Sometimes I feel like with so much to see in the World I forget that there are wonderful places to discover right at my doorstep. My mother’s best friend recently came to visit us in England and usually my parents take her somewhere different. Last time they went to the picturesque Lake District, but this time my father was working and I volunteered to take them both for a weekend to Suffolk, a county in the east coast of England that I have had the pleasure to fall in love with and in.
We actually began the weekend trip in Ely, Cambridgeshire, where my mother and her friend came to meet me, as I had been working there the evening before. Here we had a quick visit of Ely Cathedral. Ely Cathedral is a beautiful and magnificent Norman Cathedral, which was founded in 673 and in the 11th century the current building began being built. Its biggest restoration was in 1986 when the timber and stonewark of much of the roof was becoming unsafe. The restoration was completed by 2000.
The cathedral is one of the most remarkable Gothic structures I have seen. What started as a Norman piece of architecture soon changed into an iconic and familiar style within the years it took to be completed. My fun fact about Ely Cathedral is that it is the cathedral in which any scene that takes place in Westminster Cathedral (London) be is Royal coronations to weddings from any period pieces is filmed here in Ely. The cathedral has the same cross layout of Westminster and is an almost exact replica but in a smaller scale. Walls are given temporary plaster casts to make it exactly the same as Westminster in which ever historical period.
After a little walk around the charming town which seems to revolve around the stunning and commanding cathedral, we got in a car and headed over the imaginary boarder into the peaceful and stunning county of Suffolk.
Suffolk has a whole life of its own. I have never had a location in which I was so happy to spend so much time wandering. I actually know very little about Suffolk, aside from it has the best fish and chips I have ever eaten, some award winning gin, it seems like a never ending field, houses are scattered for miles, there is a mix of angry water, pebbly and sandy coast and they apparently produce fantastic Ale/Beer/Lager – clearly not a big drinker. I love it. Getting to know Suffolk allowed me to get to know a huge part of myself and I was so pleased to share this wonderful location with my mother and her friend.
First stop was Aldeburgh, the sweetest seaside town you can possibly visit. Home to the first and original Jack Wills stores for all lovers of plaid and country fashion out there. Home of the Aldeburgh Fish & Chips – believe me you will not regret it. They are the best, melt in your mouth, fish and chips and I would advise you to do what my man taught me and get it on a take away bag/box and eat it out in the sea front. It has the most beautiful seaside architecture, a very long and beautiful walk of a pebble beach.
We stopped by to see the little house which is a small house that I have always found fascinating, sat on its own in the midst of the huge summer houses. It has been remodelled to the photo you see here that I took, but below I found an old photo of what it looked like a mere few months ago when I last went to Aldeburgh.
Finally, we got to go to the Aldeburgh Museum, which I loved because I got to learn so much about the town. How the coast has changed over time, what the town was most famous for, seeing some of the discoveries of the town that date back to pre-historic dinossaur times. Times that go beyond the mesozoic era – clearly the only one I remember from my time at school. It was just such a lovely small building, that looked as old as the town is and is actually still used for the council meetings. It is adorable and well worth the visit. Aldeburgh has a lot of history and I love that.
After a lovely morning and lunch, we headed over to Southwold another of my favourite towns and if you are a big fan of beer/lager/ale or whatever it is, you must come here to the home of Adnams, the award winning brewers of Southwold Ale – I believe. Southwold again is a really lovely town, quirky but still in tune with all the coastal towns of Suffolk.
I love the Soutwold Pier. Like many other piers it has a few cafes, some games rooms for the kids and a few quirky shops. Now let me tell you, stepping into the arcade at Southwold Pier is like stepping into a nightmare from the 80s, it is so freakishly awesome! The arcade has clearly not been renovated in years, the games are far more than outdated and down right violent and creepy. It is something that would feature in the American Horror Story saga, but inspite of how spooky it is, people love it. It adds a je ne sais quois to the spooky pier. With cracks all over the floor and the sound of the metal creaking of the Southwold Pier sign, it really does add to it all and it belongs. It might have freaked me out but I adored it and believe it adds to the magic of the place. It is also home to a fabulous water clock. The clock is actually powered by the forces of the sea, and yes it is another old, slightly rusty invention but is continues to simply add to the charm of the illustrious pier. Plus it is fully functioning and that is truly to be admired.
My favourite thing about the the pier however, is the view of the town from it. It is simply stunning. The little beach huts really do make it for me, so colourful and so cute and somewhat reminiscent of the beach huts in Portugal! It is so evident that all the world is one place when something so typically Portuguese is also so typically British.
Finally, but not the least, was the impressive Southwold Lighthouse. Trinity Lighthouse is situated in the middle of the historic town, and has been built and rebuilt and repositioned more times than I can recall due to the eroding nature of the coastal line in which it sits. Yet here it still stands, providing guidance and a strong standing coastal mark for any passing ship or vessel. We got to climb to the very top of the lighthouse for very little and aside from the gorgeous view we get some real insight into the history of Southwold and what makes the town such a long-standing mark. The history of the lighthouse is truly fascinating and well worth delving into, and it was so interesting to find out how technology has evolved, from these huge mirrors that were reflecting candle light, to light bulbs so small and powerful that you would mistake them for a living room ceiling bulb if not for the voltage.
