The best hotels in Suffolk for boutique stays and seaside cool

·8-min read
Aldeburgh’s shingle beach, near The Brudenell (The Brudenell)
Aldeburgh’s shingle beach, near The Brudenell (The Brudenell)

With some of the most beautiful landscapes in Britain – an elemental coast, wild beaches, heathland and woodland where birds, otters and deer roam, lazily meandering rivers, maritime outposts, and ridiculously pretty towns and villages tucked into gently rolling landscape, these are my picks for a Suffolk stay. With some of the driest weather in the land, it’s time to escape to this eastern county for summer.

The best hotels in Suffolk are:

What better way to enjoy Suffolk than to sleep in a sea-facing suite? (The Swan)
What better way to enjoy Suffolk than to sleep in a sea-facing suite? (The Swan)

Best for seaside cool: The Swan

Location: Southwold

The zingy makeover, warm service, and the superb food make the Swan at Southwold, one of the top hotels on the Suffolk coast. Pops of colour –emerald green velvet sofas in the lounge and pink-tipped four posters in the rooms are so inviting, it’s tempting to give the golden sands (a 2022 Blue Flag beach), quirky pier and indy shops of Southwold a miss! Market view rooms are beautiful, and dog-friendly garden rooms a boon but the stellar draw at this Adnams-owned hotel is the delicious and expertly served food: the tenderest Blythburgh pork belly, and cooling coconut panna cotta with lychee sorbet. The Still Room restaurant has two AA rosettes, but it deserves more.

Price: Doubles from £245 B&B

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Best for quintessentially Suffolk: The Swan at Lavenham

Exposed beams give the Swan a cosy cottage vibe (The Swan at Lavenham)
Exposed beams give the Swan a cosy cottage vibe (The Swan at Lavenham)

Location: Lavenham

Not to be confused with The Swan at Southwold, this elegant bird is set in a town famed for its crooked, timber-framed buildings. It’s a delightful, medieval warren of beamed rooms and wonky floors unfurling across several ancient buildings. One of these is the Wool Hall, once the heart of the Guild of Our Lady, a medieval guild which controlled the cloth industry in Lavenham, the source of the town’s bygone wealth. Book the Churchyard Suite with its exposed timbers, vaulted ceiling, and handsome fireplace for the full Tudor experience. Relax in the Weavers’ House Spa Vitality Pool or in the exceptionally pretty garden – all lavender beds and cream parasols. The Gallery Restaurant dishes are exceptional, too.

Price: Doubles from £150 B&B

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Best for a boutique stay: Tuddenham Mill

Sample some of the fantastic food at the Tuddenham’s restaurant (Tuddenham Mill)
Sample some of the fantastic food at the Tuddenham’s restaurant (Tuddenham Mill)

Location: Tuddenham

It’s summer! Sit at the sole table between the ancient water mill and the Miller’s House, order your favourite tipple and soak in the Impressionist scene before you – a dreamy weeping willow dangling over a stream, all green with life and rushes. Top room picks are the cosy Nooks overlooking the water meadows with hot tubs, or the Loft Suites with their oval tubs and calming Scandi-Italian vibe. You’ll come for the very award-winning food (the only hotel in Suffolk with four AA rosettes), too. Chef-patron Lee Bye’s menus are rooted in local produce. The Tipi on the Stream, lit by candles and fairy lights, is strong on sharing plates while the beamed Upstairs at the Mill favours East Anglian meats and fish dishes with a 6-course tasting menu or a la carte. The dainty desserts are exquisite.

Price: Doubles from £165 B&B

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Best for beaches: Hog Hotel

The Hog has been recently refurbished (The Hog Hotel)
The Hog has been recently refurbished (The Hog Hotel)

Location: Lowestoft

The Hog is a Suffolk secret. It’s a five-minute stroll to the shingle beach at Pakefield, and just 10 minutes to the soft golden sands of Lowestoft’s South Beach. You couldn’t really ask for more. But you do get more. Owned by a local family, the 16-room Hog, built in the 1890s, underwent a super makeover in lockdown and it’s all soft carpets underfoot and lush rooms with contemporary touches plus the cute ‘Don’t Disturb’ sign which reads ‘Hibernating’. Restaurant dishes celebrate East Anglian fare: find Suffolk asparagus, samphire, Cromer crab and North Sea fish on the menu. The towering strawberry pavlova is a winner. With few boutique stays in the vicinity the award-winning Hog also attracts TV crews. The cast of The Crown stayed recently. Nearby Somerleyton Hall, a Jacobean Manor, whose gardens are open to the public, doubles as the Queen’s beloved Sandringham in the hit Netflix show.

