What would you do with 48 hours in Suffolk? If you prefer to spend your weekend breaks hopping between pretty market towns than rushing through a sightseeing check-list in a busy city, then your 48 hours in Suffolk would be well spent in the Waveney Valley.
This tranquil corner of East Anglia is a veritable wildlife haven, boasting a rich variety of plants, animals and birds, and a navigable river that offers everything you could want: boat rides, canoeing and picturesque riverside pubs. And situated in these unspoilt surroundings are Beccles, Bungay and Halesworth, three destinations that epitomise the Waveney Valley’s charms. So what are you waiting for? It’s time to pack your bags and dive in to your next 48-hour adventure.
Situated on the banks of the river, Beccles is an ideal place to start your weekend in the Waveney Valley. Arrive at midday and you’ll have the afternoon to explore Beccles’ winding streets and market squares, not missing a chance to climb the town’s 97ft bell tower, which gives you stunning views of the Waveney Valley and Broads National Park, with the Suffolk coast visible on the eastern horizon.
Back on ground level you’ll discover the independent shops, designer boutiques, high street brands and vintage stores that make shopping in Beccles a special experience. Art lovers will relish a visit to the Upstairs Gallery, while lovers of design will be enamoured by Vintage Mischief antique shop.
After a coffee in one of Beccles’ cafes, or a bite to eat in one of the town’s independent restaurants (Wine Vaults, Graze at The White Horse, and Baileys restaurant and deli are all popular choices amongst the locals), it’ll be time to head down to the river to catch a few rays of afternoon sun and watch boats sail gracefully past. Or better yet, catch the Big Dog Ferry from Beccles Lido and enjoy a 40-minute boat ride down the River Waveney to the Locks Inn, a gorgeous riverside pub with tables in the sunshine and East Anglian beers on tap.
After spending the night in or around Beccles (nearby Wheatacre Hall Barns offers luxurious cottage stays on a beautiful farm, not to mention free bicycle hire), make the short drive to Bungay, a historic market town situated further up the River Waveney. Walking the Town Trail you’ll discover Bungay’s medieval Buttercross, the ruins of Bigod’s Castle, almshouses, churches and many other fascinating town features.
Foodies will want to explore Bungay’s renowned Earsham Street Deli (or enjoy a slice of homemade cake at the Earsham Street Café), while anyone with a passion for Suffolk beers should not miss a trip to St Peter’s Brewery. Situated a few miles outside Bungay in the village of South Elmham, this spectacular moated brewery offers pre-booked tours on Saturdays and Sundays from Easter to December, and food from Wednesdays to Saturdays during the summer.
Stage Three: Canoeing on the Waveney
No visit to the Waveney Valley is complete without experiencing the river at its most picturesque from a canoe. From Outney Meadow Caravan Park in Bungay you can rent a canoe and spend the second afternoon of your trip exploring the river, spotting wildlife, and having lots of fun in the process!
Halesworth is the perfect final overnight stop on your 48-hour adventure. In the morning you can step out onto its pedestrian Thoroughfare, a pretty street bustling with life and lined with excellent shops, from delis stuffed with local produce to bookshops, toyshops, vintage stores and more. Keep walking and you’ll discover more of Halesworth’s market town charms, such as the Market Place, St Mary’s Church and the old almshouses.
What makes Halesworth truly special is its artistic streak. Alongside several galleries and the community-run Old Print Works (location of local gigs and workshops), Halesworth boasts The Cut: an arts centre whose programme includes music and poetry events, art exhibitions, cinema, lectures and theatre. The Cut is the home of HighTide Festival Theatre, one of the leading producers of new plays and playwrights in the UK, whose annual festival (this year taking place from 8 – 18 September in Aldeburgh, Suffolk) is a highlight in the county’s theatrical calendar.
Whether soaking up culture or simply the atmosphere, there’s no doubt you’ll leave Halesworth feeling enchanted, and keen to return to this wildlife-rich, tranquil corner of Suffolk.
For more things to do in the surrounding area see Visit Suffolk.