After a very busy day we spent the night in a small Bed and Breakfast just outside Bury St Edmunds. It was called Beightons and it was lovely! It is secluded and finding it can be tricky, but the staff are so helpful, the rooms so well prepared and I love the breakfast in a hamper outside your door in the morning. It was divine and just what we needed after a very very busy day.
In all my time with my partner, I had never been to Bury St Edmunds. The quintessential market town has not lost its appeal what so ever. We paid a trip to the St Edmundsbury Cathedral – you can see where the town’s name came from – and I was completely mesmerised not only by the cathedral but by its grounds which said so much more than just another Gothic cathedral. The edifice itself is breath taking and nothing short of that, as many of these medieval constructions are. They leave you awe and wonder how people would be able to piece together such magnificent structures at those times, and the sheer time they take to build is already mesmerising enough. Yet, it is just another one, what completely sets this one apart is that in its ground you are greeted by a wonderful garden which leads you straight to the ruins of the original town. A Roman town.
I unfortunately took all the photos of this magnificent set of ruins in a polaroid camera and have no digital versions, so I have sourced some photos on Google that you will see below of the ancient citadel. I can imagine by the layouts displayed on the ground that the city was huge, with lots of markers that take you on a tour of the once standing Roman Village. And all this sits within the walls of the Cathedral, where it is evident that the town still revolves around as its main square leads straight to the main entrance of the iconic building.
Aside from the incredible structure, Bury St Edmunds is a lovely and inviting market town worth visiting, I can imagine Christmas Shopping here is incredible. The charming location has a lot more to offer than one big historic sight, and one of my favourite little discoveries was the St John Evangelist Church which has a very unusual structure, in that it almost looks like a brick rocket-ship ready to be launched. It is well worth the visit.
Our final stop in the trip was the quiet and almost lost village of Lavenham. Now I am not a believer of love at first sight, but I recall watching Harry Potter and wanting to be a witch, and this was like walking into Godrick’s Hallow of Harry Potter and it made me so incredibly happy. The entire town features lovely cottages that have grown crooked over time, like any aging beauty who wrinkles and has smile lines. It has been hidden in a time capsule almost, and the small village hidden in a slope was the best bit of the whole trip. Aside from making me feel like a true witchy character, it was just so quaint. The food we had was exceptional and my mother’s friend had the opportunity to try some Lavenham Ale which she loved. But the absolute highlight was being able to enter one of these stunning houses.
The Little Hall Museum was the best little discovery of this entire weekend. A home and space that has seen so much transformation and been privy to such incredible industry developments and artistic endeavours. It is a 14th century building which has served for a variety of purposes and its several uses so aptly mirror the history of the small village. Lavenham, much like the house, has a fascinating history, and being able to hear all about it while discovering the house was phenomenal. From being a house where Suffolk Wool was produced, displayed and sold, to being abandoned due to the silk trade, becoming an array of apartments housing 6 families and total to then being completely recovered by the Gayer-Anderson brothers who were wanderlusters are heart and in this space housed a huge, enormous and I actually mean humongous collection of art from all over the world; Little Hall has seen it all. A lot of major museums in the country have come here to restore and put collections of art together, and the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge houses an entire area dedicated to the Gayer-Anderson art collection. It is a truly remarkable place, so worth the visit. It has history, culture and so much charm and the Little Hall Museum really made the entire trip worth it for me. A sneak peek into a home that has survived through time and a place that has housed such wonderful objects and a family of travellers. Truly my favourite part of the whole trip.
I loved this weekend, it was true testament that you do not have to wander far and wide to discover some amazing things. Incredible locations are at your disposal a mere 2 hour drive away and it really gave me a need to discover more about England. This incredible country that I live in and adore is so much more than the capital. I know that when you come from abroad to visit it that is immediately where you want to go, but as someone who lives here and loves it, I now want to know every where else. I have a few weekends planned for 2016 for other destinations within the country that I think will be wonderful to visit. I hope that where ever you are in the world, you remember that there are some incredible places to visit right in your home countries too. Wanderlusting is not just about dishing out hundreds of pounds to go to some other remote country you have never been to, it is also about giving yourself to wander in the places you so often ignore and give no importance to because they are always available. I loved this location and I hope you have enjoyed reading about it.
Suffolk has many wonderful places to visit, and if we had had the chance we would have visited a few more. Here are some links to some more places that I think are really wonderful and a must see in the little bits of Suffolk that I know and love:
- Framlingham Castle – such an incredible structure right at the top of the small village, and the views across to Framlingham College are wonderful
- Woodbridge Town – a beautiful little town in Suffolk, just nice for a pleasant walk, some shopping and having a good pint in the English country side
- The Thorpeness Meare – perfect for a day out with the kids, just by the beach and so many boats to choose from to get lost in the meare and discover the little hidden houses in each of the islands
- The Smokehouse restaurant in Southwold – just delicious food, some of the best seafood I have had in huge platters that just fill your tummy up with all sorts of goodness
- The village of Snape – sat in the embankment of the river Alde, it houses the Adeburgh Music festival, has a great little shopping complex called the Snape Maltings for some incredible gifts and countryside wonders, it is just adorable and who can resist a photo with the statue they have of the Suffolk Punch – yes that is a horse.
NOTE: All photos unless otherwise stated were taken by me and are under my copyright, D Lava
All the locations visited and highlighted in blue are links to websites for more information