Price: Doubles from £140 B&B

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Best for exploring the city: Salthouse Harbour Hotel

This trendy spot is perfect for a weekend of art and culture (Salthouse Harbour Hotel)
This trendy spot is perfect for a weekend of art and culture (Salthouse Harbour Hotel)

Location: Ipswich

The Salthouse Harbour Hotel, once a warehouse storing salt and other wares on the quayside at Ipswich, is now at the heart of the buzzy Waterfront, a short walk from the winding Saints streets of cafes and indy shops, and the historic core of the town. Book a Marina room with a copper slipper bath for a soak overlooking the twinkly lights of the marina through the broad windows. By day, grab a pavement table for a drink listening to the tinkle of rigging and watching the sleek white boats and historic fishing vessels come and go. Don’t miss the hotel’s eclectic collection of contemporary art including a Damian Hirst, and quirky collectibles: Russian flight helmet, anyone?

Price: Doubles from £135 B&B

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Best for the spa: Bedford Lodge

Try out the hydrotherapy pool or look out over Suffolk from the outdoor hot tub (Bedford Lodge)
Try out the hydrotherapy pool or look out over Suffolk from the outdoor hot tub (Bedford Lodge)

Location: Newmarket

Handsome Bedford Lodge, built as a Georgian hunting lodge for the Duke of Bedford in the 19th-century sits in flower-filled manicured gardens on the edge of Newmarket. It’s close to the National Horse Racing Museum, Warren Hill, the galloping ground with a long history, and the racecourses. Smart rooms overlook stables and paddocks or the gardens. Equestrian fans or not, you’ll love the spa with its light-flooded hydrotherapy pool, alfresco hot tub, and relaxing treatments. Not here to relax? Check out the 15-m swimming pool. Come for afternoon tea, too, said to have first been created by the wife of the 7th Duke of Bedford, and stay for dinner at Squires where the halibut topped with grilled red prawn, smoked mash and caviar sauce is recommended, as is the genuine warmth of the service.

Price: Doubles from £165 B&B

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Best for cultural stardust: The Angel Hotel

Chill out with a book in The Angel’s lounge or sample its famous pie (The Angel)
Chill out with a book in The Angel’s lounge or sample its famous pie (The Angel)

Location: Lavenham

Charles Dickens may have been the Angel’s most famous guest in the 1800s, but this century Hollywood stars Pierce Brosnan and Angelina Jolie have been welcomed into Bury St Edmund’s starry hotel. The Angel, impressive and covered in Ivy, faces Angel Hill in the heart of the town overlooking Abbey Gate, a carved 14th-century stone gatehouse. You’ll definitely want rooms with these views: huge boudoirs with Georgian sash windows, king-size beds, natty lighting, contemporary fabrics, and copper slipper baths that overlook the gatehouse. After cocktails in the buzzy bar, dine at the Eaterie under suspended delicate, ceramic feathers. Don’t miss the ‘Pickwick Pie’ – a glorious steak, red wine, and pastry dish. The Angel’s best-kept secret? Its sell-out supper clubs held in the hotel’s 15th-century vaults.

Price: Doubles from £125 B&B

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Best for history buffs: Hintelsham Hall

Hintelsham Hall at twilight is really something (Hintelsham Hall)
Hintelsham Hall at twilight is really something (Hintelsham Hall)

Location: Ipswich

If dozens of painted portraits could talk! The origins of the Grade I-listed Hintelsham Hall are found in the 1400s but much of what you’ll see today dates from the 16th and 17th century – rebuilt by the Timperley family who worked for the dukes of Norfolk and lived on the estate for almost 300 years. Hintelsham Hall, just five miles from maritime Ipswich, is a blend of homely with touches of antique luxury: the library with a richly worked stuccoed ceiling, and some of the bedrooms. You’ll want the Rosette room with a canopied bed facing a carved stone fireplace and an oil painting of the hall in a bygone era with sash windows overlooking the mature garden. Or the beautiful, cosier beamed rooms in the eaves, once the servants’ quarters, with a Downton Abbey-style corridor. Dine like a duke in the grand dining hall (awarded two AA Rosettes) on venison and fish dishes and the prettiest petite strawberry pavlova. Don’t miss a stroll through the summery kitchen garden.

Price: Doubles from £140 B&B

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Best for a proper sea view: Brudenell Hotel

At Brudenell, you wake up to the sounds of the sea (Brudenell Hotel)
At Brudenell, you wake up to the sounds of the sea (Brudenell Hotel)

Location: Aldeburgh

Aldeburgh has inspired Benjamin Britten, Maggi Hambling and Ruth Rendell. Follow in their footsteps and inhale the fresh, salty air in one of Suffolk’s most popular seaside spots. The Brudenell Hotel sits right on the shingle beach at the southern end of the upmarket town. The Georgian building, fashioned into a hotel in the Victorian era, enjoys incredible views of Suffolk skies and wide sea. Smart, renovated rooms 100 and 101 enjoy panoramic sea, birds, and shingle views. My tip? Room 317: a secret spot with a telescope to spy passing boats on the waves and a bedroom overlooking the River Alde meandering through the meadows. Book a leisurely lunch at The Seafood & Grill where four daily seafood specials lure diners. Think lemon sole bathed in a buttery, lemon, caperberry sauce served with Suffolk samphire and herby mash.

Price: Doubles from £150 B&B

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