|Value for money||5/5|
As I said in a previous blog My family loves Southwold and that whole stretch of the Suffolk coast from Pakefield through to Aldeburgh. Dunwich Heath which is owned by the National Trust is one of those very special places on this stretch of coast.
When I was a child we used to visit Dunwich Heath. In those days the National Trust just had a little green caravan selling teas and coffees halfway down the path to the beach. Those very basic facilities had a certain charm and I’m pleased to say while things have moved on a lot this is still a wonderful place to bring the family for a day out. The National Trust have got the balance just right by providing the essential facilities very well. It’s a restful countryside location after the busy little neighbouring season towns.
If you are familiar with this stretch of coast you’ll be well aware of the Nuclear power station on the coastline at Sizewell. It doesn’t bother me and I only mention it so that you are not surprised when you see it in the distance from the car park.
The beach is mostly pebbles but there are stretches of sand, and certainly enough sand to enjoy building a few sand castles with a bucket and spade with the younger members of the family.
The tearooms are in the old Coastguard cottages and open from 10:30 to 17:00 every day of the year except Christmas Day. As well as the tearooms there is a nice gift shop and if you climb the stairs and observation room where you can look up and down the coast. This is simple but child-friendly especially if the weather turns bad. It’s worth bringing along binoculars, telescopes and long lenses for your camera. You will be able to see all manner of bird life and marines life as well as spotting the odd ship on the horizon or fishing boat going back into Dunwich.
There are disabled toilets on the grown floor of the tearooms, accessed from outside and a large clean and well-maintained toilet block just across the access road. There are simple baby changing facilities in the toilet block but apart from the summer months, I think it would be too cold to change a nappy there except in an emergency.
The tearooms are reasonably priced considering the quality of the food and drink on offer. This isn’t fast food, it’s freshly cooked by the staff each day and some dishes seem to be cooked to order.
The tearoom is reasonably child-friendly and is equipped with a number of good quality wooden high chairs. During the summer months, you can also eat outside at wooden picnic tables. The tables nearest the tearoom are a bit of a sun trap and sheltered from the sea breeze. If you just want a quick cold drink or an ice-cream there is also a small kiosk which is open on busy weekends.
As mentioned the food and drink is of a good quality. There is usually a selection of two or three main meals and a selection of sandwiches and cakes. The last few times I’ve visited them on a Sunday they have been doing a Sunday Roast, which I thought was good value not to mention delicious. My 3-year toddler loves it and we’ve never had any problems finding things on the menu for him to eat. After having something to eat there is a small play area near the tearooms that will keep small children happy for half an hour while the grown-ups enjoy the view over the coast.
The car park is free for National Trust members displaying the membership badge in the car or just over £4 for the day for non-members. You can easily spend a day here. It’s not such good value if you are touring and just want to pop into the tearooms or gift shop for an hour!
It is a great base for people who want to use the beach but also great for walks. It good to have a reliable car park, café and toilet facilities at the start and end of your walk. Our family always do a walk from Dunwich Heath to the Eels Foot at Eastbridge between Christmas and New Year as a great way to walk off a few of the Christmas calories and blow away the cobwebs. You can walk through the woods on the way there and come back along the beach. Likewise, it’s a nice walk down the beach to the village on Dunwich where you can enjoy a fish and chip lunch at the beach café. The Google Map below shows the location of Dunwich Heath and you can see how much there is to explore.