It’s hardly surprising that Suffolk is such a popular choice for a weekend away. This wonderful county is bursting at the seams with everything you could want including beautiful scenery, fascinating heritage, gourmet food and fantastic shopping. You could easily spend two or three days just exploring the coast, heaths and villages on foot; antique hunting or simply relaxing on the beach and enjoying some traditional seaside fun. But for those who want a true taste of Suffolk life in just a couple of days, we’ve put together some suggestions of top places to visit to help you plan your ‘whirl-wind’ tour.
Whatever the weather, you can’t visit Suffolk without going to the beach. There are a few good ones to choose from, whether you prefer the photo opportunity of the colourful beach huts at Victoria Beach in Lowestoft, tucking into a steaming parcel of fish and chips on the shingle shore at Alderburgh, or strolling along Southwold Pier soaking up the vibrant atsmosphere. Corton Sands is worth a visit if you’re passing simply because it is the most easterly point in Britain, but it’s not the most picturesque beach on the Suffolk coast.
Aldeburgh is a good choice for a cottage holiday in Suffolk for those who want to be by the sea. It is one of England’s most popular seaside towns both with tourists and locals who come for the view and the fresh seafood. Savour every mouthful of juicy lobster, scoff down succulent scallops, or try your luck with the catch of the day. The best place to buy fresh fish is at the fishmonger at the northern end of Crag Path. Moot Hall, a wonderfully preserved Tudor building, houses an interesting museum collection; and you should also go to the popular arts centre of Snape Maltings where even if there isn’t a concert on, there are a number of independent shops and galleries to browse and a very good café.
Orford and Orford Ness are nearby to Snape and definitely worth combining on a day trip, offering stunning country walks, a ruined castle built by Henry II in 1165 and a beautiful church. You can while away a relaxing hour or two sitting by the quayside watching the boats come and go or take a boat trip to explore Orford River if you have more time on your hands.
As with Aldeburgh, Orford is within an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), so make sure you take your camera and walking boots. Orford is especially well known for the quality of its smoked fish, ham, and cheese (the smoked stilton is unforgettable!), which make a tasty addition to a picnic lunch. The village has a fabulous oysterage (Pinneys is a great place to sample some of Suffolk’s freshest fish, simply cooked), a bakery selling artisan bread and a choice of pubs for sampling a pint of Suffolk ale (an absolute must!).
North of Aldeburgh and south of Lowestoft, Southwold also has a lot to offer a weekender whether you choose to base yourself there or pay a passing visit. It paints a truly English beach scene with colourful beach huts lining its golden sands, famous award winning pier and lighthouse that was built in 1889 and is still in use today. If it’s raining (or even if it’s not) do not leave Southwold Pier without visiting The Under the Pier Show – the most unique arcade you’re likely to ever visit. A tour of Adnams Brewery is another great rainy day activity where you can learn all you need to know about making beer and also spirits (including the opportunity to make your own bottle of gin!).
Some people may recognise RSPB Minsmere from the BBC’s Springwatch programme. It’s a birdwatcher’s paradise with seven hides, a good diversity of birds and wildlife and an excellent café. Minsmere itself is part of the Suffolk Coast and Heaths AONB. It is a sight of great archaeological interest and includes WW2 defences and Minsmere Sluice Chapel which is a scheduled ancient monument.
In addition to having a thriving fishing industry, Suffolk was once an important part of England’s wool trade. The best known wool town is Lavenham, which has the reputation as being the finest preserved medieval village in England. It is handy for Long Melford (Lovejoy’s stomping patch), Sudbury, and Kersey and has some excellent boutiques and pubs, along with opportunities for antique hunting.
Stowmarket is a lively town but staying slightly out of the centre in Stonham Aspal lets you have the convenience of town with the peace of a rural setting. A trip to The Museum of East Anglian Life will tell you all you need to know about the areas agricultural history and provides a good day out, with 75 acres of grounds and 15 restored historical buildings to explore. Stomarket has direct train links from London, Cambridge and Norwich and trains on Friday are full of workers looking forward to their weekend in Suffolk.
Bury St Edmunds has a rich history as well as some of the county’s most exciting shopping opportunities. As you immerse yourself in the town’s retail delights take time to admire buildings which date back as far as the 1100s. St Edmundsbury Cathedral soothes the soul, as do the gardens of the 11th Century Benedictine Abbey.
One of Suffolk’s most famous sons is the artist John Constable. His romantic scenes of bucolic beauty are revered around the world and, walking through the countryside, it is possible to see the same sights that inspired many of his paintings. “Constable Country” is focused around Dedham Vale, and includes Flatford Mill, the River Stour and Nayland. For anyone with a passion for art and photography, retracing Constable’s steps is a must!
If you find you still have a few hours to spare, and you don’t want to spend them sitting in a first rate country pub enjoying the fruits of the land, try your luck at Newmarket Racecourse, or go on safari in the Suffolk Savanah (aka: Africa Alive in Lowestoft).
Leave the grime of your working week behind you and enjoy a weekend away in Suffolk. Bring the family for a fun filled weekend, bring your partner for romance, or simply set off on your own and enjoy the beauty and serenity of this wonderful, welcoming county.
If this hasn’t persuaded you to visit Suffolk, take a look at our interview with award winning photographer Justin Minns, and then you are sure to want to book a cottage and visit.