Constable Country guide holiday cottages

Constable Country guide

Laura Kerslake 01 March 2023

Taking in the Dedham Vale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and straddling the border between Suffolk and Essex, this beautiful area, full of picture-perfect villages and instantly recognisable views has become known as 'Constable Country' thanks to its links to the famous landscape artist John Constable.  

Constable, born in Suffolk in 1776, became a world-renowned artist for his paintings which were influenced by the area where he lived. He drew inspiration from the Suffolk countryside and many of his works showcase the River Stour and the wider county, including The Hay Wain, his most famous piece.  

The beautiful countryside of this part of Suffolk also influenced other famous artists including Thomas Gainsborough, Sir Alfred Munnings, and John Nash. As well as the artistic connections there are many other things to do in this exciting part of Suffolk. The River Stour, one of the longest and most beautiful rivers in East Anglia, winds through this area and has changed very little over the centuries. You'll find plenty of beautiful villages, many of which have delightful pubs, peaceful country walks, and cycle paths. Not to mention the award-winning restaurants and local food producers. To truly explore the wonderful area, stay in one of our Constable Country cottages.

Constable Country cottages

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Things to do  

It’s no surprise that many of the top things to do in Constable Country have an artistic feel with some of England’s most famous painters hailing from the area. Soak in the art and views, and maybe you’ll be inspired to create a masterpiece of your own!  

Visit Willy Lotts Cottage  

An autumnal photograph of a white cottage right on the river. It's reflection is shown on the water and the cottage is surrounded by trees with orange leaves.

A trip to Constable Country wouldn’t be complete without a visit to see the famous cottage depicted in Constable’s most famous work, The Hay Wain. During the time the piece was painted the house was lived in by tenant farmer Willy Lott, hence its enduring name. The cottage fell into disrepair but was restored in the 1920s by a local philanthropist. It’s currently leased by the Field Studies Council and interior access isn’t possible, however, you can view the world-famous cottage from the outside.  

See Gainsborough's House  

A photograph of Gainsborough's House. It's a large red brick property with white window frames and a dark door.

Suffolk’s other most famous artistic son, Thomas Gainsborough, was born in Sudbury, Suffolk in 1726 and went on to become a highly renowned portrait and landscape painter. His childhood home has now been turned into a museum, aimed at celebrating Gainsborough as well as his local contemporaries such as John Constable. Having undergone a £10 million refurbishment the Gainsborough's House museum now houses paintings, books, and artefacts from his life.  

Opening hours: The museum and visitor shop are open from 10am until 5pm daily  

Cost: Adults - £17.50. Children - £5 (including gift aid donation)  

Places to eat and drink  

A styled shot of some food on a wooden plate. There's a cheeseburger, and a bowl of chips behind it. To the righ of the image there's a pint of beer.

Whether you’re looking for an à la carte menu in a beautiful setting, delicious pub grub, or a tearoom cuppa and a cake there’s a restaurant for you in Constable Country.  

The Boathouse Bar and Grill  

Set right on the River Stour, The Boathouse Bar and Grill is a beautiful place to eat, with its panoramic views of the river and surrounding countryside. Expect delicious restaurant staples such as steaks and lamb shanks with some international flavours on the menu too.  

Opening times: Wednesday to Sunday, 12pm to 11pm  

The Carriers Arms  

The Carriers Arms in East Bergholt is a dog-friendly Grade II-listed pub and restaurant. Perfect for relaxing and refreshing after exploring Constable Country with their traditional home-cooked fayre.  

Food served: Wednesday to Saturday, 12pm to 2pm and 6pm to 8pm; Sunday, 12pm to 4pm  

The great outdoors  

Constable Country is all about the great outdoors and exploring the scenes and areas depicted in the famous paintings.  

Walk Constable Country  

In the foreground there's reeds on the bank of the bank of the river. Behind it is the water, and behinnd that a large brick house.

Taking in the Stour Valley and Dedham Vale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty the picturesque Flatford and Constable Country walk will explore the areas made famous by Constable’s paintings. Visit Willy Lott’s House, as depicted in The Hay Wain on this circular stroll.  

Length: 4 miles  

Difficulty: Moderate  

Nearest parking: Manning Tree Station CO11 2HH  

Access: Easy - some moderate slopes  

See Constable Country from the water  

A photograph of the river Stour. There are trees and plants in the water. On the right there are a group of small wooden rowing boats.

Rowing boats have been part of the River Stour in the 1700s and you can take to the water too with Dedham Boat Hire. From March to October boats are available so you can see the amazing countryside of Constable Country from a whole new angle. Boats can be hired by the hour so whether you want a quick punt, or a whole day on the Stour, the choice is yours.

Opening times: 9am to 4pm (March to October)

Cost: £20 per hour, per boat

Address: Mill Lane, Dedham, Colchester CO7 6DH

Dog-friendly Constable Country  

A photograph of a black and white Bernese Mountain dog in the river.

Constable Country is the ideal destination for your four-legged friends. With so many dog-friendly walks and pubs in the area, you and your pooch will be spoilt for choice for places to visit!  

For food and drink in a dog-friendly atmosphere, The Cock Inn at Polstead is a traditional village pub that offers a warm and welcoming atmosphere. Enjoy delicious home-cooked food in front of the roaring fire followed by a pint of the local ale. Surrounded by beautiful countryside, it is ideal for dog walkers who want somewhere to refresh themselves after a long stroll along the ancient footpaths, hills, valleys, and bluebell woods in this rural location.  

The Flatford and Constable Country walk is a popular trail for both humans and dogs. The route rambles from Manningtree through the magnificent countryside that weaves along the river and through the villages of Flatford and Dedham. Ideal for taking your four-legged friends for a walk and a dip followed by a well-deserved dip in the river!  

Shopping in Constable Country  

A photograph of Dedham High Street. Along one side of the photo there is a variety of different buildings and shops. Alongside it is a road with parked cars.

Made up of various towns, villages, and hamlets, Constable Country has numerous places to pick up a memento of your Suffolk holiday. A must-visit is the Dedham Art and Craft Centre. Set in a converted church, there are three floors of local, independent retailers selling everything from paintings to jewellery.  

Address: Dedham Art & Craft Centre, High Street, Dedham CO7 6AD  

Opening hours: 10am to 5pm daily. Closed Christmas Day, Boxing Day, and New Year's Day.  

Constable Country events  

A photo taken at a concert. In the background there's a brightly lit stage. In the foreground there's people watching the show. One person is one someone's shoulders, highlighted against the white of the stage.

Constable County has many events throughout the year, including the ever-popular charity festival LeeStock at Long Melford. Held in May at Melford Hall, this festival has grown considerably in popularity since its creation in creation in 2007 and now boasts a number of well-known acts. 

If you're feeling inspired to experience the art, culture and beautiful countryside of Constable Country, see our range of beautiful properties here:

Disclaimer: Whilst every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information at the time of writing, please ensure you check carefully before making any decisions based on the contents within this article.

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