The Dig and UK holidays send Sutton Hoo visitor numbers soaring

Sutton Hoo

Sutton Hoo visitor numbers rose in 2021. - Credit: Paul Geater

Suffolk's Sutton Hoo has enjoyed a bumper year in 2021 - spurred on by the release of the film The Dig, the boom in domestic holidays and the long-awaited opening of its new viewing tower.

Carey Mulligan and Ralph Fiennes in The Dig

Netflix's film The Dig starring Carey Mulligan and Ralph Fiennes opened in January 2021 and helped rekindle interest in Sutton Hoo. - Credit: Larry Horricks/Netflix

From the start of the accounting year for the National Trust's flagship site on March 1 to the end of December more than 120,000 visitors came to Sutton Hoo - even though many of its facilities were closed at the start because of lockdown.

And with mild, mainly dry weather, forecast for the New Year weekend the number of visitors expected to want to walk off Christmas excesses is expected to push numbers up further.

August was the busiest single month since Sutton Hoo opened to the public in 2002 with 33,781 visitors - an average of more than a thousand every day.

Sutton Hoo viewing tower

Sutton Hoo's viewing tower opened in August. - Credit: Paul Geater

That was the month the viewing tower, which gives visitors a superb panorama over the burial site, finally opened after it was delayed by the covid lockdowns and social distancing rules.

Nick Collinson at Sutton Hoo

Nick Collinson with the new sculpture at Sutton Hoo. - Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown

National Trust General Manager for East Suffolk Nick Collinson said: “2021 has been an incredibly busy year for us at Sutton Hoo.

"Following the Netflix film The Dig, the opening of the Tower, interest in our digitisation project for the Mercie Lack and Barbara Wagstaff images that capture the 1939 excavations and more recently our new partnership with Time Team, the profile of Sutton Hoo has certainly been heightened once more."

While 2021 has been hugely significant, including a visit by the Duke of Gloucester, 2022 is also an important year with the 20th anniversary of the opening of the visitor centre and walks to the burial mounds.

The outline of Raedwald's burial ship from the tower

The outline of Raedwald's burial ship from the tower at Sutton Hoo is breath-taking. - Credit: Paul Geater

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Mr Collinson added: "There has been renewed interest in the site from those living on the doorstep and with an increase in staycations, Sutton Hoo has certainly been a must-see for anyone visiting the area this year.

"With UK holidays likely to remain popular, we’re hopeful we’ll be able to welcome many more visitors to the site in 2022, which will also mark the 20th anniversary since the National Trust opened this historical Suffolk landmark to visitors.”