Special Report: Matthew Inglis
The county of Suffolk continues to be a popular region for coach visits. Situated in the east of England, and bordering Norfolk, Cambridgeshire, and Essex, Suffolk has so much to offer. Whether visiting on a day trip, or staying for a few days, there is something for everyone to discover here.
A highlight for many is the wealth of small but busy market towns, with their individual and distinctive shops, and each offering amazing local produce on their markets, plus warm and welcoming country pubs that take a pride in serving tasty home-cooked food, as well as locally-brewed real ale. You can expect to find brilliant live entertainment at the county’s renowned theatres, while a visit to one of Suffolk’s many historic properties and visitor attractions will keep you enthralled. You can’t fail to be impressed with how much is available here. We begin this feature with a round-up of some of the towns to visit whilst touring this gem of a county…
BURY ST EDMUNDS
Bury ST Edmunds is another brilliant town to head to with your groups. Surrounded by beautiful Suffolk countryside, Bury has something for everyone and, with over 1000 years of history at your fingertips, there is so much to explore. Start your visit with a trip to the historic cathedral, before heading into the town centre and visiting the many unique coffee shops and restaurants. Like so many of these picturesque Suffolk towns, Bury St Edmunds is a shopping hotspot, with over 200 stores, and a twice-weekly market.
If you’re looking to get into the festive spirit, then make sure you explore the Bury ST Edmunds Christmas Fayre, which is hugely popular with coach groups, and books up fast every year – so keep an eye out for the 2020 dates, when planning ahead. The town itself is only an hour’s drive from the Suffolk coastline, and within easy reach of Newmarket, Ipswich and Cambridge. If you’re looking to stay in the town there are plenty of options available visit www.visit-burystedmunds.co.uk for more details.
Ipswich is the county town of Suffolk – and the biggest. The town is home to a busy and bright shopping scene, with a small traditional market that’s open four days a week between 9am and 4pm. The town centre also boasts many small, independent shops as well as the popular Sailmakers Shopping Centre, and the Buttermarket Centre, which is a lively hub and a great place to shop, take in a film at the cinema, or try your hand at ten pin bowling. Historic Ipswich has over 600 listed buildings and some great museums and visitor attractions, as well as the famous Waterfront area, with its tempting restaurants and bars. More information on visiting Ipswich with a group can be obtained by calling the Tourist Information Centre on 01473 258070 or via www.allaboutipswich.com
Newmarket is home to one of the UK’s top visitor attractions: Discover Newmarket, which consist’s of over 500 acres of pastureland, and is one of Britain’s best-known destinations for horse racing enthusiasts, with its own fascinating museum, and a busy racing fixture list each year.
The town itself offers a wide range of attractions for coach groups to visit, as well as some impressive features such as the Grand Clock Tower in the High Street, or the War Memorial Gardens. The town’s Kings Theatre offers a range of live performances throughout the year, while the High Street is booming with independent shops, restaurants, and cafes. More information on www.visitsuffolk.com/explore/newmarket.aspx
Felixstowe sits on the southern coastal tip of Suffolk, and is a great place for coach operators looking to experience the seaside charm while in the county with their groups.
The Felixstowe Tourist information Centre Beach Hut is located on the promenade opposite the Town Hall, and is a great place for any groups wanting more information on what is available whilst visiting, with numerous visitor information leaflets to hand. For groups with time to spare, Felixstowe boasts two large sandy beaches, ideal for catching the summer sun and enjoying a picnic. Moving into the town you can visit the award-winning Seafront Gardens, while there is also a good selection of shops and restaurants to choose from. Of course a trip to the seaside isn’t complete without a visit to the arcades and penny slots, situated on Felixstowe Pier. More details on the town and what is available can be viewed at www.visitfelixstowe.org.uk
Our final round-up is the town of Lowestoft –which is the most easterly point in the British Isles as well as being the northernmost point of Suffolk.
