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Gems of Suffolk – guide for visiting some of the best villages, towns and cities in this area

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Suffolk is an amazing area - perhaps not the first place you think of heading for a weekend away, but it is so full of hidden gems that we wish more people would make the trip to this area. We wanted to highlight some of the gems of Suffolk, including towns and villages which aren't often talked about. Let's get into the guide:

Orford

A very pretty little place, despite being a village there is plenty to see and do during your time in Orford. We've highlighted a few of our favourites below:

Orford Ness National Nature Reserve

This nature reserve is a fascinating visit for a number of reasons - considered to be one of the best shingle features in the world, it's an excellent place to spot rare wildlife. But it was also once used as a testing area for weapons (including atomic bombs) - we told you it was interesting! It's this combination of fascinating history and nature which attracts so many people to Orford Ness National Nature Reserve. If you want to hop on boat and explore the water then you can do so, but the circular walk around the peninsular is about 8 miles long and also a great way to take in the scenery. Learn more here - nationaltrust.org.uk

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Orford Castle

You can probably see from the photo that Orford Castle has quite a unique look - the tower keep is polygonal in shape and is one of the most complete keeps in England. Built in the 12th century, the castle is remarkably intact considering the age of the building. The design of the castle has been questioned and criticised for years, with many historians claiming that it created blind spots for the defenders, and that having the staircase in the corners weakened the walls against attack. But there is no denying the castle has stood the test of time.

Even if you're not based in Orford, you're only a short distance from Ipswich to the castle (about 10 miles). Learn more and plan your visit here - english-heritage.org.uk

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Take a boat trip from Orford Quay

Taking you around the Nature Reserve, the boat trips from Orford Quay are definitely worth your time (although booking is essential). Departing from the town quay, you get around an hour to explore the area by boat. If you're an avid birdwatcher then bringing your bins is definitely recommended - expect to see avocets, egrets, and even greenshanks. Learn more and book your journey here - suffolkrivertrips.com

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Lavenham

Lavenham is such a gorgeous place and certainly fits the bill when we talk about the gems of Suffolk. There is also a fascinating history attached to the place, which means there is plenty to see and do. Let's look at some of our favourites:

Lavenham Guildhall

Now owned by the National Trust, the Lavenham Guildhall is an excellent place to visit and is considered to be one of the best examples of an English medieval timber-framed building. Dating back to the 15th century, this Grade I listed building was originally built as a meeting place for Catholic merchants, but throughout history has been used for a number of purposes including as a prison, a workhouse, and a social club for US troops. The Guildhall is now home to a fascinating exhibition which outlines the amazing history of the building and of Lavenham. It's also great for kids, with features like a bug hotel. Definitely visit this place during your time in Lavenham, learn more here - nationaltrust.org.uk

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St Peter and St Paul’s Church

This Grade I listed church is seriously impressive - it is generally regarded to be one of the most important Wool Churches in England, and is one of the most visited churches in East Anglia. Much of the building dates back to the 14th century and is built in the late perpendicular Gothic style.

Guided tours of the church can be arranged and are well worth booking to learn the full extent of the history attached to this building. Learn more here - lavenhamchurch.onesuffolk.net

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Little Hall

This small museum is an absolute gem - run by volunteers, it has a lovely atmosphere and is full of genuinely interesting artefacts relating to the local area and beyond. Based within a 14th Century Hall House, the museum is packed with items such as antiques, pictures, books, china and art. The building itself is very attractive and is definitely one of the best timber-framed buildings in the area. Plan your visit and learn more here - littlehall.org.uk

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Dyehouse Field Wood

Regarded as one of the best kept secrets in Lavenham by locals, Dyehouse Field Wood is a great area to visit for a relaxing walk. In 2002, many trees were planted as part of the Lavenham Woodland Project - 20 years later, the result is the impressive Dyehouse Field Wood. It's only a short walk from the village and is well worth a look, learn more here - lwproject.wixsite.com

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Felixstowe

Often referred to as 'The Garden Resort of East Anglia', Felixstowe is a picturesque town and definitely worth a visit. Here are some of our favourite things to see and do:

Felixstowe beach (& pier)

If you're looking for a great beach to visit during your time in Suffolk then the beach in Felixstowe is a great option to go for. Stretching for 4 miles, this beach has a little bit of everything - the livelier South end is great for families. It has beach huts which can be hired, and is mostly sandy. It also has a number of cafes, and ice cream kiosks. If you're looking for a quieter trip to the beach then you'll want to head to the North end, which is mainly shingled but is great for walking.

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Landguard Fort

This fort at the mouth of the River Orwell was originally built in the 17th century and was designed to guard the mouth of the river.  The current fort which you can visit was built in the 18th century, and then modified in the 19th century. The fort played an important role in both World Wars as it was used to house anti-aircraft weapons. The fort was closed in 1956, but is you the public can now visit the fort which makes for a fascinating experience - walking around the rooms and passageways is a great trip into the past, and you can also visit the nearby Felixstowe Museum. This is a great day out especially for those interested in military history, plan your visit and learn more here - english-heritage.org.uk

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Felixstowe Sea Front Gardens

On the cliffs between the town and the beach you'll spot 8 gardens - these are Grade II listed and are definitely worth a look due to their interesting history and beauty. The gardens were originally planted during the Victorian period, when it was fashionable to have large garden areas for wellness purposes. Despite the age of the gardens, much of the original plantings still remain, and the gardens stretch for almost 1km along the promenade. They're lovely to walk through and provide amazing views out to the sea.

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Harwich Harbour Ferry

Between April and October you'll be able to hop onto the Harwich Harbour Ferry, a ferry  which has been connecting Harwich, Shotley and Felixstowe since the early 1900s. It's a great way to get between the areas, but if you're staying in Felixstowe then we'd actually recommend doing the round trip where youn stay on the ferry. This is a great way to take in the sights and get some sea air. The crew onboard are always super helpful and pleasant, plus dogs are allowed on board too. Book tickets and learn more here - harwichharbourferry.com

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Martelllo Towers

These small defensive forts dotted around Felixstowe date back to the early 1800s, and 8 of them can be found along the south-east coast from town towards Seaford. Originally built to help defend against potential invasions attempted by Napoleon Bonaparte, they're now fascinating structures to visit. Tower ‘P’ is based within Martello Park and is probably the most interesting to visit -  during World War I the building was used as a signal station to intercept secret German radio messages.

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Hawstead

Wigwam® Holidays Maglia Rosso is located in the village of Hawstead, just four miles south of Bury St Edmunds. Choose from five Running Water Deluxe Wigwam® Cabins set in a five acre meadow in the stunning Suffolk coutryside. Maglia Rosso was the village pub but now operates as a cycling centre and licensed cafe. The site has a children's play area and ample space for family fun. Two of the cabins are dog-friendly and one has accessibility features for those with additional support requirements The site is the perfect spot for a Suffolk glamping holiday in the great outdoors. Take advantage of the peaceful, rural location and explore the local gems on your doorstep.

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