UK breaks: Suffolk

Hike, bike, eat in an oysterage and sleep in a stable

UK breaks: Suffolk Southwold seafront - © Sam Robbins/Time Out
By Time Out editors

We've used our local knowledge to reveal the best of Suffolk. Enjoy a breathtaking variety of countryside, explore miles of magnificent coastline, wander around charming market towns and feast upon local dishes served up in lovely settings.

Beccles & Bungay

This area of Suffolk is particularly independently minded. It’s one of those places where each generation stays close to the one before. Local characters are famous for miles around and everyone knows everything about each other. The strong sense of community has helped people pull together in the many fights over the last few decades to stop supermarket chains building out-of-town sites. Consequently, Bungay, Halesworth and Harleston (just over the border in Norfolk) retain not just the architectural charm of classic British market towns, but also the tradition of family businesses run with local knowledge and passion.

The area doesn’t attract many tourists away from the focal point of the River Waveney, and there’s a sense that the inhabitants like it this way. But Bungay is a lovely little town well worth a day’s visit, and Beccles and Halesworth are also very pleasant.

The surrounding countryside is mostly flat agricultural land interrupted by farms, smallholdings, hamlets and villages. But it’s not flat in the way the Fens are flat. Ridges and folds in the land, stands of trees, larger copses, hedgerows and heathland make this landscape much more friendly and intimate.

Things to do

Row along Fritton Lake

Part of the Somerleyton Estate, Fritton Lake is a beautiful and well-equipped country park with a large expanse of water at its centre. It’s very popular with families, especially in the school holidays. The walks and trails around the lake and surrounding woodland are lovely, and there are tons of activities for children of all ages. There are also self-catering lodges to rent.

Beccles Road, Fritton, NR31 9HA (01493 488288, Open varies; check website for details. Admission £6; free-£4 reductions.

Visit Somerleyton Hall

This magnificent Tudor-Jacobean house (still home to the Crossley family, who have owned it since the 1860s) is awesome enough from the outside with its numerous windows and mutiple chimney pots. The inside is even better. The imposing entrance hall is clad in oak and has a stained-glass ceiling dome; the ballroom is done out in a startling crimson damask; the library is hung with oil paintings.

But for many, it’s the gardens that are the real draw. There’s a fantastic yew maze to get lost in; when you finally make it to the middle, you can climb the mound and enjoy the view from the benches. The iron and glass greenhouses were designed by Crystal Palace architect Joseph Paxton. There are tunnels, a small museum hidden in one of the outhouses, and some wonderfully mature trees set in extensive lawns. Note the splendid clock, designed as a small-scale prototype for the Palace of Westminster by clockmaker Benjamin Lewis Vulliamy. The design wasn’t used in the end, and Big Ben was built in its place. There are plenty of picnic spots around the grounds and the café has a wonderful setting inside the Loggia, overlooking the formal Winter Gardens.

Somerleyton, NR32 5QQ (01502 734901, Open July-Sept 10am-5pm Tue-Thur, Sun. Apr-June 10am-5pm Thur, Sun. Admission £8.25; £4.35-£7.25 reductions; £23 family.

Where to eat

St Peter’s Hall

The great hall inside this eccentric building is wonderful (children love the peephole upstairs that lets you spy on the proceedings below), though it’s often out of bounds as the rooms is used for functions. Still, you can always find space in the bar/restaurant, which serves the whole range of beer from the adjacent St Peter’s Brewery plus an excellent gastropub menu. The moated gardens are a peaceful place to sit and enjoy a very quiet pint; the views across open fields are delightful.

St Peter South Elmham, NR35 1NQ (01986 782288,
Lunch served noon-3pm Tue-Sat; noon-4pm Sun. Dinner served 6-9.30pm Tue-Sat.

Where to stay

Woodland Lodges

There are 44 delightful, eco-friendly lodges on the 5,000-acre Somerleyton Estate, dotted around the woods and banks of Fritton Lake. There’s a choice of one-, two- and three-bed lodges, all with solid wood floors, open-plan living areas and top-of-the-range fittings, including Bosch kitchen appliances and a TV and DVD player. You’re close to all the amenities of the lake and Somerleyton Hall and grounds, but have your own little den of woodland privacy.

Church Lane, Fritton, NR31 9HA (01493 488666, Rates £353-£1,060 per week.

