Let's staycation in...Stowmarket

Wren Lodge Dagworth

Stay in this lodge near Stowmarket in Dagworth - Credit: Contributed

Stowmarket is a town with heart. Set in the midst of rural Suffolk, surrounded by beautiful villages and rolling countryside, there’s quite a lot to see and do for a town of this size – and it makes a brilliant base for heading out to visit other locations, from Bury St Edmunds, to Framlingham, or historic Lavenham. 

You’ll find charming cafes. Interesting independent shops. Even an internationally-known arts centre. 

Where to stay in Stowmarket 

Can self-catering get any more glamorous than brand new Wren Lodge on the outskirts of Stow in Dagworth? Situated on a private road, with the nearest neighbours being a flock of sheep, the property is perfectly situated for relaxing cycle rides and walks – with several routes accessible right out of the door. Sleeping two in a king-sized bed, the lodge is fitted with all the mod-cons, offering a spacious open-plan living area with dining space, opening out onto a terrace. There’s a fully-fitted kitchen, bathroom with oversized shower – even a Nordic cabin, complete with centrepiece burner/barbecue. All the creature comforts you need are included. Book via Airbnb (property 44443549). 

What to do in Stowmarket 

The Regal: Go watch the latest release at the newly refurbished Regal cinema and theatre, which re-opened in May, having been completely modernised – with a nod to the Art Deco period when it was originally built. In addition to film, there’s a café serving food all day, every day (including brunch to 2.30pm), and a series of live shows. Coming up on November 28 is Abba Sensation. And from December 7 to 12 experience the Christmas show – Alice in Wonderland. Regalstowmarket.co.uk 

Cragg climbing wall at Mid Suffolk Leisure Centre Picture: LUCY TAYLOR

Cragg climbing wall at Mid Suffolk Leisure Centre - Credit: Lucy Taylor

Climbing: The Cragg at Mid Suffolk Leisure Centre is one of the top indoor climbing experiences in the east of England, boasting 330sqm of wall, plus a dedicated bouldering area. Lessons for adults and children are available, and there are sessions for novices up to pros. Also at the centre are three swimming pools, a huge gym, indoor bowls, and soft play. Everyoneactive.com 

There are stunning countryside walks at the Museum of East Anglian Life

There are stunning countryside walks at the Museum of East Anglian Life - Credit: citizenside.com

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The Museum of East Anglian Life: A much-loved part of life in Stowmarket – showcasing rural living throughout the decades across 17 buildings and 75 acres. Step inside the fascinating Queen Anne style Abbot’s Hall. See displays on crafts such as blacksmithing. Meet rare breed animals on the heritage farm. And take a beautiful stroll alongside the watermill, chapel and river. Daily talks and tours take place, as well as regular events and exhibitions. Until March 16 there is a fascinating display – Dining with US Innovators - dedicated to showcasing black people who have changed food history for good, including the man who taught Jack Daniel to make whisky! On November 19 join the evening badger tours. Or learn how to make your own lip balms and beeswax wraps on November 20. The Osier Café on site is very popular too. For opening times and prices go to eastanglianlife.org.uk 

The John Peel Centre: Previously used as an exhibition hall, market and cinema, the town’s Corn Hall has for many years now housed this centre of culture, dedicated to the late John Peel. There’s always a superb line-up of talent. Coming up are Attila the Stockbroker on November 25, and Rose Frater-Taylor on November 26. 

Where to eat and drink in Stowmarket 

The King’s Arms, Haughley: Not in the town, but a short drive away. Lucy and Grant’s welcoming, elegant pub is one of the very best places to eat in Suffolk. Grant and the kitchen team use local, seasonal produce to create plates of food that burst with flavour. The current menu includes Lincolnshire Poacher custard tart with confit shallots, potato, truffle, and truffled picked walnut, pan roast duck breast with kolhrabi, confit duck rosti, walnut and whisky sauce, and cod with triple cooked chips, pea puree, lemon and tartare sauce. Thekingsharmshaughley.co.uk 

The Lakehouse Café: A very popular recommendation from locals, who have grown fond of the café (next to owner Danni’s nanny’s lake) which dishes up hearty breakfasts, deep-filled sandwiches and toasties, huge slices of cake, giant scones, and (when available) pizza. During the summer the site hosted cinema by the lake with cocktails. Watch this space for 2022. It's open 9am to 4pm, Wednesday to Sunday. 

