The Dunwich Beach and Heath walk is a lovely walk along the coast and through Suffolk Coast and Heaths AONB which explores National Trust and RSPB land. The route covers just over 9km and takes around 2 hours to walk, this can be varied depending on where you park, you can shorten the route by parking at the National Trust site or along Minsmere Road although in the summer months this can be very busy.
The route begins at Dunwich Beach where there is a large free car park, the car park asks for a donation towards local charities and the church in an honesty box. There are toilets open to the public and in the village of Dunwich there is the lovely pub called The Ship where you can end your walk with a cold drink. There are a few steps along the walk so for those looking for a fully accessible route I would recommend parking at the National Trust car park and using the shorter routes throughout the heath land and then parking at the beach to explore the coastline so breaking the walk into 2 sections.
The walk first takes you out of the village of Dunwich and away from the beach. This takes you up past the remains of the priory and into Greyfriar’s Wood, you can immerse yourself in history thanks to the Greyfriar’s Trust who have informative interpretations boards about the remains, the last grave and the woods. As you meander your way hugging the coast line you can enjoy the sound of the sea and the smell of the woodland all at once.
As you come out the woods you will cross Minsmere Road into the National Trust land, this will take you along an enchanting enclosed lane until you reach the heath. You will see the beginning of the heath land opening up but there’s far more to see as you carry on. The bridleway will take you down to a gate where it changes from National Trust to RSPB land, you can see all kinds of bird on the reserve from mash harriers to bearded tits, make sure you keep your eyes peeled and you’re sure to see the konik Polskis (Polish ponies to you and I) which are used by the RSPB for management on the reserve.
The route becomes a little more sandy and soft underfoot as you follow the bridleway down into the woods before turning right along the footpath through native woodland of gorgeous birch trees and oaks on into pines and heather. Take time to open up all of your senses the smell of the pine needles, the sound of the birds and the feel of the sand under your feet all add to this spectacular walk.
The footpath then crosses back into National Trust land through another gate where you can see a whole new range of flora and fauna including: stone curlews, nightjars, many types of heather and goarse, adders and stonechats as well as many unusual invertebrates such as ant lions, digger wasps, mining bees, true lover’s knot moth and emperors moth. It’s a great place to explore with the kids letting a flare for nature take hold and find so many exciting things along the way, it’s also great for passionate twitchers of any age and general walkers like me who just enjoy some stunning scenery.
The footpath takes you along the Suffolk Coast Path with Sizewell B behind you as you meander past the Coastguard Cottages, there is a lot of history behind the heath, although it’s a thriving home for wildlife today make sure you read more about it’s history. From submarines to shipwrecks, the heath has been shot over, cut down, burnt and dug up, the heath has been key to all kinds of people including military men, poets and artists.
As you reach the top of the heath you will cross back over the bridleway you entered the heath via and head straight up another lovely lane past Mount Pleasant to Westleton Road. You then cross the road and carry on until you meet another bridleway, turn right and you are on the right line to reach the beach past the remains of a chapel. You can visit Dunwich Museum to find out more about the beach and heath’s extensive history and find out how the landscape has come to look as it does today.
The end of the walk takes you back down to the beach where you can soak up some sun rays after your walk. The beach is 5 miles in length (not included in this walk) so you have plenty of space to get away from the crowds of the car park. Make sure you are aware of the delicate cliff edges and tide times when setting up a beach camp for the day after your walk and stay safe.
Dunwich Beach and Heath is one of my favourite walks in Suffolk with so much to offer, get out there and explore to your hearts content whether you are into history, birds, plants or walking this walk ticks all the boxes.
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