A weekend in Southwold
At the beginning of February, Dan and I packed our suitcases and headed off to Southwold in Suffolk for the weekend. I’ve wanted to visit Southwold for so long, primarily because it’s home to my favourite gin – Adnams! When we first started dating, Dan bought me a bottle of Adnam’s gin on our third date which I when I thought, “Yep, this guy knows what’s up.” So to round it off, he bought me a weekend in Southwold for Christmas along with a gin making experience at the distillery. We were also staying at The Swan Hotel which is situated just in front of the distillery and owned by Adnams, so it was a very gin themed weekend indeed.We had such a lovely weekend away and despite the track record of the British weather at the moment, the rain stayed away long enough to have a proper seaside weekend. I thought I’d do a post on what we got up to serve as a little photo diary. It’s pretty photo heavy, so grab a cuppa! We arrived in Southwold around midday so headed straight to the hotel to drop our bags off before going to explore. We went for a sunny stroll along the seafront and took (numerous) snaps of the colourful beach huts. There’s a lovely pier in Southwold, with a few cute gift shops, a cafe and a retro arcade, full of vintage games. After a quick stroll, we headed to The Little Fish & Chip shop on the high street for some lunch – because what else do you eat for lunch when you’re at the seaside!? The Sole Bay fish co. catch the fish from their own boat fresh for their shops. Everything is pretty much freshly cooked too so you might wait a while, but it’s so worth it! The fish was amazing and the chips were fried in beef dripping. We ate them sitting on a bench overlooking the sea, huddled in our coats, warding off seagulls which only made it taste all the better. Regardless of the temperature, I was going to have an ice cream. We stumbled across a Gelato shop called Harris & James. It had some amazing flavours, including key lime pie and Bailey’s! I had a scoop of strawberry shortcake and a scoop of mango, Dan also had strawberry shortcake but with a scoop of key lime pie. 10/10, would recommend!There’s not a huge amount to do in Southwold, it is, however, a very pretty seaside town to wander around in. There are several streets with little coloured houses that reminded me of Balamory! There are also a lot of pubs, which of course serve Adnams beer and spirits, so you are no short of places to take a seat. The high street has a few shops, including an independent bookshop called Southwold Books, which I could have easily spent the afternoon in! Next up was the part of the weekend I had been really, really looking forward to – distilling our own gin! Most people know Adnams for their beer, but they also make a range of award-winning spirits including gin, vodka, and more recently, whisky. My favourite gin is their original copper house gin, which is made in their copper house distillery. We got a quick tour of the distillery and an overview of how they made the gin. Fun fact: All gin starts as vodka with added botanicals to give it flavour.We were then taken into the gin lab, which is where the magic would be happening (but obviously on a much smaller scale) We sat at a table of with various jars of herbs, spices and floral ingredients to create our gin. There were a huge range of ingredients and it was quite difficult deciding what would work. Every gin uses juniper berries as a base to give it that classic flavour and either orris or angelica root to blend the flavours together. From there on, we pretty much had free reign on the flavour combinations we wanted! I opted for floral-citrus flavours. To be honest, I had absolutely no idea how it would turn out, I just went for flavours my nose quite liked! I chose orange peel, hibiscus, elderflower and kaffir lime leaves, so with the orris root and juniper, six botanicals in total. This is the magic number of botanicals in the copper house gin, which has won awards, so I was banking on that! The vodka was poured into the flask with the botanicals and heated up. It condenses in the tube and gradually drips down into a beaker. It took a good forty minutes for the beaker to fill up – a standard batch of gin in the distillery takes up to six hours! Once full, the beaker was poured into our bottles, complete with labels, and topped up with distilled water.We had to wait two weeks before trying our gin, to allow the flavours to develop and settle. If we were being honest, we were hoping we could go back to our hotel room and try our gin straight away! However, we have tried both our gins, and they’re both really nice. Mine is a very classic, strong