Winter is a magical time to be in Suffolk, with its beautiful empty coast, nature reserves, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and never-ending skies.
Head outdoors and then indoors… find a pub with a roaring fire for a well-earned pint and a hearty meal, or a friendly café for a warming mug of hot chocolate and piece of cake.
And don’t forget, there’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing!
It’s a great time to…
1 Be in Southwold. It’s a great place to be in Summer, but, you know, busy. Now though you can enjoy the High Street and seafront without the throng and you’re assured of a table inside the pubs and restaurants. Head down to Blackshore harbour where there are shacks selling free seafood, cafes, restaurants and the Harbour Inn. Take a look at how high the water was in the 1953 flood.
2 Explore the Wool Towns of Lavenham (above) with its magnificent Guildhall, Clare, Long Melford and Kersey, possibly the prettiest village you’re ever going to see. At Sudbury, don’t miss the recently-refurbished Gainsborough’s House.
3 Go birdwatching at RSPB Minsmere. In the reedbeds and coastal lagoons you might see avocets, bearded tits and bitterns. Okay, you’re more likely to hear a bittern boom, but you never know. And keep your eyes peeled for otters too.
4 Explore Christchurch Park in the heart of Ipswich. The first public park in the town, opening in 1985, it extends over 33 hectares of picturesque grounds. The park was officially ‘reopened’ in 2008 after the completion of a £4.5m restoration project. The Tudor Christchurch Mansion houses a public museum and art gallery.
5 Meet a polar bear! She’s called Ewa and she’s at Jimmy’s Farm outside Ipswich. Ewa was rescued from a zoo in Sweden that closed last year and now lives in a new Tundra reserve on the farm that features grassy plains, lakes fed from natural springs and a large area of woodland.
6 Search out stars in the night skies. With little light pollution on the coast, you can enjoy dark and wide skies – perfect for stargazing. Wait for a cloudless night, wrap up warm, and get set for a magical natural experience. There are two Designated Dark Sky Sites in the county, at Walberswick and Westleton Common. Other good places to spot the stars are Shingle Street, Dunwich and Covehithe.
7 Spend some time bumbling in Bury St Edmunds, our cathedral town. There’s some lovely Georgian architecture in the town centre (as well as lots of great shopping) and don’t miss the Abbey Gardens and Angel Hill, where some of The Personal Life of David Copperfield with Dev Patel was filmed. The town has the only surviving Regency theatre in the country. Take tea or have a stay at the fabulous Angel Hotel.
8 Visit Sutton Hoo, site of one of the greatest archaeological finds of all time – an Anglo Saxon Royal ship burial. The site, near Woodbridge, tells the story of the remarkable excavation and how the Anglo Saxons lived, plus there are lovely walk to take – and great views of the River Deben.
9 Take a boat trip on the National Trust’s Octavia to Orford Ness. It’s only a short one, but you’ll feel as if you’ve travelled to another world. This remote, wild shingle spit, the largest in Europe, has walking trails through this internationally-important nature reserve littered with debris and forbidding buildings from the time when it was a military testing site.
10 See the animals at Africa Alive Zoological Reserve near Lowestoft. Set in 100 acres of lovely countryside, this is a conservation hub for some of Africa’s most vulnerable species of animal, including the Southern White Rhino, African Lion, Reticulated Giraffe and Blue-Eyed Black Lemur.
11 See where John Constable painted the Hay Wain. National Trust property Flatford Mill within the Dedham Vale AONB is the location and it’s a lovely place to explore. Set beside the River Stour, take a look at the mill and Willy Lott’s House and you might feel as if you’re walking through one of Constable’s paintings.
12 Visit Suffolk’s little Italy. That would be Ickworth House with its fabulous rotunda. But it’s also a great place to stretch your legs, cycle or take your dog for a walk.
13 Explore Dunwich Heath AONB. There are lovely heathland, forest and coastal walks to take, and don’t miss Dunwich itself with its friendly pub and tiny museum that tells the story of how this hamlet was once one of the biggest and most prosperous ports in the country. The diorama shows the extent of the port in its medieval heyday.
14 Take a boat trip on the Broads. This National Park has a quieter stretch, the River Waveney, in north Suffolk. Why not hire a boat from Hipperson’s at Beccles and cruise along the river nosing into peoples’ back yards. They’ve got fabulous quirky accommodation too.
15 Explore Felixstowe seafront and discover Landguard Fort. There’s a lovely traditional vibe to the town, with its seaside gardens and pier. Hunt out a great place for fish and chips, whether that’s by the beach or down by the Bawdsey ferry.