[AD] for the longest time I’ve been drawn to visiting Suffolk and luckily at the start of January I was invited to visit with All About Ipswich & Head East UK to experience plenty of the area’s cultural, fascinating and notable sites! I was based in the historic town of Ipswich which is one of England’s oldest towns. It was a great central base for visiting many wonderful places. If you’re looking to walk through history, step inside a painting, taste delicious food and innovative cocktails and soak up the incredible culture of Suffolk then what are you waiting for?! Get planning your trip to Suffolk with these 12 things you have to get on your itinerary!
And to plan a longer cultural break in Ipswich & Beyond then check out Head East UK here to uncover even more.
1. Visit Christchurch Mansion & Park
Christchurch Mansion in Ipswich is set within the lovely grounds of Christchurch Park just a stone’s throw to the north of Ipswich town centre making it super easy to explore when you’re based here. It was the first place to visit on my agenda and a really good introduction to the area, especially with a fascinating tour from my lovely tour guides Ellie & Sarah.
You might not be able to tell from the outside but the mansion was built in the 16th century during the Tudor period. Inside, it’s a timecapsule of different eras and styles as various owners added their own touches to the house.
There are some incredible artworks on display including a number of exquisite Gainsboroughs. Until 24th April, there is a Creating Constable exhibition which takes you through the life of the famous English artist looking at his changing style and his influences.
I totally recommend a tour of this wonderful place because you’ll learn so much more about the architecture and aretefacts within Christchurch Mansion than you would otherwise. Afterwards, stretch your legs with a brisk stroll around Christchurch Park!
2. See Ipswich Waterfront
Ipswich was originally known as Gippeswic when it was formed in the 600s and the original settlement was centred around a river port. The town’s maritime history is still woven into the waterfront today.
The buildings that surround the waterfront nod to Ipswich’s industrial past including the Customs House (above) with its imposing pillars and orange brick presiding over the street and quay beneath. The industrial buildings along the water are now home to independent bars, bistros and cafes that are bustling all through the day and evening!
The waterfront is a wonderful spot to watch sunrise, or sunset if you’re not an early bird! On a perfect day the colours light up the sky with all shades of candy floss, reflected along with the boats and buildings in and around the waterfront 😍. When I looked out of the hotel window I leapt out of bed to capture this incredible sky 🔥.
3. Stay at The Salthouse Hotel
If Ipswich is your base then you absolutely have to stay at the Salthouse Hotel! It’s located right on Ipswich’s Waterfront so make sure to try and snag a room with a view across the water. The top photo of (2) was the sunrise right from my balcony!
With so much to explore you need somewhere comfortable to rest and honestly the bed was perfect to sink into 😍. Plus the copper bath was spectacular. Soaking in the tub with the lights twinkling over the marina with a glass of wine was a perfect way to end a day out and about! In the morning you can enjoy the most scrumptious breakfast with lots of choice and the most perfectly brewed coffee ☕️.
4. Afternoon Tea by the waterfront
Not only is the Salthouse a wonderful place to stay during your trip to Ipswich & Beyond but it’s also a great stop for Afternoon Tea.
If you’re staying at the hotel you can enjoy afternoon tea in your room (which I did!) or in the airy restaurant with marvellous views out to the waterfront! There was a super tasty selection of savoury and sweet treats to enjoy 🤤 I think the chocolate fudge cake slice was my highlight along with the excellent flat white (although there’s a great selection of teas if that’s more your fancy).
5. Take in the historic buildings of Ipswich Town Centre
As I mentioned in the introduction, Ipswich is one of the oldest towns in England and so its town centre is packed with incredible buildings that display its long past. Of course, the best way to enjoy these places is with an early morning alarm so you can appreciate them without the disturbance of anyone else (maybe with some pigeons though 🐦).
The Town Hall & Corn Exchange is beautiful and its architecture feels similar to the buildings and squares of European cities. At the corner of Silent Street & St Nicholas Street there are two beautiful ancient houses to admire. Also look out for the statue of and plaque about Cardinal Thomas Wolsey as he was born on St Nicholas Street. Other wonderful historic buildings to look out for include Dial Lane (of course I picked up a book in Dial Lane Books!), the Ancient House, St Peter’s Street, Mary le Tower Church and The Walk.
6. Dinner with Inventive Cocktails at The Forge Kitchen
You absolutely have to visit The Forge Kitchen on a visit to Ipswich. The food was unbelievable (we ordered so much!), the cocktails very cool and the staff very friendly. There was plenty of choice on every aspect of the menu and we had to ask our waitress for help making the decisions!
There are plenty of cocktails with intriguing names. If you want a bit of magic as well as a drink then choose Pop Goes the Weasel which is a fun surprise! Despite feeling pretty full after starter and main, with the list of desserts on offer we had to pick one each as well 😉. The miso and white chocolate cookie dough with pistachio ice cream was the perfect way to end an excellent meal!
