Hello friends! I’m sorry that it’s been such a while since I last posted anything. I really do love writing this blog, but sometimes life (aka children, work and the worst cold in the history of colds!) just seems to have a habit of getting in the way. We recently returned from a most wonderful family get together in England – celebrating my Dad’s 70th birthday – and I’ve been wanting to recap what we did and saw in this beautiful part of the country!
I think it’s probably fair to say that most people from outside of Great Britain won’t know much about the county of Suffolk (or have even heard of it at all!). It’s not a typical tourist destination for foreign visitors, but please believe me when I tell you that it’s an absolute hidden gem!
Suffolk is located in the south east of England, about a two hour drive from London. For me, it holds a very special significance. It’s where my Dad grew up, it’s where my parents first met and it’s also a source of many treasured childhood memories from time spent there at my grandparents’ house.
But even without the personal connection, I think that the county is a really fabulous holiday destination! The scenery has a most wonderful understated beauty about it. You can immediately see why John Constable (one of England’s most-celebrated artists) was so inspired to paint his pastoral landscapes there. And then there are the charming towns and villages to explore. It’s without doubt a place to unwind and disconnect.
What to see and do in Suffolk
#1 Stay at a cottage in a beautiful rural setting
Our accommodation for the week was a lovely cottage at Gladwin’s Farm in Nayland (located in southern Suffolk), and it couldn’t have been more perfect. I could seriously get used to waking up to these views every day!
The cottage itself had ample room to accommodate all 14 of us (8 adults and 6 kids all under the age of eight) and was equipped with just about everything you could possibly need. The owners went out of their way to ensure our comfort, even providing us with a whole host of baby equipment such as cribs, monitors, high chairs and a Bumbo seat for my six month old niece!
There was plenty for us to do right on our doorstep. The kids loved feeding the resident pigs and looking for eggs in the hen house, while the onsite indoor swimming pool and hot tub on our deck was naturally a hit with everyone. My husband was also pretty pleased with himself when he managed to catch a fish from the pond by our cottage!
Nayland itself is a lovely little village and full of character. We enjoyed meandering about, chatting with the locals and looking at the charming old houses, many of which date back to the 1500s.
#2 Visit a seaside town and enjoy the rugged coastline
There are many many options for charming little towns to visit along the Suffolk coast. Perhaps one of the best known is Southwold, home to many lovely old painted houses, maritime inns, a working lighthouse and an award winning pier!
We didn’t make it to Southwold on this trip because it was just a little too far to travel with so many young children in our group. Instead we headed to Dunwich, which is just over an hour away from Nayland.
When you arrive at Dunwich, you find a picturesque sand and shingle beach, backed by the dunes, heathland and lagoons of Dunwich Heath. It’s just a lovely place to visit. We were there in October, so far too cold for any swimming, but the kids had a blast running about, collecting pebbles and racing away as the waves crashed in.
Other popular coastal locations include Felixstowe, Aldeburgh, Covehithe and Thorpeness.
#3 Take in some of the lovely medieval villages
I have to admit that this was a highlight for me personally. The older I get, the more nerdy I seem to become about those fantastic wonky old buildings and half-timbered houses.
Our village of choice for a stop en route back to London was Lavenham, and oh what a treat it was! The movie buffs among you might be interested to know that it served as one of the filming locations for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Parts I and II.
The village, a former wealthy wool town, has preserved much of its heritage and has some 340 listed buildings, many dating back to the 1500s or earlier. Walking around, you soon become spoiled by character cottage after character cottage. On the main street there are lots of lovely little coffee shops, tea rooms and quaint shops to browse.
It turns out that Suffolk is crammed full of quintessentially English villages like this. In addition to Lavenham and our home base of Nayland, some others to check out include Clare, Kersey, Polstead and Long Melford.
#4 Spend a day at the farm
We spent a fab day out at Jimmy’s Farm and would highly recommend it! A little bit of backstory for you: Jimmy’s Farm is the creation of Jimmy Doherty, celebrity farmer and BFF of chef Jamie Oliver. Back in 2004, the BBC aired a documentary following his attempt to set up the farm, and it’s been a popular tourist destination ever since.
Jimmy’s Farm is home to all of the usual farm animals you’d expect to find and they handily sell bags of animal feed on the way in – a huge hit with our kids! But in addition to the sheep, pigs and cows, you’ll also find a whole array of more exotic animals including meerkats, tapirs and wallabies. And if all that isn’t enough to keep the kiddos entertained, the farm includes some good play areas too.
Luckily for us, Jimmy didn’t forget about the adults. When you get tired of the animals, you can browse around the numerous shops (including my favorite place to buy rain boots, Joules), check out the butchery or grab a bite to eat in the restaurant, which sits in a converted barn. Every dish is prepared with locally sourced and seasonal ingredients, and we all agreed that the food was excellent. I can personally recommend the crispy pork belly, washed down with a glass of Aspall Suffolk cider 🙂
#5 Satisfy your inner history buff
We spent a week in Suffolk and I feel as though we barely scratched the surface. It has an incredibly rich history and heritage, beyond the medieval villages I already mentioned.
We didn’t make it to any of Suffolk’s fantastic castles such as the ones at Framlingham or Orford. Nor did we have time to visit Sutton Hoo, site of a group of Anglo-Saxon burial mounds from the 6th and 7th centuries.
If you’re interested in historical homes, you could also pay a visit to Ickworth House, a neoclassical country house set in an idyllic English landscape.
All in all, we had a really wonderful time in Suffolk. Of course, time spent with family is precious regardless of the location – we just got the fortunate bonus of an absolutely beautiful location too!
Have you ever visited Suffolk? What did you think? If not, what destinations are currently on your travel bucketlist? Let me know!