Places to visit in SuffolkPosted: 2011-05-25
My last two posts dealt with places to visit in Norfolk, focussed on historic sites, so it's only fair that I give equal billing to Norfolk's southern neighbour, Suffolk. I had the pleasure of spending two weeks exploring Suffolk's countryside and coast last summer, and to say I enjoyed myself is an understatement. There's probably no other county that retains so much historic architecture and traditional English countryside charm as Suffolk.
As an inveterate churchmouse, the highlight for me was all the fabulous historic churches scattered throughout the county, but there's more to see than that. I'll touch on a few of my favourite historic towns and villages, throw in a few castles and stately homes, and ... oh, why not ... mention a few of my favourite churches while I'm at it. It's worth repeating that these are all places I've personally visited and enjoyed.
Long Melford - a small village with not one, but two historic houses, plus one of the finest wool churches in England. At one side of the triangular green is Melford Hall, a lovely Elizabethan mansion, once owned by the powerful Abbots of Bury St Edmunds. At the other end of the village is Kentwell, a marvellous moated manor house, home to the Clopton family, who were major benefactors of the magnificent parish church.
Lavenham - if there is another place in Britain with so many attractive timber-framed buildings in such a small area, well, I've yet to see it! Lavenham is a delight, with medieval buildings seemingly sprouting at every turn. One of these is the Guild Hall, now owned by the National Trust. The parish church of St Peter and St Paul is one of the last great medieval churches built before the Reformation, a truly magnificent building with a wonderful Lady Chapel.
Clare - How many historic attractions can fit in an attractive small town? Let's see ... there's the castle mound and walls, the ancient Priory, burial place of royalty, the Ancient House Museum, a superlative example of East Anglian plasterwork, the wonderful Gothic church ... have I missed anything? How about attractive medieval timber-framed buildings and elegant Georgian houses? That'll do. Clare is a delight.
Framlingham - the view of Framlingham Castle from across the mere at its foot is one of the finest views of any castle site in England. The castle dates to the 12th century, and stands only a stone's throw from the parish church of St Michael, with its tombs of the powerful Howard family.
Bury St Edmunds - I don't normally enjoy large towns, but I enjoyed this one! Bury is home to one of the most important medieval monasteries in the country. The ruins of the abbey stand behind the current cathedral, and only a short distance from St Mary's church, which is in some ways more interesting than the cathedral. Apart from medieval gates and towers Bury also boasts some extremely interesting Georgian and Victorian houses, and an ancient Norman house, now a museum.
Blythburgh - the parish church of Holy Trinity at Blythburgh is one of the finest historic buildings (never mind just historic churches) in the entire county, if not the whole country. The most impressive feature is the wonderful angel roof, decorated with beautiful carved wooden figures. that seem to soar above the floor of the church far below. Take a walk along the River Blyth and see the church reflected in the water - magic!
Eye - a small town in northern Suffolk, with a lot of history packed into a small area. The ruins of a Norman castle stand on a high motte overlooking the town. From the castle walls you can look down on one of my favourite sights in Suffolk; the view of the magnificent parish church beside the timber-framed guildhall. A short walk past dozens of attractive medieval buildings brings you to an intriguing 'crinkle-crankle' wall surrounding Chandos Lodge. There is a town trail leaflet outlining an easy walk taking in all the historic highlights - and there are a lot of those!
Hoxne - this little village is thought to be the place where St Edmund met his rather gruesome end, killed by invading Danes in 855 AD. The Bishop of Norwich built a palace here, and monks from Norwich had a priory near the current parish church. There is a moated vicarage near the church, which is notable for its wonderful series of medieval wall paintings.
Ickworth - probably the most impressive historic house in the county, certainly the most visited. Ickworth, with its famous rotunda, was the creation of the eccentric (to put it kindly) 4th Earl of Bristol. Ickworth is a magnificent creation, a unique and fascinating house, with marvellous architecture. You may not 'like' what the Earl designed, but you have to admit that there is nothing quite like it!