National Trust Properties in Suffolk

There’s nothing more British than a day spent wandering the halls and grounds of a historic country house. In Bury St Edmunds we’re lucky enough to be surrounded by a selection of beautiful stately homes that are now owned by the National Trust and are open for the public to enjoy. They have been lovingly preserved and give us a glimpse of what life would have been like for the inhabitants of these incredible houses throughout the centuries.

Whatever the time of year, National Trust properties never fail to charm. In the autumn winter the cosy cafes that every property boast are the perfect place to relax after you’ve discovered what the house has to offer and been for a bracing walk. In the spring, most of the houses are surrounded by daffodil-filled gardens and lamb-filled pastures, and there’s nothing like a stroll around the grounds on a great British summer’s day.

Here are just a few of our favourite National Trust properties within easy distance of Bury St Edmunds:

Ickworth:

Ickworth House is only a few minutes drive outside of town, but is set in the middle of a stunning park that is covered in daffodils and lambs in the spring. The house itself is Italianate and incredibly striking and houses an impressive art collection, but the gardens and grounds are even better.

Ickworth House, National Trust in Suffolk

The Summer House

My favourite spot is just down the hill past the estate church: the summer house. There are high red brick walls on three sides, which keep the wind out, and a picturesque lake on the fourth. It’s the perfect spot for a picnic on a summer’s day.

The playground and the ‘trim trail’ walk that starts just behind it are wonderful for families.

Melford Hall:

About a 20 minute drive from Bury St Edmunds, in the classic Suffolk village of Long Melford, Melford Hall stands surrounded by beautifully manicured lawns. It’s small (for a National Trust property) but perfectly formed, and boasts a great cafe. In the summer, you’ll often find volunteers giving visitors free croquet lessons on the lawn!

The grounds are beautiful for a stroll and it’s worth wandering up the hill to have a look at the huge village church, built when the wool industry was booming.

Melford Hall, National Trust in Suffolk

Melford Hall

Oxburgh Hall:

This property is a good 45 minute drive away from Bury St Edmunds, but it’s worth it. Oxburgh Hall is surrounded by a picture-perfect moat and stunning grounds, but the best bit is the priest’s hole which you can actually crawl into. It’s not recommended for claustrophobics, but it’s incredibly exciting for adults and children alike!

Oxburgh Hall, National Trust in Suffolk

Oxburgh Hall

Have you been to any of these properties? Have we missed out your favourite National Trust property in Suffolk?  Please comment! 

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The Best Independent Restaurants in Bury St Edmunds

We all like to support independent restaurants and cafes, but when we’re on holiday it’s sometimes hard to find out where the best independent restaurants are hiding. We’ve put together a list of the best independent places to eat in Bury St Edmunds so that you can just relax and enjoy the experience!

  1. The Old Cannon. 

The Old Cannon is an independent brewery and restaurant in the heart of town that uses local ingredients in their beers as well as their delicious selection of food.

2. Mings Oriental

This independent restaurant serves up Chinese and classic Asian flavours with a twist, using only the best ingredients. It’s conveniently located right in the centre of Bury St Edmunds, and they even do takeaway Monday-Thursday!

3. Maison Bleue

The Maison Bleue serves up, you guessed it, wonderful French cuisine that has won all sorts of awards. TripAdvisor consistently rates it among the top 10 fine dining restaurants in the country, so put on your best shoes and go and see what all the fuss is about.

4. The Zen Noodle Bar

Another fantastic spot for dinner right in the centre of town. The chefs at Zen cook up Chinese, Japonese, Thai, Malaysian and Vietnamese influenced rice and noodle dishes where you can see them at work. They also do takeaway if you’d rather eat with your feet up.

5. Casa del Mar

For a Mediterranean feel, head down to Casa del Mar, a quirky little independent place in the centre of Bury St Edmunds that serves up tapas and meze alongside main courses.

6. Cafe Kotanni

A brilliant lunchtime option is this little Greek cafe that is always popular. Little wonder, when everything is so delicious. Try the meze platter!

And when you get peckish…

7. Really Rather Good Coffee

This beautifully decorated coffee house serves wonderful hot drinks alongside extremely tempting cakes, as well as a few savoury options. It’s right on Angel Hill, looking down at the old Abbey Gate, so you can re-energise before exploring more of the delights of Bury St Edmunds. 

Abbey Gardens, Bury St Edmunds

The Abbey Gardens

 

Places to Visit in Suffolk: Picturesque Villages

Suffolk is quintessential British countryside territory, where acres of green fields are dotted with picturesque villages, many of which looked exactly the same 500 years ago.

