Let’s staycation in...Long Melford
- Credit: Ella Wilkinson
If you’re heading to Suffolk and looking to explore the intrigue and beauty of the county’s Wool Towns, this large, attractive village makes a superb base.
As well as being incredibly close to the likes of Lavenham, Hadleigh, Clare and Sudbury, Long Melford is a stand out destination in its own right.
Its vibrant main street is filled with independent retailers set within majestic historical premises – from a superb butcher, to a deli, antiques dealers, fashion and lifestyle stores, cafes, pubs and more.
Two of Suffolk’s most important properties lie on the outskirts of the village (Kentwell and Melford Hall).
And you’re only moments away from prime walking country. Let’s explore.
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Where to stay in Long Melford
The Black Lion Hotel is an elegant 15th century property, lovingly renovated by the Chestnut group in recent years – who took painstaking measures to ensure all works were as in keeping with the building as possible.
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It’s a truly cosy and welcoming-feeling place – especially when the fires are on the go in the bar and lounge areas in the cooler months.
Upstairs are 10 bedrooms, from Cosy to Family, and with a Luxury Suite ideal for those romantic getaways. As standard, rooms (noted as some of the best in the country by The Sunday Times), have homely furnishings, squidgy beds, Egyptian cotton sheets, woollen throws, traditional bathrooms, flat screen TV, free superfast Wifi, and Bramley bath and body products.
The largest suite offers a lavish lounge area, and fabulous king size bed.
Downstairs, food at The Black Lion is not to be missed, with a seasonal menu of classic dishes with a twist. Especially good is the sharing family roast on Sundays – with a platter of meats, seasonal vegetables, crispy roasties, Yorkshires and sauces laid out in the centre of your table to dive in to. Blacklionlongmelford.com
Where to eat in Long Melford
The Long Melford Tea Room – A cutesy traditional-style tearoom furnished with vintage knick-knacks and crockery. The tea room (open 10am to 5pm or 11am to 4pm Sunday and closed Tuesdays) prides itself on serving tasty homemade food, on proper crockery. If you have a hankering for a proper cup of loose leaf tea, a scone, sausage roll, slice of quiche or wedge of cake, pop in.
Scutchers – One of the best places to eat in Suffolk, Scutchers often flies under the radar – it's one of those spots whose popularity has grown via word-of-mouth. For 30 years the family behind the restaurant have been delighting with seasonal, fine dining, in a setting of pressed linens, sparkling glasses and flickering candles. The restaurant is open from 12noon to 2pm and 6.30pm to 10pm Thursday to Saturday. Typical dishes include hand-dived scallops on spinach risotto with curried lobster bisque, and free-range duck breast with duck faggot, soy and honey jus, and potato rosti. A truly special place. Booking is essential.
The Swan – A contemporary pub with quirky décor. Pop in for a gin from their extensive collection, alongside a classic dish of fish and chips or something a bit different. Think hare and venison terrine with air dried ham, bramley apple jelly and focaccia, or their Three Little Piggies – slow roast pork, aromatic pig cheek, black pudding, pommes puree and cauliflower.
Where to shop in Long Melford
Dilly Dally – This newcomer to the village is part lifestyle shop, part vegan/veggie coffee house. Sit down to a buddha bowl, slice of cake, or warming pumpkin spiced latte as you browse the array of cool products on the shelves around you. From fashion and jewellery, to art and scents.
Antiques – There are two, quite different, antiques houses in Long Melford, making the village a dream for anyone who loves a poke and a prod around collectables. Long Melford Antiques Centre in the gorgeous Chapel Maltings building specialises in fine furniture, which positively gleams as you enter. Periods such as Pre-Georgian, Regency, William IV and more are represented.
Over at Melford Antiques and Interiors Warehouse, the 16,000sqft of retail space spreads across four floors of miscellany. You really could discover anything here, from a glitzy cocktail bar or Italian garden dining set, to a Victorian chaise. On the ground floor there’s a railway station themed café.
Nutmeg - Update your wardrobe on your visit to Long Melford where there are several fashion stores including long-runner Nutmeg. Brands (from sizes 8 to 18) include Part Two, Saharah and Oska.
The Wool Patch – Have you been inspired to knit this year by Olympian Tom Daley? If so, pay a visit to this lovely shop filled with everything you could need, from crochet and knitting sets, to threads. A knitter/sewer/crocheter’s paradise.
Things to do in Long Melford
Nethergate Brewery Shop and Tap House – On the road heading towards Sudbury you’ll discover this huge building where you can sample freshly made, award-winning, brews such as Venture in the bar or south-facing garden. At weekends there are often street food traders set up with delights to pair with your drinks. And you can book several experiences here, including tours and the chance to brew your very own beer!
Kentwell Hall – The Phillips family have done wonders for this Tudor property, utterly transforming the hall and its grounds during their custodianship so far. The house and gardens are open Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday until mid-October, when Scaresville (recognised as one of the best Halloween events in the UK) kicks off. Father Christmas will be in residence from December 4 to 12. And next year the regular programme of events should return, including the sensational large scale historical re-enactments which are unrivalled anywhere else in the country.
Melford Hall – Wander the rooms and grounds visited by Beatrix Potter on her stays in the house – home to the Hyde Parker family for 300 years. Open Wednesday to Sunday in October, and then closing for the winter season, you can walk around the Great Hall, Dining Room, Blue Drawing Room and other spaces, as well as the gardens.
Walk to Sudbury – There is a very good 5.5 mile walk along a disused railway line into Sudbury, alongside the town’s meadows. Regular buses will return you to Long Melford from Sudbury town centre. Taxis back are less than £10. Search for the Three Mills Walk online for routes.
10 minutes away
Sudbury is well worth a visit for its independent shops, theatre, museum, and riverside where you can kayak and paddle board. Gainsborough’s House museum gives a fascinating insight into the artist’s world. And there are some very good places to eat – from French cuisine at The Secret Garden, to Munro’s fish and seafood restaurant, and vegan café Cradle. The farmers’ market in St Peter’s Church (the last Friday of every month from 9.30am to 2pm) is a must.
20 minutes away
If you’ve been inspired by antiquing in Long Melford, continue that journey in the village of Clare where there are further antiques shops –as well as lovely cafes (one in the old station building).
History buffs will be rather taken by Clare Castle Country Park, which contains the remains of a 13th century stone castle keep on a 60ft high motte.
30 minutes away
No visit to west Suffolk is complete without a day out in Bury St Edmunds where there really is something for everyone. Wander the independent shops. Eat at one of the award-winning restaurants (Maison Bleue is highly recommended). Grab a cocktail at one of the bars. Explore the stunning Abbey Gardens and cathedral. Catch a film at the Abbeygate independent cinema. Or a show at the Regency Theatre Royal or Apex. The town is even home to one of the region’s best indoor laser tag arenas, and an indoor skating rink- handy to know if you have teens in tow.
John Nunn: Visit Long Melford Museum and Heritage centre – open 10am to 4pm Wednesdays and Saturdays, and 12noon to 4pm Sundays. Admission is free.
Farley Boxall: Breakout is available for those who cannot get away from work. It's a co-working space with great wifi and printing.
Clare Livens: For a cosy place to stay over I recommend The Mill. It’s featured twice in The Sunday Times as a special place to stay, and The Guardian recommended it in their ‘Top 40 Cosy B&Bs for Winter’ article.
Adam Tozer: Willow Tree Farm Café nearby makes delicious breakfasts and lunches.
Laure Bonner: Visit Long Melford Antique & Vintage Fair monthly at the Old School. And the antiques shops in the village.