Bury St Edmunds & Newmarket

This area of Suffolk isn’t generally celebrated as one of the prettiest, and many of its towns were part of the post-war London Overspill plan. The landscape isn’t strikingly flat like the Fens, but neither does it have the rolling countryside found further south along the Stour, or the heathland near the coast. It certainly isn’t the most popular spot for holidaymakers. But Bury St Edmunds is a lovely market town, and the rest of the area has many attractions, including the open expanses of the Brecks, thoroughbred horse racing at Newmarket and plenty of pretty villages in between. There are pockets of interest and peaceful corners all around, if you know where to look.

Things to do

See Shakespeare at the Theatre Royal

Norwich-born architect William Wilkins, famous for designing London’s National Gallery, was the man behind this elegant and gorgeous theatre, drawn up on strict classical lines. Built in 1819, it’s the only surviving example of a Regency playhouse; Charley’s Aunt premiered here in 1892. As well as theatrical productions (everything from panto to Shakespeare), there are lunchtime lectures, readings and concerts.

Westgate Street, IP33 1QR (01284 769505, Box office 10am-6pm Mon-Sat. Guided tours 2pm Tue, Thur; 11am Sat, Sun. Open Doors 2-4pm Tue, Thur; 10.30am-1pm Sat, Sun. Admission Tours £6. Doors £1.50.

Admire the stallions at the National Stud

Most studs are fiercely private and will eject anyone found walking on their territory – this kind of horseflesh ain’t cheap. So if you want to see multi-million-pound horses nibbling in lush paddocks, take a guided tour at the National Stud. Once owned by the government, it became part of the Jockey Club in 2008. Visitors are taken by minibus to the paddocks, stables and covering yard. You can pet the foals, admire the stallions and gasp at the sums of money involved. The café (open to all, not just those on a tour) offers excellent cream teas and own-made cakes.

Next to July Course, CB8 0XE (01638 663464, Tours Feb-Sept 11.15am, 2pm. Oct 11.15am. Admission £7; £5 reductions; £20 family.

Where to eat

Maison Bleue

A recent redesign (neutral colours, blond leather armchairs and banquettes) has given Maison Bleue a cooler and more streamlined look, but the food and service remain as friendly and full of love as ever. Martine and Régis Crépy have run this acclaimed French restaurant – as well as sister establishments the Great House in Lavenham and Mariners in Ipswich– for many years and retain the knowledgeable staff that make such a difference to a dining experience. The Good Food Guide rated it East of England’s Restaurant of the Year 2010. The menu focuses on fish and shellfish, although there are always a couple of meat dishes. Puddings are excellent; the cheeseboard superb.

31 Churchgate Street, IP33 1RG (01284 760623, Lunch served noon-2pm, dinner served 7-9.30pm Tue-Sat.

Where to stay

Ickworth Hotel & Apartments

Ickworth Hotel occupies the East Wing of Ickworth House, the seat of the Hervey family for several generations but now run by the National Trust. The hotel is grand but cosy, and the location is tremendous, right in the middle of rolling Ickworth Park. Most of the 27 rooms are decorated in a modern eclectic style, which manages to combine an atmosphere of informality with a sense of special occasion. There are also 11 apartments in the separate Dower House, and the three-bedroom Butlers Lodge.

Horringer, IP29 5QE (01284 735350, Rates £200-£425 double incl breakfast.

Ipswich & Felixstowe

Ipswich is Suffolk’s largest town – in fact, it’s larger than many cities – but you don’t often hear people mention it when they discuss their Suffolk holiday itinerary. Despite an attractive medieval centre, for years it didn’t make the best of itself. Now, pedestrianisation has made it easier to enjoy the half-timbered shopfronts; there are fantastic museums and compelling shops; and the redevelopment of the Waterfront is making a decayed industrial zone appealing to visitors.

The coastal town of Felixstowe is another destination largely ignored by modern holidaymakers. Faded today, it was once on everybody’s must-visit list – Queen Victoria, the Empress of Germany and Wallis Simpson all sampled its pleasures– and, even if the pier has been lopped, it still has a lovely Georgian seafront promenade and some good shops.

To the south, the Shotley peninsula has been designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Tranquil and with real back-of-beyond rural appeal, the peninsula’s roads take their time meandering along the estuaries – forcing you to calm down and do the same.

