14 places everyone in Suffolk should visit at least once
- Credit: Archant
With Easter on the horizon, and hopefully sunnier weather on the way, it will soon be time to invite friends over for the long bank holiday weekends. Here’s a a list of the very best that Suffolk has to offer. By Andrew Clarke
Snape - Iken Walks
One of the natural glories of Suffolk. Big skies, reed beds and a trio of beautiful walks from Snape Maltings along the banks of the River Alde into an area of outstanding natural beauty. There are three main walks, each starts by hugging the river bank before branching off to explore the Suffolk countryside. The southern walk sticks closest to the river and takes the walker out from the Snape Maltings complex, along the river bank out towards Iken Church. The two northern routes, head out from the concert hall, along the river wall, through the reed beds and the shorter walks goes out in an L-shaped circular route which brings the walker back to the start while the longest of the three walks eventually takes you from Snape all the way to Aldeburgh through tree-lined countryside. A great option for those with energetic dogs
Bury St Edmunds
Not one but a whole raft of attractions will keep you busy in Bury St Edmunds from first light to midnight. For those with an interest in history there's Moyse's Hall Museum which is home to relics which recount the story of Maria Marten and William Corder and the murder in the Red Barn, along with a new local 'horrible histories' feature designed by author Terry Deary. For those wanting to get closer to England's first patron saint St Edmund you can visit St Edmundsbury Cathedral and the ruins of the abbey named after him which are open to all inside the Abbey Gardens which are entered through the impressive Abbeygate. For those with children, the Abbey Gardens is the perfect place for them to let off steam, lots of room to run around in and an adventure playground to enjoy.
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For those who enjoy a more immersive experience then they can enjoy a behind the scenes tour of the Greene King Brewery or go backstage at the Theatre Royal Bury St Edmunds, Britain's last working Regency theatre which is maintained by the National Trust and leased back to the Theatre Royal. After an afternoon tour you can enjoy a play in the evening or nip into the Nutshell pub for a pint. The Nutshell opened in 1867 and was until 2016, the smallest pub in Britain as confirmed in the Guinness Book of Records.
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Southwold offers a huge amount for young and old. The most obvious attraction is the sweeping, sandy beaches, places where time really does stand still. There are other green spaces at Gun Hill and wonderful walks down to Southwold harbour. Southwold lighthouse provides a focal point for the town and tours of the ancient structure can be booked. There's plenty of shopping available in town with a healthy range of independent traders as well as a good spread of different restaurants and eateries. If you are a fan of Adnams beer or like a tasty gin every now and again then there are brewery and distillery tours available and you may even find yourself taking something special home. If you fancy something cultural there's plenty of activities going on at the Southwold Arts Centre, based in St Edmunds Hall, along with the Southwold Arts Festival in June and Theatre on the Coast during the summer months. For the history minded there's Southwold museum, the lifeboat museum and the Sailor's Reading Rooms.
A beautiful oasis from the hurly burley of traditional seaside life. Felixstowe Ferry is a traditional fishing community tucked away at the mouth of the River Deben opposite Bawdsey Manor, home of the development of radar during the Second World War. As you would expect there are plenty of opportunities for sailing, along with some wonderful eateries over looking the river, along with the opportunity to buy freshly caught straight from the fishermen, there's an art gallery you can visit as well as several walks along the river bank towards Waldringfield (and eventually) Woodbridge and the chance to walk up to Kingsfleet creek where Edward III assembled his fleet of ships and set off from to fight the French during the Hundred Years War. During the summer months there are plenty of opportunities for crabbing or you can catch the river ferry pier over to the other shore and explore Bawdsey. The Bawdsey radar exhibition is open after Easter.
Framlingham Castle, first built in 1148, and rebuilt by Roger Bigod, the Earl of Norfolk, in 1213, was unusual that it was constructed of a curtain wall with defensive towers rather than having a keep or central tower. Framlingham Castle has had quite a lively history. It was laid siege to and won by King John during the First Barons' War in 1216. Possibly Framlingham's greatest claim to fame was that Mary I was the owner of the castle and living there when she gathered her forces to march on London and seize the throne in 1553. Now owned by English Heritage the castle is open to the public and explore the extensive grounds, which used to be a deer park, and walk around the Mere which was constructed to keep the castle supplied with fresh fish.
While in Framlingham you can also visit St Michael's Church which is just outside the castle grounds or drop in to Shawsgate Vineyard on the Badingham Road, just a mile out of the town, indulge in a little wine-tasting and a tour of the vineyard.
