Beer Blog

The Ship at Dunwich, Suffolk

Ship at Dunwich-1

It looks like they’ve lost their pub sign, but there’s a huge old anchor underneath where it should hang, perhaps they’ve changed the name? The next conundrum, is it a pub or is it a hotel? Or is it a hotel bar that feels like a pub? I always get suspicious around ‘over gentrified titles’, at least they haven’t gone as far as The Ship @Dunwich! I guess the clue to exactly what this place is comes from the blurb on the Agellus group website, the company that owns and manages a select group of restaurants with rooms, gastro pubs and boutique hotels, including The Ship and four others around the Suffolk and Norfolk coast.

However the Agellus group want to style their selves, the public bar of The Ship is most definitely a pub. A very charming little pub too with it’s log fire, tiled floor, beams, painted walls and old farmhouse atmosphere. If you look closely, you’ll find that some of the cottage style chairs are the real mccoy and not ancient Ercol. Half the floor is tiled and the half in front of the bar is textile of some sort. Although it’s not mucky, it’s been well worn, but it all fits in perfectly.


If you have a wander around, the rest of the place appears mostly original and very well decorated and appointed. There’s two doors from the street which ultimately connect up, it feels like it’s been two buildings that have been joined together. The Western end where the bar is, being smaller and probably older, I thought. There are a couple of other rooms, dining areas, including a conservatory affair at the rear.

We were lucky enough to get the fireside table, I could have stayed there for hours, but only had a half as I was driving. I’ve looked and double looked, but can’t find a bus timetable with the village on? If there is a bus service then it’s only a small bus because the roads to the village are very narrow and single track in places.


The village is exquisite and has an interesting history, having once been one of the largest ports in England, matching fourteenth century London in size, and the capital of East Anglia, until the sea reclaimed everything. There’s a small museum and the Greyfriars priory ruins are worth the short walk up the hill, particularly the ‘last grave’, literally the last remaining burial plot from the once nearby All Saints Church which eventually succumbed to the coastal erosion sometime around 1919/20. There’s a nice old photo in the bar, of the last standing part of the church, balanced on the edge of the cliff, which is dated 1919. There are also lots of beautiful walks through forest and heathland, as well as along the shingly beach.

Getting on to a topic which interests me greatly, that of sustainability and turnover of beer. There were only six other people in the pub and a couple more in the outlying rooms, all eating, bar myself and Mrs C. Probably a good do, for a small village on a Tuesday lunchtime out of season. Thing is, who’s going to drink all the beer? Suffolk officially closed on Sunday 28th October when the schools went back after half term, they even moved half of the beach huts in Southwold, starting at 0800 prompt on Monday morning!

The Parish council’s information board told me there were only 50 residents in the village and my eyes told me that most of the houses were empty second homes/holiday lets. There’s not many chimney pots within a good eight or ten miles radius, no public transport and even the most seasoned of drink drivers would balk at meeting a cop car down the narrow lanes.

Ship at Dunwich-8

So, where does all the trade come from? How do they keep the ale up to Good Beer Guide standard? Or do the local CAMRA branch only visit in the summer months when it’s throng with tourists – unlikely I think because it is an excellent destination venue. Maybe the hotel guests are massive real ale fans? Any pub/real ale fanatics thinking of visiting, the prices start from £120 for a double with breakfast. I could however feel an up to 50% winter discount mid-week visit coming on, and you can take the dog too, including in the bar.

I should have asked the Toby Jug shaped barman how they stayed busy, but pleasant as he was, he didn’t seem up for chatting, apart from to his colleagues. Instead, I asked him for half of Adnams Southwold Bitter and half of Green Jack Fruit Bat which cost me £3.95 (more about Green Jack in a future post). I could have had Woodeford’s Nelson if I’d wished, although there were five hand pulls on top of the bar, it was pleasing to see they only had three choices available. In terms of quality, there were no problems at all, both beers were NBSS 3.5. As we were leaving a Wolf Brewery van pulled up outside.

Looking outside, there’s a cracking, well maintained beer garden to the rear, complete with restored fishing cobble, and judging by how full the car park was, they must have plenty of guests. On the downside, I wouldn’t want to be paying the money they were asking for the bedrooms that were effectively converted out buildings, with a door straight onto the car park.

I was glad I’d visited The Ship. The pub was excellent, and would have suited most drinkers, don’t let the  AA 4✮ (Inn) rating put you off. The beer was equally of a high standard. The only thing that could spoil this delightful little boozer would be kids running about, it’s just not that sort of place. I was also very pleased I’d visited the delightful village of Dunwich, and had a good walk round as well.

Verdict: Absolutely charming public bar in good quality hotel situated in beautiful village with a fascinating history that’s surrounded by wonderful countryside.



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8 replies »

  1. theres a dial a bus service, if you book in advance, which I know sounds more like a taxi but it is partly subsidised by the county council as that part of North East Suffolk isnt well served by public transport at all, which does make getting to places like it difficult, fortunately when Ive been Ive usually been driven there, but havent made it for a while and rarely in winter, the north sea coast can be a bleak place when the weather turns, the reason they move the beach huts at Southwold is because if they dont, they end up where most of Dunwich actually is, which is several meters under water. Southwold harbour has already flooded after the first of the autumn storms.

    so where does the trade come from ? I think youd be surprised how far a reach the place has, it has a fairly good reputation for food and beer locally, which most of the pubs that survive seemingly in the middle of nowhere off the beaten track in Suffolk do, so Id not be surprised if people are regularly visiting from alot further afield than even the near neighbourhood or within 10 miles, and when youve got places like Minsmere nearby which attracts lots of visitors year round who want somewhere to eat/drink or even stay, then its perfectly situated. But maybe like Broads pubs it survives on incredible trade during the summer, its not uncommon to find 3 or 4 coach loads, yes coaches do go down there, parked up at the beach carpark.


    • Thanks for that information stonojnr, it’s appreciated. To my mind, the bleaker the better, the fewer the people the more intimate. I think there would be far too many people in Dunwich for my liking in the summer. The size of the car park by the beach tells it’s own story! Besides, the fire in the Ship wouldn’t be lit in the summer.


  2. Can’t argue with any of that, or your recommendation to Dave. I thought Dunwich was one of the places that North Londoners did pop to for midweek breaks, precisely because of the quiet. I bet they drink more wine than Green Jack, though, so your comments on beer quality are spot on.


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