Castles, coasts and villages.
Fair Weather Cyclist
- 8 Days / 7 Nights
- Self-guided tour
Arrival in Ipswich
One of England's oldest towns, dating back to Saxon times - its streets are lined with historic buildings such as 12 medieval churches, and the Ancient House which has amazing pargetting. Sitting in parkland, the beautiful red brick Christchurch Mansion houses a fascinating free museum home to some of John Constable's paintings. The town also has a rich maritime heritage, with an interesting waterfront and marina area.
Take the short train journey (10 minutes, costs approx. GBP 5) to the historic town of Needham Market. Pick up from the trainstation and you will get your travel documtens and rental bikes. On a small cycle path you will goto Debenham, a pretty, historic village with its overhanging, half-timbered houses, antique shops and huge church, then continue on to Saxtead Green. Here you can visit the beautifully restored 18th century post mill before discovering the charms of nearby Framlingham, a very English town with a bustling market square full of interesting little shops and a mighty 12th century castle. Stop a while for refreshments and to drink in the atmosphere – or to walk the castle walls for stunning views of the town and its rolling Suffolk countryside. Leafy lanes and open, undulating countryside lead on via cottage-lined villages and more medieval churches to the market town of Halesworth.
Halesworth has a wide range of historic facades and welcoming little shops, and medieval St Mary’s church is worth a visit too before setting off on a circular route towards the coast to discover more of Suffolk’s historic treasures. Pass the post mill at Holton en route to Wangford, a village packed with a variety of cottages, time-honoured houses and an impressive coaching inn all with stories to tell. The Suffolk Heritage Coast and Sole Bay are soon on the horizon together with Southwold, Suffolk’s very dignified and charming seaside town with wide open greens edged with smart, historic houses; a pier and lighthouse, excellent local brewery and a prom lined with really colourful beach huts. Cross the River Blyth by small bridge or foot ferry to historic Walberswick and on along the estuary to picturesque Wenhaston and back to Halesworth.
Head coastwards again to Dunwich, the medieval capital of East Anglia, now largely disappeared beneath the waves. Take a look at the ruined Greyfriars Priory clinging to the cliff tops, then continue along breath-taking heathlands, perhaps visiting the famous bird reserve at Minsmere. Leafy lanes lead through Eastbridge past more ruins at Leiston Abbey towards the winding creeks of the River Alde. Here at Snape Maltings, the Aldeburgh Festival concert hall sits amidst a great little collection of galleries, shops and antique sellers and is a lovely place to enjoy refreshments whilst drinking in the river views. Follow the lanes by heathlands, woods and historic parklands towards the next estuary and the bustling maritime town of Woodbridge. Sutton Hoo, nearby site of a significant Anglo-Saxon ship burial, is full of treasures and the walks there give wonderful views across the River Deben.
Head up to Woodbridge’s historic market hill or visit the waterfront with its famous tide mill before setting off into ‘town’. Edged by heathlands and parks, Ipswich soon blends back into rural landscapes as you head towards ‘Constable Country’. In the rolling countryside that is the setting for the Stour Valley and Dedham Vale, you will discover the still recognizable subjects of renowned 18th century landscape artist, John Constable. Visiting his birthplace at East Bergholt, the water meadows of the River Stour and Flatford Mill. The villages here, great and small, have impressive churches and some wonderful half-timbered houses and rambling inns, testimony to the medieval wealth of the local wool trade. Your destination, Stoke by Nayland, is no exception.
Rolling countryside leads across from Stoke by Nayland and the pretty village of Shelley to the fine ‘Wool Town’ of Hadleigh where a Tudor red brick Deanery Tower sits alongside the most impressive medieval church topped with a spire and leaning houses with bright pargetting line the main street. Next historic Kersey thrills with a downhill from church to watersplash. Together with nearby Chelsworth, it counts amongst the prettiest villages in England. More historic farmsteads and villages line the undulating route to the impressive wool town, Long Melford. This impressive village has not one, but two red brick Tudor manor houses, wide greens, a remarkable medieval church and a mile long main street, busy with interesting shops, antique centres, historic pubs and restaurants.
Start the day with the medieval labyrinth of half-timbered houses that is Lavenham, the most famous ‘Wool Town’. More rolling countryside follows and a visit to the pretty village of Hartest before dropping in at the eccentric, oval stately home of Ickworth House a few miles outside the ancient market town of Bury St Edmunds. Bury is full of history, tiny streets and old Suffolk charm. Walk through the massive stone gateway to the ruined abbey flanked by beautiful gardens leading down to the River Lark. The cathedral here gained its impressive tower to celebrate the new millennium .There’s a twice weekly market and a chance for a drink at The Nutshell, the smallest pub in Britain.
Leave your bike at the hotel and depart after breakfast. If you prefer to end your journey in Ipswich, the cycle tour on Day 7 is about 5 km longer. You cycle to Needham Market. From there you take the train back to Ipswich (transfer to the train station included).
Cycling is mostly on very quiet country lanes, linked by short stretches of busier road. The terrain ranges from flat to gently rolling countryside.
- Accommodation as already mentioned
- Breakfast buffet or an extensive breakfast
- Luggage transfer between the hotels
- Detailed travel documents (1 set of OS 1:50,000 maps per party with recommended and alternative routes marked. These are to be returned to us at the end of the holiday.)
- GPS-data is available
- Service hotline
- Train journey: Ipswich-Needham Market, Woodbridge-Ipswich or Manningtee
- Ferry to Deben and Orwell/STour