But with so many to choose from, which ones should be at the top of your list? To help you make the most of your time exploring the delights of Suffolk, we’ve put together a list of 4 of the quaintest villages that the county has to offer.

  1. Cavendish 

Cavendish is a picture-perfect village that you can find between Bury St Edmunds and Sudbury. The green in the centre is charming, and the thatched, pink cottages nestling in front of the impressive parish church make for a beautiful photo opportunity. The George is a cosy restaurant on the village green serving delicious food made with fresh local produce. Cavendish

2. Lavenham 

Just down the road from Cavendish, Lavenham looks like it was frozen in time in the 16th century. Step back in time for an afternoon and try and decide which of the tudor cottages is the most wonky. This village was used as Godric’s Hollow in the 7th Harry Potter film, but you don’t have to be a fan of the franchise to appreciate Lavenham’s magic. Treat yourself to a cream tea in one of the villages many classic tea shops or go all out and indulge in a three course meal at The Swan. Have a peak at the village’s website for more information.

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3. Hartest

Hartest is another example of a classic village set around a beautifully maintained green, and is very close to the market town of Bury St Edmunds. Admire the perfectly preserved, colourful cottages that cluster around the green and then head to The Crown for a restorative pint of the local brew, or a bite to eat.

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4. Kersey

Kersey is a little further away from Bury St Edmunds, but it’s more than worth the drive, especially if combined with a trip out to the Suffolk coast or Ipswich. Like Lavenham, coming into Kersey you get the impression that everything would have looked exactly the same if you’d trundled on a horse and cart 5 centuries ago. Apart from the cars, that is. Pause for refreshment at The Bell Inn.

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We find that all these villages are at their most charming during the Great British summer, but they are beautiful at any time of year.

Have you been to Suffolk? Do you have another candidate for our most-picturesque village list? 

Things to Do in Bury St Edmunds

As well as being the perfect base to explore the wonders of East Anglia, Bury St Edmunds makes the perfect destination for a weekend break, with plenty of activities to keep you busy within the town itself!

  1. The Abbey Gardens

Bury St Edmunds was once an extremely important centre of Pilgrimage, and the remains of the huge Abbey can still be found in the town centre, having now been turned into beautifully kept public gardens.

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2. The Cathedral

The 16th century Cathedral was only completed in 2005, with the addition of a beautiful tower, which can be seen from miles around.

3. The Smallest Pub in England

The Nutshell is officially the smallest pub in England, with its bar area measuring only 15ft by 7ft. Squeeze into the pub to sample some local beers and inspect the extraordinary collection of objects hanging from the ceiling which are a guarantee that you’ll never lack a topic of conversation.

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4. Greene King Brewery Tour

Greene King is a national brand, but it was born in Bury St Edmunds and the empire is still run from the original town centre brewery. The tours are extremely interesting and end with a tasting session in the brewery’s own pub, The Brewery Tap, where they don’t hold back on the free samples.

5. Theatre Royal

The Theatre Royal is a beautiful example of a Regency theatre and has recently been lovingly restored. Check out the website for details of the incredibly varied shows the theatre has to offer.

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6. Medieval Grid

Parts of the old town centre still look much as they have for centuries, with crooked Tudor houses and cobbled streets. A happy couple of hours can be whiled away exploring the medieval grid, perhaps with a few pit stops at pubs offering pints of Greene King’s finest.

7. Moyses Hall

Moyses Hall is almost 900 years old and served as the town gaol, workhouse and police station before becoming a museum over 100 years ago. No visit to Bury St Edmunds is complete without learning about the fascinating history of this once-great religious centre and market town.

8. Market Day

There has been a market in Bury St Edmunds for centuries, and on Wednesdays and Saturdays the town centre is still taken over by stalls selling flowers, food and everything in between.

How to Enjoy Southwold Without Breaking the Bank: An Insider’s Guide

Southwold is a classic English seaside town on the Suffolk Coast that’s well known as a ‘staycation’ destination for British holidaymakers, or as a great day trip on the east coast, but it’s not generally known for its good value. I’ve been going to Southwold on family holidays since I was tiny and, in recent years as an impoverished student, have done exhaustive research into the cheap or free activities available in this picture-postcard town. I’ve put together a list of top tips for cheap and brilliantly British pastimes that will give you wonderful memories of a great time at the seaside, without that terrible sinking feeling when you check your bank-balance afterwards.