Jana Tarling, outside of Petite Pancakes in Stowmarket

Jana Tarling, outside of Petite Pancakes in Stowmarket - Credit: Jana Tarling

Petite Pancakes: A cutesy corner café - perfect for people-watching. Using prime ingredients, such as milk from nearby Suffolk Farmhouse Cheeses, the kitchen whip up delicious sweet and savoury pancakes from 9am to 4pm Tuesday to Friday, and from 10am at weekends. 

Best Burger: Eat in or take out up to 20 varieties of burger, made with local chuck steak, and gourmet toppings. Very popular is the Ozzie – served in sourdough with lettuce, spicy tomatoes, beetroot, bacon, fried egg...and cheese! Found behind the Queen’s Head pub. Bestburgerintown.co.uk 

Langhams: A café/restaurant with a French twist. It’s open from 9.30am Tuesday to Saturday for delectable freshly baked patisserie, and cakes (including individual cheesecakes). Lunch is served from 12noon to 2pm Thursday to Saturday – from homemade soup, to croque madame and monsieur, and baked brie with crusty bread and salad. Licensed, the café is open as a wine bar from 7pm on Saturdays. Langhams.co.uk 

The Magpie: A very traditional neighbourhood pub, known for its sell-out Sunday carvery (avialable in regular or large portions), and a menu that includes rather good Asian cuisine. The pub is also a ‘gin palace’ with one of the biggest collections in Suffolk. Over 250 types, as well as over 50 vodkas and 50 rums. 

The Walnut Tree: A CAMRA award-winning pub selling a superb range of ales and ciders. Well worth checking out. 

Where to shop in Stowmarket 

Style at Stow: A treasure trove of gifts, homeware and clothing. Whether you’re after a fancy new pair of gloves, cosy knit, wax melts and burners, baby clothes, cuddly toys or plant pots – they’ve got you covered. Styleatstow.co.uk 

Wool St: A modern wool and crafting store where you can shop to your heart’s content for high quality yarns, felt, patterns, silks, knitting pins, toy stuffing – the list goes on and on. Workshops and ‘knit and knatter’ sessions happen regularly. Woolst.co.uk 

Jeffries of Bacton: Found in the nearby village, this is more than a car salesroom. It’s also home to Bacton Bears – probably the biggest bear shop in this part of the world. As a Steiff Club Store, expect all the latest collections, alongside brands such as Merrythought, Teddy Hermann and Shoebutton. To the back of Jeffries is Humber Doucy Brewing Co – selling their own brews, alongside craft beer, spirits and natural wines from guest suppliers. Humberdoucybrew.co.uk, jeffriesofbacton.co.uk 

Lolah’s: Gorgeously painted pre-loved and upcycled furniture that won’t break the bank! They take on commissions, and also sell Frenchic paint for your own projects. Elsewhere in store is an eclectic mix of wonderful things. Cushions in whacky prints. Wax melt bars. Mirrors. Jewellery. Lamp shades. You won’t leave empty handed. 

Little Pig Bakery: The couple who run this bakery relocated to Stowmarket this year after operating from premises at nearby Alder Carr Farm (where they used to run the café). The counter absolutely brims with sweet and savoury delights – including their famous cruffins and brownies. There’s a deli counter, selling sandwiches and soup of the day, as well as takeaway Butterworths coffee. You won’t be able to resist popping in if you walk by. Littlepigbakery.co.uk 

Locals say 

Sarah Cleveland: The nearby Suffolk Owl Sanctuary is a must, with wonderful birds of prey and a few flying displays at set times. We also had a meet the meerkats encounter which was brilliant. There’s a kids play area, picnic benches, café and lovely gift shop. A great day out. 

Laura Jane Jarocki: The cooked breakfast or sweet chilli chicken burger at Lakehouse Café are amazing. Staff are friendly and it’s just lovely. 

Marianne Chiddington: The Osier Café at the Museum of East Anglian Life does lovely food. Their breakfasts are very good. 

Elizabeth Evans: A bit outside Stow...but a trip to Hog and Hen farm shop at Mill Green near Stonham Aspal is nice, with a play area for kids, a coffee shop, plus gifts and butchery. We also like a visit to Alder Carr Farm. And the food at the Finborough Chestnut Horse is fab. 

Sharon Hawes: The Mix is lovely, and the profit goes back to helping young people. 

Melissa Williams: The Regal now has three screens and a really nice café. I recommend the cream tea. 

Sophie Jane: Mill Bar & Grill is absolutely superb. High quality food at very reasonably prices. Excellent service an welcoming staff. 

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