Suffolk packs a punch for family holidays

Wondering where to go this half-term? Have you thought of Suffolk, a county which has beautiful rolling countryside, a magnificent coastline and more gastropubs than you can shake a stick at? We have visited a number of times with our son and there has always been something to interest him: Southwold Pier was a big hit when he was 10, finding a Jack Wills shop in Aldeburgh ticked the boxes when he was 17. Stately homes, castles, pretty villages and plenty of bracing walks make for a relaxing family break.

To give you an idea of what to see in the county, here’s my suggestions based on our own experiences over the years.

 

National Trust Sites

 Sutton Hoo 

A hugely important archaeological site, Sutton Hoo is home to a number of Anglo Saxon burial mounds including a notable ship burial. When they were excavated, many fascinating treasures were found including a superbly preserved helmet which is now housed in the British Museum. Families can visit the burial mounds, discover more about the excavations and see replicas of the buried treasure, plus some originals.

Trish’s Top Tip: If your kids like dressing up, seek out the costumes in the main exhibition room and they can pretend they are Anglo Saxon warriors. 

 

Sutton Hoo
Things to see at Sutton Hoo

 

Ickworth

Acres of parkland to discover on foot or bike plus a huge house to explore, both upstairs and downstairs. Ickworth has a fascinating history to tell, beginning with the eccentric 4th Earl of Bristol who, inspired by his visits to Italy, began the construction of the house we see today, with its extraordinary central Rotunda. The National Trust ensures that the property is family friendly: staff are knowledgeable, children are amply provided for and the atmosphere is decidedly unfussy.

Trish’s Top TipLook for the stumpery in the garden: a curious collection of old tree stumps planted to provide a habitat for lots of wildlife.

 

Ickworth
Ickworth

 

 Flatford

If you want to show your children the original location of Constable’s famous painting, The Hay Wain, bring them to Flatford Mill on the River Stour and let them take a photo of the same spot nearly 200 years later. There are a number of walks here so bring a picnic and just enjoy the fresh air in an area listed as a place of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

Trish’s Top Tip: Don’t miss the Flatford Wildlife Garden, created by the RSPB to give families inspiration for giving nature a helping hand. This half term there are daily events for children including making a mini-beast maisonette and a frog lodge. 

 

Willy Lott's house
The location of ‘The Hay Wain’

 

Suffolk Coast

Southwold

A traditional seaside resort with a lighthouse, pier and the famous colourful beach huts, you could easily spend a whole week here. The children will love the amusement arcades on the pier and adults will enjoy a glass of Adnams beer within sight of the local brewery.
Trish’s Top Tip: You can’t leave without visiting the ‘Under the Pier Show’ featuring Tim Hunkin’s collection of unique (bonkers!) coin-operated machines including the Autofrisk…
 

Aldeburgh

Just down the coast is this pretty town which I have now discovered, thanks to Kelly who writes at ‘Domestic Goddesque’, is home to Jason Mason from the CBeebies programme, Grandpa in my Pocket. Check out Kelly’s post about Suffolk and you can find other famous locations from the programme plus more information about child-friendly things to do in the area.
Trish’s Top Tip: Come to Aldeburgh hungry so you can make room for their famous fish and chips.
 

Thorpeness

We loved this unusual hamlet which was turned into a fantasy holiday village early in the 20th century by a Scottish barrister, Glencairn Stuart Ogilvie, who had made his fortune designing railways around the world. An ugly water tower was clad in wood to become the House in the Clouds, served by a water-pumping windmill nearby. There’s also a huge boating lake, the ‘meare’ , which was inspired by the book, Peter Pan, as JM Barrie was a friend of the family.
Trish’s Top Tip: The meare closes at the end of the October half-term each year so if you want to hire a boat, don’t leave it too late.


The House in the Clouds at Thorpeness
 

Where to Stay

 If you want to stay somewhere special then why not try the Ickworth Hotel, part of the Luxury Family Hotels group. Located in the East Wing of Ickworth House (see above) the hotel knows what families want. They provide bottle warmers, slings and buggies for babies; a cinema and games room for older children plus there are bikes to hire, a swimming pool, tennis court and a complimentary crèche for two hours a day. Two restaurants: fine dining for adults only in Frederick’s and family dining in The Conservatory from lunchtime onwards, including a children’s high tea served in the cinema. If you’re looking for a little more independence, you can book an apartment in the recently refurbished Lodge. Each apartment has from one to three bedrooms plus a kitchen and even more facilities for children: a big games chest, book cupboard and a garden full of outdoor toys.

We visited the hotel as guests of  Luxury Family Hotels. You can read more about our stay on my blog Mum’s Gone To…

 

The Lodge, Ickworth Hotel.

 

Suffolk really does have plenty to entertain families of all ages. I’ve touched on a few places to visit but there’s also Framlingham Castle, Kentwell Hall, Thetford Forest on the border with Norfolk and even Pleasurewood Hills Theme Park for those needing an adrenalin rush. Plus, wherever you’re based, you will find some great places to eat as many pubs and restaurants are keen to source local ingredients so foodies will be more than satisfied.

 

More information

Sutton Hoo: Tranmer House, Sutton Hoo, Woodbridge, IP12 3DJ

Ickworth: The Rotunda, Horringer, Bury St Edmunds, IP29 5QE

Flatford: Flatford, East Bergholt, CO7 6UL

Details about the above properties from www.nationaltrust.org.uk

Ickworth Hotel: Horringer, Bury St Edmunds, IP29 5QE www.ickworthotel.co.uk

 

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About Trish Burgess

Trish Burgess started her blog ‘Mum’s Gone To…’ with a series of posts called ‘Mum’s Gone To Iceland’ where she was extremely ill on a whale-watching trip and thought she would die snow-mobiling on a glacier. Thankfully she survived and continued with less scary family trips: ‘Mum’s Gone To…Canada, Cyprus, Barcelona, Berlin etc. Originally from Newcastle upon Tyne she now lives in South Lincolnshire and travels with her husband and occasionally with her son, who is now at university. Trish can be found on Twitter at @mumsgoneto

5 Comments

  1. 11 October 2013 / 17:17

    What a lovely post, so many wonderful places and we’re very lucky to have it all just about on our doorstep! If you’re in the area and want some excellent shopping (especially coming up to Christmas) Bury ST Edmunds is well worth a visit! wonderful shops and very nice places to eat too!

    • 11 October 2013 / 18:30

      Thanks Mary 🙂

      We drove through Bury St Edmunds on our way home from Ickworth and told ourselves we would have to stop next time. You’re right, even just looking in the Suffolk magazines we saw in the hotel, all these pretty towns have great independent shops and excellent places to eat. I bet they look wonderful at Christmas.

  2. 12 October 2013 / 03:28

    Must go to Ickworth and Sutton Hoo – just for the names alone! House in the clouds looks lovely

    • 13 October 2013 / 12:04

      Sutton Hoo always makes me smile. There is a certain quirkiness to the county which is very endearing. The House in the clouds is ‘proper bonkers’!

  3. 29 November 2013 / 10:42

    We haven’t ventured far from Suffolk since our second son’s arrival. There is much to see and do as a family. We have yet to visit Sutton Hoo and will have to make a point to before we move back to the US next summer. Don’t miss Bury St. Edmunds the next time you’re in the area!