gin flavour with a bit of a citrus kick, whereas Dan’s has a warmer, spicier flavour.After the distilling experience was over, we got to go and taste some of the spirits that Adnams make. I didn’t expect to shot straight gin (and it is not something I recommend doing!) but thankfully tonic water was on hand. I wasn’t quite brave enough to try the whisky!Find out more about Adnams brewery and distillery tours on their website. The hotel had a very nice looking restaurant downstairs, called The Still Room, which we decided to book a few weeks before we went. We started off with a few drinks in their bar, The Tap Room, before getting ready for dinner. We decided to push the boat out and go for the six-course tasting menu. To kick things off, we had some homemade sourdough bread and whipped butter with a little cup of soup. The first course was a beer-glazed mackerel with a smoked egg yolk and chunks of apple. This was full of flavour and the apple married perfectly with the charred beer on the mackerel. Next up was X-mas spiced roe deer with walnut and blackberry. This was a really tender piece of meat, though the Christmas spices were lacking a little.The next course very simple – onion and beer! Though the onion was slow cooked until it was tender and sweet and paired with an onion consomme. This was possibly my favourite dish out of the six we had, on par with the mackerel. We had our second set of fish and chips of the day for the fourth course! We were served a small fillet of cod with three little chips, complete with a pea puree and crispy scraps of batter. This didn’t blow me away but was a nice nod to the seaside.The final two courses were dessert and cheese. Dessert was chocolate in a crispy shell, with a chocolate sorbet and caramel ice cream. Nice and simple. The cheese course was a little different and I wasn’t sure if I liked it or loved it. Blue cheese mousse was mixed with gingerbread crumb served with fig chutney. A good combination of flavours but the texture was a little strange!We did have a really lovely meal at The Swan, but some of the dishes verged on style over substance and definitely looked a lot better than they tasted. We stayed at The Swan Hotel which is on the high street and less than a five-minute walk from the seafront. As I mentioned before, it’s located just in front of the brewery and distillery so is in an ideal location for gin and beer lovers heading to the tours. We actually ended up getting a cheeky upgrade to one of their ‘Outstanding’ Suites which is one of the bigger, more expensive rooms in the hotel, so we were very excited indeed!The Swan is perhaps one of the most beautiful hotels I’ver ever stayed in. The decor is absolutely gorgeous with copper and rose gold details everywhere, nodding to the copper house distillery. Our room had a lounge area overlooking the high street towards the sea and the bedroom overlooked the brewery – ideal! It was incredibly spacious and had everything we needed for a very comfortable stay, including high-end toiletries, tea, a nespresso machine, towel robes and a bottle of Adnams First Rate gin. What a welcome! We had a huge four poster bed that was quite literally like sleeping in a huge marshmallow. I mean, I might have just slept well because of the bottle of red wine we had at dinner, but I slept so well. Like the rest of the hotel, everything was impeccably decorated and it had a very cosy, modern feel.Breakfast was included and it was one of the best hotel breakfasts I’ve ever had! It was served back downstairs in The Still Room and had the usual continental-smash and grab on the bar with pastries, cereals and fruit. Dan and I both had a full English breakfast which was everything you want a full English to be!The staff at The Swan were so lovely and really helpful at every moment of our stay – including recommending the fish n’ chip shop! If you’re looking for somewhere to stay in that part of the world, I can definitely recommend The Swan, it’s a real treat.We rounded off our morning with a cup of coffee back our room to put off going home for a little bit longer… If you made it this far, WELL DONE. I thought I barely took any photos during our stay, but it turns out I took quite a few – even if most of them were of food and gin!I feel a lil bit emotional looking back at these photos as it was such a lovely weekend, and one night at The Swan absolutely was not enough. There’s something so refreshing about being by the seaside as well. Even if it’s a bit grey, the fresh, salty air always brings an element of calm. I definitely need to make more seaside trips. Complete with the token fish n’ chips and ice cream, of course.