Things to do, places to go and days out in Essex and Suffolk! Discover what the area has to offer from castles to historic market towns, museums to gardens – and even a zoo!
A stay at Stoke by Nayland Hotel wouldn’t be complete without a little peek at the beauty and the history of the surrounding area. Our position on the Suffolk-Essex border affords visitors easy access to a variety of local attractions so if you’re looking for things to do in Essex and Suffolk then look no further. There is something for everyone – whether you want to entertain the whole family with a trip to Colchester Zoo, relive history with a stroll through Sudbury or historic Lavenham, wander through the halls of Downtown Abbey-style manor houses or play penny slots on piers adjacent to some of the most picturesque beaches in the UK.
We are so fortunate to be located in the stunning Dedham Vale Area Of Outstanding Natural Beauty. There are lots of countryside, riverside and wildlife walks to enjoy some fresh air and go out and explore the surrounding area. We have some downloadable guides below, but our Reception also have some printed walking maps available upon request.
Art aficionados should absolutely make the most of the famous scenery that John Constable found so inspirational. Take a drive around the winding country roads or, if you are feeling a bit more adventurous, why not hire a rowing boat and explore from the River Stour? Walk in the footsteps of Constable on a relaxing walk visiting the location of John Constable’s famous paintings.
Britain's Oldest Recorded Town - Colchester
Famous for earning the accolade of ‘Britain’s oldest recorded town’ thanks to its history as a Roman settlement dating back as far as AD77, Colchester town is an interesting mix of old and new. It boasts a castle – which was erected on the site of a Roman temple, a number of award-winning museums and the sprawling Colchester Zoo.
Spend a day or more in Colchester tracing the outline of the still intact Roman wall, soaking up the atmosphere of a live band in one of the pubs, having a picnic in beautiful Castle Park or meandering around exhibitions of regional, national and international artists in the town’s newest art complex, firstsite.
Take a short car ride to the town of Long Melford, which is reported to have been both a Roman and Anglo-Saxon settlement. It was a thriving Tudor village, with two great halls, and nowadays it attracts visitors from all over the country who come to wonder at the ‘Hall Houses’ lining the main high street and enjoy tasteful boutique shops as well as tea rooms.
Approximately 15 minutes from the hotel is the medieval village of Lavenham – famous as a centre for wool trade during the reign of Henry VIII and once ranked as the fourteenth wealthiest town in England.
A walk through Lavenham is akin to boarding a time machine and travelling centuries back in time. The timber-framed houses lean precariously into the street and standing in the centre of the Market Place you can easily picture a thriving melee complete with horse-drawn carts and sword-swinging knights. A visit to the National Trust Guildhall is a must and the quaint tearooms lining your path provide the perfect pit stops.
The ancient market town of Sudbury was famous for having a prosperous weaving and silk industry. Places to visit in Sudbury include: the Market Hill, St Peter’s Church, the old town Corn Exchange (now a library) and the shopping on North Street.
Sudbury was home to the famous artist Thomas Gainsborough and his place of residence is now a popular museum. A statue of the artist sits in front of St Peter’s Church.
Aldeburgh & Snape Maltings
Take a trip to the beach with an hour’s drive to the picturesque coastal towns of Aldeburgh and Snape. Aldeburgh boasts some of the best fish & chips in East Anglia as well as thought-provoking art, specifically Maggi Hamblings’ The Scallop, and a wealth of shops and pubs.
The nearby Snape Maltings is a world-renowned concert hall with shops, cafes and art galleries. Book a show during a stay with us!
Southwold - Pier & Shops
Only an hour and twenty minutes away, the coastal town of Southwold is a fun day for everyone. With a working lighthouse, functional pier, penny slots and beach huts, Southwold is the epitome of a sunny Suffolk beachside getaway.
On the outskirts of Colchester town, approximately 35 minutes by car from SbN, stands the grand house of Layer Marney. This structure was built in the 1520s and incorporates a tower which is the tallest Tudor Gatehouse in the country.
Hedingham Castle is a 900 year old Norman keep that was constructed by the De Vere family. This landmark is arguably one of the best preserved Norman Castles in England and well worth a visit for the history and for a wander through its setting of 160 acres of gardens.
The Castle holds many events, including theatrical performances, medieval fayres and historical walks. Just a short 30 minute drive through the countryside, this site is a perfect family day out.
Beth Chatto Gardens
From its beginnings as an overgrown wasteland attached to the Chatto fruit farm, the Beth Chatto Gardens has become an inspirational, informal garden and a plant nursery, which houses a number of unusual plants.
Located approximately 30 minutes from Stoke by Nayland Hotel on the outskirts of Colchester, the Gardens are an interesting insight into the development of horticulture. Both Beth and her husband Andrew were involved in the Flower Club movement in the early sixties and they have gained national recognition for their work. Beth Chatto still works alongside her team so you might catch a glimpse of the great woman herself – you never know.