I've lived in Suffolk most of my life, so I've gotten to know a bit about it, or "aboot at" as we say round here. I'll focus on East Suffolk, which includes the coast, as otherwise this will be far too long!
Suffolk is becoming far more popular as a destination, both for weekends and increasingly for longer holidays. Many people head for the Suffolk Heritage coast, and that is a good choice. Frequented by artists for many years for the wide landscapes and dramatic skies, the Suffolk Coast feels remote and unspoilt.
Highlights of the coast are:
- Felixstowe used to be a fashionable Edwardian resort but, despite efforts from the local council to tart it up, looks pretty tatty and looks like what it is, a neglected seaside resort.
- Felixstowe Ferry for fresh fish and the quaint artists' houses.
- Aldeburgh, an attractive seaside town with an excellent fish and chip shop.
- Dunwich, the city lost to the sea. All that remains is the Priory and a great fish cafe and nice pub. People say you can here churchbells ringing from the waves at low tide...
- Walberswick, a scenic and rather upmarket little place.
- Southwold has to be the most entertaining and quaint seaside towns on the coast. Eccentric amusements on the beautifully maintained pier, endless excellent pubs serving the town's own beer, Adnams and lovely old fashioned shops.
- Lowestoft. To be fair I haven't been there for years, but mostly because last time I did it was pretty grim.
There is far more to East Suffolk than the coast. Going sucessively inland:
- Delightful Orford with a dramatic Norman castle, and a remote atmosphere to its river setting
- Sutton Hoo - burial place of Anglo-Saxon Kings. The treasure is in the British Museum, but it happened here as explained by the recently built visitor centre.
- Woodbridge, pleasant and bustling little town with a curous tide mill on the river that is open to visitors.
- Snape, with its international concert hall, the Snape Maltings, and a charming selection of shops.
- Framlingham, sleepy rural town with a dramatic castle - a real hit with the kids!
- Vineyard country. We're in the sunniest part of the country and the wines are good!
- Ipswich is the county town, and though less attractive than the coast, it does have some interesting places to visit. The docks have been refurbished in recent years and now feature a swanky marina with restaurants and hotels around. Elizabethan Christchurch Mansion (entrance free of charge) and surrounding Christchurch Park are well worth a visit.
Close to London and unspoilt, Suffolk surprises visitors with her understated charms and surprisingly good weather!
I absolutely love Suffolk and would happily move (to certain parts!) tomorrow! To all those of you who live in Suffolk, my eyes are green with envy!
My favourite areas have to the coastal towns of Aldburgh, Southwold (please see my seperate review) and Walberswick and i try to visit these at least twice a year. Also worth a visit. if you are in the area, is Snape Maltings... with its beautiful concert hall and lovely little shops.
I live in Essex and consequently Suffolk makes a perfect holiday base for me, having 3 young children, as i get all the benefits of a coastal holiday without a long and tiring journey (and far less echoes of 'are we nearly there yet'!).
The pace of life seems so less stressed than other areas and the towns have that lovely lazy feel, where everything gets done, just not at break neck speed.
Perhaps I have just been very lucky with the areas I have visited, but to me Suffolk is unbeatable!
I can't claim that this is a comprehensive opinion on travels in the entire County of Suffolk, since I just went there for my birthday treat, from Friday 16th April 2004 to Sunday 18th. I'd been to 'bits' of Suffolk before, but, because my in-laws live in Norfolk, any sojourns into East Anglia have tended to be further north. It was almost as if we'd have to justify NOT going there instead. So this opinion is based on the places visited over two recent weekends away. In any case, a true 'travel guide' would probably exceed the maximum word length of an opinion
As a Londoner, Suffolk has much in its favour.
a) It's a bit nearer than Norfolk, only being separated from the London area by Essex.
b) It's Constable country - Evenin' All!
c) Adnams of Southwold, centre of the Universe
d) It isn't Essex, although to be fair, this much-maligned county has many sights worthy of seeing too. I particularly like 'moody' river inlets like The Blackwater at Maldon.
WOT WE DUN 4 MY BURFDAY AN'? UVVER TIMES
Sorry, that's not how they speak in Suffolk - I was just looking for another way of saying a boring title.
THE DRIVE - Setting of in our 'other car', my wife's SMART on a Friday morning was no problem - why, we even found time to go the Neasden IKEA to buy 400 tea-lights (just don't ask, OK, but Heathrow's third runway comes to mind).
However, this diversion does mean that you then face the tedium of most of the North Circular Road, admittedly in a 'quiet' period, before picking up Eastern Avenue (my God, doesn't it look like Western Avenue?), i.e. the A12 at Gants Hill.
It's not until you get to the split with the Southend road that things start to look like the kind of road that's actually going somewhere, rather than providing kerb for builders to build up to.
Once past the M25, you are then rewarded by a seemingly motorway standard road, with the speed limits to go with it, except that people towing caravans (or is it dragging sheds?) can dribble out of lay-bys without warning.
Overall, it'?s about 110 miles from where we live to .....
