10 Things to Do When You Visit Suffolk for the First Time
Filled with natural beauty and wonder, Suffolk is the kind of county that delights its visitors as soon as they step over the threshold. Steeped in history and culture, many towns and villages still have an olde-worlde English vibe that instantly transports you to a time when life was simpler and more relaxed.
With 50 miles of gorgeous coastline, charming villages, medieval towns filled with culture and history, and fantastic produce and restaurants, it’s an amazing spot for a holiday; whether you’re here for a short break or a longer stay.
Here are 10 things you can do when you visit Suffolk for the first time…
1. Take an Incredible Walk in the Dedham Vale
No visit to Suffolk would really be complete without a trip to the Dedham Vale. In this part of the county we’re surrounded by some of the most amazing countryside and with that, an abundance of walking routes for all ages and fitness levels. Whether you want to take a full day out to journey around the stunning Constable Country, or you’re looking to do a morning or afternoon circular jaunt to take in some of the local sights, there’s sure to be a route to suit.
We’ve listed four of the very best walking routes in the Dedham Vale in one of our blog posts.
2. Eat Delicious Fish and Chips at a Beautiful Beach
A town on the beautiful Suffolk coast, Aldeburgh has perhaps one of the most picturesque beaches you’ll find in the county. Well known for its sand and shingle coast, there is also cultural heritage here. An amazing sculpture – the Scallop – adorns the beach, celebrating Benjamin Britten’s legacy as one of the twentieth century’s most accomplished and pioneering composers.
The high street just off of the beach is full of quirky shops selling everything from coastal knickknacks to homemade ice cream. The Aldeburgh Fish & Chip shop though is a landmark institution. The queues frequently stretch down the road, so if you’re headed to this town for the food, you better get in line early!
3. Take a Tour of the Greene King Brewery
The Greene King Brewery in Bury St Edmunds has been around since 1700, with brewing in the town traceable back as far as the Domesday book in 1086! The newer, Westgate Brewery has been in operation since 1938 and is now open to visitors who want to learn about its history and taste a beer or two.
On the tour, you’ll discover how beer is brewed using traditional methods and natural ingredients. You can also head up to the roof of the Brewhouse to see the views and enjoy a variety of cask ales at the Café downstairs. It’s a fun day out for anyone who likes a pint!
4. Boating along the River Stour
A relaxing way to take in the countryside, a boat trip along the River Stour will have you falling in love with picturesque Suffolk. You’ll see parts of the county that aren’t easy to reach by foot and get closer to local wildlife than you have before.
There are lots of different ways to explore the River Stour by boat. You could take a scheduled trip with a group of fellow tourists, hire your own rowing boat, or be a bit more adventurous and take out a canoe!
5. Guided Walk Around Medieval Lavenham
Frequently called the finest medieval town in England, Lavenham is the ideal place to explore on foot, with its hidden lanes, ancient architecture and quintessential English village look. During the reign of Henry VIII, it was one of the wealthiest towns in England and for 500 years it was known for the manufacture of various types of cloth, wool, and yarn.
The town’s appearance has changed very little over the years, making it a brilliant place for history and architectural buffs to take a guided trip. There are a number of different tours that start from the Guildhall, led by local guides who are experts at bringing the history of the place to life.
6. Pack a Picnic and Head to the Perfect Spot
No British summer is complete until you’ve taken a hamper of tasty food out into the idyllic countryside and dined under the sun! Picnicking is a seemingly necessary activity when the weather is fine, but it does take a bit of planning to ensure that everything goes smoothly. Finding the right spot is just one of those steps.
Luckily, Suffolk has some great picnic areas for you to choose from, whether you’re looking for somewhere a little more rustic and wild (like the Arger Fen Nature Reserve) or you want to lay your blanket in a well-frequented tourist spot (like Flatford Mill).
If you’re looking for some tips and advice on how to plan the perfect picnic our blog post can help!
7. Learn More About Two of Suffolk’s Most Famous Artists
Suffolk is immensely proud of its artistic heritage, and a visit to the county simply has to include spending some time learning about two of its famous painters, John Constable and Thomas Gainsborough.
In Flatford, there’s the long-standing Constable exhibition which details the painter’s life; from when he worked at his father’s windmill in East Bergholt to painting the Haywain and onwards. In Sudbury, you can visit Gainsborough House, which is the birthplace of Thomas Gainsborough and dates back to around 1520. It’s now a museum and monument, exploring the painter’s achievements and the time he spent in Suffolk.
For even more on both Constable and Gainsborough, Christchurch Manor in Ipswich is also worth a look. Here you can see some of the most important and influential pieces from both the artists and really revel in their masterpieces.
8. Visit Some of the Best Stately Homes in the Area
From Georgian palaces to Tudor mansions, Suffolk has some incredible stately homes to explore. Visitors can journey through the past and the present and uncover some of the county’s rich history and culture.
For example, there’s Otley Hall, a 16th-century moated building which is one of the top 20 in the UK and is the oldest house in Suffolk to still be intact. Or Glemham Hall, which was built via 1560 and visitors can see most of the hall and view its stunning architecture. The garden is also one of the most beautiful in the county. Or for something a little different, there’s also Ickworth House. A Georgian Italianate palace just outside Bury St Edmund’s – known for its outstanding Rotunda and landscaped grounds that are a joy to walk around.
9. Explore the Best Nature Reserves Around
Suffolk has a rich variety of nature reserves that everyone can enjoy no matter what time of the year it is.
The Common Lands in Sudbury are an amazing source of biodiversity, famous for never having been ploughed or treated with chemicals. Near Bury St Edmunds is Bradfield Woods, with its coppiced ash stools that are the oldest living things in Suffolk, and also Lackford Lakes, which is home to some rather beautiful and elusive kingfishers and otters.
For a slightly more hidden spot, there’s also the Bobbit Hole near Dovercourt. A peaceful sanctuary for many creatures, this nature reserve of around two acres of land is bustling with some beautiful flora, fauna, and animals that the avid spotter will truly love.
10. Have a Go at Some Top Outdoor Activities
Suffolk has some exciting outdoor activities so you can make the most of your time in the county. You could take an unforgettable hot air balloon ride over the breath-taking countryside or explore the area on a horseback with a guided tour. There are also some excellent cycle routes in Constable Country, fantastic fishing spots and much more.
However, if you’re a golf enthusiast surely the best way to celebrate the county is to get out on one of Suffolk’s best golf courses?! Just on the outskirts of the Dedham Vale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, our two championship golf courses are the perfect place to test your skills.