Things to do

Visit Christchurch Mansion

A stunning red-brick Tudor edifice in Christchurch Park, this house has hosted such royal visitors as Charles II and Elizabeth I – although no one is sure whether the Virgin Queen stayed the night or just popped by for tea. The museum now occupying 31 of the mansion’s rooms is a wonderful showcase of art, furniture, pottery and curios. Many people visit just to see the fine collection of paintings and drawings by Gainsborough and Constable, but there is much more to see.

A more eccentric treat is the Manor doll’s house, made by Violet Ellington of Felixstowe to raise funds for the Red Cross during World War II: most of the house and its furniture were created from Winston Churchill’s cigar boxes.

Soane Street, IP4 2BE (01473 433554,
Open Summer 10am-5pm daily. Winter 10am-dusk daily. Admission free.

Relax or do watersports at Alton Water

This reservoir is the largest area of inland water in Suffolk and a popular leisure spot. There are bird hides, walks and cycle trails, bream and pike for fishing, and a large watersports centre where 60 coaches teach sailing, windsurfing and other watersports.

Holbrook Road, Stutton, IP9 2RY (01473 328408, Open Apr-Sept 10am-8pm Mon-Fri; 10am-6pm Sat, Sun. Oct 10am-7pm Mon-Fri; 10am-6pm Sat, Sun. Nov-Mar 10am-4pm daily. Admission Reservoir free. Activities vary; see website for details.

Where to eat


Renamed Mariners in 2009, the former Il Punto is still run by Regis and Martine Crepy, the people behind the highly regarded Maison Bleue in Bury St Edmunds and the Great House in Lavenham. The setting is an ex- Belgian gunboat – all gleaming wood and brasswork – that also saw service as a Red Cross hospital ship and a party boat, before ending up moored in the Marina between the Salthouse Hotel and the Old Custom House. It serves traditional French cuisine to a very high standard, but there’s also a £5.95 snack menu for those who aren’t interested in the full à la carte experience.

Neptune Quay, IP4 1AX (01473 289748, Lunch served noon-2.30pm, dinner served 7-9.30pm Tue-Sat.

Where to stay

Kesgrave Hall

The company that runs the seriously successful Maison Talbooth and Milsoms hotel in Dedham, just over the border in Essex, opened their first Suffolk outpost in 2008. Kesgrave Hall is a lovely Georgian mansion, hidden at the end of a sweeping gravel driveway a few miles east of Ipswich. Built for a former MP, it was requisitioned as a USAF base during World War II. The Hall has been renovated using the best of the building’s elegant traditional features, but with touches of modern glamour. There are 23 rooms; the three ‘principal’ rooms are the most luxurious, with roll-top baths, walk-in showers and zebra-print sofas. It’s also got a restaurant and bar, with a terrace that overlooks a huge green carpet of lawn.

Hall Road, Kesgrave, IP5 2PU (01473 333741, Rates £108-£191 double.

Small Town Suffolk

In the east of the county, between the coast and the flat agricultural lands of north Suffolk, lies this pretty stretch of countryside peppered with interesting market towns. Like the coast, it’s an area full of potential for walking, cycling and eating great local food, but it’s much quieter. Woodbridge and Framlingham are the largest and most characterful of the small towns. Both are good bases for a holiday as they’re only a short drive from the coast and have many attractions within striking distance, as well as a plethora of small independent shops that make for a great day’s browsing. Wickham Market is the smallest settlement and not technically even a town; Saxmundham and Leiston are less genteel than their neighbours, but both have things to offer. As elsewhere in Suffolk there’s a noticeable lack of out-of-town supermarkets and, consequently, more family butchers and local food producers.

Things to do

Become a blacksmith at a Victorian-style farm

Set in 35 acres of peaceful countryside, Easton Farm Park is modelled on a Victorian farm, with vintage machinery, a Victorian dairy and displays about the Suffolk Punch horse. There are free pony rides, pig racing, egg collecting and lots of animal petting and feeding opportunities. Regular workshops show what skills are required to be a blacksmith, a wheelright or a picture framer.

Easton, IP13 0EQ (01728 746475, Open Mar-Sept 10.30am-6pm daily; other times may vary, check website for details. Admission £7.25; £6-£6.75 reductions; £25 family.