WHERE WE STAYED - I relinquished the right to a tangible birthday present this year, preferring a treat - the treat being two nights at The Crown and Castle, Orford in Suffolk. We had dined there before whilst staying in a nearby B&B and loved it, well apart from the 'Farting Nymph*' picture over the fireplace in the dining room anyway.
*Actually, on second inspection, it appears to be an impression of a nude nymph standing in the surf with her arms stretched out behind her, like someone about to take a racing dive, but she does look for all the world like she's trying her hardest to disperse noxious gases!
The lady proprietor of the house, Ruth Watson, is author of a successful recipe book called 'Fat Girl Slim'?, and would no doubt oblige by autographing a copy. As you'd expect, the 'nosebag at this gaff' is top notch, although we only had dinner once, but breakfast twice. As much produce is organic/local/fresh as possible, and whilst I don't regard myself as a vegetarian by any means, there's always something about a plain steak that shrieks 'heh, I'm a slice of dead animal!' to me. However, even I had to try the matured steak, and wow, what a difference - I wonder if that's because it didn't put up a fight?
Neil's Yard produce featured quite heavily on the menu. For example, the Goats Cheese described as 'en croûte', when in fact I'd argue that 'sur croûte' would describe its position atop a pastry base more accurately. Breakfast yogurts were sourced likewise, although the marinated dried fruit (prunes, apricots etc) were a wholly home produced affair having been soaked in orange juice, cinnamon and cold Earl Grey overnight. All orange juice came from the Harry's Bar squeezer in the room next door. As a perfect venue for a weekend retreat, guests are reminded that although children are welcome, it would be nice if parents didn't lose sight of the fact that other guests might be trying to escape their own! Likewise, smokers are not made to feel the complete social lepers that some eateries give the impression they are. If the dining room is only lightly populated, smoking is permitted - if it's busy, away go the ashtrays. (Of course this was last year - with the smoking ban about to get introduced, it's back to the leper colony for smokers)
The hotel itself is Victorian in origin, with eclectic interior design, so don't expect (or get) low beams and horse-brasses, but its main rear rooms (we had No. 1) have magnificent views out over the meandering Alde/Ore estuary to........
ORFORD NESS - which until the mid 1980s was off-limits thanks to those sons-of-fun, The Ministry of Certain Things, where it's reputed they assembled missiles, tested the durability of nuclear weapons to being dropped (errr....on the floor that is) and other projects that went bump in the night. Now you can go there by ferry from Orford Quay (about 600 yards from the hotel) - it's a National Trust property and is the largest vegetated shingle spit in Europe - oh yesh it is!
ORFORD CASTLE - The immediate area of Orford does have several other worthy sights, not least of which is Orford's own 12th century castle, not 100 yards from the hotel. This was the one-time home of Henry II, although not much remains of the curtain walls and the insides, but the towers surrounding the gate are themselves an imposing site. Bring your English Heritage cards for this one.
The 'Jolly Sailors' at Orford Quay serves a mighty fine 'Moby Dick 'n' Chips' for around £5 in the evenings, and anyway, it serves Adnams, so it could serve scabby horse for all I minded.
PARKING THE 'SNART' AT SMAPE (?) - Just a stone's throw up the road we come to the famous Snape Maltings (or it it Mape Snaltings, Malt Snapings? Too much Adnams, that's the problem). These former barley and malt stores have been turned into a famous music venue for the Aldeburgh Festival, the eponymous town being just up the road. The dual nomenclature for the local river, The Alde, which changes its name to The Ore as it passes Orford, is further confused by the fact that the locals seem to pronounce Aldeburgh 'Orbrer' anyway, as in 'ha' yew bin ter ther Orbrer Fistibal?' Apologies to anyone from Suffolk if that's not how you sound, but I only had my native Norfolk 'gel' with me for reference at the time. That 'Singing Postman'?s' got a lot to answer for too! Of course, The Maltings are also home to a clutch of art shops, gift shops and all those other things that the locals must find SO much more useful than a Tescos, as well as some fine views of moored boats including wherries (a kind of miniature Thames sailing barge) suited to these shallow waters.
ALDEBURGH - I liked Aldeburgh when I went there last autumn. The kids using the model boating lake, the views up and down the coast (one of which is the less than exciting Sizewell Nuclear Power Station), the bracing sea breezes, plus the fact that the gift shops were closed. Oh bliss! I wish I had more to say about Aldeburgh, but it really was a 'stretch the legs' stop at the time.
THORPENESS, THE HOUSE IN THE CLOUDS & WALBERSWICK - Thorpeness lies just to the north of Aldeburgh, and to anyone who though that holiday villages like Center Parcs were a new idea, it comes as a surprise that the whole place was built about 100 years ago as just that, a holiday village. Perhaps its most famous building didn?t even start life as a habitation at all - the so-called 'house in the clouds' was in fact the local water tower, topped out in a folly-like fashion with a dummy house perched on top, looking perfectly normal except for the fact that it appears to float six storeys off up from the ground. These days, you really can rent it as it's been turned into the house that it never was.
