Things to Do – Suffolk
Orford Castle, Orford
No trip to Orford is complete without visiting Orford Castle with its unparalleled views over the Orford Ness. It was built between 1165 and 1173 by Henry II of England to consolidate royal power in the region. Take the time to discover one of England’s most complete and unusual keeps, at this fascinating visitor attraction in Orford. The unique polygonal tower keep of Orford Castle stands beside the pretty town and former port, which Henry II also developed here.
The castle is remarkably intact allowing visitors to explore from the basement, through the lower and upper halls to the roof where there are magnificent views seaward to Orford Ness. Around the rooms is a maze of passages leading to the chapel, kitchen and other chambers in the turrets.
Sutton Hoo, near Woodbridge
Sutton Hoo is a fantastic family day out. In 1939 a series of mounds at Sutton Hoo revealed their astounding contents: the remains of an Anglo-Saxon funerary ship and a huge cache of seventh-century royal treasure. After a £4 million pound refurbishment of the site in 2019, visitors will now see an enormous, full-size sculpture of the Anglo-Saxon ship – 27 metres (89ft) long and 4 metres (13ft) high at its ends like the imprint of the ship’s remains uncovered in 1939 – and dramatic new audiovisual displays, centred around reconstructions of the treasures and exhibits showing how they were made. They can also walk new paths around the site, revealing the mounds of the royal burial grounds in context. The Trust hopes the revamp will help connect visitors more viscerally to the stories behind the lumps in Sutton Hoo’s sandy earth and visitors can now take advantage of the 17-metre observation tower offering a view over the landscape in which an entire royal dynasty is believed to have been laid to rest.
An important part of Orford’s history is its amazing Lighthouse on Orford Ness, now sadly decommissioned and facing a fight for its survival against the elements. When the original 30 metre (98 ft) tower was completed in 1792, the light had a range of 25 nautical miles (46 km; 29 mi). Sadly it is now threatened by coastal erosion and this iconic building is at imminent risk of falling into the sea. It is now in the hands of the Orfordness Lighthouse Trust, who are committed to keeping this much loved monument standing for as long as possible and to preserve its legacy after that. While possible, guided tours are offered of this amazing place - you can either visit on one of the Open Days or arrange a private visit with the trust for a pre - agreed donation.
All visits include a guided tour as well as ample time to enjoy the scenery and the atmosphere of Orford Ness.
Lady Florence – River Cruises
Ferry Cottage is a minutes walk from the quay and many visitors find getting out on the water enhances their enjoyment of their visit to Suffolk. The Lady Florence provides river cruises including Breakfast, Lunch, and Supper Cruises for a maximum of twelve passengers on the Rivers Alde and Ore from Orford, regardless of tides.
Sailing all year round, with a cosy coal fire in winter, the Lady Florence River Cruise Restaurant is designed to provide a different and exciting dining experience. There is ample space, both out on deck and in the elegant dining saloon. As the vessel cruises the calm waters of the Rivers Alde and Ore, freshly-prepared fine food and drinks are served by the friendly staff. Special dietary requirements can be accommodated with prior notice. A fully stocked bar is always available, and there is a small but comprehensive wine list.
The Lady Florence is available for your own exclusive private charter, or individuals may book independently, sharing with other passengers.
Regardless – River Cruises
Another river cruise option is Regardless, a 25ft wooden clinker open launch boat of the traditional style of the area. Regardless provides an entertaining and educational cruise in an area rich in both wildlife and history.
Starting at Orford Quay, your cruise heads south passing the Orford Castle on it’s right and later on the left, the fascinating pagodas. The river splits in two as the boat circumnavigates Havergate Island and passes a RSPB Bird Reserve, internationally famous for its rare breeds and migrant birds.
The return trip travels back down the other side of the Island and along the longest vegetated shingle spit in Europe until we reach Orford. The Orford Ness National Trust is a highly rated conservation area.
Seven miles of unspoilt river, on a trip that returns on a different route, makes it two boat trips in one.
Departure times from Orford Quay depending on the season and weather
The Orford Quay is perfect for old fashioned family fun, a spot of crabbing!
This activity will keep children and adults occupied for hours with crabbing nets, buckets and lines available for sale at the @OrfordGeneralStore, a village shops which caters for both locals and tourists, offering free deliveries in a ten mile radius.
Crabbing is a fun and cost-effective activity, with only a few things required:
Some string or handline, a bucket (If you are putting them in a bucket, try and make it a plastic one. In this heat, metal buckets will very quickly become too hot for these creatures to stay in for long.
A small fishing net and the bait – crabs are partial to fish and bacon
From the quay there are local footpaths along the banks of the River in both directions which are very popular, providing views of life on the water and the stunning Suffolk landscape. BYO – dog.
Orford Ness Nature Reserve
Another option for families and well worth a visit is the Orford Ness Nature Reserve. It is an internationally important coastal nature reserve, with a fascinating 20th-century military history. Take waymarked trails through the unusual landscape. Follow your interests. Military history or nature. The choice varies with the season. Learn about the breeding and migrating birds on the Ness, specialised plants and other wildlife which flourish in a rich mosaic of coastal habitats. Visit some of the intriguing ex-military buildings you will pass on your walk and view displays about the history and ecology of the site. Use some as an elevated viewing platform to look across this extraordinary area.
Offering bracing coastal walks, arts festivals galore and a proudly independent local food and shopping scene, cultured Aldeburgh is the 23 minutes drive from Ferry Cottage and well worth visiting. It was composer Benjamin Britten who really put Aldeburgh on the map. The town’s most celebrated son established a world-renowned annual festival of classical music in the wake of which have grown a lively roster of high-brow arts gatherings – from literature and poetry to contemporary theatre and documentary – that punch well above their weight.
Tip - Aldeburgh Fish & Chip Shop. Regularly voted the best in the land, Aldeburgh’s legendary chippy – uber-fresh fish, crisply battered; perfect pillowy chips, best drenched in salt and vinegar – has fans as diverse as Spanish chef José Pizarro and local boy Ed Sheeran.