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  • Harbour Walk

Looking at the sea, turn right and head down the beach until the River Blyth gets in your way, before turning right and heading up past the life-boat station, turning right just after the Harbour Inn (stopping for a light refreshment if you fancy) to head back to town past the water tower. This walk gives you beach, river, ramshackle fisherman’s huts, plenty of boats to look at and the marshes on the way back. This route is also a great morning run for the more energetic amongst you.

  • Mrs T’s Fish and Chips

If you’re a fish and chip fan, these are the cheapest and the tastiest in town, with the best atmosphere. Look for the ‘Mrs T’s’ sign hanging on one of the larger ex-fisherman’s huts. Just make sure the seagulls don’t purloin your chips while you’re distracted by the lovely view.

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  • Pub Crawl Extraordinaire.

This is my favourite pub crawl in the world, and an excellent afternoon/evening’s entertainment. Head out past the water tower towards the harbour, cross the bridge over the Blyth and follow the path around. You’ll eventually come into the village of Walberswick, home to both the Anchor and the Bell, both of which are more than worth a visit. After sampling some of the local offerings at these two establishments, head back towards the river and catch the ferry across (if it’s running- £1 a head), or take the short walk back up to the bridge, before doubling back on yourself and ordering a drink at the Harbour Inn. From here it’s back to town, where you can take your pick of classic English pubs, my personal favourites being the Lord Nelson and the Red Lion. It’s a hard life.

  • Walberswick

As well as pubs, Walberswick has a beach that boasts more sand than Southwold can, a couple of sweet tea shops, a few gift shops that sell more seagulls on sticks than you can, well, shake a stick at. I think it probably also qualifies as world class crabbing territory, but you’ll have to stake a claim to a good spot pretty early in the day in the summer time before the crab-crazed hordes descend. For the price of a bit of bacon and a crab line you can have an entire day of fun!

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  • Charity Shopping and Window Shopping

Southwold is jam-packed full of lovely shops, but most, in my opinion, are horrendously overpriced. There are however, three charity shops which often contain a few gems, as the area is pretty wealthy and so charity-shop donations are good quality. You often come across pieces that were clearly on sale in a shop down the road for five times the price the year before, and have hardly been worn! Two of these charity shops are chains and so have hoicked their prices up slightly, but ‘Break’ (next to Joules, between the Swan Hotel and the Lord Nelson) is independent and it’s prices are still at rock bottom.

If the sun isn’t shining and you want to while away a bit more time in the shops, the pricier independent shops make for excellent window shopping and often have great sales on, so you might be in luck! ‘Daddy Long Legs’, a quirky shoe shop, is my personal favourite.

  • Under the Pier Show

This is an absolute must for anyone visiting Southwold. The creator, Tim Hunkin, can only be described as a genius. This room on the pier is crammed with wacky and wonderful machines, with everything from ‘Whack-A-Banker’ to ‘Mobility Masterclass’, for those who need some zimmer frame training.

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  • The Arcade

What seaside experience is complete without a go on the 2p machines?! Find the arcade at the start of the pier.

  • Pitch and Putt

Down by the pier, this pitch and putt has recently been revamped but is still very reasonable and is a great way to spend an afternoon. The worse at it you are, the more entertaining it is.

  • Beach Hut Spotting

A stroll along the prom is one of the most quintessentially British seaside activities, rain or shine, and Southwold’s colourful beach huts are a beautiful sight. Can you decide what you’d call a beach hut if you had a spare £150,000 to buy one?

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  • Tennis

Between the water tower and the harbour, just before the golf club, you’ll find the tennis courts. Rent one out for an hour and work off the fish and chips and pints of Adnams, the beer brewed in central Southwold and served in all of the too-tempting pubs in the town.

  • BBQ on the Beach

In the summertime, the sand dunes to the left of Gun Hill provide shelter from the chilly evening winds and are a lovely spot for a BBQ. Wind breaks might still be necessary though, this is England after all. We’ve invested in a fire pit to keep us warm, but with a disposable BBQ (and a source of light once the sun goes down) you can cook yourself up a feast with a view, without the price tag.

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  • Dunwich 

If you’re feeling energetic, a few miles walk further down the beach from Walberswick you’ll find Dunwich, a tiny village that is all that remains of a once great city, long since washed away by the North Sea. Either bring a packed lunch or treat yourself to something from the cafe by the beach. A little museum in the village explains the area’s dramatic history. Either walk back along the beach or head slightly inland and through woodland and reedbeds. Make sure you take a map!

Have you ever been to Southwold? Have you discovered any gems I should know about? Please comment!