With hidden villages, historical market towns and a sprawling coast line, Suffolk has something for everyone. Janelle Butterfield explains the highlights that make it the great escape
Lead image: Salthouse Harbour Hotel
Full of quirky charm and seaside air, Suffolk is a great place to escape city life and recharge batteries. With that in mind, first up on any whistle stop tour of the green county should be the Salthouse Harbour Hotel in Ipswich; far from the faded guesthouses of some water-front towns, this quirky, converted 1900s warehouse stands tall on the marina, with views stretching across the dock and beyond.
Transformed by hotelier husband and wife duo Robert and Claire Gough, the boutique hotel holds 70 individual rooms, each sporting eclectic touches with pieces from Vivienne Westwood, Damien Hirst and Banksy. The seasonal menu at in-house restaurant The Eaterie offers up locally sourced produce with a British theme, all perfectly presented.
Next stop is the jewel in Suffolk’s crown – Southwold – a thriving coastal town that has kept much of its original charm without feeling dated. Since a makeover in 2013, the 114-year-old Southwold Pier is now complete with three eateries serving up everything from fish and chips to fine dining, as well as artsy shops and tongue in cheek arcade games from designer Tim Hunkins.
Stop off at One St. James’s in the town for penny sweets – still sold in glass jars – or to Adnams brewery, where they’ve been providing Suffolk with the finest ale since 1342. Try the brewery tour with guide Ruth, or have a go at the gin-making course and take away your very own tipple.
Just a short drive away lies the buzzing market town of Bury St Edmunds; once a medieval place of pilgrimage, Bury is steeped in history, with architecture dating back to the 12th century. The Abbey, first built in 1020, is a tourist attraction in its own right thanks to its stunning floral grounds.
Neighbouring Angel Hotel – a former Georgian coaching inn – teams a traditional look with modern art; head into the Wingspan Bar, dug out of passages built by Benedictine monks, and formed using real plane parts and Liberty-style décor, for a pre-dinner tipple, or if you’re brave enough to take on the town’s ghost tour, head there for a nightcap before sinking into bed.
Abellio Greater Anglia offers advance purchase single tickets from London Liverpool Street to Ipswich, and London Liverpool Street to Bury St Edmunds, from £8 one way