At Windmill Lodges you are never short of things to do or places to visit. Whether you want an active holiday or prefer more cultural pursuits, there is something for everyone to enjoy.
Southwold, Blythburgh, Thorpeness (with its Mere) Aldeburgh and Dunwich are all within easy reach with their beaches, walks, restaurants and pubs, while Minsmere RSPB reserve is a must for bird watchers. Shoppers, too will enjoy Southwold and Aldeburgh with their assortment of individual stores.
Whatever your interests, there’s plenty to see and do within a short drive of Windmill Lodges. The list below is not exhaustive, but we hope it gives you an indication of the variety of things to do and places to see.
Just five minutes’ drive from Windmill Lodges, this charming small market town is a must. It’s the perfect place to pick up all the essentials for your stay at the lodge, but it’s much more than that! Country Life magazine voted Framlingham the Number One place to live in the country, and the town regularly features in top-ten lists of the best small towns and market towns. Something which doesn’t surprise us at all!
There’s a market every Tuesday and Saturday morning, where you can buy from local producers to cook up a feast without running up those food miles! If you want to give the kitchen a break, there’s a good choice of restaurants, including the Lemon Tree bistro, the Crown Hotel restaurant and the Station Hotel. If you fancy something a little lighter, cafes abound, including Kitty’s, the Dancing Goat and – on market days only – the tiny Over the Moon outdoor cafe (waffles and crepes are highly recommended!).
June each year sees the world-renowned Aldeburgh Festival of Music and the Arts – a huge attraction. Aldeburgh is known world-wide for this event, which was founded in 1948 by the composer Benjamin Britten, the singer Peter Pears and the writer-producer Eric Crozier. The annual Christmas Spectacular is also a firm favourite.
Art galleries – too numerous to mention! The old Ipswich Art School has recently reopened as a gallery space (with the help of the Saatchi Gallery), and from Ipswich to Southwold and Woodbridge to Aldeburgh, this whole area is crammed with galleries, along with antiques shops and studios. We recommend Google as a good place to start your search for galleries and, for studios, check out the Suffolk Open Studios website.
This part of Suffolk has the full range of multi-plex cinemas etc, but, for something a little different and more charming, there are small cinemas in Woodbridge and Aldeburgh and, for something totally different there’s the Electric Picture Palace, Southwold. Created in 2002, but designed in 1912 theatrical style by John Bennett RIBA, Southwold’s award-winning 68 seat Electric Picture Palace shows an eclectic mix of films in four seasons each year. It has a rising ‘Tiny Wurlitzer’ cinema organ, a Circle, a Kiosk, second features, usherettes, a commissionaire and the National Anthem.
Theatres also abound (although, alas, the closest to Windmill Lodges – Framlingham’s own theatre – is now an antiques shop!). Ipswich has several, including the Regent, which often features on national tours. Woodbridge boasts the Riverside Theatre/Cinema, while The Cut in Halesworth offers theatrical and music performances plus art exhibitions and Dance East, one of the national’s leading dance organizations, has a new home, the £8.5 million Jerwood Dance House on the Ipswich waterfront. We’re also lucky enough to have some great outdoor theatrical performances, most notably the Red Rose Chain performances of Shakespeare in Rendlesham Forest. And there are summer theatres each year run by Jill Freud at Aldeburgh and Southwold.
Windmill Lodges are just 15 miles drive from the superb Suffolk Coast. Whether you like windswept, sandy beaches and dunes, sailing resorts, fishing boats and lighthouses, pretty coastal villages or quirky small seaside towns, you’ll find something to suit within easy reach. For example:
Aldeburgh – famous sailing resort, formerly home to composer Benjamin Britten (see the Maggie Hambling ‘Shell’ sculpture on the beach, in tribute to Britten). Good shops, cafes and restaurants and galleries.
Covehithe – Just 4 miles north of Southwold, this beach was recently named as one of 20 best beaches in the UK by Telegraph Travel. Enjoy a walk past the ruins of St Andrews Church whilst taking in the sights of the eroding coastline and sandy beach.
Dunwich – charming village which, centuries ago, was a much larger town, now submerged in the sea. Wide stretch of pebble beach with loos and a fish and chip cafe. Close to the RSPB Minsmere Bird Sanctuary.
Felixstowe - this Edwardian seaside town offers something for everyone; a traditional pier, amusements, colourful beach huts, seafront gardens and 4 miles of sand and shingle beaches. The coastline is home to Languard nature reserve with its many rare and unusual plants and migrating birds, and a visit is not complete without a trip to English Heritage’s Languard Fort and the amazing views of the container ships in Felixstowe port.
Southwold – lovely seaside town, with a pier and fishing boats – lots of great shops and nice little cafes, and the fish and chips down by the harbour are unmissable! You can also buy fish virtually straight off the boat, to bring back and cook at the Lodges.
