Colin Crosby Heritage Tours

Lovely Break in Suffolk

My wife Anne and I had a lovely break in Suffolk recently.

We don`t often get away together, so it`s pretty special when we do. This was particularly so this time, as not only did it involve one of the nicest parts of the country, we managed four nights away, our longest "holiday" for many years.

We set off from Leicester on the Monday morning on the train to Bury St. Edmunds, and then, as it was a Bank Holiday and the buses were not running, we took a taxi to Lavenham, one of England`s finest mediaeval towns.

The much-photographed Swan Inn was where we stayed for the first two nights. Our excellent and very comfortable room was in the 14th century part of the hotel that was formerly the Wool Hall. The hotel was superb, with absolutely nothing to criticise and plenty to thoroughly enjoy, including hidden gardens, which would never be guessed at from the street.

Being somewhat conservative in my eating habits, I was rather concerned that the food would be not to my taste. But I need not have worried. It was certainly not what I am used to, but was beautifully cooked and absolutely delicious. Dinner and breakfast were served in a large timber framed room with roof timbers exposed.

On the Monday afternoon, we visited the Tourist Information Centre (always particularly helpful, this one); the Guildhall, where we had a coffee and scone; the Crooked House Gallery; and the very impressive St. Peter and St. Paul Church, as well as strolling around this lovely old town.

On the Tuesday, after breakfast, we caught the bus to Long Melford, where we visited the even more impressive Holy Trinity Church, with its virtually separate Lady Chapel, and the very fine Village Green. We found a nice little place for coffee, Fine Foods in the High Street.

Then we went on to Sudbury, where Market Hill is dominated by a statue of the town`s most famous son, the painter Thomas Gainsborough. We had a good look around the town, visiting St. Gregory`s Church; the Tourist Information Centre; and Gainsborough`s House.

After dinner, it was very nice to have a little stroll around Lavenham in the dusk.

On Wednesday morning, we had to reluctantly leave the Swan, where we had thoroughly enjoyed the stay, because we had to travel on to Aldeburgh, where we would be spending the next two nights.

We caught the bus to Sudbury, with just enough time for a cup of coffee at the splendidly named Huffers. Then it was on another bus, which took us through picturesque places such as Boxford and Hadleigh (Suffolk) to Ipswich. From there, we took another bus via Woodbridge and Saxmundham to Aldeburgh.

The Brudenell Hotel was where we stayed for the next two nights. Very different from the Swan, being a twentieth century building, this hotel is almost literally on the beach, just the other side of a path. Again, our room was excellent and very comfortable, but the bonus was that our window looked out directly on to the sea.

All the comments about the food at Lavenham can be repeated here. It was superb and very enjoyable indeed, with dinner and breakfast being served in a ground floor restaurant facing the beach.

We had a good stroll around the town, and visited the Tourist Information Centre; St. Peter and St. Paul Church, with its fabulous window by John Piper commemorating Benjamin Britten and Peter Pears, who founded the Aldeburgh Festival; and had a coffee at Munchies in the High Street. We also looked at the Moot Hall and the shell monument to Britten on the beach.

Later, after dinner, we strolled the other way, passing through what used to be the maritime village of Slaughden, arriving at the Martello Tower just as it was getting dark.

On the Thursday, we managed to do something that Anne had wanted to do for many years, visiting Sutton Hoo. We got there by taking the bus to Melton, where we peeped into the 19th century St. Andrew`s Church, and walking the rest of the way.

We had a coffee at Sutton Hoo, and had a good look around the fascinating Visitor Centre. But the highlight was joining a Guided Walk around the burial sites themselves, with a local guide who interpreted the low mounds very well.

We caught the bus from there to Woodbridge, where we had a coffee at Mrs Pipers, and had a walk around this fine town, stopping to have a look round St. Mary`s Church.

Friday morning saw us getting ready to reluctantly leave Suffolk and come home to Leicester. We caught the bus to Saxmundham, where we visited the very welcoming St. John`s Church and had a coffee at the Coffee House in the Market Place. Saxmundham Station was, I`m afraid, difficult to find. Presumably it is felt that local people know where it is, so there is no need for proper signs. Oh dear.

Anyway, we found it, and came back home with a couple of stops.

I cannot speak highly enough of the two hotels where we stayed, the Swan at Lavenham and the Brudenell at Aldeburgh. We would be delighted to stay at either at some time in the future.

We had a really lovely time.