• Towns & Villages - Orford - Gill Moon Photography
  • Towns & Villages - Thorpeness - (c) Gill Moon Photography

Literary Suffolk Coast

Epic stretches of coastline, unassuming villages, wild, unpredictable weather and picturesque agricultural landscapes; with all its beauty and character, it’s no wonder that Suffolk has provided the fuel for many a writer’s creative furnace. 

Discover Suffolk’s most famous authors and the stories that have taken place here, and uncover a literature festival worth writing home about!

Authors of The Suffolk Coast

Towns & Villages - Dunwich - Emily Fae Photography

Fans of crime fiction might recognise links to Suffolk in the work of both P.D James and Ruth Rendell, whose thrilling and sometimes dark books of intrigue, mystery and murder were frequently inspired by the county beloved by both authors.  P.D James was seemingly inspired by her holiday home in Southwold, which became a pivotal setting in the dystopian tale ‘The Children of Men’. Her most famous character, detective Adam Dalgliesh visits his aunt in Monksmere Head, just south of Dunwich, and Covehithe also features in her novels.

Ruth Rendell lived in both Aldeburgh and Sudbury and wove into her work the Suffolk landscapes she loved so much. Her novel ‘No Night is Too Long’ features both Aldeburgh and Orford and ‘Gallowglass’ is set in Sudbury. Psychological thriller ‘A fatal Inversion’ takes place in the long hot summer of 1976 and centers around a Suffolk Mansion called Wyvis Hall, as well as featuring Polstead and Nayland.

Most visitors to Lowestoft can find a pub by the railway station called ‘The Joseph Conrad’ but perhaps fewer will realise that its namesake is the famous author of ‘The Heart of Darkness’. In 1879, a small British steamer boat named ‘Mavis’ arrived from Marseilles and docked in Lowestoft, aboard it was the young, Ukrainian Conrad at the beginning of his Navel career. He learnt to speak and write English aboard the ship; a language in which he would later pen his most successful novels.

Inspirational Suffolk Coast 

Bawdsey - (c) Gill Moon Photography

Readers have long been fascinated by the vivid characters and enduring stories of Charles Dickens, and his famous novel ‘David Copperfield’ is well known for the Suffolk derivation of its titular character. Copperfield states “I was born at Blunderstone, in Suffolk, or ‘there by’, as they say in Scotland.” It is known that Dickens spent time in nearby Great Yarmouth and stayed at Somerleyton Hall, he was even rumoured to have attended a hanging in Norwich in 1849.

In the 1830’s a young Dickens paid a visit to the Claydon and Bosmere Union workhouse in Barham, where he was investigating social conditions in rural areas. When shown the logbook he was struck by the story of a boy who was apprenticed aged 10, this young lad was the inspiration for the famous story of ‘Oliver Twist’.

Even Britain’s most famous bard, William Shakespeare himself has a wealth of connections to The Suffolk Coast. As an actor during the time when London theatres were besieged by the plague, Shakespeare would have travelled with his company from London and up the coast by boat, bringing all their props, costumes and musical instruments with them.

It is known that he toured to Ipswich, Hadleigh, Lavenham and onto Bury St Edmunds, performing in the courtyards of local inns and at houses of nobility. It was perhaps this local knowledge that lead Shakespeare to include the county in his own plays later on; he references Ipswich School in Henry VIII where Griffiths says of Cardinal Wolsey “Those twins of learning that he raised in you, Ipswich and Oxford! One of which fell with him” and in Henry VII Part II Shakespeare shows the murder of Duke Humphrey at Bury St Edmunds when one of the murderers states “Run to my Lord of Suffolk; let him know we have dispatch’d the Duke, as he commanded”.

Suffolk pops up in works of Children’s literature too and many writers of stories for youngsters have links to the area. Sudbury is the ‘spot’ where the wonderful story ‘101 Dalmatians’ by Dodie Smith, is set. If you visit the water trough opposite Sudbury Town Hall and look closely you will find a plaque, which records the location as the very same place that Pongo pauses to listen out for the twilight bark on his search for the lost puppies.

A visit to The Suffolk Coast should most certainly include a stop in Thorpeness; promoted as 'The Home of Peter Pan'. J.M Barrie, author of 'The Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up' (Peter Pan), was a friend of Alexander Ogilvie, who built the Meare and houses which surround it as a fantasy holiday haven for the middle classes. The author regularly visited the village and his characters have inspired the islands in the centre of the famous Meare.

While staying with friends in Woodbridge, beloved author of stories such as Noddy and The Famous Five, Enid Blyton trained to a teacher at Ipswich High School. Seckford Hall was a great inspiration for Blyton, on account of its supposedly haunted bedrooms and secret passages.

Many people will have fond childhood memories of reading the Swallows and Amazons series by Arthur Ransome, who spent five years in Suffolk, while he wrote the books. In the story ‘We Didn’t Mean To Go To Sea’ an adventurous group of children drift out to sea after strict instructions from their mother to stay on the River Orwell in their little boat. The vessel in question is thought to have been inspired by Ransome’s own boat ‘The Nancy Blackett’ which still exists and can even be hired out from the Woolverstone Marina for your very own nautical adventure!

