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Suffolk days out: This is what it’s like to visit Southwold during Covid 19

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With Covid chaos continuing to disrupt people’s holiday plans, there’s never been a better time to rediscover the gems on our doorstep. Ian Carter spent the day socially distancing in Southwold.

It’s a sunny day on the Suffolk coast and a scraggy, animatronic dog is drooling warm saliva over my hands.

I couldn’t be happier to see him. The dog in question is one of the star attractions at the eccentric Under The Pier show in Southwold, and I had feared inventor Tim Hunkin’s inspired creations would be under wraps until the world had returned to some sort of normality.

You can experience being a fly at the Under the Pier show in Southwold (40148719)
You can experience being a fly at the Under the Pier show in Southwold (40148719)

Other than a polite request to remain outside the exhibition if more than ten people are already inside, the show was just how I’d remembered it on my last visit a couple of years ago.

With the exception of the closed 80s arcade room, it was the same story along the rest of the pier; wear a mask, prepare for a short queue to browse the gift shops and you can put Covid out of your mind briefly.

Warning - you will get wet (40148952)
Warning - you will get wet (40148952)

Exploring the rest of the town, it was clear Southwold’s businesses have put a lot of effort into ensuring people can still enjoy visiting safely.

A one-way system is in operation along the High Street and all shops were open for business - just be prepared to queue.

The line of people outside the Black Olive deli was something to behold - if you weren’t hungry when you started queuing, you would be by the time you got to the front.

It was a similar story at the town’s trio of acclaimed bakeries - the Cornish, Two Magpies and Farmhouse all had similar waiting times.

Buying ice cream at Harris and James in East Street was a slightly surreal experience; once we had queued to get in we then had another wait behind a perspex screen before finally placing our order. The giant servings, as always, more than made up for the delay though.

Super-size portions at Harris and James (40149159)
Super-size portions at Harris and James (40149159)

Elsewhere along the High Streets, the shops remain independent and cutesy - perfect for anyone who finds Whitstable a bit too urban.

I briefly felt good about myself by spending money in Southwold Books in the belief I was supporting one such independent trader, then felt a bit cheated when I looked at the receipt and realised it was really a branch if Waterstones in disguise - you can read more about that here.

Adnams is a looming presence over the town, both the brewery itself and its shop in Victoria Square.

Brewery tours are continuing to run in a Covd-compliant fashion, although if you visit Monday to Friday you won’t be able to go inside the building itself to maintain social distancing. In return, visitors will have additional time sampling Adnam’s brews.

So visit at the weekend and see more, visit during the week and drink more - decisions, decisions!

Some attractions were not open during our visit - the boating lake opposite the pier was undergoing refurbishment - but on the whole a visit makes for a great family day out without the lingering fear you might face a fortnight’s enforced quarantine on your return.