National Trust properties in Suffolk

Days out, Educational

Posted by Ed on 13th November 2021

Lighthouse

The National Trust manages some of the best-known historical landmarks in Suffolk and the East of England. What will you discover on your next trip to this less explored part of England?

Unusual and interesting are two words we’d use to characterise Suffolk, there are so many things to do. There’s a very good chance that the National Trust places in Suffolk you will visit on your trip are not like any other in the country or in virtually all cases, abroad either. With many exuding a rich and colourful history, offering plenty of intrigue, here is our selection of must-visit locations within the Suffolk National Trust’s collection of inspiring properties…

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Montage of images of Orford Ness

Orford Ness

Orford Ness is one of the most unusual Suffolk National Trust properties on the coast. It's the kind of place that you feel the need to tell all your friends about. So obscure and unearthly is this nature reserve and former top-secret military base, you almost feel as if you’re in on the secrets it still seems to hide. A 20-mile long peninsula, visitors can only reach the public part of Orford Ness by ferry which is run by National Trust operatives once or twice a day (this reduces daily human impact on the delicate habitat). 

Throughout the majority of the 20th century, Orford Ness was an atomic and radar test site. Prototypes for new munitions were undertaken at the site and it’s also the base of the shadowy Operation Cobra Mist and others that remain redacted or top secret. Many of the buildings from its days as a military zone are still standing in various states of dereliction. There is a very basic visitor centre in Orford Ness where the National Trust’s (decommissioned) nuclear missile can be seen! This is one of the most peculiar National Trust properties in Suffolk and the whole UK. 

Prices: There is a small charge for the ferry. Buy tickets from the landside office. There are limited spaces so arrive early. Phone: (01394) 450990 for ferry times.

Facilities: WCs and drinking taps are available at the basic visitor centre. Please take a picnic, lots of water, good walking shoes and a hat, as shade is limited. Wheelchair access is very restricted because of the ferry and Orford Ness has vast distances along unadopted concrete and shingle roads and paths. Orford Ness is a protected SSSI and nature reserve, therefore, it has not been adapted as a visitor attraction. Orford Ness is closed to visitors during the winter. No dogs are permitted onto Orford Ness.

Stay nearby: Daisy's By The Sea | Sleeps: 2 guests


Ickworth House

Ickworth House, Bury St Edmunds

Sold to the National Trust in 1998, the former residence of the Marquess of Bristol, Ickworth House, has to be one of the most distinctively designed stately homes in the country. This is largely down to its magnificent Rotunda – a wide-diameter, three to four-storey, conical design topped off with a domed roof. The centrepiece of the house is enhanced by acres of lovely, landscaped gardens including walled gardens and natural meadows. This 18th-century marvel is home to some very impressive collections of silver finely-crafted Huguenot refugees, and portraits by Thomas Gainsborough and others.

There are tours of the gardens and some parts of the house like the servant’s basement. On your visit, you’ll discover the unusual life story of the man who built Ickworth House, the 4th Earl of Bristol. Kids are welcome and there is a children’s pack providing entertainment primers to keep them happy. This is one of the most fascinating National Trust houses in Suffolk, and definitely, one to put onto your holiday itinerary.

Prices: Adult £10.00, child £5.00, family £25.00, one-adult family £15.00, members free

Facilities: The West Wing restaurant, café, gift shop, WCs, disabled WC, garden centre, parking, limited house tours, regular grounds tours, responsible dog owners and dogs on leads welcome, disabled access. 

Stay nearby: The Cart Lodge, Hepworth | Sleeps: 4 guests plus 1 dog


Theatre in Bury St Edmunds

Theatre Royal, Bury St Edmunds

The Theatre Royal in the heart of Bury St Edmunds is a true spectacle. One of the oldest continuous-running theatres in Europe, it holds the distinction of being the sole surviving performance auditorium from the Regency era (1795-1837).

Since its light restoration, this Grade I-listed theatre is attractive to those looking to experience a 19th-century-style theatre outing - a top option for rainy day entertainment! The management showcase a year-round programme of drama, music, comedy and dance from some of the UK’s leading touring houses. Tours are available in the day and the National Trust welcomes visitors to see the auditorium between performances. Visit one of the most interesting and beguiling National Trust sites in Suffolk during your stay near Bury St Edmunds.

Prices: Varies depending on the performance. Please see the listings.

