“ Address: The Parade / Aldeburgh IP15 5BU / Suffolk „
A promise of hot weather coincided with a recent news article I had read describing some of Britain's best beaches. The ball soon started rolling: find a seaside resort which is pooch friendly in high season, with dog friendly accommodation nearby, and which wouldn't be overrun with other visitors (people sunbathing and one very nosy Labrador simply don't mix well).
Suffolk may as well have been the Himalayas, so often have I visited. And to think Ipswich isn't really any further distance than Bournemouth, yet lovely Bournemouth is far better known to us than the Suffolk coastline. As well as to most of southern England judging by how busy the beaches get there.
Having narrowed our search down to two hotels which both appeared to be ideally suited, we plumped for the Brudenell in Aldeburgh, Suffolk.
The words 'boutique hotel' would normally leave me quivering in my muddy walking boots, but not at the Brudenell. Small and tastefully furnished it may be, but the trump card as far as we were concerned is its location...
.. slap bang on the beach front. Situated near the end of a tiny cul de sac (Crag Place), with nothing but the narrow road and the sea wall between the hotel and the shingle beach, it really couldn't be better located.
Clearly it makes sense to place the restaurant and bar on this side of the building, but the terrace which spans the entire length of the hotel was the icing on the cake for us. What better place to enjoy breakfast or dinner?
Privately owned and with only 44 bedrooms, booking should be quick and straightforward, which it was for us because we chose the cheapest available room. For those less thrifty, there are a multitude of room options ranging from the deluxe sea view rooms to those overlooking Aldeburgh.
Our room rate was £142.50 per night. With £10 per night extra cleaning costs to take our pooch, we paid in total £305 for two nights and two breakfasts.
The only concern we had when booking was the lack of car parking. The website describes the Hotel as having 8 covered parking spaces near the entrance together with some more parking at the side.
.. were good, nevertheless. The front of the building, while not as visually appealing as the rear, does blend in well with neighbouring properties. Having snuck into one of the last available covered parking spaces almost directly opposite the hotel, we entered the lobby. Which is all there is really at this level. Reception is up two short flights of stairs although there is a lift there for anyone with mobility problems or buggies. Beyond the reception desk on the left is the lounge area, some toilets, a payphone and the stairs. To the right is the bar and restaurant. Walking straight ahead will lead out on to the terrace and towards the beach.
Checking in was straightforward, they already had our card details from the online reservation, we simply had to let them know our car registration number and if we would like a newspaper in the morning.
~ The room ~
On the first of three floors and facing Aldeburgh rather than the sea, on the face of it room 112 might not have much to recommend it but it wasn't disappointing. Look beyond a few roofs and all you can see is the river Alde wending its way towards the sea, and countryside.
Mid July and hot, we weren't in need of the duvets on the bed - the tartan blankets were enough. Both the room and ensuite were spotless when we arrived and remained that way thanks to housekeeping. Although we didn't catch much telly, it was easy to swivel around and see from the bed. Some nice touches were the books on Suffolk kept on the little coffee table, and the tea and coffee tray. Tucked out of the way on a pull out tray under the telly, the excellent biscuits and hot chocolate soon disappeared. There isn't air conditioning, but the sash windows open at the top and let in a lovely breeze. There's also a small fan kept in the wardrobe, but we didn't use it during our stay.
The en suite was not only spacious but looked very new. The colourful tiles along one wall together with the yellow blind gave the room a lovely warmth and were a bolder alternative to most neutral colour schemes. The Rituals toiletries they supply also came in handy, if only to try out something new.
The Brudenell website is quite clear that this room is slightly cheaper than most of the others due to it being nearest to the lift, with the potential for some noise being heard. That's accurate in that the lift (which is quite small and slow) can be heard whirring up and down in the room but not to the extent of keeping one awake much less causing a bad night's sleep. What did wake me the first night were some loud guests getting out of it around 2.30 am. Where they'd been until that time is anyone's guess as Aldeburgh isn't exactly Magaluf.
Aside from that, no other internal noise could be heard either from the rooms above, despite our room having the odd creaky floorboard, or the lobby below. Perhaps due to the hotel being at the southerly end of Aldeburgh, with very little apart from the harbour being beyond, there's no perceptible noise from outside the hotel either.
~ Rise and shine ~
Breakfast is part self service; there's a choice of half a dozen cereals, some fruit juices, pastries and yoghurts. Waitresses then take your cooked breakfast order and bring tea or coffee and toast. Breakfasts are cooked to order and range from a bacon or sausage muffin; smoked salmon with scrambled eggs up to the full English (or its vegetarian equivalent). The breakfasts, as well as their evening meals are delicious. Both mornings we opted to sit out on the terrace and watch some early morning swimmers making the most of the good weather.
~ The advantages ~
The hotel and room are spotlessly clean. I couldn't fault the room either despite it being considered a cheaper one. The Brudenell website offers a 360 degree panoramic view of some of the other rooms and they do look as lovely.
The staff are all responsive and hard working. The evening we arrived, the hotel was holding their weekly barbecue dinner with live music. Although the menu looked appetising, neither of us fancied a heavy meal. Despite the staff being rushed off their feet, the chef prepared two lighter meals from their usual menu for us both. There is also a range of cooked breakfast options including a vegetarian one. Their menus can be accessed from their website.
