Suffolk is a wide, varied county in the most south-easterly corner of England. It’s a chocolate box of pretty villages, countryside, and fun things to do. Suffolk points of interest range from the bustling, historic town of Ipswich to the county’s 50-mile coast, which teems with wildlife and hidden corners. If you love books and literature, some Suffolk tourist attractions might be particularly appealing. Here are a few places to visit in Suffolk that have a strong literary connection.
George Orwell and Southwold
George Orwell, the author and political commentator behind the iconic novels 1984 and Animal Farm, lived in the coastal town of Southwold. Orwell’s real name was Eric Arthur Blair. His pen name was influenced by the picturesque River Orwell, which flows through Ipswich and meets the sea at nearby Felixstowe.
Southwold is a quirky town whose traditional pier, and its fish and chip shops, offer plenty of old-school seaside charm. Visitors can go crabbing, take a tour of Southwold Lighthouse, visit Adnams brewery or go seal-spotting in the bay.
Southwold was the place that the writer came back to after being expelled from Eton, and where he developed one of his first loves. The heroine of Orwell’s book A Cleryman’s Daughter is supposedly based on the gym mistress of the local St Felix School for girls, Brenda Salkeld. Orwell proposed to Brenda, but she turned him down. Montague House, Orwell’s family home from 1932-39, is now a Grade II listed building and although it’s under private ownership, you can stroll past to see where Orwell lived.
Harry Potter and Lavenham
Lavenham is thought to be one of the best-preserved medieval villages in England. One of its 340 listed buildings is De Vere House, the fictional birthplace of JK Rowling’s Harry Potter. You can see De Vere House in the film, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. It’s set in the village of Godric’s Hollow, where the young wizard’s parents made their last stand against the evil Lord Voldemort.
De Vere House has one of the most photographed doorways in the UK. But the rest of Lavenham, used as a backdrop in the films, features plenty more charming nooks and crannies. The Guildhall, in particular, has featured in several films over the years. A stroll around the village will give history-lovers a real fill of beautiful thatched and timber-framed buildings. Founded on the wool trade, Lavenham has a falconry centre and is a good base for exploring the lush countryside nearby.
Charles Dickens and Bury St Edmonds
Not far from Lavenham lies Bury St Edmunds, a smart old brewery town with quirky independent shops and distinguished Georgian buildings. Charles Dickens was a fan of the place. The Victorian novelist gave readings of his novel The Pickwick Papers at The Athenaeum, the town’s 18th Century Assembly Rooms. Not only is Bury St Edmunds immortalised in The Pickwick Papers, but the pretty town was also recently used as the location for a film adaptation of Dickens’ David Copperfield, directed by Armando Iannucci and starring Slumdog Millionaire’s Dev Patel.
Visitors to Bury St Edmunds can explore the town’s medieval streets, Georgian squares, or visit Britain’s last remaining regency theatre. Suffolk’s only cathedral is at Bury St Edmunds. The site of St Edmundsbury Cathedral has been a destination for pilgrims and worshippers for over 1,000 years. In medieval times the Abbey ruins were one of the largest and richest Benedictine monasteries in Europe. Bury St Edmunds is also home to the Angel, one of the best pubs in Suffolk and where Charles Dickens stayed during his literary tour.
These are just a few of Suffolk’s links to literary characters. Do you know of any more? Please let me know, in the comments below.
Where to stay in Suffolk
If you want a place to stay in the county, Suffolk Cottage Holidays offer everything from glamping shepherd’s huts to luxury rural retreats. You can even find a handful of Suffolk coastal properties on their website, as well as many places based in the countryside. I’ve also written about luxury lodges in Norfolk, not far from the Suffolk border at Hemsby Beach Holiday Park, where we stayed on a press trip.
If you’re looking for more things to do in Suffolk, you can find out more on the Visit Suffolk website. Or check out our posts on places to visit in Suffolk and Norfolk and Suffolk attractions for nature-loving families.
This is a collaborative post. All views are my own. All images are from Pixabay.
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