Experience the industrial revolution

Long Shop Museum is one of those unexpected pleasures. It serves as a history of the Garrett family (who founded the Works), the business and the town itself. In the Long Shop building – constructed to house the first assembly line in the world, to keep up with orders from the 1851 Great Exhibition at Crystal Palace – are many examples of the Works’ machines and a history of some of the women employed here during both world wars. Up the uneven stairs, the gallery tells the story of the development of steam power, from its first days to its modern application in nuclear power reactors (with a model of how nearby Sizewell B operates).

But visitors don’t have to be interested in the industrial revolution to enjoy the museum. The panels on Newson Garrett and his offspring are universally appealing, telling the story of his pioneering daughters, Elizabeth Garrett Andersen (the first woman in Britain to qualify as a doctor, in 1865), and Millicent Garrett Fawcett (who was at the forefront of the suffragist movement and educational reform and went on to found Newnham College for women at Cambridge).

Main Street, Leiston, IP16 4ES (01728 832189, Open Apr-Oct 10am-5pm Mon-Sat; 11am-5pm Sun. Admission £5; free-£4.50 reductions; £12 family.

Where to eat

Station Hotel

The Station’s location isn’t much, but don’t be put off. There’s a cracking chef in the kitchen, transforming what might be an unpreposessing edge-of-town tavern into a genuinely impressive yet unpretentious gastropub. Pies, pastas and roast pork belly, plus locally sourced game in season and shellfish from the Suffolk coast, are typical, substantial, simple and delicious – and all cost much less than you might expect for food of this quality. A range of own-made desserts, and an excellent cheeseboard, complete the picture.

Station Road, IP13 9EE (01728 621018,
Lunch served noon-2pm Mon-Sat; noon-4pm Sun. Dinner served 7-9pm Mon-Thur; 7-9.30pm Fri, Sat.

Where to stay

Albion Mill

The round tower of this 19th-century windmill has been converted into a wonderful open kitchen/dining room, with a mezzanine living room above. The two bedrooms and bathroom are in a ground-floor wing leading off the tower, and designed with an architect’s eye.

Rendham Road, Saxmundham, IP17 1BJ (01502 722717, Rates £338-£691 per week.

Stour Valley

Along with the coast, this is perhaps the best-known area of Suffolk. The countryside surrounding the River Stour is prettier than the flatter agricultural tracts further north, and it doesn’t hurt that nothing much has changed since Constable and Gainsborough idealised the landscape in their paintings. Cows still graze in water meadows; willows still weep prettily over rivers and ponds; thatched cottages lean and huddle in undisturbed hamlets; and pheasants startle out of cornfields and woods much as they have for centuries. As well as vistas of bucolic perfection, there are many handsome towns built on the riches of the wool trade. From the famous timber-framed streets of Lavenham to the high streets of Hadleigh and Long Melford, the area’s former position as one of the richest in England means there’s plenty of architectural drama to behold.

Things to do

Take a course in medieval cookery

The avenue of lime trees, planted in 1678, leads visitors up the long drive to the red-brick Tudor spectacular of Kentwell Hall. The house feels cosier than most stately homes, and that’s because it’s still lived in by the owners, who rescued it from ruin in the early 1970s.

On event days, staff and volunteers dress up and perform demonstrations of medieval cookery using the grand kitchen ovens, as well as embarking on processions around the grounds flaunting music, dance and pageantry as they go. There’s a rare-breeds farm at the old stables, a camera obscura, an ice house, imaginative topiary around the house, a sculpted tree trunk that looks like Enid Blyton’s Faraway Tree, a wonderful walled garden with fruit and vegetables, and dozens of other points of interest. The tearoom is unusually eccentric, and there are plenty of picnic tables on the lawns, so you can enjoy tea beneath a tree in the company of peacocks.

Long Melford, CO10 9BA (01787 310207,
Open Feb-Oct times vary, check website for details. Admission House, Gardens & Farm £9.15; £5.90-£8.05 reductions. Gardens & Farm only £6.40; £4.50-£5.60 reductions.

Bob about on the River Stour

The River Stour Trust has been instrumental in keeping the Stour navigable. It has raised money for the restoration of locks at Flatford, Dedham and Great Cornard and has plans for more projects in the future. The Trust organises regular river activities and also runs trips on two electric boats during the tourist season.

The Granary, Quay Lane, Sudbury, CO10 2AN (0845 803 5787, Trips Easter-Oct 2-5pm Wed, Sun, bank hols. Tickets £5-£12.50; £2.50-£5 reductions. No credit cards.

