Days out in Suffolk
Suffolk’s low-lying land and two areas of outstanding natural beauty have given it the nickname ‘Constable Country’ after English painter, John Constable, who painted many famous scenes here. Along with its stunning coastline, there’s also open countryside to explore. The towns of Ipswich, Bury St. Edmunds, and Lowestoft, together with smaller towns like Newmarket, Lakenheath, and Felixstowe, all give you a great choice of places to visit and attractions to see for a great day out.
One of England’s oldest towns, Ipswich, is the largest town in Suffolk and the county town. Start your journey of discovery on the Waterfront, and take a step back in time to learn about the town’s maritime history, before enjoying a bite to eat overlooking Neptune Marina.
In the town centre, Ipswich Museum is a great way to learn the local history and enjoy its collection of natural history exhibits and Egyptian artefacts. The nearby Transport Museum features exhibits and displays from the town’s transport and engineering history over the last 200 years. If you’re a sports fan, why not catch a game at Portman Road, home of Ipswich Town FC.
Outside the town, a visit to St. Edmundsbury Cathedral in Bury St. Edmunds is highly worthwhile. With history dating back to the 12th century, it’s the new gothic revival-style, 150ft Millennium Tower which is worth seeing. And if you like a real ale tipple, a trip to the Green King Brewery to see how it’s made – and maybe a taster...or two – is recommended.
A visit to the seaside town of Felixstowe is always popular - Felixstowe Pier and the beach are firm favourites, along with a visit to Martello Park for the children. Landguard Fort offers a great chance to learn more about this harbour defence – and you get to see the impressive sight of the port’s container ships being loaded.
In Lowestoft, you’ll find the ZSEA Africa Alive! zoo with over 80 species of mammals, birds, and reptiles to learn about, and for a thrilling ride visit the Pleaserwood Hills family theme park. Horse racing fans will love a visit to Newmarket, the home to the National Horse Racing Museum and the famous racecourse.
Suffolk has two areas of outstanding natural beauty. The Suffolk Coast and Heath AONB is perfect for exploring both the inland countryside and beautiful coastal landscapes on foot or by bike, while the Dedham Vale AONB and Stour Valley let you explore the countryside and more besides, including a visit to the house of 18th-century artist Thomas Gainsborough in Sudbury.
Topography, geology, and climate
Much like its neighbouring counties, Suffolk has a largely low-lying and flat landscape.Its mix of coast and countryside gives the county a diverse range of land qualities and soil types with a variety of fertility levels.
Much of the north and east soil is made up of seasonally wet, slightly acid, base-rich loam and clay with patches of lime-rich loam and clay, while the Suffolk coastal areas are largely low fertility, slightly acid, sandy soils. The south and west is a blended patchwork of slightly acidic loam, lime-rich loam and clay soils, and, to the north of Bury St. Edmunds, shallow lime-rich and slightly acid, sandy soils, plus a large area of sandy Breckland soil around Thetford Forest.
Suffolk generally has a mild and warm climate, much like its surrounding eastern counties. Summer temperatures can average at around 21ºC (70ºF), while temperatures in the winter months average at just below 2ºC (35ºF). Suffolk can be dry, with annual rainfall across the county measuring at around 595mm (23”).
Suffolk’s parks and gardens
To complement the fairly flat, though beautiful, open landscape and coast, Suffolk has a fine selection of gardens to enjoy. Offering a peaceful and relaxing day out for families, each provides inspiration for keen gardeners and horticulturalists alike, with colour, interest, and displays throughout the year.
- West Suffolk
In the heart of Bury St. Edmunds you’ll find the Abbey Gardens - a public park, this idyllic and tranquil space features the remains of the town’s Benedictine abbey alongside magnificent formal gardens. The Great Circle is a wide-open space, filled with stunning flower beds and trimmed lawns, while close by, there are several hidden gardens including the Appleby Rose Garden and Sensory Garden.
In Long Melford, near Sudbury, Kentwell Hall is a Tudor country house with over 30 acres of perfect English country gardens and parkland to explore. Surrounded by a moat, the gardens are a mix of formal and informal styles dating back to the 18th-century. Beyond the lime avenue approach, highlights include the Walled Garden, with over 60 varieties of apple and pear trees, a sunken garden, and a magnificent collection of Cedar trees.
A garden with a difference, Fullers Mill Garden in West Stow, near Bury St. Edmunds, is a 7 acre waterside delight on the banks of the River Lark. Split into six sections, each area contains unusual shrubs, marginal plants, and perennials. There’s plenty to see and do here from the Mediterranean-styled plantings in the Top garden to the alpine plant-filled raised beds in the Low garden.
And nearby Ickworth House has over 1,800 acres of park and beautiful gardens to enjoy. With impeccable Italianate gardens bringing the formal Mediterranean to the Suffolk countryside, the adjoining Spring garden is a real contrast with magnificent magnolias and beech trees. The Temple garden also offers a host of Mediterranean herbs, grasses, and colourful perennials - a wonderful garden offering a lot across every season.
- East Suffolk
Just outside Lowestoft, Somerleyton Hall and Gardens are touted as “one of the finest gardens in East Anglia”. Covering 12 acres, the Walled garden contains shrub, hosta, and fern borders and colourful herbaceous borders, while the White Garden is a glorious sunken paradise. The arboretum offers the My Lady’s Rose garden complete with a Rhododendron walk, and look out for the Yew tree maze.
Hidden in the countryside, The Walled Garden in Benhall, near Saxmundham, is a one acre oasis to explore at your leisure. Filled with borders containing the best in perennials, shrubs, and climbers from their nursery, you can enjoy the Wisteria walk and the pond before you see more seasonal borders at the front with several unusual trees and shrubs. A lovely spot that comes alive in the spring and summer.
Helmingham Hall Gardens near Stowmarket, feature exquisite Grade I listed gardens in stunning parkland. A fine mix of formal and informal, there are many highlights to enjoy including the Parterre and Hybrid Musk garden, Walled Kitchen garden with stunning herbaceous borders, Knot garden, and the beautiful rose garden, complete with smaller shrubs and herbaceous plants. A glorious and tranquil spot.
And in East Bergholt, The Place For Plants is a delightful 20 acre woodland garden with an adjoining plant centre, and it is a delight to visit. With a pond and small stream running through it, the woodland perennials and bulbs mix with the more unusual flowering trees and shrubs, with excellent specimens of rhododendrons, camellias, and magnolias. The garden also contains the national collection of deciduous Euonymus shrubs (Spindle Berry).
Ickworth Park has gardens and pleasure grounds of 13.3 hectares. The gardens feature an Italianate area, woodland walks and summerhouse. They are set in a larger park of 300 hectares. Part of the house is now a hotel.
Melford Hall has gardens and fishponds of 5.6 hectares associated with the moated house which dates from 1559. The gardens and house are set in a park of 58 hectares. The park was enclosed in 1613.