Suffolk One Day Itinerary
At the beginning of October, we set ourselves a challenge. That challenge was to see the best of Suffolk in just one day. If you are planning a Suffolk itinerary then this includes all the highlights, I would highly recommend taking a few days to enjoy this beautiful county though.
Why Suffolk in a Day?
The easy answer is that we like doing things that seem a little crazy and we wanted to challenge ourselves. In recent years we have spent a lot of time exploring the UK, and we wanted to do something that showcased the best this country has to offer families.
Why did we choose Suffolk for our first county in a day? Two reasons spring to mind. The first is a genuine love of the county, where both David and I were born and grew up. The second is practical. We know the county quite well, which made planning easy and we were staying with my mum, so travel was limited.
How Did We Come up with The Plan?
More planning when into this day than a typical day out. A lot more. We started by listing possible places we would like to visit on this adventure. We had a pretty good idea of where we wanted to go, but we still consulted Tripadvisor and the internet at large to see if there was anything we had missed.
Next, we whittled our ideas down to five core places to visit that would see us traverse the county. We wanted a mix of activities, and we tried to make sure everything was child-friendly.
We had way more places on the list than we were able to visit. Time was the main limiting factor. We had to avoid locations that would take us too far from our West to East route. Opening times also had to be taken into consideration.
Newmarket – Gallops (7 am)
We hustled the children out of bed at 6.30 am and arrived at Newmarket Gallops to see the sunrise at 7 am. That was the plan, but it didn’t quite work out that way. The kids did well, but the heavy October mist meant there was no enchanting sunrise to start our day. We had 5 minutes to watch the horses gallop before the fog thickened.
Despite this not really being the start we had envisioned it was still worth the trip. After the horses had exercised, they walked back down the hill close to the railings where we stood. It was a fantastic experience for the children to see these elegant animals close up, and the jockeys were a friendly bunch.
Our mood at this point was jovial, so we capped off our visit to Newmarket with a game of horse. The rules to this car game are simple, each time you see a horse you shout horse. The first person to shout gets the point. The winner is the person with the most points at the end of the journey. Ted is not there yet with the rules, but David and I had fun.
Newmarket is the place to go if you are interested in horses. You can view horses on the Gallops for free from several locations. The best spot for parking and viewing is on Moulton Road. The Gallops are reserved for exercising horses until 1 pm but the earlier you go, the more horses you will see. After 1 pm pedestrians are allowed to walk on the Gallops.
Other horse-related activities include visiting the National Stud and the National Horseracing Museum. For the National Stud, you can book tours from February to October.
For food, check out the Thai cafe or Mexican place. Both have delicious menus.
Breakfast in Bury St Edmunds (8.05 am)
After Newmarket, we headed 25 minutes down the road to my home town of Bury St Edmunds. Breakfast was at the Suffolk Carver. We have always fancied trying this place out but never got round to it as there are 1001 cafes in Bury, each with a tasty looking menu. We had an excellent vegetarian full English breakfast. It was an incredibly messy and stressful affair with the kids.
Bury St Edmunds – Abbey Gardens (9 am)
Full of breakfast and good spirit, we walked down to the Abbey Gardens. This extraordinary park and gardens contain the ruins of an Abbey which was dismantled for building materials following the Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1539. The gardens as we see them today were first laid out in 1831. The gardens are a source of great pride for the people of Bury St Edmunds, and David is very jealous of what they can achieve.
I can remember coming here as a child to explore the ruins, and this is what we did on this visit. Ted loves to climb, and we had a game of hide and seek. There is also a fabulous playground, the highlight of which is a water pump.
Usually, you are tripping over squirrels in the Abbey Gardens. We didn’t see any today, but we did spot our first ever baby pigeon.
Visiting Bury St Edmunds
There are lots of other interesting things to do in Bury St Edmunds, it would be easy to spend a day here. Next to the Abbey Gardens is the spectacular cathedral which is open to the public daily. Moyses Hall Museum is a lovely little museum with some unusual objects and activities for children.
Bury is a market town (Wednesdays and Saturdays), but even when there’s no market, there is plenty of shopping opportunities. For one weekend a year, the town plays host to one of the biggest Christmas Markets in the UK, drawing shoppers from far and wide.
You are spoilt for choice with cafes and restaurants in Bury St Edmunds. I highly recommend the Suffolk Carver and also the Giggling Squid for a fabulous Thai.
Stowmarket – Museum of East Anglian Life (11.15 am)
Another 20 minutes down the A14, and we were at our next location. This stop was in the town of Stowmarket to visit the Museum of East Anglian Life. We had never been to this museum before, and it was much bigger than we expected. There was so much to explore and hands-on things to do that we couldn’t possibly fit it into this flying visit. We have since returned and spent the day there. You can read more about our day at the Museum of East Anglian Life in this post.
On this occasion, we had a quick look around some of the best exhibitions and then went for a walk to see the windpump and farm animals. Once we had seen the best of the museum, we decided to try the on-site cafe for lunch. The food was a treat, and the kids loved the playing while we ate.
RSPB Minsmere (2.25 pm)
The Museum of East Anglian life was our longest stop so far, and we followed it up with our longest car journey. We drove for an hour to reach the famous Suffolk coast for the first time at RSBB Minsmere. The kids both napped in the car and were refreshed for our next adventure.
Mid-afternoon is not really the best time to visit a bird reserve. We enjoyed our walk, but we did not see any birds in the many bird hides we came across. Fortunately, there were also no bird watchers as two children under 4 do not make the best bird watching companions. They enjoyed looking through the binoculars to see what they could spot, and they also enjoyed stamping around the bird hides, making a lot of noise.
We strolled down to the shore and took some time to sit still, breathing in the sea air and watching the children play. From the beach, we could see our final stop to the North, Southwold with its distinctive lighthouse.
Southwold (5 pm)
We arrived at our final stop in the early evening with no activities planned. Exhilarated by our successful day, we skipped passed the lighthouse to the Adnams Brewery for a drink. I had a local cider and David had Adnam’s alcohol-free beer. We couldn’t come to the seaside without having fish and chips, so that was our next stop. The sun went down behind us as we ate them looking out to sea on the clifftop.
We had our drone with us, but we hadn’t sent it up all day. This seemed like the perfect opportunity to send it up from the beach. After that bit of fun, we headed down to the pier to survey the dark coastline.
Suffolk Itinerary (1 Day) – Conclusions
This Suffolk itinerary is jam-packed with things to do. I love my home county, and I would highly recommend to first-time visitors that they take their time. Having said that, we had a superb day showing the kids the best of Suffolk. We were lucky that they were up for it though, there are plenty of days when they wouldn’t have been.
Would we do it again? We have thought about other counties we could do in a day. We would love to give it a go, but it has a tough act to live up to.