Have you ever thought Suffolk is a boring County to cycle in? I am here to dispel that myth and provide my top 5 places in Suffolk to visit by Bike, in what I think is one of the most underrated counties to cycle in.
You won’t find alpine climbs, sweeping switchbacks, or cobbled streets in Suffolk. But what you can find is able to rival that for its serenity, panoramic views, and escapism towards the areas of natural outstanding beauty along the breadth of the coast.
Let me guide you through my top 5 places to visit, with the starting point being the county town of Suffolk, Ipswich. As well as the reasons for each location, I will tell you tales of the routes and roads available to the rider seeking these secret sanctuaries!
An obvious choice to many, and no doubt a town that you will have heard of whether you are a cyclist or not. Southwold is a Jewell in the Crown on the Suffolk coastline, known for its bustling streets and home to one of the UK’s largest independent breweries, Adnams.
To ride into Southwold you are generally restricted by road choice, as the River Blythe segments the town if you are coming from the Ipswich direction. With miles upon miles of quiet countryside, there are plenty of lanes to enjoy. Snaking through Otley, Kettlebrough, and into Framlingham is a personal highlight. From here, you stay clear of the main B-Roads and head through Bruisyard Street on yet more idyllic country lanes. You will need to cross the A12 coming into Darsham, and from there, it’s an out & back via Blythburgh into the main road entering Soutwhold – your destination. On the return, the road takes a more direct route back to Ipswich but you will come across the Silver Middleton Cowboy! (see below)
No visit to Southwold is complete without a visit to the seaside. The Cornish Bakery, although a chain, is the perfect pit-stop to pick up a pastry and a brew. Although you can sit inside and store your bike outside, if the weather is fair I would recommend collecting your goods and heading down St. James Terrace. What’s better than refueling with some tasty grub, a caffeine hit, and panoramic coastal views? Soak in the sights and sounds of Southwold; colourful beach huts; fresh sea breeze and the majestic Southwold Pier, which dates from 1900. If you’re not rushed for time, why not enjoy the penny arcade, to really round off your Southwold trip!
Formally one of the wealthiest settlements in the UK, dating back to the middle ages, this historic wool town has plenty of justification for a visit by bike. Famed for its half-timbered medieval (and wonky!) cottages, there’s an abundance of quirkiness to be found among its quaint streets that Lavenham has to offer.
Coming by bike offers fabulously quiet roads and lanes, that are a delight to cycle down. Bypassing the market town of Hadleigh and then into the smaller villages of Semer and Monks Eleigh. Here you will head due North, up Highloads Road traversing the small settlements of Kettlebaston and Preston St.Mary – you will enter Lavenham from the North East. I would be surprised if you saw more than a handful of cars along this section,
Like Southwold, you are spoilt for choice with offerings in Lavenham including ice-cream parlours, historic public houses, coffee houses, and vintage tea rooms. However…
Ok, although not technically in Lavenham, (being 3km down the road) Cafe Como is a must-visit for any discerning cyclist. Just off the A1141 to your left, you’ll see the grey-cladded barns of Cafe Como with bikes sprawling across the garden with cyclists enjoying their freshly made coffee. You’re always guaranteed a friendly welcome, and whilst offering a safe space for bikes, in a perfect suntrap garden – there aren’t too many better places to enjoy a mid rid refreshment.
Facing strong competition from Southwold on the Suffolk coastline, separated by only 18 miles, Aldeburgh still has a worthy place on this list. A historic fishing town with tight streets and quaint promenades leading onto the famed pebbled beach, each turn of a corner will present a new view.
Just ticking under 60 miles, this route from Ipswich incorporates a mix of quiet lanes and faster B-roads. Winding through some quicker roads on the way to Aldeburgh, the final road from Thorpness to Aldeburgh is open and exposed. With nothing but panoramic views of the shoreline and sea, you’re likely to have a face full of wind but embrace it as refuge is near! Heading back to town, the route winds its way up one of my favourite lanes. Heading out of Campsea Ashe, you snake through some sumptuous S-bends ending with a nice little kicker up towards Wickham Market.
Munchies in Aldeburgh has been a personal favourite of mine since my first ride there way back in 2013. If you catch it at the right time of day, there’s some seating out front which acts as a lovely suntrap if the sun is shining. Freshley squeezed orange juice and a fresh crab sandwich is the order of the day, perhaps followed by an Espresso chaser if you’re feeling in need of it. Watch the world go by and soak up that sea air.
One of the most fascinating towns in the County, Bungay has a whole raft of Anglo-Saxon-related history and will take you on the longest bike ride from Ipswich on this list. On high land protected by the River Waveney and marshes, Bungay proved a good defensive position and as such, you’ll find the Grade I listed building Bungay Castle just off the main thoroughfare. Dating from 1100, Bungay Castle has a rich history and is well worth the opportunity to explore – if you have the time!
If quiet countryside lanes are your tipple, this route is your tonic. Doing what Suffolk does best, you’ll find yourself at one with land and panoramic skies. Heading out of Linstead Parva, roughly 2 hours in, you’ll find yourself on Christmas Lane. The most exposed section of the route, you can see for miles on either side with beautiful farmland. Although, if the wind is up, you may be battling some vicious crosswinds emulating scenes from the Belgian spring classics.
At 144km, you’re on for a big day out in the saddle, and with that, deserving of a big cafe stop to rest and refuel for the return leg.
Earsham Street Cafe needs no introduction, serving up fantastic food prepared with passion. You’re sure of a friendly welcome, and cyclists are of course encouraged with bike parking space out in the rear garden. Using locally sourced and seasonal ingredients, Earsham Street Cafe tries to focus on sustainability where it can! Offering a full lunch menu alongside your countertop cake options, there’s plenty on offer to ensure you’ve got the energy back in to fly back to Ipswich.
A market Town on the north bank of the River Stour; Clare has castles, cafes, cretaceous chalk, and period properties galore. Well worth the cycle as a middle-of-the-ride pit-stop location, Clare is yet another rural Suffolk town that is surprisingly steeped in history. Suffolk’s smallest town, Clare boasts over 130 listed buildings showcasing exterior exposed beams that characterise these timber-framed buildings.
One of my favourite destinations to ride to, it’s always a proven hit when showing friends that stay the surprising beauty Suffolk has to offer. Dotted with shorter and sharper climbs than what you will find when you head up the coast, this route will keep you on your toes as there are plenty of narrow lanes and blind bends. Don’t let this put you off, the route is full of joy passing historic churches and changes of landscape each way you turn.
SmallTown Coffee is an independent artisanal cafe serving immaculate brews and brilliant baked goods. Situated in what seems like a small bakery, there is seating space out in the courtyard as well as upstairs. A top recommendation for me is the double espresso, El Salvador bourbon tones shine strong and provide just the hit to make the ride home a breeze. Out of the 5 recommended on this list, for me SmallTown takes the cafe crown!