A wonderful companion site to Framlingham but this time nestling at the point where the River Ore meets the North Sea. Dominated by the sturdy and impressively complete Orford Castle Keep, along with its extensive defensive earthworks, the town is the origin of the 12th century folk tale The Wildman of Orford which tells of a merman being pulled from the sea by fishermen and kept in the castle dungeons before escaping. Across from the main shoreline and river bank is Orford Ness, a shingle spit formed over time and former home to both World War II radar research and post-war nuclear testing. Now managed by the National Trust you can take a boat trip across the river to visit the island which contains the famous 'pagodas' the nuclear test chambers. Boat trips up the river take bird watchers around Havergate Island, a RSPB site, home to breeding colonies of avocets and terns.
Now in the care of the National Trust, Ickworth house with its classical Rotunda, East and West Wings forms the centrepiece of the Ickworth estate. It reflects its former owners, the Hervey Family's tenacious spirit and has been preserved by the custodianship and influence of unconventional men and women over successive generations. Built between 1795 and 1829, was formerly the chief dwelling of an estate owned by the Hervey family, Marquesses of Bristol, since 1467. The building was the creation of Frederick Hervey, 4th Earl of Bristol, who commissioned the Italian architect Antonio Asprucci to design him a classical villa in the Suffolk countryside. Recently restored it boasts superb walks, across extensive grounds and woodland and houses a first-class art collection
Christchurch Mansion is a substantial Tudor brick mansion house built in Ipswich, Suffolk by Edmund Withypoll around 1548-50. The Grade I listed building is located within Christchurch Park and sits by the southern gates close to the town centre of Ipswich. Since 1885, the building has been used as a museum and is also home to the Wolsey Gallery. The museum's rooms are preserved as past inhabitants would have known them, complete with original items such as furniture, fine clothing and children's toys. The museum also holds a collection of paintings by John Constable and Thomas Gainsborough. The Wolsey Gallery is currently home to Ed Sheeran: Made in Suffolk exhibition and in July hosts a display of Black Panther costumes and an exhibition relating to storytelling.
Owned and run by Jimmy and Michaela Doherty, this working farm is home to over 300 rare breed pigs. The site also contains a wildlife park, adventure play area, shops, gardens, restaurant, a farm shop and butchery. In the summer months it also plays host to Theatre in the Forest, a family-friendly open-air Shakespeare production staged by Red Rose Chain and directed by Joanna Carrick.
Preserved by the National Trust and made famous by a series of painting's by John Constable. Constable's father owned the property on the Suffolk/Essex border and Willy Lott's cottage, home of a Constable employee, was famously captured in Constable's painting of The Hay Wain. The whole site has been preserved, including a dry dock for barges and river boats, and has a number of well-laid out walks with information boards at key locations which illustrate views that appear in Constable's works.
Kentwell Hall is a stately home in Long Melford. It includes the hall, outbuildings, a rare-breeds farm and gardens. Most of the current building facade dates from the mid-16th century, but the origins of Kentwell are much earlier, with references in the Domesday Book of 1086. The Hall regularly stages costumed, themed re-enactments taken from the site's colourful history.
Believed to be the burial site of Raedwald, the first King to bring the individual English kingdoms together. He is believed to have lived at Rendlesham but was interred in a ship burial overlooking the River Deben at Sutton Hoo. Uncovered by archeologist Basil Brown on the eve of the Second World War, it was one of the few untouched ship burials to be uncovered anywhere in Europe. The site and museum offer walks around the ancient burial mounds and an extraordinary exhibition which tells the story of Raedwald and Saxon life.
Mid Suffolk Light Railway
The Mid-Suffolk Light Railway is Suffolk's only standard gauge heritage railway, offering steam open days and events to the general public. The Mid-Suffolk Light Railway, affectionately known as the 'Middy', was a classic case of a railway built too late for the great railway age. It never paid its way and was effectively broke before it opened. However it still managed to struggle on against all the odds for 50 years. In 1991, a group of enthusiasts decided this country railway, once so important to the area, should not be forgotten. The 'Middy', a fine example of rural English history, is now resurrected as Suffolk's only standard gauge railway museum and ironically is busier now than it ever was. A section of the railway at Brockford has been recreated with original station buildings which capture the atmosphere of this quirky line.
Formerly known as Suffolk Wildlife Park, Africa Alive brings the sights and the sounds of the Savannah to Suffolk. Discover lions, giraffes, rhinos, meerkats, hunting dogs and many more animals from the African continent. The spectacular centrepiece of Africa Alive, the 'Plains of Africa' paddock, is the perfect place to spot five species of African savannah animals, including graceful giraffe and heavyweight rhinos. Enjoy a bird's eye view of our magnificent lions from the 'Lookout Lodge', and visit 'Lemur Encounters', which gives visitors the chance to get incredibly close to our ring-tailed lemurs as they walk through their enclosure.
Discover some amazing facts about our animals during their regular feeding talks and seasonal bird of prey displays. Climb aboard the free Safari Roadtrain for an entertaining journey around the Park. Also look out for a great outdoor adventure play area, as well as restaurants, free car parking, disabled facilities and a gift shop.