An abundance of historic landmarks and strategically-significant sites make Suffolk the perfect setting for a step back in time. The county’s alive with history, its castles, churches, ancient settlements and heritage buildings revealing the stories behind many significant events, industries and inhabitants.
Churches remain among the county’s most appealing attractions… around 500 medieval churches are here in addition non-conformist churches, meeting houses and Catholic churches. Built 500 years ago and nicknamed the Cathedral of the Marshes, the church of Holy Trinity at Blythburgh is a truly outstanding historic building. But Suffolk’s true cathedral is found in Bury St Edmunds, where St Edmundsbury Cathedral began as a medieval parish church and was elevated in status during the 20th century. Close by, Ickworth house is a flamboyant Italianate palace in the heart of Suffolk, amid an estate that can be traced back to Domesday.
Suffolk’s medieval heart beats strongest in its Wool Towns – ancient places lined with timber-framed buildings, they tell the story of the region’s importance as a centre for the wool trade. Ironically, it was the collapse of this trade in the 16th century that led to the preservation of so many ancient buildings – their owners simply didn’t have the money to renovate or demolish and rebuild them. Clare, Sudbury, Long Melford, Lavenham, Hadleigh all have a tale to tell and are close enough to one another to visit in a day… but do linger longer if time permits!
Just outside Woodbridge, 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 over the years. Chocolate-box pretty and 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.
And finally, you can travel back in time even further in Brandon, in neolithic times a flint-mining town. Today its ancient flint mine, just over the county border, is the only one of its kind open to the public – visitors can descend deep into an excavated shaft to see the jet-black flint that was so sought-after 5,000-plus years ago.