Explore Sizewell Beach and Village

Discover the historic little coastal community of Sizewell Suffolk, where a handful of fishing boats still operate from Sizewell beach, just a two mile bike ride or drive from Leiston in the officially designated Suffolk Coasts & Heaths Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

Today with the green revolution power station as its near neighbour, Sizewell still has fact and fiction to deal with, but it continues to be one of the Suffolk coast’s more secret spots, popular with locals and still much-loved for many a reason…

walking along Sizewell beach Leiston Suffolk

Enjoy a beautiful beach like no other

Looking for a decent dog walk? A quiet retreat for sea-fishing, birdwatching, that invigorating wild swim or spot of gentle water-sports? Or what about joining the Park Run to jog along and enjoy the coast in like-minded company? A place to create sand castle kingdoms or play hide-and-seek in the dunes, to put a toe in the water, find some me-space or simply go for a stroll by the boats, Sizewell beach is a real breath of fresh (sea) air.

Easy to reach by road or cycle path the beach-side village has family-friendly refreshment opportunities including the popular Sizewell Tea Hut, plus plenty of green space car-parking (with facilities), itself a much-loved spot for family picnics and games.

Eat-Stay-Enjoy Dog-friendly Coast

A coast of many colours

Sizewell’s dunes and wide ‘wild’ shingle shore by the heaths and marshes here – part of the Suffolk Sandlings – are full of local tales  and have long been an inspiration to writers. What’s more,  the rare plants, flowers and invertebrates found on its sandy heathland, vegetated shingle stretches and marshes continue to woo artists with their beauty.

Sizewell beach has a wild attraction at any time of the year and is an awesome, untamed coast for colourful sunsets and evening strolls.

Coast & Heaths AONB
Walking down the dunes boardwalk at Sizewell beach Suffolk
walking the cliff path near Sizewell Hall Suffolk

Cliff paths & North Sea views 

Sizewell’s historic cliff path has to be one of its many hidden gems. Set out southwards on the signed Suffolk Coast Path from the village’s black weatherboarded Watch House, following winding paths between the sandy vegetated scrub by the understated beach huts, and join the cliff path – popular with both walkers and cyclists – by the Beach View Holiday Park.

From here, it’s a shaded green lane that smacks of Sizewell’s smuggling past, yet dotted with viewpoints and reminders of its more elegant Victorian past as a pleasure walk. Look out for glimpses of the Arts & Crafts era Sizewell Hall along the way before descending to the beach or returning along the path.

Did you know? 

Sizewell’s family-friendly pub has an unusual name – The Vulcan Arms. Although records suggest that there was a pub in Sizewell as early as 1540, Cromwell had England’s ale houses closed a century later. Sizewell’s pub became the local blacksmiths until the coast was clear for social drinking again at the end of the English Civil War. The memory of the building’s blacksmithing days however lives on in its name – Vulcan was the Roman God of Blacksmiths!


Sizewell Gap & the Smugglers’ Coast

In the 1700s and 1800s, before the arrival of engineering works brought prosperity to the town of Leiston, the area was home to poorly paid farmhands, fishermen and spinners, many of whom turned to smuggling contraband tea and tobacco to keep themselves from starvation.

Organised gangs of smugglers operated up and down the Suffolk coast, but at Sizewell a convenient break in the cliffs by the lonely heaths and marshes – known as Sizewell Gap – was an optimum place to off-load illicit cargo from boats and make it ‘disappear’.

A sizeable Sizewell business

Smuggling at Sizewell was a big deal. The notorious 100-strong Hadleigh Gang from south Suffolk made it their territory with the support of local insiders.

At times, Sizewell residents saw up to 100 carts and 300 horses gather on the beach to transport contraband brandy, tobacco and tea off across Westleton Common and the marshes to be hidden in pits and safe-houses.

Tales tell of tunnels linking the beach with the cellars of the Vulcan Arms and great pits dug on Leiston Common as temporary hideouts for goods. Contraband tea and tobacco were even stashed under the floorboards of Leiston’s non-conformist meeting houses!

Call the coastguard!

At their peak, the smuggling gangs were so hefty and well-organised that the authorities couldn’t stop them even with military support. The tide however turned in 1816 when ships patrolled the coast and troops patrolled the beaches.

In the 1820s ‘Preventatives’ or excise men and the coastguard took over role and Sizewell’s Watch House (now Grade II listed) was built. The black weatherboarded look-out remained in use until the 1980s.

But with the growth of the world famous Garrett Engineering works at Leiston, livelihoods in the area were set to change and the descendent of one Sizewell resident had great plans for the remote Suffolk coast…

The tide turns – Engineering a different sort of future

In 1859 Alexander Ogilvie, a wealthy Scottish railway engineer bought clifftop Sizewell House as a holiday home and extended his Suffolk estate to 6,000 around Sizewell, Aldringham and the coast. Alexander’s heir, Glencairn Stuart Ogilvie went on to create the quirky holiday resort of Thorpeness

It was these legacies of engineering and technological innovation and expertise which eventually brought a new focus to Sizewell’s remote coast – as  a home to an evolution of power stations, including the UK’s only Pressured Water Reactor.


Sizewell B Visitors Centre

Famous folk associated with Sizewell

The tale of local smugglers’ accomplice and horse stealer, Margaret Catchpole, was immortalised in The History of Margaret Catchpole – A Suffolk Girl (1845) a part fact, part fiction novel by Rev. Richard Cobbold of Wortham, Suffolk.

Sportsman-naturalist, Fergus Montieth Ogilvie, was fascinated by the birdlife on the Leiston-cum-Sizewell coast. The Ogilvie collection of British birds (taxidermy scenes) residing in Ipswich Museum is considered to be one of the most important and complete in the country.

In contrast, Paxton Chadwick preferred to capture nature through his art. A painter as well as a teacher at the progressive Summerhill School in Leiston and a Communist councillor of the town, Chadwick lived near Leiston Common and produced wonderfully detailed nature drawings for ‘Penguin’ books (1949-1961).