WHERE TO VISIT
A quaint market town located in north Suffolk close to the Norfolk border, around 20 minutes from Southwold, Bungay has a rich history dating back to Anglo-Saxon times. The bustling town centre is now home to plenty of independent shops – keep an eye out for the Earsham Street Deli. Located just outside Bungay is Flint Vineyard, one of the UK’s most exciting new wineries. Fen Farm Dairy is also worth a visit – it even has its own milk vending machine.
With its sandy beach, colourful beach huts, lively town centre and charming pier and harbour, Southwold is the perfect place for a day out or relaxing weekend. The iconic pier – which stretches 623ft out into the North Sea – is a must visit. Don’t miss inventor Tim Hunkin’s Under The Pier Show where his eccentric arcade machines provide hours of entertainment, and be sure to stop by Harris & James for a scoop of its legendary gelato. Half a mile from the town centre, Southwold Harbour is the perfect spot for a sundowner. You can even catch the ferry from the harbour to Walberswick – relax among the sand dunes with a picnic from the Black Dog Deli.
One of Suffolk’s most charming seaside towns, Aldeburgh is the spot to buy your fish and chips, settle down on the shingle beach and gaze out over the North Sea. The Golden Galleon, The Upper Deck and The Aldeburgh Fish & Chip Shop are all owned by the same family and produce some of the best fish and chips in the country. On a Friday or Saturday evening, the chip-shop queue is the only place to be.
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A quintessential market town on the River Deben, Woodbridge is the perfect place to base yourself for exploring the Suffolk coast. Be sure to check out Woodbridge’s Tide Mill, especially if you have young ones, which has been working on the banks of the river for more than 850 years. It’s one of the world’s only tide mills that still produces flour. Across the river is Sutton Hoo, the awe-inspiring Anglo Saxon burial site that was at the heart of Netflix’s recent hit The Dig. Other top haunts include coffee shop Honey + Harvey and the Angel, which sells local craft beers and around 250 different types of gin. Don’t miss the beautiful beach at Shingle Street, a hidden gem 20 minutes’ drive away.
One of the main attractions of Thorpeness is the Meare – hand dug and opened in 1913 – it covers over 40 acres of water and is no more than 3ft deep in any spot, making it perfect for boating adventures. The Meare still has many of its original rowing boats – rent them along with canoes, kayaks and punts to explore the channels and islands, all named by J M Barrie, the creator of Peter Pan. Thorpeness is also full of unusual architecture, including the House in the Clouds, a converted water tower that’s available to rent.
Lavenham is regarded as one of Britain’s best preserved medieval villages, boasting some 320 listed timer framed buildings. It was even used to create the fictional village of Godric’s Hollow in the Harry Potter films. There’s plenty of history to soak up here, as well as historic pubs such as the Swan and the Lavenham Greyhound.
WHAT TO DO
If you’re in the mood for some retail therapy, look no further than the town of Snape Maltings. With shops selling everything from homewares to antiques, there’s something for everyone. Regular farmers’ markets and a legendary Food Hall will keep foodies happy, too.
The Adnams Brewery is integral to life in Southwold – beer has been brewed on site since 1345. Book in for one of its legendary brewery tours, which are often led by local characters. The view from the top is one of the best in town, and all tours include a tasting, too.
If you’ve seen The Dig, you’ll know that the Anglo-Saxon ship burial found in the King’s Mound is the richest burial ever found in northern Europe. As well as the burial mounds there is a permanent exhibition, walking trails, a sculpture trail, events and activities.
With over 1,000 acres of beautiful land, Somerleyton Estate includes the two-mile long Fritton Lake, which is popular with swimmers. Escape into nature and enjoy other activities here too, such as tennis, paddle boarding and cycling. Don’t miss the floating sauna.
Suffolk Owl Sanctuary
Based at Stonham Barns, the Suffolk Owl Sanctuary is home to more than 80 unusual owls and other birds of prey, as well as meerkats, ferrets and red squirrels. There’s also a child-friendly woodland walk, mini-maze and adventure playground.
Situated at the heart of four-square miles of stunning parkland with ancient oak trees, Ickworth House is a neo-classical mansion that’s well worth a visit. Stroll around the earliest Italianate gardens in the UK, which includes a Mediterranean Temple Garden, or wander down to the walled gardens, which date back to Tudor times. The house is also home to family portraits by Gainsborough and works by Titian and Velázquez.
