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Top 10 unique things to see in Suffolk

If you’re coming to Suffolk and are looking for a humble brag on your Insta, try discovering these unique things you won’t find anywhere else!

Wool Towns

From the 13th century, the wool trade was a mainstay of the English economy, no more so in Suffolk where raw wool was sold to the weavers of Flanders. This brought extraordinary wealth to the wool merchants of Lavenham, Hadleigh, Kersey, Clare, Cavendish and Long Melford who built magnificent churches and timber-framed houses. One of the best examples is The Swan Inn at Lavenham – check out the Airmens’ Bar.

The Industrial Revolution passed the East of England by (no fast-running water) so these towns’ riches ran out – but the unspoilt buildings remain.

Newmarket

Well, there can only be one worldwide home of flat horseracing, can’t there, which makes Newmarket unique.

King Charles II founded the Round Course, part of which is still used today as the July Course, and built a new palace close to the High Street. His private quarters, including his bedroom, survive as Palace House which is now the home of the National Horseracing Museum.

If you’re not here for a racing meet (the season runs from April to November), one of the tours will give you a fabulous insight into the workings of the racing industry. They include an early-morning visit to The Gallops, exploring the National Stud on foot or by bus, and champagne and afternoon tea.

If you’re staying, try The Packhorse.

Museum of Food

Formerly the East Anglian Museum of Rural Life, they’ve rebranded as The Museum of Food and now includes a collection of 40,000 objects and 17 historic buildings amidst 75 acres of farmland, woodland and parkland, including a lovely riverside walk. The Museum of Food isn’t to be missed and, uniquely, all this is in the middle of Stowmarket and can be reached by rail.

Ickworth

It’s not every day you come across an Italianate Palace with huge rotunda in the middle of the countryside, but nowhere else has National Trust Ickworth House and Gardens. Set in over 1800 acres of parkland and woodland, it’s a great place to get back to nature.

Within the Rotunda you’ll discover Regency furniture, Old Masters and Georgian silver.

Constable Country

If you like the paintings of Constable, you can actually walk in his footsteps and see for yourselves what he painted in the Dedham Vale.

Set in a National Landscape, this rural area was where the painter John Constable was born, and where he painted his most celebrated works. Visit Willy Lott’s Cottage in Flatford, which featured in Constable’s most famous painting, The Hay Wain (1821).

Jimmy’s Farm

It’s a farm, but Jimmy’s is also an award-winning wildlife park, rare breeds farm, and it has Europe’s largest polar bear reserve in a 16 acre tundra setting with a pack of Arctic Wolves. Yes, really!

And you’ll know Jimmy of course, one of the best-known farmers in the UK and a regular on TV sharing his passions for farming and wildlife… and cooking with Jamie Oliver.

Bury St Edmunds

There’s nowhere else in the country that can claim to be the last resting place of the original patron saint of England, but that’s Bury St Edmunds. Okay, it’s true nobody’s quite sure where the remains of Anglo-Saxon King Edmund are, but legend says the body was brought back to the town after he was martyred by the Vikings for refusing to renounce Christianity.

They caught off his head, but it miraculously fused back to the body when reunited and he was buried, possibly in the Abbey precincts, built as a great shrine to Saint Edmund and point of pilgrimage for many centuries. The location was lost when the Abbey was dissolved in 1539.

The impressive abbey ruins and their adjoining gardens are what remains. But there’s also an impressive Georgian town centre, the only surviving Regency-era playhouse left and Suffolk’s only cathedral – book yourself a walking tour.

Sutton Hoo

Talking about Anglo Saxon kings… Sutton Hoo is England’s Valley of the Kings, the 7th century cemetery for the royal dynasty of East Anglia, the Wuffingas, who claimed descent from the god Woden.

It’s thought that many of the 18 or so burial mounds were looted over time, but in 1939, in the King’s Mound, was found the richest burial ever found in northern Europe, that of King Rædwald, laid to rest in a 90ft long ship, surrounded by his extraordinary treasure.

Rædwald was famous for his victory over the Kingdom of Northumbria but also establishing altars to Christ beside the old gods.

Much of the treasure can now be seen in the British Museum and sadly the wooden boat eroded, but learn the story of the Anglo Saxons at Sutton Hoo and immerse yourself in the place they lived, not least the views down the River Deben to Woodbridge.

Dunwich

Dunwich Heath and beach

In medieval times, Dunwich was one of the largest and most prosperous ports on the east coast, but a storm surge in 1286 caused huge damage, followed by two great storms which all but wiped away the entire settlement. Today around 200 people live in this one-road settlement with its cosy pub The Ship Inn, local museum, long gravel beach and monastery ruins.

This is England’s Atlantis, the largest medieval underwater site in Europe. Locals have claimed that at certain stormy times you can hear the church bells ringing, although they usually hear these bells as they are staggering home from the local pub after closing time!

A reconstructed model at Dunwich Museum allows you to see it as it probably looked in its heyday.

Thorpeness

A mock Tudor village of timbered and thatched houses by the seaside, with a shallow boating Meare punctuated with Peter Pan-themed islands and a House in the Clouds? Honestly, you’ll think you’ve discovered Suffolk’s very own version of Brigadoon!

Find Thorpeness on the coastal road just north of Aldeburgh – you can’t miss Maggi Hambling’s Scallop on the shingle beach – and discover the history of this picturesque holiday village.