Facilities: A licensed bar, gift shop, guide dogs allowed in Dress Circle Boxes during performances, disabled WC, wheelchair access to some Dress Circle Boxes.

Stay nearby: Weathercock Barn | Sleeps: 4 guests 


Melford Hall

Melford Hall, near Sudbury

This striking country house is a firm Suffolk favourite, and that’s largely due to its potted history; the fact that it has endured beautifully despite a devastating fire, and its tenuous connection to the life of famed author Beatrix Potter, who was a frequent visitor.

Melford Hall has been one of the top National Trust houses in Suffolk since 1960 and hosts an annual Guy Fawkes Night called ‘The Big Night Out’. Coincide your visit with the LeeStock Music Festival too if you love live music. Beatrix Potter was a regular visitor to Melford Hall because her relations owned the property for many years. The house contains a handful of her sketches in its collection of assorted objets d’arts.

Prices: Adult £10, child £5, family £25, one-adult family £15, members free

Facilities: Tearoom, gift shop, parking, WCs, tours, disabled access and welcomes responsible dog owners and dogs on leads

Stay nearby: Fig Barn | Sleeps: 4 guests plus 2 dogs


Sutton Hoo

Sutton Hoo, near Woodbridge

Suffolk’s most famous National Trust attraction, Sutton Hoo, is for the most part, invisible. In the 1930s, the imprint of a colossal Saxon burial ship was excavated along with a veritable treasure trove. Priceless Anglo Saxon artefacts unearthed at the site are on display in the British Museum in London and amongst the treasures are dress work fittings in gold and gems, a shield and sword, a lyre, and silver plating from Byzantium and a ceremonial helmet, famously reproduced and mounted above the door to the visitor centre. The finds were gifted to the British Museum by the landowner, Mrs Edith Pretty, and at the time it was to be the largest bequeathment by a living person.

The site, which encompasses Tranmer House, has been managed and owned by the National Trust since the 1990s. Today, visitors can walk around the Sutton Hoo park and see the original burial site, and other ancient cemeteries. There is an exhibition hall where you can learn about the exhumations and see some of the unearthed curios. 

Prices: Adult £14, child £7, family £35, one-adult family £21, members free

Facilities: Cafe, gift shop, WCs, level pathways, partial wheelchair access, car park, cycle racks, pannier lockers, second-hand bookshop, adapted WCs (at visitor reception). Grounds are partly accessible, with slopes and uneven paths. Maps of accessible routes are available. Burial ground tours are not accessible for visitors in wheelchairs or PMV due to uneven and undulating ground. Two single-seater PMVs available for use, booking essential. Dogs on leads are welcome everywhere except for inside Tranmer House and the Visitor Centre.

Stay nearby: Orchard Hideaway | Sleeps: 2 guests


Montage of images of Flatford

Flatford

Sitting snugly at the centre of beautiful Dedham Vale, it’s not hard to see why revered painter, John Constable, was so inspired by this pretty hamlet. His most famous painting, the Hay Wain, depicts a scene close to Flatford Mill, featuring Willy Lott’s Cottage, now Grade I listed. Learn more about the artist’s work in the John Constable Exhibition.

The area is now one of the National Trust's sites in Suffolk - a lovely spot to take a stroll beside the scenic River Stour, and follow one of the waymarked trails through the stunning countryside. It’s a wonderful place to enjoy with your pup, though due to livestock grazing, they must be kept on a lead. Also take time to admire the historic buildings, including Bridge Cottage, Flatford Mill, The Granary and Valley Farm.

Prices: Pay for parking only – free for National Trust members, otherwise £5 for cars, £1 for motorcycles

Facilities: Car park is open dawn until dusk. The car park may be full on peak dates, particularly between 11am and 2pm. Five disabled parking spaces. WCs include accessible and baby changing facilities, same opening hours as the tearoom. Walks suitable for the whole family. One accessible countryside trail for off-road mobility vehicles. BBQs are not permitted.

Stay nearby: Brett Lodge | Sleeps: 4 people plus 2 dogs


Scenery around Pin Mill

Pin Mill

Discover the beautiful landscape of Pin Mill, which encompasses peaceful woodland, colourful heathland and stunning river valley views. There are several wrecks along the shore of the River Orwell, some of which are now unique homes, others have been left to ruin, shrouded in an air of melancholy that keen photographers will enjoy capturing.

