125 things to do in Suffolk this year
PUBLISHED: 12:16 03 January 2017 | UPDATED: 16:22 03 January 2017
Suffolk has a fast growing reputation for its ability to organise a blooming good time. So, fill your diary with a selection of festivals and events throughout the year, plus great ideas for cycling, walking and soaking up some of the county's culture
FESTIVALS & SHOWS
Note: Not all dates are confirmed for 2017, so watch the websites as dates and line-ups are confirmed
Founded by Suffolk-born composer Benjamin Britten, Peters Pears, and Eric Crozier in 1948, the Aldeburgh Festival is a celebration of new music and old music, art and life in the Suffolk countryside.
June 30, July 1 & 2
With a programme that spans the Atlantic, Maverick Festival brings roots and americana music to Suffolk in what’s been hailed as one of the “friendliest, most sincere festivals in England,” and the number one UK festival for any lover of Americana.
Twice winner of the UK Festival Award for Best Line-Up, Latitude is an eclectic mix of literature, comedy, theatre, dance, poetry and some of the world’s greatest musicians, all in a beautiful lakeside setting.
Thirty summer nights, 30 concerts in the world-class Snape Maltings Concert Hall, the Snape Proms feature musicians from all over the world playing a spectacular mix of genres and styles, with a little bit of poetry and comedy thrown in.
August 18, 19 20
Folk music and culture is deeply ingrained in Suffolk, and FolkEast festival celebrates this ancient link like no other. A unique combination of folk music, food and crafts, all “suffused with good vibrations” in the lovely setting of Glemham Hall has earned FolkEast a place among the UK’s top folk festivals.
Replicating the soulful atmosphere of the American deep south, Red Rooster brings the finest rhythm and blues, americana, blues, soul, roots and country musicians to Suffolk for a weekend of nothing but great music, great food and great times.
IPSWICH JAZZ FESTIVAL
It’s back! Club and pub gigs, workshops, big-name performances, film screenings and art shows. Renowned big band Back to Basie at the New Wolsey Theatre, June 25, jazz band and dance at the Manor Ballroom June 23. Suffolk-based jazz performers performing across town, national names playing at club venues. Top musicians such as Jose Canha and Bob Airzee running workshops, while DanceEast workshops, art exhibition, photography workshops, special screenings of jazz films at Ipswich Film Theatre.
FELIXSTOWE BOOK FESTIVAL
Among the newest literary festivals in Suffolk, the Felixstowe Book Festival has a love for reading at its core. With talks from writers and novelists hailing from many different genres, it describes itself as a festival ‘for those who always have their head buried in a book and those who haven’t yet fully experience the wonder of reading.”
ALDEBURGH POETRY FESTIVAL
Founded in 1989, the Aldeburgh Poetry Festival is one of the oldest and most rewarding events of its kind in the country. The packed weekend programme includes poetry readings from some of the world’s finest poets, discussions, close-readings, poetry workshops and more.
WAYS WITH WORDS
This five-day festival in Southwold, Suffolk attracts bookworms, literature lovers, writers and intellectuals with an engrossing programme of events, from discussions of art, politics and history to fiction readings and literary dinners.
LAVENHAM LITERARY FESTIVAL
Britain’s best-preserved medieval village provides a magical backdrop for this literary festival, which features readings and discussions from a wide range of authors, and across a broad range of genres.
ALDEBURGH LITERARY FESTIVAL
The Aldeburgh Literary Festival combines inspiring literature with sharp thought and fresh sea air, with talks and readings by a range of top writers.
Brazilian and British culture collide in an explosive three-day party at Snape Maltings. Alongside talks and readings from the best Brazilian and British novelists, festival-goers can dance to Samba, taste Brazilian food, admire art and take part in various workshops.
SOUTHWOLD ARTS FESTIVAL
Southwold plays host to artists, poets, writers, actors and musicians for a week-long showcase of the arts.
ART ON THE PROM
Date TBC (usually first Sunday in September)
Felixstowe’s annual art festival takes place on the town’s seafront promenade, where over a hundred artists display and sell their original artwork to over 20,000 visitors.
Date TBC (usually November)
This rich documentary festival has been running for over 20 years, and is a must-visit for anyone interested in documentaries and filmmaking. Documentary films from all over the world and covering a range of illuminating topics are screened at Aldeburgh Cinema, each followed by an in-depth discussion with the filmmaker.
SPILL FESTIVAL OF PERFORMANCE
Date TBC (usually October/November)
Curated by the visionary Pacitti Company, SPILL is a bi-annual festival of experimental theatre which takes place in Ipswich, and in London. It brings daring new works of performance by new and established artists to the fore – at times challenging, and always thought-provoking.
