12-13 : Major updates to the notes + general website updates - updated walk date to most recent walk
2021-03-17 : Update website improvements and removal of ViewRanger reliance
2021-12-01 : Removal of ViewRanger links due to its imminent demise


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