Use OS Explorer maps 231 & 212
Pick your car up good and early and head off to the nearby market town of HALESWORTH (free 1 hour parking) and then via WRENTHAM onto COVEHITHE and it’s famous church: take a stroll (allow 45 minutes there and back) to the superb unspoilt Heritage Coast beach. Return to your car and negotiate the country lanes south to SOUTHWOLD where the Pier, beach huts and Gun Hill are the major attractions. If you think you have time head down to the harbour and catch the pedestrian ferry across the river Blyth to WALBERSWICK and its pretty village green (it is also famous for it’s Crabbing Festival). Catch the ferry back to and head off via the A12 and B1125 to discover the lost port of DUNWICH (the Ship Inn is pretty good or there are excellent fish’n’ chips at the main car park) and (if you want to pay the extortionate parking) RSPB Minsmere is nearby.
From here it’s back down the road to WESTLETON: this time you’ll pass the Westleton Crown (which was recently made famous by the patronage of William and Kate) and onto the B1125 again until the T-junction with the B1122 to LEISTON. Just before LEISTON there is a r.h. turn (brown sign) to Leiston Abbey ruins and then a l.h. turn off to SIZEWELL Nuclear Power Station and if you fancy a swim this is a good place to do it as the sea is a couple of degrees warmer due to the outflow of used cooling water.
Once you’ve negotiated Leiston’s traffic lights (a rare occurrence on this trip) take the l.h. turn towards THORPENESS where the Dolphin Inn will appear in front of you – another fine lunchtime or evening hostelry. Park wherever you can (there is a Pay and Display) and take a stroll to look at the mere (time permitting you could hire a rowing boat). From here it a short drive down the coast to the now very fashionable resort of ALDEBURGH – home to two more famous fish ‘n’ chip shops but also to so much more! The town along with neighbouring SNAPE probably deserve a day visit in their own right (that’s if you are not already staying there or nearby!).
Approx. mileage for this section: 50.
Leave ALDEBURGH on the A1094 and follow the brown signs for SNAPE MALTINGS with an eclectic mix of shop, cafes and the world famous Aldeburgh Music centre focused around Benjamin Britten. Moving on – as you head south out of Snape you’ll immediately come to a Y junction with a triangle of grass in the middle – take the LEFT fork and continue along this road with Tunstall Forest on your r.h.s. following the signs for Sudbourne and ORFORD. Orford is a really picturesque old fishing (now mainly yachting) port with an English Heritage Castle (entrance fee), the excellent Crown and Castle hotel and friendly Kings Head. There are some superb walks and boat trips to the Nature Reserve across the River Ore.
From ORFORD you are trying to get to HOLLESLEY and it’s not actually that easy (unless you’re cheating and have brought Satnav along!). Anyway, head back the way you came and follow the signs for CHILLESFORD on the B1084 and then BUTLEY. As you leave Butley southbound the B1084 takes a right (signposted Woodbridge) and there is a minor road going LEFT – take it. Follow this road through some very pretty and atypical Suffolk countryside via BUTLEY ABBEY and CAPEL ST ANDREW and you will pass HOLLESLEY HEATH Nature Reserve before arriving in HOLLESLEY and the SUFFOLK PUNCH TRUST (our Charity – please click on link). Once you’ve finished admiring the horses and other endangered English species it is a fairly straight forward drive following the signs for WOODBRIDGE.
A couple of miles before WOODBRIDGE you will see signs for the NATIONAL TRUST SUTTON HOO site: this is most definitely worth a visit – even if it just to admire the famous helmet. Onwards to WOODBRIDGE – one of our finest market towns with excellent shopping in the Square and Thoroughfare: if you’re missing civilization then there are Prezzos, Café Nero and Costa Café to remind you – although we recommend the coffee in the Book Shop halfway down the Thoroughfare.
Approx. mileage for this section: 40.
Depending on your schedule and how much energy you’ve got left from Woodbridge you can take the easy route back to FRAMLINGHAM via the A12 dual carriageway – it’s actually a good opportunity to wind the car up a bit as there is little traffic but watch out for lurking patrol cars on the on-ramps – and then the B116 north to Framlingham.
However, we would recommend taking a more rural and scenic route through pretty countryside that is more hilly and undulating then you will have seen so far: A good route is through the villages of BREDFIELD, DALLINGHOO and EASTON – home to an excellent recently refurbished pub and Easton Park Farm (great for kids). From Easton follow the signs for KETTLEBURGH, BRANDESTON (another fine pub) and EARL SOHAM (the Victoria pub has an excellent own brew made just across the road – also available in the Station pub in Framlingham). On arrival in Earl Soham head east on the A1120 Tourist Route for a couple of miles and you’ll come to the National Trust Saxted Working Windmill with attendant ice cream van. From there it is just a couple of miles back to FRAMLINGHAM. Journey over – except you’ve still got the Castle to visit.
Approx. mileage for the cross country route in this section: 20.