Where to eat

Great House

This is the sister restaurant of Maison Bleue in Bury St Edmunds and Mariners in Ipswich and every bit as good as both. The restaurant is in the two unfussily decorated rooms at the front of a Georgian-fronted house on Market Place and offers good-value set menus. Run by Régis and Martine Crépy, the cooking style is French, but most of the ingredients are decidedly local, with game, fish and meat from nearby farms all appearing. Whatever you choose, this is one of the finest dining experiences you will have in Suffolk. Save room for the cheeseboard – although the puddings are also things of great beauty. The Great House was Which? magazine’s East of England Restaurant of the Year 2009.

Market Place, Lavenham, CO10 9QZ (01787 247431, Lunch served noon-2.30pm Wed-Sun. Dinner served 7-9.30pm Tue-Sat.

Where to stay

Grove Cottages

There are six small renovated buildings – Gun Cottage, Snow Cottage, Rose Cottage, Orchard Cottage, Dons Barn and the Bakery – around the double quadrangle of Old Grove Farm. Each has been sympathetically converted into quirky accommodation that makes excellent use of the original space. All are lovely hideaways for a country retreat, especially for couples (most sleep only two). Guests can also hire canoes for a paddle down the Stour, make use of the bikes in the sheds or the herbs in the garden, and buy eggs and honey produced on site.

The Grove, Priory Green, Edwardstone, CO10 5PP (01787 211115, Rates £179-£438 for 2 nights.

Suffolk Coast: Lowestoft to Dunwich

The northern stretch of the Suffolk coast has the county’s only traditional English seaside resort. Sitting on the border with Norfolk, Lowestoft has the amusement arcades, donkey rides and acres of white sand that just aren’t typical of the rest of the county. It’s a bit tacky, but in a good way.

The rest of the coast consists of crumbling sandy cliffs, marshy fields, shingle-dominated beaches, and settlements that are falling into the sea; most of Dunwich, once one of the largest towns in Britain, is already under the waves, a village drowned. Walberswick and Southwold are very popular with middle-class holidaymakers looking for a taste of the simple life, but both have retained a strong sense of identity despite the influx of visitors.

Walberswick is a small village known for its crab fishing, while larger Southwold has many genteel attractions including an unusually tasteful pier with a wonderfully eccentric amusement arcade. The whole stretch of coast south of Kessingland is designated as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and begs to be explored on foot.

Things to do

Check out Southwold Museum

This delightful small social history museum explains how Southwold emerged as a favourite holiday resort in the 18th century, when the harbour proved unreliable thanks to the changing coastline. Following a total refurb in 2007, the imaginative displays are a joy. Memorable exhibits include Southwold at War and copies of sections of the Walberswick Scroll, a 66ft-long panorama of Walberswick village (building by building, shack by shack) by Camden Town Group artist John Doman Turner. Children should head for the small red cabinet holding different objects in its many compartments. Each prompts a story when placed on a touch-sensitive screen.

9-11 Victoria Street, IP18 6HZ (01502 726097, Open Aug 10.30am-noon, 2-4pm daily. Easter-July, Sept, Oct 2-4pm daily.
Admission free.

Wander through RSPB Minsmere nature reserve

Minsmere has been a nature reserve for more than 60 years and in that time has expanded bit by bit to cover 2,500 acres. It has been pivotal in encouraging avocets back to Britain after an absence of over a century, but you don’t have to be a bird lover to enjoy the walks around the reedbeds, along the sand dunes and through woodland. That said, it’s best to bring a pair of binoculars (or hire some from the visitor’s centre). Bird hides dotted around the reserve offer close-up views over the reedbeds and ponds but just standing out in the open, you’ll see plenty of birds flying overhead.

Westleton, IP17 3BY (01728 648281, Open 9am-dusk daily. Admission £5; £1.50-£3 reductions.

Where to eat

Lord Nelson

A homely and perenially popular pub, located bang on the seafront and just round the corner from the Sailors’ Reading Room. There’s seating in a courtyard garden, as well as the main bar and two small side rooms. Staff are good-natured, even when the place is heaving – a frequent occurrence in summer. They pour a lovely pint of Adnams and serve classic pub grub; the huge portions of cod and chips are hard to resist.

East Street, IP18 6EJ (01502 722079, Open 10.30am-11pm daily. Lunch served noon-2pm, dinner served 7-9pm daily.