Like Felixstowe, it is one of Suffolk’s most popular seaside resorts and thrill-seekers can visit the area’s premier theme park: Pleasurewood Hills, which first opened its doors back in 1983. Located close to the A47, to the north of Lowestoft, it is a great visit for groups, especially for younger members in your party. The beach at Lowestoft offers a wide expanse of golden sands, as well as a pier and the all-important toilet facilities. Wildlife is also at the heart of Lowestoft, and a trip to Africa Alive can give groups the chance to see a range of animals including lions, giraffes and meerkats. The town has a great choice of accommodation options: visit www.thesuffolkcoast.co.uk/suffolk-coast-towns-and villages/lowestoft for more details.
Packing a Punch
Make sure you add a trip to Suffolk Punch Trust into your Suffolk schedules. The Suffolk Punch Trust continues to be a popular stop with coach parties when touring the county. Formed in 2003, the trust is a charitable organisation that works hard in protecting the critically-endangered Suffolk breed of heavy horses, through a successful breeding programme.
On a recent visit, I had the opportunity to witness first hand why this visitor attraction is proving more and more popular every year with coach groups. Visitor numbers continue to grow, and with an average of 15,000 visitors passing through the doors every year, the team have coach visits down to a tee, with welcoming staff and a choice of packages for every group’s requirements. The attraction is situated in the scenic Suffolk countryside, at Woodbridge. My visit started with a look around the Heritage Museum, just off the main visitor entrance. Regions / Suffolk Punch! It is a history trove of the Suffolk Punch, going back over 250 years. There are lots of fascinating historic artefacts. After finishing my look around the museum, I made my way to a special room set aside for coach groups – and extremely popular for a relaxing bite to eat. There’s a choice of menu options, including tea, coffee and cake, or maybe a full afternoon tea. All food and drinks are served in china, which has been donated to the centre. The Suffolk Punch Trust is home to around 20 to 30 of these magnificent horses, which in itself is remarkable when you consider there are only around 430 of this breed left in the world. Groups can pre-book one of two packages, exclusive to coach bookings. You can take in a guided tour and enjoy a tractor and trailer ride around the site, or book onto the Horse & Waggon guided tour. Both tours usually last around one to two hours depending on the size of the group. All in all, this is a brilliant little attraction for groups, and one to add to your tour schedules.
NEED TO KNOW…
Tel: 01394 411327
Group Tour Rates: Available on request
Coach Parking: Ample coach parking on site
Postcode: IP12 3JR
Modern twist on a historic cathedral
Group visits to Bury St Edmunds are never complete without a visit to the town’s magnificent cathedral. On a recent visit to Bury St Edmunds I explored this wonderful historic building with the cathedral’s groups and PR manager, Sarah Friswell. Although I had visited the cathedral before, this was the first time I had managed to take a proper look around, and I soon learned what fantastic group offerings they have available.
Going back to the beginning, the building was originally dedicated to St Denys, and was the Parish Church of St James, gaining cathedral status in 1914. Over the years the cathedral has been developed, and this has seen some major building and changes, including new chapels, cloisters, and the completion of the new Millennium Tower in 2015. A number of tours are available for groups, starting from around £5 per person, and a guided tour is the best way for groups to learn the history of the Cathedral and experience the hidden gems and stories. All guided tours take approximately one hour and need to be pre-booked – which you can do by phone or email.
Coach groups can also climb the tower and take in the brilliant views across the town and the wider Suffolk countryside. Tower tours are available on a seasonal basis, usually between March and October, but numbers are limited, so larger groups may need to be split into small parties. Tower tours for groups are booked by email. Groups wishing to have a more relaxed visit should head to the beautiful Abbey Gardens, which surround the cathedral. Bursting with stunning colours whatever the time of the year, a visit to the gardens gives you a tranquil setting to sit and relax before heading to the Pilgrims Kitchen for a bite to eat. Serving a wide-ranging menu, the Kitchen is open Monday to Saturday between 8.30am to 5.00pm, with breakfast, lunch, and some beautiful homemade cakes that are sure to be a hit with your groups.
NEED TO KNOW…
Tel: 01284 748730
Postcode: IP33 1LS
Coach Drop off/Parking: Coach groups can be dropped off in Angel Hill, before parking at the designated coach park on the edge of the town