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Vacations in the UK - East Anglia

Updated on August 29, 2012

Suffolk and Essex border

Suffolk is a great place to visit for countryside and historical attractions. Among my favourites -

  • Flatford Mill - where Constable painted his famous Haywain. The picture below is of the same scene today, and it hasn't changed much since the 1820s. There is a cafe, exhibition centre and great walks along the river - all free except for parking (about £2) and administered by the National Trust. If you're visiting the UK, joining the trust might be a good investment, as it means free entry to literally thousands of unique places,and can also give you a focus for places to see.
  • Dedham - Constable went to school here. It's still a nice little village with a great riverside restaurant called the Boathouse - excellent food. From here you can rent a rowing boat for an hour of messing about on the river in a beautiful landscape.
  • Constable country is important to British history. John Constable was one of the 19th centuries' most influential painters of landscape, specifically Suffolk and Essex landscape around his home in the Stour valley. The Haywain is a very widely used image, and documents the passing of the rural way of life in England. So there's always something nostalgic about Constable's paintings - and they influenced the French Impressionists, another collection of wonderful painters.
  • Mistley Quay - a nice little village with a great cafe, with panoramic views over the estuary. The Mistley Quay Cafe has a website, and there are regular evening specials, with a craft centre. Good home-cooked meals are available and highly recommended. The next town along the estuary is Manningtree, home to Lucca - which is one of my favourite Italian restaurants, with a wood-fired oven and Italian chefs. Along the river's edge you will find huge numbers of swans and migrating birds.
  • Southwold - one of the best old-fashioned English seaside resorts, it has a timeless quality and charm. Good beaches - although like anywhere on this coast it can be a bit bracing in the wind. Famous amongst beer aficionados as it is the home of Adnams brewery, makers of some of the very best English beers. Greene King beers are also excellent, you have to try them. It can get very crowded at times, as it is a very popular place for a weekend break.
  • Sutton Hoo - site of a Viking style ship burial - very interesting ancient site, with an exhibition and visitor centre. More info is below.

Willy Lott's cottage

Flatford- Willy Lot's cottage

Orford castle

Built by one of the Henrys, probably Henry II. Well worth a visit as it is quite well preserved, and there is a great view from the top of the tower. Also in Orford - seaside walks, The Crown and Castle restaurant, various pubs. You can take a boat trip to Orford Ness, a wildlife sanctuary and former military installation. There are a number of hotel and B + B options, which would make a good base for exploring the coast.

Further north, following what is often a cold and windy North Sea coastline, is the town of Southwold. Home to Adnams beers, one of the best breweries in the UK, and a very pleasant and old-fashioned seaside resort with some good beaches. The amber shop and museum is really interesting.

Dedham village

Sutton Hoo

Fairly close to Orford is the National trust site at Sutton Hoo, where a Saxon ship burial was found in 1939. Although most of the amazing finds are now in the British Museum, the visitor centre and walks round the site are fascinating. This site is owned by The National Trust, so entrance prices are steep. There are guides to show you round, a cafe and restaurant, and a shop where you can purchase that must-have Anglo-Saxon item!

As an attraction, it's one of the highlights of Suffolk. You may have seen the Gold Treasure hoard found recently in Staffordshire - the inlaid gold objects are from the same era, a time of amazing craftsmanship around the 8th century.

Getting there

You need a car to see this area - it's north on the A12 from London, about an hour's drive from the M25 to Dedham, about another hour to Orford and Sutton Hoo. Would make a nice day out though.

From abroad - this area is easily accessible from Stansted airport, which isn't bad as airports go. Usually.


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