Some of the best things to see and do in Emsworth
PUBLISHED: 12:33 17 December 2018
Waterside walks plus good food equals happiness; we recommend a coastal break
Emsworth is a picturesque waterside village on the edge of Chichester Harbour and nudging right up against the West Sussex border.
Plenty of fresh air and good food makes it a delightful destination for a getaway. It is also pleasantly quirky - partly due to an intriguing heritage that encompasses boat building and comic literature, and partly because of a selection of very individual independents. These include Bookends, a second-hand bookshop; Harbour Records, buying and selling vinyl; and Karen George, a boutique with spotty and starry jumpers, patent loafers and plenty of labels not usually found on the ‘high street’. There’s also a choice of antique, retro and vintage shops to delve into, such as Chalcrafts, Déjà vu and Emsworth Antiques, with an assortment of clocks, curios, stuffed pheasants and gilt mirrors between them.
Thinking about all things past, Emsworth Museum is a friendly and fascinating little museum tucked away on North Street. It celebrated its 30th anniversary in 2018 and is one of the smallest museums in the country to be fully accredited by the Arts Council – an impressive achievement.
In addition, the Museum includes a number of permanent exhibitions revealing the village’s rich history. There are archaeological finds from excavations at nearby Warblington Roman Villa, recorded interviews with fishermen who lived and worked in the village, and a corner set up as a study in homage to PG Wodehouse who lived in Emsworth for ten years (an experience which influenced the creation of some of his most memorable characters).
For a village, Emsworth’s foodie credentials impress. There’s Emsworth Deli, specialising in charcuterie, cheeses and local produce. A fab little farmers’ market (third Saturday of each month) huddled into St Peter’s Square sells the likes of honey, gin, pickles and pies. And there’s Vin, a very good wine merchant which also stocks local ales and gins, and offers tastings as well as wine experience days through in-house sister company Solent Wine Experience.
For a mid-morning break, pick from a great catch of cafes. Away from the centre, on North Street, there’s Café Moka - a bit of a community hub with families tucking into hearty breakfasts accompanied by steaming mugs of tea. Just along from St Peter’s Square, Driftwood is popular – a café decorated in coastal hues and serving yummy Selsey crab sandwiches. Down West Street there’s aforementioned Emsworth Deli which also has a little seating area where you can order tasty sandwiches and good coffee. Or there’s quaint Loretta Coffee Bar, which curiously combines a newsagent with Italian coffee house. For waterside views, try Flintstones Tearooms, situated in a flint barn with outside tables overlooking the quay.
From May through to September you can book trips on Terror, a restored 125-year-old oyster boat, and appreciate the beauty of the harbour from the water. For the rest of the year, blow the cobwebs away with the next best thing – a lovely waterside walk. Follow The Oyster Trail, actually a series of short walks exploring Emsworth’s maritime history and oyster industry. Take the town walk, foreshore walk, and boatyard walk to discover the tidal millponds either side of Emsworth as well as the oyster beds and old boatyards. For those wanting to stretch their legs a little further, longer walks lead out of town – a smuggler’s walk to the west and wildlife walk to the east.
Emsworth punches well above its size for live performance, thanks to its regular Wemsfest.
Eats & Sleeps
Foodie experiences run the gamut. Wine merchant Vin doubles up as a wine bar with heated courtyard. You can also book a cheese and wine tasting in the courtyard or upstairs lounge for a bring-your-own-food (or takeaway) option. This is a great if slightly wacky idea: Vin supplies the cutlery and space while diners can select from a great cellar.
For those in search of a gastropub, Blue Bell Inn is a favourite. Just yards from the quay, this is a proper cosy characterful pub with really good, homemade food, and recommended for its breakfasts, pies and locally caught fish - all washed down with carefully selected real ales. Owner Giles has even collaborated with Southsea brewers Staggeringly Good to create a stout called Bishop Slayer – referencing a notorious period of Emsworth’s past.
As for gourmands, Fat Olives in an old fisherman’s cottage serves up excellent food and offers a great value set lunch as well as tempting a la carte menu. For total specials, push the boat out at Good Food Guide-recommended 36 On the Quay. Exciting, inventive menus include a tasting menu paired with wine flight. Dishes are memorable, skilful and often complex. And you only have to stagger upstairs as this is a restaurant with rooms (each named after a spice) with waterside views (or glimpses).
For a more unusual experience, try glamping in a luxury yurt. Marina Yurts, on a private wooded peninsula within Emsworth Yacht Harbour, are styled in appropriately ‘piratey’ fashion - one bed has even been built into a classic wooden wayfarer. Emsworth’s centre is about ten minutes’ walk, but there’s a very good café/restaurant on-site, The Deck, with marina views.
For a rural version, try the Old Dairy Farm, a luxurious and relaxing B&B in the countryside north of Emsworth. They also have yurts: theirs are in a peaceful paddock with ‘rustic’ en suite, firepits outside and candles and wood burner inside for a really romantic night under the stars.
• Things to do in Hampshire this weekend - Great things to do in Hampshire this weekend: art exhibitions, walks, concerts, theatre, places to visit and other events and ideas.