St Edmundsbury Cathedral
Located in the heart of Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk’s main cathedral only became a cathedral in 1914 but still boasts a long and rich history. Situated alongside the award-winning Abbey Gardens, be sure to also visit the Millennium Tower and its magnificent painted and gilded vault.
A ten-mile-long shingle spit, Orford Ness is regarded as one of the most extraordinary places in Britain. Accessed via the National Trust ferry Octavia, trails lead through coastal grazing marsh, taking in wildlife and ex-military testing areas. Book in advance to avoid disappointment and wear footwear suitable for a five-mile walk.
No visit to Framlingham is complete without taking in its magnificent late 12th century castle. Surrounded by parkland and estates, the castle is the perfect spot for young and old alike to explore. Walk the ramparts of the castle to enjoy its breath-taking views or muster the courage to explore the towering walls.
WHERE TO STAY
For something different, these beautiful, oversized huts are the definition of a country escape. The unique huts, which sleep two, have been handcrafted with distinctive wooden panels to look like something out of a fairy tale. Inside, you’ll find cosy interiors with whitewashed walls. Guests can also make use of a terrace, complete with a firepit and barbecue, for sundowners and stargazing alike. Hawthorn also has sauna huts nestled amongst the trees, as well as an on-site shop where guests can purchase homecooked meals.
The Swan Southwold
For a quintessential British stay, look no further than The Swan, whose rooms have been recently updated – suites have been given a modern twist with colourful velvet sofas and neon accents. Its excellent restaurant, The Still Room, serves up a delicious menu of local, organic produce, while its charming ‘Butler On The Beach’ service provides guests with a picnic hamper, blankets, deck chairs and buckets and spades.
If glamping’s your thing, Fisherman’s Hideaway, around five miles east of Ipswich, is one to book. One of four lodges at Home Wood (the others are around 70km away, so there’s no need to get friendly with the neighbours), each is entirely self-contained. Sleeping six, this beautifully designed lodge has one king-size bed, one bunkroom and one cabin bed, as well as a private hot tub and BBQ, ideal for alfresco meals. Your kitchen comes stocked with tea bags and Monmouth coffee beans, and there’s an honesty shop on site where you can collect extra charcoal and firewood, but we recommend pre-ordering a Weekend Hamper, packed with local goodies.
Five Acre Barn
Tucked away just outside Aldeburgh, Five Acre Barn is one of the country’s most architecturally appealing B&Bs. The restored 19th-century barn acts as a communal area, while the zig-zagging extension houses five light and airy bedrooms. Pairing an idyllic rural setting with the finest modern materials, this spot is available to rent by the room or in its entirety.
Nestled in the pretty village of Hemingstone, Retreat East is just 20 minutes by car from Ipswich train station but feels a million miles away. A members’ club which now welcomes non-members for overnight stays, accommodation comes in the form of stunning barns – from The Roost, a former dairy reimagined with a spectacular open-plan kitchen, dining and living room, to The Nook, a one-bedroom haven where you can stargaze from your duvet thanks to a Velux window above the four-poster bed. Well-behaved dogs are also allowed in every room and can join you for breakfast, dinner or cocktails in the main barn.
A stylish restaurant with rooms in Bury St Edmunds, The Northgate’s ten rooms have been recently modernised, now boasting an opulent French theme. Expect period features such as original fireplaces and sash windows as well as free-standing, oversized baths, rainforest showers and fine linen. One of the rooms has a second bedroom – perfect for a family. Just a few moments from the iconic Abbey Gardens, feast on the eclectic and locally-sourced menu – think fish from nearby Lowestoft and Blythburgh pork.
Whether you choose to stay in one of the sumptuous loft suites, with lavish walk-in showers, or one of the wooden Meadow Nooks, a stay in this stunningly converted historic water mill near Newmarket and Bury St Edmunds is pure luxury. First mentioned in the Domesday Book over 900 years ago, the mill is also a haven for wildlife – look out for otters and herons – and the still-working water wheel features in the hotel’s restaurant.