Date TBC (usually September)
Every year, HighTide brings stunning works of new theatre to Suffolk over the course of a 10-day festival in Aldeburgh, including world premieres of plays by hand-picked playwrights. It’s billed as ‘adventurous theatre for adventurous people’.
BURY ST EDMUNDS FESTIVAL
Dates TBC (usually May)
The Bury St Edmunds Festival offers 10 days of music, theatre, film and exhibitions in the heart of one of Suffolk’s most historic towns. With concerts and performances happening in various locations around Bury St Edmunds, festival goers have a chance to see internationally renowned artists and local talent, and do some sightseeing.
Curated by the New Wolsey Theatre in Ipswich, Pulse Festival offers up a delectable selection of new plays, including a “Scratch Day” of works in progress, during which plays at various stages of composition are performed before the audience, who can then give the artists feedback.
This springboard festival taking place at the New Cut Theatre in Halesworth champions new writing. Over the course of an unmissable weekend, you’ll get to see brand new works of theatre performed live and back-to-back, as well as films and live music.
BURY ST EDMUNDS FOOD & DRINK FESTIVAL
Sample some of the delicious treats Suffolk has to offer, meet and buy from local producers, and watch live cookery demonstrations by Michelin-starred and critically-acclaimed chefs.
ALDEBURGH FOOD & DRINK FESTIVAL
September 23 & 24
Recognised as one of the top food festivals in the country, Aldeburgh Food & Drink Festival attracts foodies from far and wide for a weekend of tasting, talking about and discovering the rich variety of East Anglian produce. Following the main festival weekend are three weeks of fringe events, ranging from chocolate-making workshops to pop-up restaurants.
THE WOODBRIDGE SHUCK
Date TBC (usually September/October)
Lovers of seafood should not miss out on the annual Woodbridge Shuck, a shellfish festival that takes place in Woodbridge by the beautiful River Deben. Expect fresh Suffolk seafood in various international dishes, safari suppers, seasonal markets and more.
Date TBC (usually October)
This autumnal festival in Framlingham takes the humble sausage to all new heights. Alongside numerous workshops, activities and entertainment is the all important sausage trail, on which festival goers can hunt out delicious sausage samples from competing local producers, and vote which sizzler should be crowned the winner.
WAVENEY VALLEY FOOD & DRINK FESTIVAL
Date TBC (usually October)
Local producers, plenty of cookery demos, live music and kids entertainment, this festival is a great way for a foodie family to spend a weekend.
ALDE VALLEY SPRING FESTIVAL
Date TBC (usually April)
Four-week celebration of food, farming, landscape and the arts at White House Farm, Great Glemham, the festival brings together an exhibition of work by 40 artists with a programme of events ranging from artistic and literary talks to home-cooked farm suppers, and even the odd record-breaking picnic.
LAVENHAM FOOD & ARTS FESTIVAL
Date TBC (Usually June)
Lavenham is a foodie town through and through, boasting some of Suffolk’s best restaurants, a produce-filled farmers’ market, and year-round food and foraging workshops. As you would expect, its food festival is a sumptuous event, incorporating cookery demonstrations, producer stalls, art exhibitions and art trail, and live music.
TASTE OF SUDBURY FOOD & DRINK FESTIVAL
Date TBC (usually June)
At this charming food festival in the historic town of Sudbury, the food stalls range from a mouth-watering champagne and salmon bar to a stalls chock-full of handmade ice-creams. A Taste of Sudbury also boasts a fun programme of events, often including Guinness World Record attempts and demonstrations by much-loved local chefs.
Date TBC (usually March)
Set in West Stow Anglo-Saxon Village, a working replica of a 1,600-year-old settlement in The Brecks, Brecks Fest is an annual celebration of all things Anglo-Saxon. Expect historical re-enactments, a Saxon Bake-Off, Saxon tools demonstrations, archery, hands-on crafts activities, and lots of fun for little ones.
WEIRD & WONDERFUL WOOD
Date TBC (usually May)
A two-day event that brings together anyone and everyone with a passion for woodwork. Meet over 100 artists and craftspeople and watch them as they work their magic, join in workshops and have a go. www.weirdandwonderfulwood.co.uk
THE MÖET & CHANDON JULY FESTIVAL
Newmarket’s July Festival is one of the most prestigious and thrilling sporting events in the country. Watch the world’s greatest jockeys and racehorses thunder round the July Course in a series of season-defining races.
THE EAST ANGLIAN DRAGON BOAT FESTIVAL
The ancient Chinese tradition of Dragon Boat racing has boomed in popularity over recent years, and at this festival in Oulton Broad, you can join several thousand other spectators to watch around 40 crews battle it out on the water in an attempt to become Suffolk’s Dragon Boat champions.