Approx. total mileage 120 – this leaves some spare for getting lost of more meaningful diversions and getting lost!
Use OS Explorer maps 196, 197 & 211
If you’ve spent the night in or nearby Framlingham why not get in the mood for a day’s exploring with a brisk walk around Framlingham before collecting your car.
Once you’re on the road we suggest you head via the most direct and speedy route towards Constable Country – so leave Framlingham southbound (direction Wickham Market/Woodbridge) on the B1116 and join the dualled southbound A12. Keep on the A12 past Woodbridge and MARTLESHAM until it joins the A14 westbound (Jctn 58); head over the impressive ORWELL BRIDGE and exit at the next off ramp (Jctn 56). At the roundabout turn left and you’ll drive past Jimmy’s Farm on the r.h.s. down the A137 towards MANNINGTREE.
Approx. mileage for this section: 30.
After about 8 miles you will come to the villages of BRANTHAM and CATTAWADE – at the bottom of a hill you’ll find a roundabout. Turn right onto the B1070 towards FLATFORD MILL (go here first) and EAST BERGHOLT.
Once you’ve explored East Bergholt with Constable’s Studio and choice of pubs you have the option of taking a short diversion – less than 3.5 miles – to the picturesque town of DEDHAM – continue west on B1070, then south on A12 and next exit (junct 30) onto B1020 to DEDHAM (where John Constable went to school).
DEDHAM VALE is an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and is frequently rated as containing some of England’s most beautiful Lowland landscape, most particularly the Water Meadows of the River Stour. Other attractions include the Marlborough Hotel, Burnt Oak Cottage and the magnificent 15th Century church that was built from the wealth of the medieval cloth industry.
Wherever you are you now need to head north east across the A12.
You should now be on the B1068 for STOKE BY NAYLAND – with St Mary’s Church and a couple of pubs – and LEAVENHEATH where you’ll join the A134 for SUDBURY. It is on the River Stour and is the centre of another AOONB and is also the birth place of Thomas Gainsborough.
For centuries the weaving and silk industry has prospered here and many great houses and churches were built, giving the town a major historical legacy which, in turn, has resulted in it being used for television locations, most significantly for BBC’s Lovejoy. Both the Wagon & Horse and Angel are recommended if you need a break by now.
It is surrounded by beautiful countryside and quintessentially English villages so often found in the works of Constable and Gainsborough and is also home to the latter’s house and gardens.
Leave Sudbury via the B1064 (north-west) heading for CAVENDISH on the A1092 – a designated scenic route that follows the River Stour and with superb a-typical Suffolk countryside. Cavendish is a stunningly pretty village with St Mary’s Church, Nether Hall and the timbered Bell Inn being the major attractions.
It is just about 2 miles further west to the equally pretty village of CLARE and CLARE CASTLE
Approx. mileage for this section (including Dedham deviation): 39
Clare is as far west as this itinerary takes you. Head back eastwards on the A1092 to LONG MELFORD – made famous by it’s well photographed ford and nearby Crown Hotel (built in 1610). The Bull Hotel on the village green is stunning and even older (built in 1450).
There are two nearby Halls you could visit:
Kentwell Hall is a commercial, almost themed venue
Melford Hall is what it says on the NT tin and they charge accordingly.
Here is a link to a nice circular walk (but it is 6 miles long so you might have to run!):
Long Melford Church Nave
From Melford you’re heading to the Jewel in the Crown – LAVENHAM. Take scenic A134 north for a couple of miles and then TURN RIGHT onto BRIDGE STREET ROAD and you will shortly arrive in LAVENHAM- a town blessed with two world class hostelries The Angel and The Swan.
Essential viewing includes Lavenham Guildhall also Lavenham Little Hall, Guildhall of Corpus Christi and the Church of St Peter and St Paul.
Here’s another circular walk (a bit shorter than the previous one).
From LAVENHAM choose a cross-country route to STOWMARKET which is the home of the East Anglian Life Museum From Stowmarket you want to join the A1120 Tourist Route for Framlingham: to do this you will need to find STOWUPLAND (the petrol station on the r.h.s. is quite competitively priced). Once you’ve negotiated the slightly worrying A140 crossing (you go straight over) you will come to the eclectic STONEHAM BARNS attraction on the r.h.s. Time permitting the Suffolk Owl Sanctuary demonstrations are fantastic!
As you continue eastwards from Stoneham you will find some signs pointing left to DEBENHAM, – which is another pretty Suffolk village if you still have the inclination. However, we would suggest you continue onto EARL SOHAM where you will find the VICTORIA pub and brewery as you might be feeling like a drink by now!
Suitably refreshed you’ve only got another 4 miles back to FRAMLINGHAM – although you might want to take a look at the en route National Trust Windmill at SAXTEAD GREEN.
Approx. mileage for this section (including Dedham deviation): 45
Total mileage approximately 120 – leaves enough spare for getting lost or the odd side trip.