JUST A FEW STEPS FROM THE BEACH, THE SHIP AT DUNWICH OFFERS AN ABUNDANCE OF INTRIGUE AND HISTORY, AS WELL AS THE CHANCE TO EXPLORE THE WILD SUFFOLK COASTLINE.
It is impossible to visit Dunwich without getting caught up in tales of its fascinating past. The quiet Suffolk village, which nestles between the sea and the heathland, is once believed to have been one of the country’s busiest ports and the capital of the Kingdom of the East Angles. Today stories of Suffolk’s own Atlantis, which disappeared beneath the waves through storm surges and coastal erosion, are still told across the tables at popular establishment The Ship Inn. Tales of smugglers also abound, along with stories about All Saints, which was finally claimed by the sea in the early 20th century, and the many other former churches of Dunwich, said to be heard occasionally, ringing their bells as the tide moves in and out.
Matthew Goodwin, general manager of the Ship at Dunwich, says: “The history here undoubtedly brings a lot of visitors. We have had Channel 4’s Time Team a couple of times and many people are interested in visiting the little museum down the road.”
“But Dunwich is attractive for lots of other reasons too – we are just two minutes from RSPB Minsmere and are in the heart of one of the best bird watching areas in the country and of course there is the walking too. You can go five minutes in any direction from here and you pretty much find you are by yourself.” Described by Matthew as “a pub with bedrooms,” the Ship has its own historic appeal. Thought to date back to Tudor times, it is likely to have always been a coaching inn. “We also have what is believed to be the oldest fig tree in the country in our garden,” he points out. “We think it is between 600 and 800 years old.”
The pub, which has 15 bedrooms, all with en suite bathrooms, prides itself on the simplicity of its style and its high quality, home-cooked food. Bedrooms are decorated in neutral and muted colours, featuring white bedding, and aim to be bright yet calming spaces in which to stay. “Our restaurant is open every day for breakfast, lunch and dinner. We try to work on the basis that we have been an English pub for many years and want to serve that sort of food – fish and chips, pie and mash and ham, egg and chips. “Having said that, we do like to twist things up a bit and some of our dishes do have a slightly more gastro flavour. You would probably describe it as ‘modern British.” Plates served might therefore include fresh Norfolk mussels, steamed in Aspall’s cyder, onions, bacon and cream served with parsley fried bread – or slow cooked aromatic Blythburgh pork belly, with a date and apple purée, mash, crackling, baby carrots and greens.
“We usually offer a lot of fish, smoking our own here, and we use local produce as much as we can,” he adds. Events, such as the Ship’s Beer Festival, on Saturday 27 and Sunday 28 July, are popular with both visitors and locals. At other times, people come to stay, to enjoy a meal or sometimes just to have a drink. “It is good to be so close to the beach,” says Matthew. “People often come after a long walk or an afternoon out with the children. “Others, particularly those from London, like to just sit down on the beach for an hour or two, enjoying the peace. The solitude on this part of the coast is wonderful.”
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