Let's staycation in...Beccles
- Credit: Contributed
If you can’t make your mind up between a holiday in the Broads, by the coast or in the country, this genteel, charming north Suffolk town could be just the location you’re looking for.
Perched at the gateway to the Broads, and close to the Suffolk Heritage Coast, but situated in the stunning rural idyll of the Waveney Valley, Beccles has year-round and multigenerational appeal.
Whether you’re travelling with tots and teens looking for adventure, or seek a romantic weekend for two, the town is a superb base. Let’s explore.
Where to stay in Beccles
If it’s the allure of the river that’s bringing you here, but you don’t fancy testing out your sea legs on a cruiser, you can’t get closer to the water than the Waveney House Hotel.
Built in the early 16th century, and first owned by the Lord of the Manor of Beccles, the property retains much of its original character and period features – from brick work, to impressive vaulted, beamed ceilings.
There are 12 individually designed, comfortable rooms, all en suite, with TV, phone, safe, tea and coffee making facilities, and Gilchrist and Soanes toiletries.
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Rooms begin at £100 for a double sleeping one or £110 for a double sleeping two, from the John Morse room (with views to St Michael’s church), to the Le Grys suite, which boasts a four-poster bed, separate bath and shower, river views, and even the hotel’s own rock (edible of course).
Residents and non-residents can enjoy the spacious Riverside restaurant and bar, with a terrace spilling out to the river - perfect in the warmer months and dog-friendly.
The restaurant menu includes everything from home cured duck ham with crispy poached duck egg and grilled asparagus, to gambas pil pil with skinny fries, warm bread and salad. Find out more at waveneyhousehotel.co.uk
Where to eat in Beccles
Twyfords – Part of the same family as Harris & James – you've probably seen their craft gelato, coffee and chocolate all over Suffolk and Norfolk. A visit here is a true delight from the moment you walk in and spot the huge array of homemade cakes! There’s a heated outdoor space, but we like to sit in the window and watch the world go by. Everything is either made in-house or bought from trusted local suppliers – the bread, for example is made at Penny Bun Bakehouse. Think café fare with a twist here. As well as great coffee, cake and scones, you’ll be able to sample anything from ciabatta filled with home-smoked brisket, cheddar, dill pickles and crispy onions, to Tennessee salmon grilled on a cedar plank with jalapeno coleslaw, salad and fries. Delivery is free within two miles if you spend over £15 - and they’ve introduced £10 dessert and cake boxes.
Oakfired at the Royal Oak – Currently voted the third best restaurant in Suffolk on Tripadvisor, and one of the only pizza restaurants in the region to have the coveted seal of approval from the authentic Neapolitan pizza accreditation body – the AVPN. In addition to classic starters such as calamari and focaccia, and meatballs and homemade pasta, there’s a menu of AVPN approved pizzas – made according to strict rules (think marinara and margherita), and house specials. Desserts are homemade. Don’t miss out on a slice of the decadent torte Caprese.
Graze at The White Horse – Elegant, globally-inspired fine dining, with a nod to the seasons and local producers. A recent menu has offered tandoori scallops, steaks, their gourmet burgers, pigeon breast with bacon, salsify, wild mushrooms, pressed potatoes and game gravy, and banana bread with dulce de leche and hazelnut gelato. There’s a long cocktail list combining classics with a few twists – think pineapple mojito, white peach margarita, and the Pink Chihuahua (tequila, orgeat, lime, lemon, grenadine and egg white).
Where to shop in Beccles
The town has some high street names, but is refreshingly speckled with many, many independents which set it apart as a place for interesting shopping. Retailers range from butchers and delis, to antiques stores, book shops, gift and fashion stores – there's even a shop dedicated entirely to hats!
The Marmalade Tree – A treasure trove of lovely things for your home and garden, with a sprinkling of fashion. From quirky cog clocks, to mirrors and leather bags – there's plenty to explore here.
The Galley Cookshop – Pop in for a scone (they are excellent) slice of cake or gingerbread latte, and leave with...a salt and pepper shaker, oven gloves, soy wax melts and more. Part café, part shop.
