Looking for ideas for fun days out in Suffolk? Check out our guide to the best day trips from Bury St Edmunds.
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I fell in love with Suffolk after my visit to Bury St Edmunds. Overflowing with history, beautiful architecture and an abundance of independent shops and restaurants, this town is a great choice for a weekend or week-long break.
There’s so much to see and do around the town, from the historic Abbey Gardens and ruins through to the quirky Moyse’s Hall Museum, but the wider region has even more to offer.
We discovered the beautiful village of Lavenham, with its jaw-dropping medieval houses, for example, and adored driving through the Suffolk countryside admiring all the pretty villages and undulating fields. Sadly we only had two days in the area, but this has whetted my appetite to return and explore more of what this scenic county has to offer.
Bury St Edmunds makes for a great base to explore the area, so I’ve created this list of all the great places to visit on my return, from stately homes and historical sites through to museums and country parks.
They’re all reachable as days out from Bury St Edmunds, but easily do-able from other locations such as Newmarket or Ipswich. I dare you not to fall in love with Suffolk after visiting one or two of these….
Suffolk’s wool villages
Lavenham might be the most well-known, but there’s a re number of other pretty wool villages and towns to visit across Suffolk. Long Melford is well worth a visit – the village has been immortalised in paintings by both Constable and Gainsborough, while more recently it was the setting for the BBC show Lovejoy. Similar to Lavenham it has a great selection of independent galleries, restaurants and cafes and you’ve also got two manor houses (Kentwell Hall and Melford Hall) to visit – more on those below – as well as a beautiful country park.
The Suffolk coast
Suffolk has 50 miles of heritage coastline, with pretty destinations including the the towns of Aldeburgh and Southwold, which take you back to the halcyon stays of Victorian and Edwardian England.
There are the big towns like Lowestoft and Felixstowe, but also small villages and hamlets such as Dunwich and Snape. Why not have a daytrip to the seaside, where you can enjoy fish and chips on the beach or watch a retro Punch and Judy show?!
Visit Suffolk has a great website to help you decide which of the county’s many coastal destinations you’re going to visit…
Suffolk stately homes and gardens
At first sight, the thrusting turrets and elegant Elizabethan banqueting house looks much as they did when Elizabeth 1st visited with 2,000 courtiers in 1578. Once owned by a famous naval family, the house is filled with nautical paintings and even plunder looted from a Spanish ship in 1762.
It was one of the first houses in the country to get central heating, and also boasts a family connection with Beatrix Potter. She would sketch here during her visits, and the house is home to the original Jemima Puddleduck doll.
Outside there’s the remains of an ancient deer park and Edwardian style gardens.
Discover the place where Mary Tudor was proclaimed Queen of England! This English Heritage property is a great example of a late 12th century castle, designed both as a stronghold and as a symbol of power and status. Architecturally it’s noted for its curtain wall with mural towers.
Hedingham Castle is a Norman keep. 110 feet high, it was built around 1140 by Aubrey de Vere and is still owned by one of his decedents.
Visitors have four floors to explore, including the banqueting hall spanned by a 28-foot arch – one of the largest Norman arches of its kind in English. You can even get married here, what an epic setting for a wedding reception?!
Near to Bury St Edmunds, Ickworth House’s huge central rotunda, flanked by two massive wings, dominates this eccentric Georgian Italianate house built by the equally eccentric 4th Earl of Bristol. Owned by the National Trust, it’s home to collections of paintings, as well as Huguenot and ambassadorial silver and Regency furniture.
On sunny days why not enjoy the house’s tranquil park and gardens. If you’re feeling more energetic there’s also a family cycle route and even a ‘trim trail’, which will help kids big or small burn off some energy.
Helmingham Hall Gardens
Sadly you can’t visit inside this private moated home, but the owners of Helmingham Hall, the Tollmache family, open up their jaw-dropping gardens to the public for two days every week.
As well as visiting the grandiose gardens, you can explore the park grounds, made up of 400 acres and home to large herds of red and fallow deer.
Located on the edge of the village of Long Melford, Kentwell Hall is not only a stunning period house and garden, but it’s also a lived-in family home with its story beginning over 500 years ago.
Originally built by local wealthy wool merchants, the house has undergone several restorations by a succession of owners but has retained its original essence as a Tudor home.