Pack a picnic, pull on the walking boots and head off on one of the footpaths for a quiet walk amongst natural scenery. Once you’ve worked up an appetite, you can head to the Butt and Oyster Pub on the waterfront, where you can sit outside and enjoy the river views in summer, or cosy up in front of the wood burner in the winter.

Prices: No charge (apart from the council car park if you choose to use it)

Facilities: Two car parks – a council-owned pay and display near Pin Mill village, and a free car park in the neighbouring village of Chelmondiston. WCs can be found on the waterfront. Food and refreshments are available from the Butt and Oyster Pub. Paths are steep and can be muddy. Dogs are welcome, please keep on the lead in grazing areas.  

Stay nearby: The Skyscraper | Sleeps: 18 guests


Scenery around Dunwich Heath and Beach

Dunwich Heath and Beach

A peaceful and natural coastal area, Dunwich Heath is a lovely space for a contemplative walk in nature. A haven for wildlife watchers and bird enthusiasts, you may be lucky enough to spot species including the Dartford warbler, nightjar and more. It’s a special place year-round, but a visit at the tail-end of the summer will dazzle you with vibrant heather in hues of pink and purple, the air imbued with the coconut smell of yellow gorse.

The history of Dunwich Heath is an interesting one too; it was the location of one of the most important military exercises for the D-Day landings, and its past was also tainted by smuggling and shipwrecks. The attractive shingle beach is dog friendly with no restrictions, and is one of our top unmissable beaches in Suffolk.

There is a programme of events to help visitors engage with nature, including activities for children.

Prices: Parking is free for National Trust members. Non-members cars £6, motorcycles £4, motorhomes £15

Facilities: Car park open daily from 9am to 6pm, charges apply (except for National Trust members). WCs open 9am to 6pm, including baby changing and accessible WC via radar key. Dogs welcome, must be kept on leads from 1 March to 31 August. Self-driven mobility vehicle is available from Visitor Hut when open, pre-booking essential. Food and refreshments are available at Coastguard Cottages Tearoom.

Stay nearby: Sycamore Cottage – Dunwich | Sleeps: 4 plus 3 dogs


Lavenham Guildhall

Lavenham Guildhall

A stunner of a timber-framed building, The Guildhall of Corpus Christi in the charming village of Lavenham is steeped in almost 500 years of history. Wander around the atmospheric 16th-century building, discovering the stories of the people who’ve lived and worked there over the years. Its long history has seen it used as a religious meeting place, a prison, pub and social club for US troops during World War Two.

There are activities and trails for children, who need to be on their best behaviour lest their parents decide to lock them up in the small village jailhouse in the courtyard garden! End your visit by tucking into a tasty snack or light lunch in the Guildhall tearoom.

Prices: Adult £8, child £4.40, family £22, one-adult family £12, members free

Facilities: Museum open Wednesday to Sunday, 10.30am to 3.30pm (last admission 2.45pm). Free parking in front of the Guildhall and in village car parks. WC at visitor reception, including accessible WC and baby changing facilities. Dogs welcome in the Guildhall garden and in the outdoor seating area of the tearoom. Drop-off point outside the Guildhall, steps into the building and in the garden.

Stay nearby: Scutchers Cottage | Sleeps: 4 plus 1 dog


Scenery near Kyson Hill - River Deben

Kyson Hill

Another wonderful natural space, Kyson Hill overlooks tidal Deben, where there are interesting estuarine habitats including mudflats and saltings. Take a leisurely walk along the edge of the estuary, keeping an eye out for wading birds, before heading inland up Kyson Hill. It’s a pleasant and easy walk in peaceful surroundings. For other scenic routes, take a look at our favourite Suffolk walks with a view.

Prices: No charge

Facilities: Parking before the railway bridge (500 metres from Kyson Hill). Amenities in the town of Woodbridge. Food and refreshments are available Wednesday to Sunday at The Tea Hut on the estuary, overlooking a model boat pond.

Stay nearby: Monterey | Sleeps 10


Map of National Trust attractions in Suffolk

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Holiday in Suffolk

We have some lovely holiday cottages near National Trust properties throughout Suffolk. Including country cottages, restored farm buildings, town apartments and suburban home-from-homes, there is something for everybody. Why not visit our collection to inspire your next exciting holiday in Suffolk?

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Disclaimer: Whilst every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information at the time of writing, please ensure you check carefully before making any decisions based on the contents within this article.