Orford is one of my favourite places in Suffolk and has been since I was a little kid! After a recent visit for a photoshoot I thought I’d put together a blog post on how to spend the day in Orford.
There’s a mixture of magic and mystery surrounding the town that I don’t feel in many other places in the county. There’s so much to do and see, history to discover, coastal walks to enjoy and delicious food to eat!
Start the day with coffee and a pastry from The Pump Street Bakery and take the five-minute walk down to the Castle.
The Castle was built between 1165 and 1173 by Henry II and is fun for both children and big kids. You can explore from the basement all the way up to the roof, where you can look across to Orford Ness. The castle houses a museum all about the history of the town, as well as its own intriguing stories, such as the Orford Merman.
I think the story of the Merman caught off the coast of Orford by local fishermen is fascinating. Sometimes he is depicted with a tail, but in one story he is said to have the form of a man who could breathe under water for long periods of time. The man was taken to the castle where he was kept locked away. The man didn’t speak and ate raw fish. Some say that he died at the castle and other stories say that when the guards allowed him to swim in the sea, he escaped the nets and was never seen again. Apparently his ghost still haunts the castle.
From the Castle, turn right and walk down one of the pretty streets and onto a trail through the fields. You’ll end up coast-side, watching the boats sail along the River Ore. Follow the path back to the quay and pop into Pinney’s of Orford for some picnic supplies.
Enjoy your picnic of fresh seafood looking out towards Orford Ness – your destination for the afternoon.
Hop on the ferry across to Orford Ness. The National Trust ferry leaves from the Quay every 20 minutes on Saturdays between 20 April-22 June and in October. During the summer, between 25 June-28 September, the ferry leaves every 20 minutes on Tuesdays through to Saturdays. Tickets can be bought from the shop situated to the left of the Quay.
Orford Ness not only has stunning scenery to walk amongst, but it also has a fascinating military history. During your exploration of the Ness you will come across abandoned military buildings including bomb ballistics and a laboratory. Atomic weapons were researched and tested here and many of the buildings are now open to visitors.
There are three routes through the Ness – the red route passes through the WWI airfield to the lighthouse and beach, and offers access to buildings that you can look inside. The blue and green routes will extend your stroll, but are open seasonally.
Catch the ferry back to the town for dinner in Orford. There are a number of options. For oyster lovers you’ll want to head to the Butley Orford Oysterage on the Market Hill to enjoy some fresh seafood. For a classic pub dinner you can try the Jolly Sailor or The Kings Head. I love sitting in the garden of the Jolly Sailor looking out towards the marshes and the River.
The Crown and Castle is a two AA rosette restaurant in Orford that is open for evening meals all year round. The restaurant serves lots of local produce in a relaxing dining atmosphere. If you want to extend your stay in Orford, check into one of the 21 rooms and continue your discovery of the town the next day.
Parking – There’s a small number of spaces in the Market Square, but I would recommend heading to the large pay and display car park by the Quay if you were coming for the day.
Trips to the Ness – Check that the ferry is running on the day that you want to visit. The Ness is closed during the winter.