Summertime In The Suffolk Countryside
There’s always so much going on in Suffolk… if you're unsure of where to take your troops for a summertime staycation this year we've got just a few ideas as to why you should choose the Suffolk countryside. Check out some of the fun things you can enjoy during your family holiday with us this summer below:
Food for the soul
Good food and refreshments are essential parts of your holiday experience, and we’re blessed with an abundance of all here in Suffolk.
Regular and specialist markets, produce shows, farm shops and deli counters prove the perfect ‘hunting ground’ for those who want to cook up a storm in their holiday cottage kitchen. Suffolk Food Hall just outside Ipswich is a good place to start, or you could join an escorted heritage and food trail where you’ll visit growers, artisan producers and speciality retailers – themes include a Waveney Valley Adventure and a Hidden Suffolk Border Hop.
Suffolk Cottage Holidays is delighted to sponsor the monthly Farmers’ Markets in Bury St Edmunds organised by award-winning Suffolk Market Events. Held on the second Sunday of every month on The Traverse in the town centre, this is where you will find a fabulous line-up of the region's very best local producers. Go with a big shopping bag – you’ll leave laden with foodie delights such as freshly baked bread, honey, home-made pies and savouries, delicious cakes and fudge, Suffolk-reared met, fresh fruit and vegetables, traditional puddings, vegan and gluten-free products, sauces and chutneys and lots more, all produced locally by the stallholders.
Appreciate some art
Creative types have long been captivated by Suffolk, and the county is home to some of the UK’s most iconic works that simply shouldn’t be missed while you’re holidaying here.
Constable Country was the setting for some of the ‘chocolate-box’ scenes by John Constable (1776-1837 who loved to paint close to his home at Flatford Mill. Thomas Gainsborough (1727-1788) first developed his love of landscape painting in the woods and fields surrounding his home town of Sudbury. Today, Christchurch Mansion in Ipswich is home to an art gallery that includes works by both Constable and Gainsborough, while Gainsborough’s House – his birthplace in Sudbury – displays the largest collection of his paintings on show in any one place.
Further north, close to the border with Norfolk, Mendham was the birthplace of Sir Alfred Munnings (1878-1959), one-time president of the Royal Academy and a renowned painter of horses and rural scenes. Some of his paintings are on show at Christchurch Mansion in Ipswich, but Castle House in Dedham – the place in which he lived and worked for over forty years – is now a museum and owns the largest collection of his works, as well as many personal items.
Newmarket is definitely no one-horse town – with stud farms, training yards, blacksmiths, vets, saddlers and bloodstock auctioneers, at any one time there are thought to be around 2,000 thoroughbreds here. Discover why this is such an important setting for the ‘sport of kings’ at Palace House, home to the National Heritage Centre for Horseracing & Sporting Art. A family-friendly five-acre site in the heart of Newmarket, this comprises three complementary attractions: the National Horseracing Museum in the Trainer’s House and King’s Yard Galleries; the Packard Galleries of British Sporting Art in Palace House, and the flagship home of Retraining of Racehorses, British Horseracing’s official charity for the welfare of horses who have retired from racing.
Newmarket hosts two of the five British Classic Races each year, plus countless racing days and the always-glamorous July Festival. Early risers can enjoy some of the sport’s best non-competitive action, however, when jockeys and horses train out on the ‘gallops’ close to the town; book an outing with ‘official tour guide’ Discover Newmarket and you’ll learn everything about the equine characters – and the people who care for them – that are at the heart of this multi-million pound industry.
Family fun’s a sure-thing at Easton Farm Park near Woodbridge, where animals are the life and soul of the party and you can explore 32 acres of farmland plus different indoor areas designated for various age groups. Enjoy animal encounters of all kinds just outside Ipswich too, where the famous Jimmy’s Farm is home to reptiles, butterflies, emus, wallabies and meerkats as well as all the traditional farmyard favourites.
Or take a step back in time with a trip to the Suffolk Punch Trust – the Suffolk Punch is the oldest English breed of working horse and at its Hollesley HQ the Trust is training a new generation of professionals to work with these iconic gentle giants. And if you’d like to make friends of the feathered variety, make a trip to The Suffolk Owl Sanctuary at Stonham Aspal, a comprehensive facility for the conservation, care and rehabilitation of owls.
Stories from the past
There are more than 50 museums in Suffolk, each one packed with fascinating stories and objects and many housed in an interesting place too – from castles and cottages to moot halls, wartime airfields and railway stations.
Get an overview of times past at the Museum of East Anglian Life in Stowmarket where you can explore woodland and riverside nature trails, learn about local crafts and traditional culture and discover some splendidly-restored historic buildings. Discover Suffolk’s wartime heritage at Bentwaters Cold War Museum where, based in a former USAF hardened command post, the main ‘operations room’ and ‘battle cabin’ have been restored and the BT telephone exchange room, decontamination showers and airlock are also as original. There’s further evidence of Suffolk’s Cold War role at Orford where the nearby shingle spit known as the Ness – an internationally-important coastal nature reserve and site of an iconic lighthouse – provides a fascinating insight into activities including nuclear detonator testing.
