Suffolk is alive with history, its castles, churches, ancient settlements and heritage sites all revealing the stories behind many of the county’s most significant events, industries and inhabitants.
Churches are among the county’s most appealing attractions – around 500 medieval examples are here including, just outside Southwold, the so-called Cathedral of the Marshes, Holy Trinity at Blythburgh. Closer to the coast you’ll find the remains of Greyfriars in Dunwich, a Franciscan friary dating from the 13th century and one of the most important ancient monuments in Suffolk. And south of here, Leiston Abbey, founded in 1182, is the site of some impressive monastic ruins.
Just outside Woodbridge you’ll find the hauntingly beautiful Sutton Hoo estate, home to one of the greatest archaeological discoveries of all time, is simply not to be missed. 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. On the opposite side of the River Deben you’ll find the Tide Mill, which dates from 1170 and is thought to be one of the oldest in the UK.
Tranquil and a true historical gem, Orford is another riverside settlement that has changed little. Complete with a castle, quaint cottages, welcoming pubs and a picturesque quay, it’s an ideal place in which to unwind. Nearby, the shingle spit known as the Ness – an internationally-important coastal nature reserve and sight of an iconic lighthouse – provides a fascinating insight into activities carried out during the Cold War, including nuclear detonator testing.
A short drive from here you’ll find the once-fearsome fortress that is Framlingham Castle. Walk the ramparts and imagine life behind the walls where, in 1553, Mary Tudor was proclaimed Queen of England. A former Tudor port, Aldeburgh is the setting for many historic buildings including a 16th-century moot hall and a Napoleonic-era Martello Tower. And just a mile up the coastline you can immerse yourself in one man’s ‘tribute’ to the past: in 1920 Scottish architect, barrister and playwright Glencairn Stuart Ogilvie set about transforming Thorpeness into his own private fantasy ‘model’ holiday village, complete with Mere, mock Tudor houses and the fairytale ‘House in the Clouds’.
Authentic history is aplenty, of course, in our county town. Ipswich is the oldest Anglo-Saxon town in England, closely linked with the discovery of the New World and with historical figures such as Cardinal Wolsey and Charles Dickens. The busy waterfront is home to historic vessels as well as modern marina berths, while the glorious Tudor Christchurch Mansion – set in a park close to the town centre – houses the biggest collection of Gainsborough and Constable paintings outside London.