The location. Having visited the pub we had also considered up the coast in Walberswick, the Brudenell was definitely the better choice. Aldeburgh is a lovely, unspoilt town which is celebrating the centennial birthday of its famous son, Benjamin Britten. The beachfront house where he stayed once he returned from the US in 1942 is at the northern end of town, barely a 10 minute walk away.
The beach. It may be shingly, but in high summer the beach is practically deserted for as far as the eye can see. Even the ugliest beaches on the south coast would be packed with lobster red people in such nice weather, but not in Aldeburgh. Bizarre, when you consider this stretch of coast is as easy to reach from London as Bournemouth is.
The Brudenell is in the minority by letting dogs stay! Naturally Amber wasn't allowed inside the restaurant, but we were allowed to let her sit outside on the terrace with us when we ate. For anyone alarmed at the prospect of sharing breakfast with a smelly mutt, the terrace probably runs the length of 8 cars, and I don't think anyone else even noticed the third guest perched under the table. Mostly she was busy watching all the passing dogs taking their owners for walks.
~ Disadvantages ~
Parking must be a real pain for the locals. Lots of the roads in the older part of Aldeburgh are narrow and have double yellow lines everywhere. With 16 or so proper spaces together with around 8 further ones in front of the terrace the Brudenell has more than most hotels we saw, but that wouldn't be enough if the hotel were fully booked. Their website does state that their day porter can offer assistance in finding parking when you check in, but in the event we didn't need help, and there is also a large pay and display car park towards the harbour.
Dogs aren't permitted on the beach directly outside the hotel. We did see a few owners walking south beyond the harbour, but mostly we walked or drove to the beach between Aldeburgh and the next town to the north, Thorpeness. It's a bracing 45 minute walk to reach Thorpeness, but its a popular walk with joggers, walkers (those with and without pooches) and families. There are two pay and display car parks and one tiny but free car park halfway between the two towns.
Yes. Alternative accommodation we looked at was around £150 per night and wouldn't have been as nice. The staff here are friendly, there was very little noise despite warnings, and the location couldn't really be bettered. Prices still range from £142.50, but for those wanting to enjoy a deluxe sea view room, expect to pay £310 per night. Ouch.
This hotel is amazing - the rooms are lovely, the food is gorgeous and the staff very helpful.
We stayed at The Brudenell on a "luxury package" break the first weekend of October (We stayed Sunday night, as the luxury package isn't available on a Saturday) at a cost of £250. This included a sea view superior double room, wine, chocs and fruit in our room, a cream tea on arrival, 3 course dinner, welcome cocktail and breakfast.
We don't drive so we arrived at the hotel by taxi from Saxmundham (which is the nearest rail station) and although we arrived too early to check in (check in is from 2pm) we were able to drop off our bags etc and we were told that our room would be ready by 1pm.
Our room was on the third floor and was beatifully decorated with a large window that overlooked the beach. The room was very large and had a big bed, sofa, coffee table, flatscreen TV, desk etc.
The bathroom was very nice with both a shower cubicle and free-standing bath and had a nautical theme to give it a real "by the seaside" feel. If I was being very picky I'd say that the bahroom could have been designed a little better as the shower cubicle was quite small despite the bathroom being quite big. The water pressure also wasn't brilliant (a power shower would have been better) but it wasn't terrible either to be fair.
The toiletries provided were of a very high quality (as you'd expect from a boutique hotel) and the white towels were very soft and fluffy.
Lots of books (proper books, not brochures!) about the local area and its history were provided in a basket on the coffee table and I thought that was a really nice touch.
The TV had Sky1, Sky news and Sky Sports 1,2 and 3 in addition to the five main terrestrial channels.
The bed was very comfortable, and the linen felt expensive. A mesh blind was provided as well as heavy curtains so that you could still enjoy the sea view and have some privacy at the same time!
The view from the room was amazing and we enjoyed watching the sun come up over the sea upon waking.
It was very warm (unseasonably so for October) during our stay and a fan was placed in our room before arrival. The large windows also opened which was good. There is no air conditioning, with central heating for colder stays.
Our cream tea on the afternoon of our arrival was much bigger than we expected - two rounds of sandwiches (cut into fingers - cute!), two scones with jam and clotted cream, two huge pieces of cake and a pot of tea! We were glad that we'd opted to not have lunch as there was no way we'd have fitted everything in (we didn't have room for the cake as it was!)
Dinner in the restaurant was very nice (although service a little slow). The menu is quite varied and changes on a regular basis to include "in season" foods. I had corn fed chicken as my main whilst and my husband went for the steak.
Breakfast options included continental (which I went with) and a full Suffolk cooked breakfast (that my husband went with). Both were very nice.
There is no mobile phone signal in the hotel (or in most of Aldeburgh actually!) but there is a pay phone off the hotel lobby, as well as a direct dial telephone in each room (charged at 70p per minute for UK landlines).
The communal areas of the hotel - the restaurant / bar and lounge bar are really nice and there is an outside area for alfresco dining.
Gift vouchers are avaiable for the hotel (we used some to pay for our stay).
We had a fantastic stay and loved the hotel so we can't wait to visit again. If you're looking for a relaxing luxury break we would really recommend it :-)
**Please note that my review above has also been posted on Trip Advisor with pictures**