Thorpeness – a small 1930’s spa town, with a lovely converted water tower – the House in the Clouds. The Meare is a fantastic, 40-acre boating lake. But nowhere is it more than three feet deep and so it provides a very safe boating environment. Dinghies, kayaks, large family rowing boats, canoes, punts and sailing boats are available for hire.
Photo Iconic, the professional photographers behind the international Travel Photographer of the Year awards run hands-on photography courses to help you develop your photography while enjoying the beauty of our region. From ‘assignment’ courses where you can learn to shoot to a brief like a professional to courses where you learn to photograph the Suffolk coastline and rural villages, or one-to-on-tuition dedicated to your images, Photo Iconic caters for photographers of all abilities.
Suffolk Owl Sanctuary – Understanding Owls Courses. These popular half-day activity courses will provide the chance for you to find out everything you always wanted to know about owls. Conducted by experienced falconers, participants meet and fly with many of the varied owl species at Stonham and find out more about their lifestyles, care and conservation. Young Falconers’ courses are also available.
Easton Farm Park – this award-winning attraction set in the beautiful surroundings of the Deben river valley offers a host of fun and adventures against a backdrop of lovely Victorian buildings . There are pygmy goats, a pet patting area, pony rides and indoor and outdoor playgrounds.
The Pier at Southwold boasts places to eat and drink, a traditional amusement arcade, an arcade full of handmade, handbuilt wacky machines and three great shops. There’s also a famously cheeky water clock, a Flash Gordon-esque telescope, weather stations and lots more to entertain the whole family all day long whether it’s raining or shining.
The Suffolk Owl Sanctuary at Stonham Barns provides a delightful place to visit to watch, study or simply enjoy the company of owls and other birds of prey. There are over 60 raptors at the Centre, all housed in spacious aviaries and flying free in narrated flying displays or demonstrations. At Stonham Barns you’ll also find miniature and full-size golf courses, a playground, shops and tea room.
If your family is the adventurous type, why not head out to sea in the Coastal Voyager? A new experience from Sail Southwold, this 9 metre rigid inflatable with its deep V hull is equipped with wrap-round seats, seat belts, and lifejackets for 12 people. It’s a half-hour high speed blast!
One of the beauties of staying in a Windmill Lodge is that you have your own very well appointed kitchen. This part of Suffolk is simply full of fantastic farm shops and small producers making quite spectacular food to tempt all appetites, so you’ll be able to cook up some amazing meals. If you love farmers’ markets, you’ll be spoiled for choice, and if you’re into fish, you couldn’t get it much fresher than straight off the boat! Here’s just a tiny taste of what’s available…
Emmett’s of Peasenhall – a Rick Stein Food Hero, selling Suffolk hams and bacon made in a traditional manner, Emmetts has been trading in the same premises in the picturesque village of Peasenhall since 1840. Even if ham or bacon isn’t your thing, it’s well worth a visit as it’s a sumptuous little shop, and they sell lots of other delights, including chocolate, wines, cheeses, oils and vinegars. It’s also beautiful to look at, and a great source of foodie gifts.
Leo’s Deli, Framlingham. Just a few minutes drive from Windmill Lodges, this small but perfectly formed deli sells delicious local product and glorious Belgian chocolates – just the place to stock up for luxuries for your stay!
The small village of Earl Soham, again, just a few minutes drive from the Lodges, has a renowned butcher – John Hutton (we recommend the pork, leek and apricot sausages) and a well-stocked deli and coffee shop, Eat Anglia. Here they serve Earl Soham’s own brand of coffee – Paddy & Scott’s – which is now stocked in mainstream outlets such as Waitrose.
Suffolk Food Hall – a showcase for quality local food with provenance. Voted Best Butcher in Suffolk in 2008 and packed with local food specialists across its 8,000 square feet. Suppliers include free-range pork from Blythburgh, local Red Poll beef, Spring Hill Farm lamb, Sutton Hoo chickens and fresh-caught Lowestoft fish. There’s a delicatessen offering Hamish Johnston cheeses, antipasti and charcuterie from the on-site butchery; an artisan bakery and chocolatier. They also run cookery demonstrations and other ‘foodie’ events.
Snape Maltings – a day out in itself, the old maltings on the river at Snape have been converted into a shopping and eating complex, complete with a superb food and kitchen shop.
The award-winning Shawsgate Vineyard, just 10 minutes from Windmill Lodges, offers winetasting, tours and a childrens’ play area, plus a retail outlet selling their wide range of wines, ciders and non-alcoholic grape juices. The perfect place to pick up some local wine to sample in your lodge!
Aldeburgh is home to the UK’s best deli, Lawsons Delicatessen, winner of The Deli of the Year 2010. You’ll also find plenty of fantastic cafes and restaurants in this popular small coastal town – Muchies is great for lunch!