Literature Festivals on The Suffolk Coast

TTDA - Felixstowe Book Festival - Prue Leith


Felixstowe Book Festival - 25th - 27th June 2021

A diverse festival with talks and workshops for avid readers of books of all kinds; poetry, fiction and non-fiction, crime, history and much more; there is sure to be something to entice you into a new book. This year, the Festival will be offering an exciting programme of live, in-person events at The Orwell Hotel, Felixstowe, complimented by an online Festival too. Authors include JoJo Moyes, Kit Yates, Elly Griffiths, Esther Freud and Terry Waite.

https://felixstowebookfestival.co.uk/

Ways With Words Festival - 4th - 8th November 2021

Readers and writers alike will find a celebration of all things literary at the Ways With Words Festival in the seaside sanctuary of Southwold. The programme includes a range of engaging talks on fiction, history, politics, geography and philosophy.  

https://www.wayswithwords.co.uk/festivals/southwold-19

Poetry in Aldeburgh - November 2021

This wonderful annual event celebrates the heritage of poetry on the Suffolk Coast. Now in its 6th year the festival offers a varied programme of readings, open mics and fascinating creative workshops, interspersed with dinners, discussions and even ‘poetry walks’around the town.

https://www.poetryinaldeburgh.org/

Aldeburgh Literary Festival - November 2021

Originated by the owners of The Aldeburgh Bookshop, the festival has previously hosted a multitude of distinguished speakers, among them Nobel and Pulitzer prize winners and even chancellors of the exchequer. 

https://www.aldeburghbookshop.co.uk/aldelitfest

Things to see and do

Aldeburgh Cinema Trust

Aldeburgh Cinema Trust

Aldeburgh

Come and enjoy the big screen experience at Aldeburgh Cinema, in its 101st Year. The unique, art deco cinema looks forward to welcoming you.

Read more >
Free wifi

Wonderful Beast Theatre Company

Wonderful Beast Theatre Company

Wonderful Beast is the touring theatre company of myths, legends, folk tales and stories for all ages.

Read more >

Snape Maltings

Snape Maltings

Snape

Snape Maltings sits on the bank of the River Alde, surrounded by an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and just five miles from Aldeburgh.

Read more >
Free wifi Dog friendly

Alde Valley Spring  Festival

Alde Valley Spring Festival

Saxmundham

A four week celebration of food, farming, landscape and the arts in the beautiful Upper Alde Valley.

Read more >
Wheelchair Accessible

Southwold Arts Centre

Southwold Arts Centre

The Arts Centre is currently closed in line with Government guidelines, it hopes to reopen in September if Government guidelines allow.

The premier entertainment venue in the popular Suffolk coastal town of Southwold; presenting a year-round programme of events including music, theatre, film, comedy, craft and antique fairs, art exhibitions, workshops, community events and outdoor events. Southwold Arts Centre also offers a number of spaces for hire; suitable for live events, meetings, family celebrations and exhibition space.

Read more >
Free wifi Dog friendly Wheelchair Accessible

mtp Presents Theatre on the Coast 2021

mtp Presents Theatre on the Coast 2021

Theatre on the Coast is back for 2021 from Wednesday 26th July - Saturday 4th September at Southwold Arts Centre

Read more >
Free wifi Wheelchair Accessible

Eastern Angles

Eastern Angles

Eastern Angles Theatre Company combines heritage with theatre to make regional stories and hidden histories come to life on stage. The company are based at the Sir John Mills Theatre in Ipswich but tour across the county to villages, towns and quirky outdoor locations.

Read more >
Free wifi Wheelchair Accessible

Aldeburgh Beach Lookout and Art House

Aldeburgh Beach Lookout and Art House

Aldeburgh

"Because Aldeburgh Beach LOOKOUT is isolated, yet at the heart of cultural innovation, it is a magical and stimulating setting for artists to respond each in their own fascinating way" Caroline Wiseman, founder.

Read more >

FolkEast 

FolkEast

Woodbridge

"In the venerable parkland of Glemham Hall estate,  this weekend has become one of the folk scene’s most highly rated destinations" - i newspaper

Read more >

Aldeburgh Food & Drink Festival

Aldeburgh Food & Drink Festival

Snape

This year's Aldeburgh Food & Drink Festival takes place on 25th & 26th September 2021 at Snape Maltings.

Read more >
Free wifi Dog friendly Wheelchair Accessible

HighTide Festival 

HighTide Festival

HighTide Festival takes place in Suffolk, featuring theatre and live performances.  This year is different, the Lighthouse Programme has been developed in light of Covid-19.
 

Read more >
Wheelchair Accessible

Felixstowe Book Festival

Felixstowe Book Festival

Felixstowe

The home of books by the sea…The Felixstowe Book Festival 2021 will take place over the weekend of the 25th to the 27th of June 2021.

Read more >