This superbly designed conversion of a brick-built, early 19th century circular tower occupies a prime position overlooking the wild, shingle coastline near Woodbridge. It offers modern-rustic accommodation spread over three floors – the stand-out feature being the uninterrupted glass window which provides a 360-degree view of the land and sea from the dining space. Sleeping up to six, it also boasts a grand piano, firepit and rooftop terrace. The coastal footpath runs directly pass the tower, making it the perfect spot for those looking for long walks and runs.
WHERE TO EAT
1921 Angel Hill
For something special, look no further than 1921 in Bury St Edmunds, which recently made it into Harden’s Top 100 Best UK Restaurants. Start your evening with a glass of champagne and canapés – think smoked eel toasties and vodka-cured cod – in the lounge while perusing the menu, before moving into the dining room. The menu champions local produce – starters include Ardleigh asparagus with truffle croquettes and West Mersea crab, while many of the main courses feature meat from surrounding farmland. For something seriously special, try the seven-course tasting menu. Just be sure to round things off with 1921’s legendary espresso martini, which comes with a selection of homemade petit fours.
The Little Fish & Chip Shop
The Little Fish & Chip Shop is a Suffolk institution, with both locals and tourists gathering there to sample some of the best fish on the coast. All the fish comes directly from the restaurant's sister company – Sole Bay Fish Co – based down the road in Southwold Harbour, with a menu that includes everything from traditional cod and chips to locally caught dressed lobster and crab. If you're visiting in high season, there will be a queue, so be prepared to wait under the pretty canopy of fairy lights with a drink in hand. It's worth it!
Great House Hotel & Restaurant
Serving up award-winning French cuisine in a Grade II-listed building that overlooks the market square of Lavenham, The Great House is made for feasting. Offering a three-course set menu at lunchtime as well as a five-course experience dinner where each dish is a surprise, there’s also the option to pre-book a Great House picnic, complete with bottle of bubbles, to enjoy at your leisure. In the summer months, French doors open onto a pretty stone-paved courtyard for pre-dinner drinks and dinner alike.
Aldeburgh Fish and Chips
Aptly named, Aldeburgh Fish and Chips occupies a prime position on the south end of the high street. Regularly voted as one of the best in the country, visit for some of the best fried cod, haddock, plaice and scampi, as well as chips made with locally sourced potatoes. Should you arrive early enough, you may even glimpse fishermen returning with their local-caught produce to be served later in the day.
One of Suffolk’s best kept foodie secrets, The Brewers was recently awarded a Michelin Plate, and with good reason. Not too long ago, the Brewers Arms (as it used to be called) stood empty and unloved. It was then bought by villagers, keen to ensure another rural pub wasn’t lost, and now headed up by chef Dan Russell, it’s the place to know for seriously good food. Start your meal with nibbles of monkfish and curry cones, followed by starters such as lamb tartare with peas, mint and nori, and mains like stone bass with a crab chowder and sirloin steak with devilled butter and parmesan fries. Situated in the heart of Rattlesden, a 20-minute drive from Bury St Edmunds, it’s the perfect spot for a cosy dinner for two.
The Unruly Pig
No trip to Suffolk would be complete without a trip to The Unruly Pig, named dining pub of the year by the Good Pub Guide 2021 as well as the winner of countless other foodie accolades. Head chef Dave Wall has an impressive track history, having previously worked at Bibendum and Claridge’s, and his Suffolk offering comes highly recommended. The menu is focused on local ingredients, and the set menu, which features seasonal daily specials, is also outstanding value at £19 for three courses. When the sun is shining, the terrace is the place to be.
The Leaping Hare
Wyken Vineyards are pioneering the English wine industry whilst also being the epitome of countryside cool with its award-winning restaurant, The Leaping Hare. Housed in a converted 400-year-old barn, the restaurant has been in the Good Food Guide for 26 consecutive years, as well as being a Bib Gourmand in the Michelin Guide for 23 years. A fusion of modern and traditional European dishes, the majority of the ingredients are sourced from within a five-mile radius – think venison and pheasant from the estate and vegetables and herbs from the kitchen gardens. Be sure to sample a glass or two of the Wyken Bacchus, which has also scooped plenty of industry awards.
Pump Street Bakery
A small, family-run bakery occupying a prime position on Orford’s Market Square, Pump Street Bakery is the name to know for daily-baked sourdough, pastries and coffee. If you’re in the area on a weekend, be sure to head down early doors to pick up some cinnamon buns, the bakery’s speciality that only come out from Friday to Sunday.