Almost inseparable from Thorpeness comes Walberswick. We had lunch in Walberswick the other day in The Swan, where in contrast to Orford Quay, a mere round of crab sandwiches was as dear as Moby Dick, although, to be fair they were nice - oh yes, AND they serve Adnams, not that I'd want you to think I'm fixated on the stuff, or anything.........
SOUTHWOLD - Ah yes, Mecca for Adnams drinkers! Southwold is a really nice little town with a buzzing main-street (well, on a sunny Saturday is was), bookshops, and an amber museum (which is enough to put my wallet on 'amber alert'). Sandy beaches nestle below nicely-proportioned cliffs. There are rows of beach-huts, now no doubt costing as much as a house in the town did ten years ago and a splendid four-square-to-the-wind lighthouse, which would be a perfect spot for looking down on the Adnams Brewery - personally, I'd look UP to it. There is an impressive number of pubs and hotels in the town, mainly serving Adnams ales - well, they'd be silly not to, very silly. Just one cloud appeared on our horizon. There we were enjoying a nice quiet walk from where we had parked the car at the north end of the promenade to the town centre, when the tranquillity is shattered by one selfish person no doubt having great fun seeing how close he can come to the beach on his jet-ski, bless him. If a motorbike made that much noise, the owner would get nicked (eventually).
I did mention Adnams, didn't I?
LEISTON - An inland town, not far from the nuclear power station (not much of a recommendation, I know). This had previously been the home of Richard Garrett Engineering, former makers of steamrollers, traction engines, farm equipment, trolley buses, fire engines and latterly, LaundretteLaundermat machines. When the site finally closed, it must have seemed like someone cut the town's heart out. Part of the works, i.e. the bit that hasn't been turned into housing projects, is now open as a museum, not just for Garrett's former products, but town life too, including bits of a Zeppelin shot down nearby in the First World War and memorabilia from the local USAAF presence during WWII. There are working models of how a nuclear power station works alongside photos of more recent Victorian Days held in the car park, where local kids dress up to see the traction engines paraded, and learn about life 100-odd years ago in
Leiston. Of course, the major part of what is known as The Long Shop Museum is taken up with The Long Shop itself, one of the first production lines in the country. Components would go in one end, and steam rollers out the other. They have several steam locomotives of various types in the shop, and I had personal access to the curator on the day we went, although, if any busier, I can't see that happening.
SUTTON HOO - This is one of my previous visits, also dating back to last autumn. Sutton Hoo is a National Trust property on the site of a collection of Anglo-Saxon tumuli, or burial mounds and in particular 'long ships' similar to those used by the Vikings for burial, on land, in this case. The main exhibition hall contains a reconstruction of just such a ship, and many of the artefacts found at the 'dig'. I was particularly pleased to be able to translate, at least in part, a silver bowl presented to some Saxon noble, with an ancient Greek inscription. Well, when I say translate, I was getting every third word! Being on raised ground, the site overlooks the Deben estuary, flowing to the North Sea just north of Felixstowe, with splendid open views.
DARSHAM CYCLE CENTRE - An unusual one this, and a bit specialised. I only really stumbled upon this by spotting one of those brown 'touristy' road signs pointing to a left turn off the southbound A12, south of Southwold, and being keen on bikes (not you, surely shome mishtake Chrish), off up there I went. It's difficult to button-hole this place. I parked up, wandered into a huge barn full of new and used bikes, to find a 'little man' beavering away in a workshop. I explained that I was just curious, but somehow, with that charming way that friendly countryside folk have, I came away having spent 30 quid there! I have to admit, that this is one of those regional accents I could sit and listen to for hours, and it was worth getting the guy into full flow for that reason alone - I feel the same about Geordie. What you CAN actually do here, apart from buy bike parts is hire bikes by the half-day to explore many of the local, and mercifully quite flat bye-roads. They also operate as a B&B so cycling holidays without the tedium of bringing your own bike are a practicality, being only a mile from Darsham station, with pick-up on arrival negotiable.
So there we have, a pretty mixed bag of places to see, and I've only really scratched the costal scenery's surface - there's a whole hinterland to explore too, like East Bergholt, Constable's birthplace, or you could perhaps try to see if that dog is still chasing that haywain. I'll definitely be back, maybe combining my travels with a slow roundabout route to Norfolk. After all, if I tell the in-laws I'll be there Saturday, they needn't know I set off on Wednesday!
I come from Lowestoft in Suffolk and luckily for me, live close to the sea front. I watch thousands of people come from all over the country on holiday here. Lowestoft itself and surrounding areas offers a host of museums, parks, shops and lovely broads. Oulton Broad (a part of Lowestoft) is famed for being the end of the Norfolk Broads. You can hire a boat and go saling for the day from here. Up the coast from Lowestoft is the norfolk town of great yarmouth, a famous seaside resort. And down the coast are smaller villages of southwold, aldeburgh and saxmundham to name a few. Each town/village is a day out in itself, holidaying from the lovely town of Lowestoft is an ideal break for people of all ages. You can even use public transport to get to each destination from Lowestoft. If you are thinking of a short break to the coast, consider my home town, its really nice. We do have a website, which has more information about us, www.lowestoft.net. I do hope to see you in the following summer months!