Best walks in Suffolk

Discover Sutton Hoo, Herringfleet Mill and the River Stour with our guide to best walks in Suffolk

Herringfleet Windmill, Norfolk
Published: February 8th, 2022 at 2:45 pm

Suffolk is a county of great diversity – magnificent nature reserves, huge skies and a wild, open coast.

Wildlife enthusiasts will be drawn to Minsmere, one of the most celebrated reserves in the country. Yet in truth, the whole stretch of coastline between Westleton and the village of Walberswick is one continuous mosaic of protected habitats owned by various environmental groups.

There are rivers to explore, too, namely the peaceful Stour, as well the famous archaeological site of Sutton Hoo, and a host of statuesque mills.

Wander among these glorious landscapes with our round-up of the county's best walking routes.


Best walks in Suffolk

Sutton Hoo

3.8 miles/6.1km | 2.5 hours | easy-moderate

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Sutton Hoo, Suffolk
Sutton Hoo Anglo Saxon burial site near Woodbridge/Credit: Alamy

Who was buried at Sutton Hoo? It’s a question that has puzzled archaeologists for over 80 years, ever since one of the world’s greatest archaeological discoveries was made there in 1939, just as the clouds of war gathered over Europe.

Most informed opinion seems to suggest it was the burial site of Rædwald, the first Christian king of East Anglia who ruled in the early decades of the seventh century, interred at Sutton Hoo with a treasure trove of glittering grave goods, including the iconic helmet. But with no written evidence, no one can be absolutely sure.

Savour the drama of Sutton Hoo on a 3.8-mile circular walk through Suffolk’s fields and farmland, starting and ending at Sutton Hoo.

Sutton Hoo walking route and map


Herringfleet Mill

1.8 miles/2.8km | 1 hour | easy

Herringfleet Mill, Suffolk
Strictly speaking, Herringfleet is not a windmill, but a windpump, since it was built to pump water, not grind corn/Credit: Getty

The flaming coral of a sunrise; the mirror of a flooded marsh; the steamy breath of grazing cattle; the skeleton tracery of windmill sails. Iconic is an overused word, but no less accurate a description of the view towards Herringfleet Mill at dawn. 

What is ironic is that this most quintessentially English scene was also used to suggest a Dutch landscape in the opening sequence of the 2014 Mike Leigh film Mr Turner. It wasn’t just the flatness of Suffolk that appealed to the film-makers – the simple wooden form and elegant proportions of the mill itself are also reminiscent of Dutch drainage mills. 

Herringfleet Mill walking route and map


River Stour and Flatford Mill

3 miles/4.8km | 1.5 hours | easy

House and mill by water
Visit Willy Lott's Cottage at Flatford Mill/Credit: Callum Redgrave, Getty

The River Stour – which forms most of the county boundary between Suffolk and Essex – could be the most celebrated river in the country after the Thames. Why? Because it features in one of Britain’s favourite artworks, The Hay Wain, painted by John Constable in 1821.

Remarkably, the same scene can be viewed today. Preserved (but not fossilised) by the National Trust, this is the apex of a much-loved river walk.

River Stour and Flatford Mill walking route and map


Clare, Pentlow and Cavendish

6.9 miles/11.1km | 4 hours | moderate

St Mary the Virgin church in Cavendish
Like many East Anglian buildings, the exterior of St Mary the Virgin church in Cavendish is dressed with flint/Credit: Alamy

The Stour Valley is gentle and undulating, an ever-changing patchwork of woodland trails and farmland fringed with sleeping hedgerows. Sprinkled with small towns and pretty bucolic villages of thatched painted cottages, and complete with a reassuring cluster of cosy tea rooms, this is an area to be savoured.

Starting from the historic wool town of Clare, Suffolk’s smallest town, the route links three of the area’s most charming churches, wending its way along the Stour Valley to Cavendish in Suffolk and Pentlow in Essex, before returning on the Stour Valley Path high above the river.

Clare, Cavendish and Pentlow walking route and map


Lavenham

Various distances, durations and difficulties

Lavenham, Suffolk, from the BBC's classic series Lovejoy (Photo by: Getty Images)
Lavenham featured in the BBC's classic series Lovejoy/Credit: Getty

Had you been walking through the streets of Lavenham in Tudor times, you may not have been surprised to hear small huddles of fashionable gentlemen speaking in a variety of European languages. The village was then at the heart of a great international trade in wool and the manufacturing of cloth, with some merchants visiting from as far away as Italy.

The wool trade brought huge prosperity to the small village, reflected in a wealth of magnificent buildings. Learn more about the fascinating history of Lavenham with a walk around the village and surrounding countryside.

Lavenham walking routes


Westleton

Various distances, durations and difficulties

Heath in late summer
Wander through Westleton Heath from the village/Credit: David Powley, Getty

As romantic locations go, it might not spring instantly to mind. But the tiny Suffolk village of Westleton was where the nation’s favourite couple, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, spent theirfirst wedding anniversary in April 2012.

William and Kate checked into the Westleton Crown, a 17th-century coaching inn set in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty close to the Suffolk Heritage Coast. And this atmospheric walk, taking acid grassland, gorsey heath and deer-haunted woodland, couldn’t be more heart-swelling.

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Westleton walking routes and map

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