10 things to love about Aldeburgh. Have you enjoyed them all?
- Credit: Allison Balaam/citizenside.com
From a cinema with personality to the legendary ‘eat your fish and chips by the sea’ experience, it’s surely got the lot
Multiplexes are fun, but independent cinemas are to treasure. Aldeburgh Cinema has had ups and downs over the decades, but passion fuels this community enterprise and has enabled it to show films continuously since 1919.
It offers mainstream and niche movies. Its documentary festival is 25 this year, and the cinema is 100. Help it celebrate.
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There are museums and then there are museums - Aldeburgh's definitely the latter. Its home, the timber-framed Tudor Moot Hall, is the show-offy symbol of a prosperous age.
In the 1500s the ground floor was home to a handful of shops. There was a cell for offenders, too. Today, the museum charts the story of Aldeburgh's rise, fall and rise again.
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The Aldeburgh Bookshop
Like the cinema opposite, this independent bookshop is something to cherish. (It's 70 this year.)
John and Mary James left London to become the new owners in 2000, and in 2006 landed the Nibbie (the Oscars of the book industry) for Best Independent Bookshop in the UK.
They hold a hugely-successful literary festival each spring, too.
The Red House
Composer Benjamin Britten and his partner, tenor Peter Pears, in 1957 swapped a house by the seafront for quieter Golf Lane.
Today, thanks to a room inventory and the memories of folk who knew the place, The Red House looks again as it did back then.
We can visit (check times), and it's true: it does feel as if Britten and Pears have just stepped out for a minute.
Fish and chips, shingle and sea
It's cemented into local oral history: the notion that "fish and chips are great at Aldeburgh". Certainly the pre-opening-time queues outside shops such as Aldeburgh Fish & Chip Shop attest to it.
See for yourself - and eat by the shingle, while breathing sea air. Just watch out for those pesky gulls!
Boats and fresh fish
If you usually buy food wrapped in cellophane, try something different. On Crag Path, opposite The White Lion and The Wentworth hotels, are huts/shacks selling fresh seafood.
Work up an appetite with a beach walk first, to admire the boats and paraphernalia on the shingle.
Artist Maggi Hambling's sculptural tribute to Benjamin Britten, on the beach, has been the stainless steel equivalent of Marmite since it was unveiled in 2003.
Whether you're pro or anti, it's good to feel emotion. Isn't that what art is for? It always looks different, too - depending on weather, time of day and season. And children do love playing on it.
Take a walk north to Thorpeness, on the path between the shingle and the road. The spirit of Stuart Ogilvie's "fantasy holiday village" hangs in the air. Enjoy the Peter Pan-esque meare (do take out a boat on a languid afternoon) and the logic-defying House in the Clouds (the disguised former water-tower is now holiday accommodation).
Priors Oak Garden
Keep your eyes peeled for details of openings during spring and summer. It's definitely worth a trip.
Trudie Willis opens her 10-acre wildlife and butterfly garden in Leiston Road on selected dates, benefiting causes such as Help the Aged and St Elizabeth Hospice.
Beautiful and quirky, with renovated railway carriages and tortoises!
Aldeburgh Beach Lookout
Billed, fittingly, as "a tiny art temple by the sea".
It was while having a swim in 2010 that London art dealer Caroline Wiseman noticed this singular tower standing on the pebbles. She acquired it. Now, Aldeburgh Beach Lookout hosts a changing cast, one at a time, of artists or other creatives - climaxing in an exhibition of new work.