Explore Orford, Suffolk
Arguably one of the prettiest villages on the Suffolk Coast, Orford is a true historical gem. From its castle, pretty cottages and welcoming pubs to the picturesque quay offering river cruises and a traditional smokehouse, it's an ideal place to while away a happy day or two.
Soaring over the town, with views over Orford Ness, and home to the village museum is Orford Castle. Built between 1165 and 1173 by Henry II to consolidate Royal power in the region, the well-preserved keep stands amongst the earth-covered works of the outer fortification.
There is a curious tale attached to the village, from around the same time the castle was built. Legend has it that a merman was caught by local fisherman here in about 1167 and held captive for six months until he died. It is rumored that, from time to time, his ghost can be seen in the castle.
Nearby is the Grade I Listed St Bartholomews Church. Built in the 14th century, with 12th century remains attached, the church has been voted one of the best churches in the UK.
Orford Ness is a ten mile long shingle spit, with marsh, lagoons and waterways. It was a haunt for smugglers in the 1800s, and later became a Ministry of Defence Atomic Weapons Research Establishment. Orford Ness has a long history of highly experimental and secret work - much of what went on there is still secret today. Britain's first atomic weapon, Blue Danube, was developed and tested in the ‘pagodas' which dominate the coastline. The skeletal remains of other buildings used during the two world wars and the Cold War are still scattered across the shingle.
Today, however, Orford Ness NNR is an internationally important site for nature conservation containing a significant proportion of the European reserve of vegetated shingle habit and home to the RSPB Sanctuary Havergate Island, famous for its waders and seabirds as well as the RPSB's signature bird, the avocet.
Adding to Orford's mystery, it is said that one of Great Britain's most significant UFO sightings happened in nearby Rendlesham Forest on three consecutive nights in 1980 - an incident that to this day has not been properly explained. Some ufo-ologists maintain that parts of Orford Ness have been used to store alien craft, and some believe that a spaceship still remains on the Cobra Mist Site.
The Suffolk Punch Trust, a registered charity dedicated to the preservation f Suffolk's unique history, operates The Hollesley Bay Colony Stud, the world's oldest stud farm breeding the endangered Suffolk Horse. The Trust afeguards the future of this unique animal, which shaped the landscape of Suffolk and played a crucial role in the development of farming throughout the British colonies. The Hollesley Bay Colony Stud is a great day out for all ages. More info...
Visit one of England's most complete and unusual keeps and explore its warren of passageways and chambers. Discover what life was like in this medieval royal fortress built by Henry II between 1165 and 1173 with our fascinating audio tour. Once inside see the chapel with its original stonework, the kitchen's open chimneys and the secrets of other chambers. Explore the basement with its vital well and climb up the winding staircase for spectacular views seaward to Orford Ness. More info...