Perfect staycation

The pound is on the slide, so how about a stay-at-home holiday? Peter Woodman tries Suffolk.

Staycations – where people decide to holiday in Britain, and even close to home to keep costs down – are all the rage at present, so we took ourselves off to Suffolk.

The county has enormous appeal. There are pretty villages, gentle rolling scenery, quaint towns, lazy rivers and plenty of good country pubs. Chuck in some reasonable weather when the days are at their longest, and you have the recipe for a rattling good holiday.

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Our first stop was Newmarket, close to the racecourse which made this town world famous. We stayed at Bedford Lodge, an imposing hotel that is a short walk from the centre of town.

From the hotel we could see racehorses being led along the road to the practice gallop areas. In the town, there are numerous pubs and restaurants, as well as a national horseracing museum.

The museum traces the story British racing from its early Royal origins at Newmarket to the modern day, and visitors have the chance to ride a racehorse simulator.

We motored to the nearby West Stow Anglo-Saxon Village and Country Park, where an old village from the period 420-650AD has been excavated and carefully reconstructed.

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Joining small groups of chattering schoolchildren, we wandered through the park and went in to the reconstructed thatched-roof homes, where wood fires burned and where you could get some idea what it was like to live in Britain 1,500 years ago.

Our next stop was the historic market town of Bury St Edmunds. In The Angel Hotel, our suite looked across the town's main square to the splendid St Edmundsbury Cathedral. Poor old King Edmund was captured and killed by the Danes in 869 AD, and promptly became a saint. Legend has it that after his head was chopped off, it miraculously became reconnected with this body, setting off the whole St Edmund martyr-miracle-pilgrimage merry-go-round.

Keen to keep St Edmund's memory alive, the locals built a great abbey to house the remains of the king.

Thwarted in his attempt to make a pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela, one abbot – Anselm – instead built a church to St James next door to the abbey in the 12th century. This church became St Edmundsbury Cathedral in 1914, and we walked down the nave which was built by Tudor architect John Wastell, whose works include King's College in Cambridge. The sun blazed down as we emerged for our walk round the cathedral gardens, where we gazed at the remains of the old stone walls of the abbey.

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Bury St Edmunds also boasts a rather super Regency playhouse, the Theatre Royal. Built in 1809, it reopened in 2007 after a major restoration programme. It was only a short drive along the A143 from Bury to the sleepy village of Horringer for our next, and final, stop, and we thought we would try a spot of self-catering. That's how we ended up at The Old Piggery – a delightful converted cottage on the edge of the village, with a welcome pack which included wine, biscuits and toiletries.

Newly-renovated, this is a romantic base for couples with a beamed living area, luxury bathroom and splendid Nolte kitchen. By now, the weather, which had been a bit patchy, had made its mind up and opted for hot sun and cloudless skies. We strolled through the village where we were treated to a sumptuous meal at The Beehive pub. Horringer is home to Ickworth House, home of the historic and eccentric Hervey (pronounced Harvey) family. Set in 1,500 acres of grounds, which seem to go on forever, the house is a giant rotunda, stack full of famous paintings, and has been under the care of the National Trust since 1956. The family are also associated with the Harvey's Bristol Cream sherry, and it was the 4th Earl of Bristol who created Ickworth in 1795. Latter-day celebrities in the family include the model and socialite Lady Victoria Hervey.

As well as works by the likes of Gainsborough (a local lad), Titian and Velasquez, the house boasts Georgian silver and Regency furniture.

Bury St Edmunds is handily placed for a seaside trip to Aldeburgh, a jolly town where we enjoyed a chilly, but bracing, walk along the seafront. There are plenty of restaurants close to the sea in a resort that has not changed much since the last great days of the UK bucket-and-spade holiday, before the European package tours began. Close to the seafront is the Moot Hall – the town's old meeting place, which dates from the 16th century and now houses a museum.

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This is real "big sky" country and the wide, open spaces were particularly apparent to us at the nearby Maltings at Snape. Formerly used for the malting of barley, the Maltings' buildings include a concert hall used for the Aldeburgh Festival, as well as arts and crafts shops and restaurants. The Maltings sit on the River Alde and provide visitors with long walks where they can look at the birdlife. We also made the time for a stroll around Framlingham, a delightful market town which could be the prettiest spot in Suffolk. You can walk the ramparts of a quirky 12th century castle, which overlooks The Mere, a beautiful large lake surrounded by meadowland.

The landscape is worthy of Constable, the great artist whose work brought this splendid corner of England to a wider audience.

Suffolk facts

Peter Woodman stayed at Bedford Lodge, Newmarket, where double rooms (B&B) start at 99 per night.

Reservations: 01638 663175 and

In Bury St Edmunds, double rooms (B&B) at The Angel start at 90. Reservations: 01284 714000 and

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Peter's stay at The Old Piggery was arranged by Best of Suffolk, which offers two-night breaks from 225, three nights from 285, a week from 495. Reservations: 01728 638962 and,

A three-course lunch at The Beehive Pub, Horringer starts at 20. Reservations: 01284 735 260.

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