It has one of the last standing moat houses, which contains a working dairy, brewhouse and stillroom and regularly holds living domestic history events, where people dress up in garb of the time and you can see how people really used to live…
Its 30 acres of tranquil gardens are a haven of peace, with romantic moats, walled gardens, espaliered fruit trees and giant cedars. A mass of wild flowers, including pyramid orchids, take over the tennis court lawns, and the mixed border beds in the Walled Garden and the Sunken Garden are a riot of colour.
Historical sites near Bury St Edmunds
You’ll find the impressive Languard Fort on the outskirts of Felixstowe. Built on the request of Henry VIII it’s the only fort in England to have fought off a full-scale invasion attempt.
Book ahead for a guided tour of the outer battery, an area not usually open to the public.
One of the UK’s most important archaeological sites, Sutton Hoo has provided clues to what has been called ‘page one of English history’.
Excavations in 1939 uncovered the ship-burial of an Anglo-Saxon warrior king, and the burial ground now makes up part of the Sutton Hoo exhibition. It’s also set in a 245-acre estate, making it a great destination for a country walk too!
West Stow Anglo-Saxon Village
Explore the way our ancestors live in this recreation of an Anglo-Saxon village. Set in 420-650AD, it’s been reconstructed where the original village once stood, with staff dressed up in the garb of the time – you can get in on the action too if you choose!
Thetford Priory was the burial site of the earls and dukes of Norfolk for nearly 400 years. Only the ruins remain, but it’s still an impressive site to visit.
Within a stone’s throw of the priory is the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the only surviving remains of a priory of the Canons of the Holy Sepulchre in England.
Suffolk’s top museums
The National Horse Racing Museum
Newmarket is eponymous with horse racing, which is why it’s no surprise this is where you’ll find the National Horse Racing Museum. The museum is housed in the only remaining part of Charles II’s racing palace, and here you can learn all about the origins of the sport and Newmarket’s role in its development. Visitors can even have a go at riding a prize-winning horse on its famous simulator.
The National Stud, Newmarket
Another must visit for horseracing fans is the National Stud. The public can book onto a guided tour between March and September, to get a behind the scenes view of one of the most prestigious stud farms in the country.
Ipswich Transport Museum
The Ipswich Transport Museum is unique, in that it has the largest collection transport items in Britain devoted to just one town. This is because everything on show was either made in or used around Ipswich.
The museum has been building up its collection since 1965. It started with just one bus, but now has over 100 items on show.
Ipswich Museum is home to a wide range of collections, from natural science to Egyptology – including the death mask of death mask of Titos Flavious Demetrios, a roman who died in Egypt between AD 80-120.
It also examines the history of Ipswich, going as far back as Roman Suffolk and the town’s Anglo-Saxon origins. A great choice for history lovers.
Suffolk’s nature hot spots
There’s lots of green areas to visit in Suffolk – many of the stately homes we’ve mentioned have large, beautiful gardens to explore, but there’s a few other spots we felt needed a mention. Here are our other recommendations for getting back to nature in Suffolk.
West Stow Country Park
Surrounding the recreated Anglo Saxon village we mentioned earlier, West Stow Country Park is free to visit and has 125 acres of unspoilt countryside, trails, heath and woodland walks to enjoy. The perfect spot if you want to partake in some outdoor activities!
Wolves Wood is one of the few remaining areas of the ancient woodland that once covered much of East Anglia.
An RSPB nature reserve, this wildlife refuge is a beautiful place to take a stroll, plus you might be lucky enough to spot one of the 12 breeds of dragonfly that call Wolves Wood home, or perhaps a nesting nightingale or spotted woodpecker.
With over 200 acres of landscaped gardens to explore for free, Nowton Park is the ideal place for a walk on a sunny day.
Get lost in the hornbeam maze, which is shaped like a giant, stylised oak tree. Nature lovers can visit the unique arboretum which is home to trees from around the world such as eucalyptus from Australia, paperbark maple from China and Kentucky coffee trees from North America. There’s also a dragon that was carved from a cedar tree that was growing in the park but was struck by lightning.
Days out in Suffolk
So there you have it, some of the best things to do in Suffolk. Whether you’re basing yourself in the county, or coming for a day trip from elsewhere in the UK, these attractions are all great choices for a day out in the UK.
We hope you enjoyed our Suffolk travel guide – do let us know in the comments below!