THE SUFFOLK WALKING FESTIVAL
May 13-June 4
What better way to get to know Suffolk than exploring its loveliest landscapes on foot? Taking place over three weeks every spring, the Suffolk Walking Festival offers thousands of walkers the chance to join guided walks across the county, through countryside, forests, heaths, towns and villages, and along 50 miles of coast.
HEVENINGHAM HALL COUNTRY FAIR
July 1& 2, 10am-5pm
This promises to be an unbelievably fabulous day out in the beautiful grounds of Heveningham Hall country estate, near Halesworth. Here’s what’s on: Big Pete and Grim Reaper Monster Truck Show, the Red Devils Freefall Team, Trig Aerobatics Team, flying two Pitts Special S-1D Biplanes, Suffolk Punches, Supermarine Spitfire Ix Mh434, The Dog And Duck Show, Tractor Parade, Waveney Harriers, Battle Of Britain Displays by The RAF Battle Of Britain Memorial Flight (www.raf.mod.uk/bbmf), Icarus Falconry, Run Heveningham, up to 110 light aeroplanes, High Lodge Clay Pigeon Shoot, Pakefield Ferrets, Dog Show, Agility And Flyball, Nature Corner, Classic Vehicles, Land Rovers, Sheep Show, Gun Dog Scurry, Amazing Reptiles, Bungee Jump, Park Gate Farm Donkeys, Kimmy’s Mini Zoo
HALESWORTH IN BLOOM
June 30 weekend
Celebrating the bicentenary of botanist Joseph Hooker, who was born in the town in 1817. Hooker was Charles Darwin’s closest friend and for 20 years served as director of the Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew.
THE (ONE & ONLY) SUFFOLK SHOW
May 31 & June 1
Town and country collide for two days and have the best fun together they could possibly have. There is lots to see and do, under 15s go free and dogs are welcome. The Suffolk Show is widely acknowledged as one of the best county shows in the country, with something for everyone. It’s a true celebration of everything that’s great about living in Suffolk – food and drink, farming, sport and fitness, crafts, fashion, trade stands, exciting action-packed entertainment in the grand ring, show-jumping and much, much more. And it’s in half term, so the whole family can go.
Trinity Park, Felixstowe Road, Ipswich, Suffolk, IP3 8UH.
A great family day out at Holbecks Park, with exciting displays, competitions, animals, cookery demonstrations and much more.
VISIT A MUSEUM
There are lots of museums throughout Suffolk, some dedicated to towns and villages, others to local endeavours and special interests, all offer a fascinating insight to the county’s rich heritage. Most are run by volunteers who will be only too happy to share their knowledge and enthusiasm with you. Here are 30 to get you started – you can find more at www.suffolkmuseums.org
Aldeburgh Museum www.aldeburghmuseumonline.co.uk
Lowestoft Museum http://www.lowestoftmuseum.org
Bawdsey Radar Transmitter Block http://www.bawdseyradar.org.uk
Beccles and District Museum http://www.becclesmuseum.org.uk
Bentwaters Cold War Museum http://www.bcwm.org.uk
Mildenhall and District Museum http://www.mildenhallmuseum.co.uk
Bungay Museum http://www.bungay-suffolk.co.uk/activities/museum.asp
Moyse’s Hall Museum http://www.weststow.org
Christchurch Mansion http://www.cimuseums.org.uk/Christchurch-Mansion
Museum of East Anglian Life http://eastanglianlife.org.uk/home.html
Clare Ancient House Museum http://www.clare-ancient-house-museum.co.uk
Dunwich Museum http://www.dunwichmuseum.org.uk
East Anglia Transport Museum http://www.eatransportmuseum.co.uk
Norfolk and Suffolk Aviation Museum http://www.aviationmuseum.net
Felixstowe Museum http://www.felixstowemuseum.org/
Orford Museum http://www.orfordmuseum.org.uk/
Parham Airfield Museum http://www.parhamairfieldmuseum.co.uk
Gainsborough’s House http://www.gainsborough.org
HMS Ganges Museum https://hmsgangesmuseum.com/
Ickworth House http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/ickworth
Southwold Sailors’ Reading Room http://www.southwoldsailorsreadingroom.co.uk
Sudbury Heritage Centre and Museum http://www.sudburysuffolk.co.uk/heritage
Ipswich Museum http://www.ipswich.gov.uk/museums
Haverhill and District Local History Centre http://haverhilllhg.onesuffolk.net/
Suffolk Aviation Heritage Museum http://www.suffolkaviationheritage.org.uk
Suffolk Horse Society https://www.suffolkhorsesociety.org.uk/
Ipswich Transport Museum http://www.ipswichtransportmuseum.co.uk
Suffolk Regiment Museum http://www.suffolkregimentmuseum.co.uk
Sutton Hoo http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/suttonhoo
Tide Mill Living Museum http://www.woodbridgetidemill.org.uk/
WALK THIS WAY
Which ever direction you travel, north, south, east or west, coast or countryside, you’ll find hundreds of places to explore the area on foot. And why not? Walking is good for the mind as well as the body, and you’ll experience your surroundings with all your senses. Suffolk’s benign climate also means walking can be a year-round activity. There are plenty of pubs, cafes and tea shops along the way to welcome you when you need a rest, as well as B&Bs and holiday cottages should you decide to treat yourself to a walking break in Suffolk.