Where to stay


Stay in the main hotel buildings for traditional bedrooms overlooking the town and the sea (two suites in particular offer spectacular views) or in the refurbished (summer 2009) Lighthouse Rooms. These ‘chalets’ are now elegantly furnished, in line with the rest of the hotel: there are 16 rooms, all facing the garden and with their own patio area – great for winding down after a long day on the beach.

Market Place, IP18 6EG (01502 722186, Rates £95-£210 double incl breakfast.

Suffolk Coast: Sizewell to Bawdsey Quay

There is only one significant town along this stretch of Suffolk coastline, and that’s the genteel resort of Aldeburgh. The rest is all about quiet treasures and simple pleasures; shingle beaches, marshland, reedbeds and forests.

The region is very proud of its small-scale food producers, and most of the pubs, restaurants and cafés support them when sourcing ingredients, so menus are full of the likes of Red Poll beef, Butley Creek oysters and Orford smoked fish. Visitors leave with memories, not just of the atmospheric landscape, but also of fine food served at affordable prices.

Things to do

Enjoy a performance at Snape Maltings Concert Hall

The world-famous Aldeburgh Festival takes place in and around Snape Maltings in June, but there’s so much more to the Maltings’ music programme than one month of glory. The Snape Proms every August offers folk, poetry and jazz as well as classical concerts, and the Britten-Pears Young Artist Programme from April to October attracts top young performers from around the globe.

For something a little different, try the International Academy of String Quartets in September. Course directors Isabel Charisius and Ilan Gronich run masterclasses with young but established string quartets, which are open to the public for a bargain £3.

Snape, IP17 1SP (01728 687110, Box office Summer 10am-4.30pm Mon-Sat. Winter 10am-1pm, 2-4pm Mon-Sat. Tickets £10-£50.

Explore Orford Ness

About ten miles in length, Orford Ness is the largest vegetated shingle spit in Europe and a National Trust-run nature reserve. It’s a mighty strange-looking reserve, though, because it was used as a secret military test site and research station from 1913 until the mid 1980s, which has left a legacy of peculiar, eerie structures such as the Bomb Ballistics Building, the Black Beacon and the distinctive Pagodas (some of these are accessible on guided tours). It was here in the mid ’30s that Robert Watson-Watt’s experiments led to the development of radar once the team had moved to nearby Bawdsey Manor.

Quay Office, Orford Quay, Orford, IP12 2NU (01728 648024, Open July-Sept 10am-5pm Tue-Sat. Apr, June, Oct 10am-5pm Sat. Admission £6.90 incl ferry; free-£3.45 reductions.

Check out the arts at Aldeburgh Festival

The big one. The festival was launched in 1948 by Benjamin Britten, Peter Pears and Eric Crozier, moved inland to Snape Maltings in the 1960s and has continued to expand ever since. Lasting two weeks, it attracts top performers from around the world, and fills the area’s churches and public halls with a fantastic variety of music, poetry, literature, drama and more.

01728 687100, Date June.

Where to eat

Butley Orford Oysterage

A restaurant, shop and smokehouse, all supplied by its own small fishing fleet. The premises are basic, but the food lures diners from miles around. Smoked fish – cod roe, sardines, trout, mackerel – and a few smoked meat dishes are listed alongside fresh fish and oysters.

Market Square, Orford, IP12 2LH (01394 450277, Lunch served noon-2.15pm daily. Dinner served Summer 6.30-9pm Mon-Fri, Sun; 6-9pm Sat. Easter 6.30-9pm Wed-Fri; 6-9pm Sat. Winter 6.30-9pm Fri; 6-9pm Sat.

Where to stay

Martello Tower

This sea-facing, quatrefoil-shaped brick monolith, built to keep out Napoleon, is the most striking place to stay in Aldeburgh. The Landmark Trust building’s lofty, vaulted interior, with sail-like canopies overhead, has a teak floor and two bedrooms screened but not completely separate from the main living space.

Slaughden Road, IP15 5DE (01628 825925, Rates £830-£1,716 per week.

Village Suffolk

Suffolk is all about villages rather than towns, and this is nowhere more evident than when travelling through the swathe of countryside either side of the A14. In High Suffolk, along the north-western side, Eye is the only place with sufficient chutzpah to describe itself as a town, and yet it’s considerably smaller than some Suffolk villages. It’s much the same story in the agricultural heartland south-west of the A14: there are towns in the Gipping Valley, but you wouldn’t describe them as tourist attractions. Instead, it’s village after village after village, quaint almost to the point of cliché – so get out of your car and explore the region on foot or pedal.

