IT’D be easy to dismiss Aldeburgh in favour of its sandy big sister Southwold, just up the coast.
But scratch beneath the shingle surface and you’ll find more than enough for a weekend’s exploring here, with no arcades – or even a pier – cluttering the view.
Former 17th-century coach inn The White Lion Hotel makes for the perfect base, located just steps from the beach, among Victorian houses, fishermen’s cottages and beach huts.
Expect grand sash windows stretching to the ceiling with window seats – perfect for both people-watching and sky-gazing – plus roll-top baths in the superior rooms.
Indian restaurant Sea Spice, nestled in the basement, serves up local produce and provides a cosy retreat on blustery evenings.
Sumptuous starters include achari paneer, £8, and marinated cauliflower and broccoli fresh from a clay oven, £6.
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Signature dish East Suffolk muntjac vindaloo, £19, provides its own central heating, while if you’re more of a chicken korma connoisseur, like me, Sea Spice’s version, £14, is extra-special.
Explore alfresco art
Come morning, a full Suffolk breakfast will fuel the half-hour walk along the vast shingle beach to Thorpeness, stopping by Maggi Hambling’s eye-catching four-metre-high sculpture The Scallop along the way.
Once in Thorpeness, order doorstop sandwiches filled with kiln salmon and lime crème fraiche, £8.50, plus chunky chips, £4, at The Dolphin pub – and enjoy in front of the open fire (Thorpenessdolphin.com).
A 15-minute drive inland is Snape Maltings on the bank of the River Alde.
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Situated in an area of outstanding beauty, it’s home to alfresco sculptures, river-boat rides come spring and the world-class concert hall.
After a walk along the marshes, hit the art exhibitions and get lost in the joy of interiors emporium House & Garden (Brittenpearsarts.org), while Earsham Street delicatessen has all the cured meats, cheeses and chutneys you could need for a handpicked hamper (Earshamstreetdeli.co.uk).
Back in Aldeburgh, more delis and independent gift shops, such as Orlando’s (Orlandosaldeburgh.co.uk) and Little White Box (Little-white-box.com), line the pastel-coloured streets.
And the town’s cinema – one of the UK’s oldest – is housed in a cute, timber-framed building (Aldeburghcinema.co.uk).
Buff up on your local history at the quaint Aldeburgh Museum in the Moot Hall (Aldeburghmuseum.org.uk).
For picnic treats, stop by the Ash Smoked Fishes’ hut for slices of crusted cold smoked salmon, £3.90 for 100g, and tasty Noon Tart, filled with smoked haddock, smoked cheddar, shallots and cream, £5 (Ashsmokedfishes.co.uk).
Get into the spirit
Meanwhile, at Fishers waterfront gin distillery, the seasonal tour and tasting, £35 per person, begins as it should: with an ice-cold gin and tonic.
Hear how the botanicals are foraged, mulching your own tea as you learn how they infuse together, before sampling the UK’s first London Dry Smoked Gin, as well as Suffolk Negroni and Smoky Mule cocktails (Fishersgin.com).
Just next door, Brudenell Hotel’s Seafood & Grill offers fine dining with sea views.
The prawn cocktail, £11, has a lobster mayo and watermelon twist, while mains like Cornish sole with herb-crusted new potatoes in lemon and caper butter, £24, and fillet of gurnard on a bed of crab and crayfish risotto, £22, are so delicious your plates will be left spotlessly clean (Brudenellhotel.co.uk).
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And that’s Aldeburgh – a feast for the senses, from fresh sea air to locally sourced food and home-grown culture.
Even in winter, it’s an absolute treat.
Double rooms at The White Lion Hotel cost from £150 B&B (Whitelion.co.uk).
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