Starting in the wild and ancient Brecks, here’s a road trip that takes you through Bury St Edmunds and Lavenham, stopping at several picturesque villages along the way, before arriving at East Bergholt, the birthplace of the great painter John Constable. If there was a perfect way to spend 48 hours in Suffolk, this might just be it.
Start your 48 hours in Suffolk with a morning exploring The Brecks: a haven for wildlife, walkers and cyclists, and a landscape as old as any you can find in the UK. Tread in the footsteps of Boudica and the Iceni warriors; visit the ancient flint mine known as Grimes Graves; walk among the pines of Thetford Forest, or if you’re feeling really adventurous, spend a few hours swinging through the trees at Go Ape.
Head south from The Brecks towards the beautiful village of Tuddenham, taking a quick detour through Mildenhall, where you can visit the stunning Angels and Pinnacles church of Mildenhall St Mary. Your destination is Tuddenham Mill, a boutique hotel inside a converted water mill with a critically acclaimed restaurant. Not only has its Head Chef Lee Bye won Suffolk Chef of the Year, The Good Food Guide 2015 named Tuddenham Mill’s set lunch menu the best in the country, and the restaurant was named the Best in Suffolk at the 2016 Suffolk Food & Drink Awards.
From Tuddenham it’s only a short drive to the historic town of Bury St Edmunds. From a crumbling abbey with an impressive gate to an observatory dome atop an Athenaeum, Bury St Edmunds is full of fascinating sights. You’ll find information about the best of them in our articles: The Secrets of Bury St Edmunds Part One and The Secrets of Bury St Edmunds Part Two.
What better way to end your first 24 hours in Suffolk than with a night at one of its most celebrated hotels? The Angel Hotel in Bury St Edmunds has welcomed many a famous guest since it opened in the mid 1700s, including Angelina Jolie, Russell Brand and even Charles Dickens, who purportedly had a favourite four-poster bed at The Angel that is still in use today! Before retiring you can enjoy a delicious dinner in the hotel restaurant, and drinks in the vaulted underground bar; or, if you’d prefer to head out for dinner, Pea Porridge on Cannon Street offers Suffolk food with a Mediterranean slant, and has been labelled ‘the best restaurant in Suffolk’ by the Sunday Times Good Food Guide 2015.
After breakfast at The Angel it’s time to drive south to Lavenham, ‘England’s Best Preserved Medieval Village,’ and a place whose appearance has changed little in 500 years. Spend the morning exploring Lavenham’s breathtaking buildings, such as the Guildhall of Corpus Christi and the extravagant church of St Peter and St Paul. One of the best ways to do this is with an audio guide, which you can pick up from Lavenham Pharmacy. Once you’ve seen the sights, we recommend lunching at the 800-year-old Swan Hotel, or The Great House Lavenham, where the French cuisine is authentic and delicious
After lunch in Lavenham, you can take a leisurely drive towards East Bergholt along Suffolk’s back roads, detouring to the lovely village of Kersey, which has been named among the 10 loveliest villages in England. As you approach East Bergholt, you’ll be driving through the very same countryside that John Constable wandered as a young painter.
Once you arrive in East Bergholt, drive down to the Boathouse Restaurant on the banks of the River Stour. All through the spring and summer and at weekends during September and October it’s possible to rent boats from the Boathouse, and row your way a few hundred metres downstream to Flatford Mill and Willy Lott’s Cottage. These iconic buildings were both captured by John Constable, the latter in his most famous painting, The Hay Wain (1821). From your boat you’ll be able to see this beautiful scene as Constable would have seen it almost two hundred years ago.
Finally, as the sun begins to set on your second day in Suffolk, you can make your way to the magnificent Hintlesham Hall Hotel. This 16th century country house has expansive gardens to explore, an award-winning restaurant, and, best of all, supremely comfortable rooms. And after 48 action-packed hours in Suffolk, you’ll want nothing more than to sink back into the goose-down pillows, and fall asleep to happy dreams.