Helmingham Hall Gardens – glorious gardens surrounding an impressive Tudor moated Hall set in a 400 year old ancient deer park. The gardens are open from May each year, and several major events are also held here, including the annual plant sales, the hugely popular Classic Car Festival and the equally well-attended Suffolk Dog Day.
Orford Ness National Nature Reserve – the largest vegetated shingle spit in Europe and an internationally important nature reserve, providing an important location for breeding and passage birds as well as for the coastal shingle flora and wildlife, including a large number of nationally rare species. Until the mid-1980s the Ness was used as a secret military test site and visitors can walk amongst some of the unusual and intriguing test sites and buildings.
RSPB Minsmere - one of the RSPB’s most famous nature reserves. It has been an RSPB reserve for over 50 years and pioneered the use of observation hides and management of wetland areas to enable visitors to see a sample of the huge range of birds that pass along the Suffolk coast.
Walkers are spoilt for choice, with the Suffolk Coastal Path stretching from north of Felixstowe, to Lowestoft while the Sandlings Walk runs between Ipswich and Southwold. Both these routes have shorter, circular walks at intervals along the way which are suitable for an afternoon’s stroll. Of course there are other, shorter walks following marked footpaths around Saxtead, Dennington, Framlingham and a Woodland Trust site between Rendham and Framlingham.
There’s also The Mere, a 33-acre lake and nature reserve, lying between Framlingham Castle and Framlingham College, with a circular footpath giving great views of the wild flowers and wildlife.
Saxtead Green Postmill - the windmill Windmill Lodges is named after, and literally a minute’s walk from the lodges! It’s an historic corn mill, whose whole body revolves on its base. Now an English Heritage property, it is still in working order. Climb the stairs to various floors, which are full of fascinating mill machinery. Or take a walk to see it at night when it’s lit up to an eerie brilliance against the night sky.
Framlingham Castle is a fantastic 12th century castle, the largest in East Anglia – and just five minutes’ drive away. The view from its 60’ high battlements is incredible, and the English Heritage audio tour really gives you an idea of life in this area several centuries ago. There’s also an excellent shop, packed with English Heritage goodies.
The unique polygonal tower keep of Orford Castle is fascinating. Visitors can explore the basement with its well, the lower and upper halls and a maze of passages, leading to the chapel, kitchen and other chambers in the turrets. From the roof there are magnificent views seaward to Orford Ness. And Orford itself is a lovely village, with two splendid pubs (great food), the Crown & Castle hotel’s restaurant and a tearoom down by the water’s edge.
The burial ground of Anglo Saxon Kings, Sutton Hoo, is now run by the National Trust. It includes an exhibition hall with video and a full size reconstruction of the ship’s burial chamber. It makes a fascinating day out – or can be combined with a trip to Woodbridge, an elegant small town with great shops.
In addition, East Suffolk has some wonderful old churches, reminiscent of former wealthy eras when the size of a church was proportionate to the wealth of its community. And we have one famous one virtually on our doorstep – St Michael’s Church – a stunning 14th century church, with world-famous Thamar organ.
Fishing – There are plenty of local fishing lake to Windmill Lodges, the nearest being at Stonham Barns. If you want to fish from the sea, Orford River Trips offer charter fishing trips. Or you could fish from the pier at Southwold, head for the river or even try your hand at crabbing at Walberswick.
Shooting – High Lodge at Darsham is run by 6 times world champion, John Bidwell. It’s been voted a top UK facility by visiting shooters in a national poll, and is classed as a Premier Plus ground by the CPSA, the official Clay Pigeon Shooting Association, making it one of the top UK shooting venues.
Golf – whether you enjoy playing in sight of the sea, or surrounded by forests or farmland, there’ll be a golf course within reach to appeal to you. Golf is available at High Lodge, Cretingham, Aldeburgh Thorpeness, Ufford, Woodbridge, Witnesham and Halesworth, and there is a driving range at Stonham Barns.
Cycling – this is a lovely area for cycling, with many cycling paths and trails through the villages and countryside. There’s even an official Suffolk Cycling route, with the full circuit of 88 miles (142 km) designed to take between two and four days to complete. If you don’t have your own bikes with you, there’s a specialist hire centre at Darsham, or you can even hire tandems and other traditional cycles such as Pashley Princesses at Heritage Cycles at the harbour at Southwold.
Sailing – Suffolk Coast Sailing offers day sailing trips aboard a modern Beneteau yacht, skippered by an experienced RYA Yachtmaster. From their base at Woolverstone Marina, on the River Orwell near Ipswich you can explore the uncrowded waters of the East Anglia Coast, taking in the Rivers Deben, Stour, Ore/Alde, Backwater, Blackwater and Crouch.