Just across the River Deben from Woodbridge you’ll find the hauntingly beautiful Sutton Hoo estate, home to one of the greatest archaeological discoveries of all time. This is where, in 1939 an excavation revealed the remains of a 90-foot long wooden ship – probably the grave of an Anglo-Saxon king who was buried with a wealth of artefacts of the greatest significance. Woodbridge itself is home to the picturesque Tide Mill, which dates from 1170 and is thought to be one of the oldest in the UK.
Holidays provide the perfect excuse to try something new or to get back into a hobby that your busy home and work life has left little time for, so why not set yourself a few sporty challenges while you’re here?
Suffolk’s coastline, rivers and inland waters are ideal for watersports. At Alton Water, for example, you can sail, paddle, row and windsurf – or learn how to – while for those who prefer to stay dry there are lovely cycle rides around the reservoir here, plus other routes that will transport you through the pretty nearby villages of the Shotley Peninsula.
Further north, Iken Canoe is a friendly canoe and kayak hire centre based on the upper reaches of the tranquil Alde estuary, or you could really get the adrenaline pumping with a Nomad Sea Kayaking adventure – family outings and singles events are all part of the programme.
More fun on two wheels can be enjoyed in and around Suffolk’s forests – Rendlesham and Thetford both offer miles of off-road fun in beautiful natural syrroundings, as well as playgrounds and picnic areas where all the family can let off steam and then refuel.
A walk on the wild side
Look closely and you’ll be amazed by how much is going on in the landscape that’s all around you… there’s never a dull moment when you’re in the countryside! If you need a little help to interpret it all, The Suffolk Wildlife Trust has a number of nature reserves across the county, all free to visit.
Near to Woodbridge, Foxburrow Farm is filled in spring and early summer with birdsong, wildflowers and gambolling lambs, while skylarks nest in the meadows and spotted flycatchers and pied wagtails flit around the farm buildings. Just outside Stowmarket, Combs Wood is a small but botanically-rich reserve where carpets of spectacular spring flowers include early-purple orchid, ransom and ragged robin, along with rare oxlips, which are limited to sites in East Anglia. And at Lackford Lakes near Bury St Edmunds there’s a whole programme of events each year, along with a landscape rich in bird and insect life.
The Forestry Commission’s site at Thetford is the UK’s largest man-made lowland forest, with more than 18,000 hectares to explore and a rich variety of animal and plant life.
Closer to the coastal edge of the county, river trips run from the picturesque village of Orford to the National Trust site at Orford Ness which is a protected area and home to a number of species including Chinese water deer and birds of prey including falcons and marsh harriers. And further north, Coastal Voyager offers tranquil trips on the River Blyth where you’ll have an opportunity to enjoy – often at close quarters – the varied wildlife that thrives in the tranquility of the tidal waters and marshlands beyond Southwold Harbour’s famous Bailey Bridge.
Never mind the weather
Mother Nature might not always behave as you’d like her to, but there’s plenty to do in Suffolk when the weather lets you down.
Old-fashioned amusement arcades have entertained generations of visitors, and remain a budget-friendly way to while away a few hours with the family. Collect 2p and 5p coins over the weeks before your holiday, then enjoy playing the slots and other machines at the recently-renovated Felixstowe Pier – you’ll be surprised what you come home with! Just a gentle promenade walk away, Felixstowe’s Spa Pavilion – originally opened as The New Floral Hall in 1909 – has survived Second World War bombing damage and dereliction and now hosts a range of stage and music events.
And, at the northern end of the Suffolk coastline, The Marina Theatre in Lowestoft, which started life in the 1870s as a roller-skating rink, today it offers an eclectic programme with everything children’s productions to shows streamed live from the National Theatre in London.
The current craze for escape rooms hasn’t evaded us here in Suffolk – the puzzles they pose are great fun for people of all ages and skill sets. Venues near Mildenhall and Ipswich guarantee an hour of high drama and hilarity. If you’ve young children in your holiday party, make time for a trip to Stonham Barns where the indoor soft play barn Tumbledown will keep them entertained. Kids can run, jump, climb and explore to their heart’s content, while adults keep a watchful eye on their whereabouts from the on-site café.
Finally, families with an artistic streak can create their own holiday souvenirs at a number of crafts venues. Hatter Street Studio is an independent ‘paint your own pottery’ studio in the heart of beautiful Bury St Edmunds' historic centre, and Scribble Studios is in Newmarket.
So... what are you waiting for? Start planning your summertime staycation in Suffolk now! You can start off by taking a look at our range of luxury self-catering holiday cottages in idyllic countryside locations.
Written by Gill Bendall