Aldeburgh: music, food and fun by the seaside

by Michael.Macaroon

Aldeburgh is famous for its festival of music but it also has a food festival, great restaurants, old-fashioned pubs, summer theatre and art galleries

Aldeburgh is the cultural beacon of the Suffolk coast, famous for its annual music festival, but noted also for its literary associations, its architecture and its fishing trade. Situated just a couple of miles along the coast from Southwold (favoured holiday destination of Gordon Brown), the pretty town of Aldeburgh has a distinct character of its own.
The path along the seafront – known as Crag Path – stretches for two miles and is lined with an assortment of interesting Victorian and Edwardian houses and hotels that face on to the beach. You can still see small fishing boats hauled up on to the shingle, and a succession of little huts from which the morning’s catch is sold. Prices are not as cheap as they used to be, but the quality is excellent.
You can also sample the produce of the sea in the town’s various restaurants. On the High Street, parallel to the sea front, are The Regatta at number 171; a restaurant called 152 at (unsurprisingly) number 152, and The Lighthouse at number 77. One other place you mustn’t miss is the the Aldeburgh Fish and Chip Shop at the south end of the High Street. It is frequently voted the country’s best chippie. If you’re in Aldeburgh towards the end of September, you should also watch out for the events that make up the Aldeburgh Food & Drink Festival.
The town’s most famous festival, however, is of course the Aldeburgh Festival of classical music in June. The festival was founded by the composer Benjamin Britten, who was a local resident. It now attracts big-name artists from around the world, who give concerts and recitals at various venues in the town, and also notably at The Maltings concert hall in the nearby village of Snape. During June the town is packed with music buffs, so anyone attending events should be sure to make hotel and restaurant reservations early.
There are three major hotels in Aldeburgh, all with fine sea views. At the south end of the town is the venerable Brudenell Hotel, the town’s oldest. Then there is the White Lion on Market Cross Place. At the north end of the seafront is the Wentworth Hotel, which has remained impervious to fashion over the years, while retaining its charm. There are also, of course, numerous bed-and-breakfast establishments in the town. Two that can certainly be recommended are the Ocean House at 25 Crag Path and the Toll House at 50 Victoria Road. 
As for the town’s main tourist attractions, the Moot Hall Museum is worth a look. This 16th-century half-timbered building stands in the middle of the town near the children’s model-boating pool. Inside the museum is the old council chamber and displays on local history, wildlife and the fishing industry. It’s of note to music buffs as the setting for the first scene of Benjamin Britten’s famous opera, Peter Grimes.
Nearby is the Jubilee Hall, which is used for concerts throughout the year as well as for theatrical productions in the summer, courtesy of Jill Freud & Company (Jill is the wife, by the way, of the late Just A Minute stalwart, Clement Freud). On the other side of the road from Jubilee Hall is the quaint little cinema. As well as mainstream and arthouse films, it screens matinees for children at half terms and during the school holidays.
Shoppers will also find plenty to keep them occupied in Aldeburgh. There is the excellent independent Aldeburgh Bookshop, where you can pick up all the latest publications, as well as books by local authors such as Ruth Rendell and Laurens Van Der Post. There are also art galleries to browse, including The Aldeburgh Gallery, the Thompson Gallery and the Peter Pears Gallery – all along the High Street. There are also shops selling cookware, clothes, interior decoration paraphernalia and children’s toys.
When you think you’re done, repair to the pub for a pint of Adnams ale (brewed in Southwold, just up the coast). Three of the best are the Mill Inn, the Cross Keys and the White Hart – all located either on or just off the High Street.