The roads here are perfect for cyclists: since they don’t run in straight lines, they never became main roads, and although it’s easy to get lost, you’ll find yourself bowling along for sizeable stretches without being disturbed by another soul. Suddenly the subtle charm of this rural patch begins to make itself felt.

Things to do

Visit the Museum of East Anglian Life

In an unlikely looking spot behind the Asda car park lies this extensive social history museum. In fact, it’s much more than a museum: it’s also a farm, nature reserve and working craft centre rolled into one. Many of the historic buildings housing exhibits have been moved here from elsewhere in Suffolk – Edgar’s Farmhouse, showing how a typical farm would have looked in medieval times, is from the nearby village of Combs, while FJ Crapnell’s smithy is from Grundisburgh. The timber-clad Boby building contains installations about traditional crafts such as basket-weaving, coopering, clockmaking and printing (there are workshop sessions to bring these old trades to life), and the Bone building tells the story of Ransome, maker of agricultural machinery.

Stowmarket, IP14 1DL (01449 612229, Open Mar-Oct 10am-5pm Mon-Sat; 11am-5pm Sun. Admission £6.50; £3.50-£5.50 reductions; £17.50 family.

Ride the Mid Suffolk Light Railway

A visit to this volunteer-run museum is a fantastic outing for all the family. Park in a field just across the road from the museum and head over to find guards and drivers – all dressed in the railway’s ‘Middy’ uniforms – and a gleaming steam train. On our visit, there seemed to be no limit to how many times you could ride the train, with swaps between first- and third-class carriages keeping things interesting. The museum tells the history of the Edwardian line, which never turned a profit.

Brockford Station, Wetheringsett, IP14 5PW (01449 766899, Open Easter-July, Sept 11am-5pm Sun, bank hol Mon; Aug 11am-5pm Wed, Sun, bank hol Mon. Admission £5; £2.50-£4 reductions; £12.50 family.

Where to eat

Leaping Hare

Under the steepling roof of an ancient, timber-framed barn on the Wyken Hall estate, the Leaping Hare is both café and restaurant, with the two separated by a picket fence. Frames and wood trims are painted in Farrow & Ball greens, and the sisal matting, wicker chairs and patchwork wall-hangings give the space a welcoming air. A pair of wood-burning stoves keep the place cosy in winter, and large sash windows let in plenty of light all through the year.

Owner Carla Carlisle’s transatlantic roots come through in the menu. Carefully sourced local dishes – Red Poll beef, Stowlangtoft lamb, plus an excellent selection of vegetables, some of which come from the hall’s garden – are punctuated by American classics such as eggs benedict, key lime pie and chocolate brownies. Everything is prepared with the exquisite attention to detail you’d expect of a kitchen that has been awarded the Michelin Bib Gourmand two years running.

Wyken Vineyards, Wyken Road, Stanton, IP31 2DW (01359 250287,
Open food served 10am-6pm Mon-Thur, Sun; 10am-6pm, 7-9pm Fri, Sat.

Where to stay


This converted Victorian stable (sleeping two) is a rare and successful 21st-century incursion into the Suffolk countryside. Kitted out with design-classic furniture and top-end appliances, it’s ultra-contemporary to the point of being sparse, but kept cosy by a natty suspended fireplace at one end of the main kitchen/lounge space. Opposite the large flatscreen TV, huge sliding glass doors open on to a large decked area, surrounded by meadows.

Lime Tree Farm, Badingham, IP13 8LU (01728 638962, Rates £796-£820 per week.

Time Out guidebooks

Norfolk & Suffolk

The definitive guide to two of England's best loved counties, highlighting their contemporary appeal as well as their traditional charms. Cultural events and attractions are covered alongside our favourite pubs, restaurants and hotels. We explore the great outdoors in all it's glory, as well as the best villages and towns; we suggest things to do, and places to visit. Providing information and inspiration, the Time Out Norfolk & Suffolk guide is invaluable, whether you're a resident, a regular visitor or new to the region.

The 'Norfolk & Suffolk' guidebook is available from the Time Out shop.

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By Helen Burton - Nov 11 2010

Great Newsletter and great timing too after the Coast programme featured Norfolk and Suffolk on telly the other night. Been before, this article has made me want to go back and see a bit more.