Vintage Mischief – Simon and Danielle have expanded their shop into a mini empire over 10 years, stocking thousands of pieces of Mid-Century, industrial and retro furniture and other objects. If you’re in the market for a Danish desk or interesting lamp – this is the place to go. They sell online too.
Baileys Deli – A wonderful deli with a counter brimming with in-house-made scones, cakes and savouries, cheeses, pies, hams and more. The shelves are lined with pickles, preserves, crackers, biscuits and hand-selected wines. And you can eat-in too in the café (there’s a very interesting lunch menu), or grab a sandwich to eat by the river.
What to do in Beccles
Head to The Locks - The Locks community pub is a bit of an institution locally and no trip to Beccles is complete without an amble here. The Big Dog Ferry operating from the lido has shut up shop for winter (re-opening from Easter 2022 and costing £12.50 for an adult return or £7.50 for a child) but you can launch a kayak or paddleboard on the river and travel the three-mile trip under your own steam.
Kayaks are also available to hire in town from The Canoe Man, HE Hipperson and Three Rivers.
Or follow the Angles Way or Norfolk River footpath. The pub is open from 11noon each day, serving food from 12noon to 2pm daily and in the evenings from Wednesday to Saturday. Regular events include storytelling by candlelight, live music and traditional games.
Go for a swim - Beccles Lido has three heated outdoor pools, with good disabled access. It’s usually heated to 28C, but the heaters will be shut down from October 31, with the winter swimming season beginning. Book a lane for 45 minutes at £4.50 (peak time) or £3.50 (off peak). You must book in advance at beccleslido.com
Hire a boat - There’s self-drive day boat hire from HE Hipperson, Waveney Stardust, CC Marine and Waveney River Centre. Boats will fit four to six people, and cost £100 to £110 for a full day, with half days available. An unforgettable way to discover this part of East Anglia.
Beccles Farmers’ Market - At the old airfield in Ellough nearby on the first and third Saturday of the month from 9am to 1pm. The market is 20 years old, free to enter, and packed with more than 30 traders, all under cover. Buy everything from local honey and bread, to pickles, beef, chocolate, eggs and smoked goods.
10 minutes away
Bungay is another lovely market town worth exploring, with fantastic shops and places to eat. There are two trails to walk. See the remains of the castle (dating back to 1165). Catch a show at The Fisher Theatre. Go on a wine tour at Flint Vineyard. Buy award-winning cheese from the cute shed farm shop at Fen Farm. Or walk around iconic aircraft at the free-to-enter Norfolk and Suffolk Aviation Museum.
See nature in action at Carlton Marshes Nature Reserve, open from dawn to dusk daily. Mostly man made, it consists of a marsh, fens, peat pools, meadows and scrubland – a superb habitat for the likes of the Marsh Harrier, and one of the best places to see Grasshopper Warblers. There’s a visitor centre, picnic area, toilet facilities, play area and trails.
20 minutes away
Head for Lowestoft for its sandy (considered some of the best in the world) beaches, neatly kept gardens, and family attractions.
Highlights for visitors include South Pier with its entertainment complex and bowling, the cool Rollers skating centre at Claremont Pier, Africa Alive zoo, the Marina Theatre (which hosts some very good shows), and the nearby East Anglian Transport Museum where you can ride on a vintage tram. Highly recommended in the town is Jojo’s American-style restaurant – a winner in our food and drink awards.
Jenny Harrison: You have to visit the Common, the Avenue, the riverside, the church tower and the Lido. You can take buses to Norwich, Lowestoft, Great Yarmouth and Southwold. Beccles has a great town centre.
Victoria Price: Try canoeing, paddleboarding, rowing and boating just outside Beccles in Geldeston. There are loads of great pubs. Beccles market is on a Friday. And try equestrian hacking on the Sotterly Estate.
Jean Ann Fisher: Don’t forget the museum. It’s not enormous but it’s very interesting.
Andy Gowers: There’s a great selection of real ales at The Butcher’s Arms.
Clint Marcel Holmes: Walk from Beccles to Carlton Marshes. You can get the train back.
Polly Church: Treble Hooked Fishing Trips operate from Beccles and are brilliant – both knowledgeable and entertaining.
Amy Moffitt: Climb the bell tower when it’s open.
Vicky Russ: You have to have fish and chips from the Cod House, eaten at the Quay.