7. Visit Sutton Hoo
Imagine being archaeologist Basil Brown, realising that as you scrape back the mud from these unusual mounds at Sutton Hoo, that you’ve unearthed (literally) one of the most important and historically significant discoveries in England. That’s exactly what happened here at Sutton Hoo. If you’ve watched the Netflix film ‘The Dig’ then you’ll know that just before the outbreak of the Second World War, Edith Pretty employed Basil Brown to investigate the mounds on her property. Visiting Sutton Hoo you’ll discover the real story as set out in Tranmer House with photos and videos from the site of The Dig.
Afterwards walk out to the mounds. Where you walk today, hundreds of years previously, Anglo Saxons would have taken the same footsteps in grand procession. Today we believe they were on their way to bury their King Raedwald, within the body of the ship that was discovered at Sutton Hoo. It’s quite incredible when you climb the newly built Viewing Tower to survey the landscape and think how important a burial site this was for the Anglo Saxon people who lived here. After you head back to the Visitors Centre & Car Park, make sure you visit the Exhibition Hall to learn more about the treasures discovered here and the people and stories behind them.
8. Stroll through Constable Country
Even if you know next to nothing about art you will almost certainly know the name Constable. John Constable grew up in Suffolk and became arguably the most famous and most influential of English artists. His wistful scenes of English countryside life are known all around the world and have defined what many think of as a classically English landscape. At Flatford Mill (National Trust) you can walk through landscapes that actually featured in his paintings! Most notably the above. Willy Lott’s Cottage features in his most famous work The Hay Wain as well as in many other works.
There are plenty of walks around Flatford Mill including to Dedham where Constable went to school. Stop into Bridge Cottage to see how families would have lived here. Of course you need to stop at the National Trust tea room as well after a walk!
9. Cosy pub dinner at The Salutation
Last summer The Salutation reopened serving pub dinner classics in the heart of Ipswich town centre. It has a lovely cosy atmosphere where you can grab a cocktail or a beer (or anything in between) whilst catching up with friends or picking out a board game to try!
Get yourself down on a Sunday for a roast and unlimited batter in the form of Yorkshire Puddings…wow that sounds good!
10. Take a tour of Bury St Edmunds
The beautiful town of Bury St Edmunds is around a 40 minute drive from Ipswich and where we spent our Sunday. I would love to go back and spend the whole weekend there 😊. A great way to learn about the history of Bury (and its little quirks!) is with a tour from the Bury St Edmunds Tour Guides. We spent nearly two hours with our guide Adrian and it was absolutely fascinating! I had no idea that Bury had played such a big part in England’s history.
We started our tour off by the Art Deco Pillar of Salt lamppost and then made our way through The Abbey Gate into the ruins of the Abbey and the gardens the remains are now set in. Standing amongst the ruins, it’s hard to imagine the impressive and imposing sight the Abbey would have been over the town. Look out for the plaque that commemorates the secret meeting of 12 barons at the Abbey which eventually led to the Magna Carta being written… 👀.
Beside Bury’s Cathedral you can see the ruins of the front facade of the Abbey where houses have been built into the ruins – an incredible feat of engineering! Look out for the statue of St Edmund in front of the houses as well.
As you discover more about Bury on your tour you’ll find how just how fascinating a town it is. You may have visited a Greene King pub but did you know that the now country wide brewery company started in Bury?! You can also find a pub called The Nutshell which is the smallest pub in the country according to the Guinness Book of World Records!
11. Visit Saint Edmundsbury Cathedral
When the Millennium Tower was added to St Edmundsbury Cathedral building work was finally completed at this site, nearly 1000 years after the original church first stood here in 1065. It was finished in 2005 and since this was so recent, if you take a tour of the tower you’ll get to really see how the tower was constructed and put together!
The interior of the cathedral is stunning with lots of lovely light flooding in to make the fresh colours dazzle. There are lots of details about the county of Suffolk and to the heroic Saint Edmund after whom the cathedral and the town are named.
As you make your way up to the rooftop, you’ll learn plenty from your informative guides as they point out lots of intricacies of how the tower was built and details of the design you wouldn’t even think about! Plus at the top you have a wonderful eagle eye view over Bury and on a very very clear day to Ely!! As you look down at the Abbey ruins and see its extensive layout, you can really see how big it would have been.
12. Sunday Lunch at The Angel Hotel
Make sure to add a stop off at The Angel Hotel for food, in particular, if you’re in town on a Sunday then a roast here is an excellent idea 😉 The Angel Hotel was frequented by Charles Dickens when he gave readings at The Athenaeum. He even mentioned the hotel in The Pickwick Papers!
The baked Camembert hit the spot after a chilly afternoon exploring and was perfectly melted served with delicious fresh baked bread! We followed this up with a roast each and oh wow was this perfect! Every so often I go for a veggie roast and this was probably the best veggie roast alternative I’ve had 😍 the tunworth cheese worked so well with the butternut squash and spinach combination in pastry! Plus all of the usual expected trimmings 🤤
What are you waiting for?! It’s time to get planning!