Some of the most popular walks in Suffolk are to be found along the 50-mile Suffolk Coast Path, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Circular walks along the route enable you to explore villages such as Snape, Orford and Wherstead, towns such as Southwold, Aldeburgh and Woodbridge, and the Shotley Penisula. There are some really enjoyable pub walks within the AONB, such as the Inn-to-Inn walk between Westleton and Dunwich; the Adnams iFootpath walks, which feature cosy pubs; and Discover Suffolk’s series of 14 pub walks within The Suffolk Coast.
If you’re up for a challenge you can walk the Angles Way, a 77-mile walk connecting the Suffolk Broads to The Brecks and one of the longest way-marked walks in Suffolk, running from Great Yarmouth along the Suffolk/Norfolk border to Knettishall Heath nature reserve.
The Suffolk Threads trails are circular walks through the historic Suffolk Wool Towns, famed for their timber-framed Tudor houses and grand churches. Suffolk’s religious architecture and remote villages can also be explored via the Church & Heritage Trails, located all over the county.
The Meadow Walk in Sudbury is the first section of The Gainsborough Trail, a 13-mile circular walk through Sudbury’s famous watermeadows.
The wildest walks in Suffolk are through The Brecks, a truly unique, ancient landscape full of wildlife. At Brandon Country Park follow tree and heritage trails, or venture deep into the forest on the walking routes from High Lodge in Thetford Forest.
ADNAMS PUB WALKS
Brewer Adnams has teamed up with the online walks library iFootpath to create a series of 11 pubs walks in Suffolk. Adnams is renowned for its cosy pubs, 35 of which are dotted along the Suffolk coast and in the Suffolk Wool Towns. The walks enable you to explore the countryside between the pubs, including the Suffolk Coast and Heaths Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
The pub walks come with instructions, photography and information about the history and environment of the area and each has been tested for dog-friendliness the iFootpath app also enables you to track your real-time progress on the satellite map of the route, and add your comments and ratings of the walks. You can download the iFootpath app at http://www.ifootpath.com/, or download the individual pub walks using the links on the Adnams website www.adnams.co.uk
Download walks and cycle rides, and get more information at:
GET ON YOUR BIKE
Suffolk is (relatively) flat, so no wonder it’s so popular with cyclists. Here’s a quick guide to some of the best places to explore on two wheels.
The Suffolk Coast – 155 square miles of peaceful, unspoilt landscape dedicated as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Rendlesham Forest has cycling trails, which are great for the whole family to enjoy.
The Waveney Valley – in northeast Suffolk, this is a fabulous place to cycle between charming towns and villages. The Three Rivers Loop is a 23-mile circular route with lovely views of the Waveney Valley, perfect for a full day’s cycling. The Beccles South Loop swings south to Halesworth and then on to The Suffolk Coast, while the Marshes and Lanes Loop takes you on a round journey between the picturesque riverside towns of Bungay and Beccles. The 16-mile circular Saints Tour explores ancient churches, while the 13-mile Brewery Tour, stops off at St Peter’s Brewery.
The Shotley Peninsula – between the rivers Orwell and Stour in southeast Suffolk, this area has fabulous views over the estuaries. Pedal all over it or do the eight-mile circular loop offers around Alton Water.
Constable Country And The Stour Valley – lush meadows, ancient mills and a meandering river. Explore at your own pace, or pedal the 69-mile Painter’s Trail.
Thetford Forest & The Brecks – from the village of Mildenhall, a 27-mile horseshoe ride takes you through typical Breckland landscapes, past flint churches and the village of Tuddenham. The three circular routes of the Stanton Rides offer another view of The Brecks, this time of windmills and wild fens. The King’s Forest Cycle Rides will take you through the heaths and forests surrounding the village of West Stow. You can also go off road in Thetford Forest.
West Suffolk – starting in Bury St Edmunds, the 30-mile Towers and Spires tour connects St Edmundsbury cathedral with the parish churches that surround it. From Newmarket you can embark on the three circular Newmarket Rides, or the 28-mile circular Jockey’s Trail, which ends on Newmarket Heath.
The Miller’s Trail is a 23-mile route of moderate difficulty that pays homage to Suffolk’s historic mills.