The Sail Loft
A five-minute stroll from the centre of genteel Southwold, down towards the town harbour at the mouth of the river Blyth, the Sail Loft is the last of a line of mostly clapboard houses that edge the harbour road. The marshy flood plain of the river lies behind, and the dunes and sandy beach in front, not far from a group of the town's iconic beach huts. In short it’s a great location, just a short walk also from the famous foot ferry to Walberwick.
The Sail Loft is the latest venture of one Jonny Nicholson, who a few years ago revitalised the Bell at Sax, the main inn in sleepy Saxmundham, 15 miles or so inland, and has now turned his attention – and his unpretentious style of cooking – to Southwold. You may think that this gentrified resort didn't need revitalising, and in a way you'd be right. But its accommodation and food offering has always been patchy, and Jonny's place brings a refreshing flavour of coastal, New England, beach-shack-chic style to the town – not to mention some pretty decent food based on the best local produce and a handful of comfortable rooms to boot.
The Sail Loft has five rooms. One looks back over the marshes from its own spacious room terrace, while two others look out over the sea across the dunes. The fourth (the largest, a top-floor suite) has views in both directions; this also has a standalone bath while the other rooms just have showers. Breakfast consists of a pre-packaged croissant and fruit in your rooms unless you want to wait until the proper breakfast is served downstairs at 10am – perfect if you're not in a hurry, and quite a nice way of enforcing a truly lazy morning.
The restaurant and bar have the feel of a funky seaside joint, with rustic furniture, bare floorboards and a crowd that’s as mixed as Southwold itself. The food is as wholesome and hearty as Jonny’s other place but with a greater emphasis on fresh fish and seafood that perfectly suits its dune-side location: mussels, scallops, crayfish bisque risotto and all sorts of yummy fish and seafood creations are complemented by more grounded items such as beef Madras, pork belly and an excellent home-made burger.
All in all it's a great beachside place to rest up for a few days if that's what you're after – close enough to Southwold's facilities for convenience but far enough away to feel a little bit remote and rather special, with an almost Mediterranean feel when the weather is co-operating. Sit on its outside terrace on a summer's evening, and squint... you could be amongst the sandy dunes of southern France.
Five beautifully furnished double rooms with a seaside theme.
The three regular double rooms cost £160 a night, £180 a night for the top-floor suite, all including breakfast
Open all year.
Take the A1095 off the A12 either just before or just after Blythburgh (depending whether you're coming north or the south), and follow the road for 3 miles or so into Southwold. Follow the high street and bear right on the main square (by The Swan), and follow the road across the green until it becomes Ferry Road. The Sail Loft is a few hundred years down on the right. If you get to the campsite, you've gone too far.
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