Let's staycation in...Orford
- Credit: Crown & Castle
This small, charming coastal village has bags of appeal. Not only does it sit on one of the most delightful stretches of water in Suffolk, but it’s become quite the hub for foodies – you’ll find award-winning bread, chocolate and smoked fish, all within Orford’s boundaries. Walk alongside pastel-shaded cottages from the village centre to the quay, where you can watch fishing boats go out, or even try a spot of crabbing. Here, you will truly feel away from it all.
Where to stay in Orford
Just a few steps from Henry II’s 12th century castle keep, the Crown & Castle hotel is a highly rated restaurant with 21 rooms.
Expect oak beams, stylish décor and a traditional bar with a real open fire for cooler days. Walls are adorned with interesting artwork. And there’s a large terrace for outdoor eating and drinking within sight of the keep.
Good quality, unpretentious food is at the heart of what the Crown & Castle offers in its lively restaurant with delicious dishes created by the head chef, Jake Lawrence and his team.
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Rooms are furnished very comfortably and include TV, free Wifi, a hospitality tray and luxury toiletries as standard. Single travellers will find the Good House rooms at the front of the hotel perfect for one. There are Garden Rooms with semi-private terrace access. Terrace Rooms have French doors looking out to the castle. Or indulge in the suite – which boasts a balcony, with sweeping views over the Ness.
Dogs are welcome to stay with their owners in one of the five dog-friendly garden rooms, as well as on the terrace, in the bar and to sit alongside their owners at a bookable dog-friendly table in the restaurant.
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Talking about why you should stay awhile in the village, Crown & Castle general manager John Morrell says: “I think one of the best things about Orford is being able to get away from it all. You can’t not be drawn in by the peace and tranquillity of Orford and the surrounding countryside. Fantastic big skies and amazing coastal views really add to the sense of escapism. Without doubt the best way to see it is take one of our walks from the Crown and Castle, my personal favourite being the 3.5 hour walk around the river to the Butley Ferry.
“As you come back into the village from your walk you may be tempted to pay a visit to Pump Street and check out a rhubarb doughnut or one of their amazing sausage rolls. Don’t forget to leave room for some dinner back at the Crown and Castle though!
“Venturing further afield our guests love a trip to Sutton Hoo or a touch of retail therapy in Snape Maltings where you can also catch a trip on the river.”
Where to eat in Orford
Pump Street’s Bakery and Café
This much-loved spot is open in the centre of Orford from 9am to 2.30pm Thursday to Sunday. Pick up a loaf of their award-winning sourdough, perhaps a frangipane-filled ‘bear claw’ to take away after breakfast or lunch –which focusses on highlighting their own baked goodies, and the best of British produce. There are warm ham and cheese croissants. Garlicky sausage rolls. Slices of sourdough topped with Westcombe cheddar and homemade pear chutney. Pancakes make an appearance at the weekends. And their own hot chocolate is gorgeous.
The Jolly Sailor
Open for food from 12noon to 2.30pm Mondays, and Wednesdays to Sundays, with evening meals from 6pm to 8.30pm Wednesday to Sunday, The Jolly Sailor is everything a rural country pub should be.
Real ale is on draught at the bar. Fires crackle in the cooler months. And the food is well-made, hearty traditional fare – from good old fish and chips, to ham, egg and chips. Vegetarians are well catered for. And it’s incredibly family friendly. On warmer days sit out in the garden and orchard, with views over the marshes.
Crown & Castle
Jake’s menu screams Suffolk – with many of the ingredients on the menu sourced from within, or close to Orford. Platters of Pinney’s seafood. Butley oysters on the shell. Fruit from High House in the puddings. Typical dishes include ham and leek pie with colcannon mash, and Orford-landed skate wing with chorizo and cockle butter. There are always daily specials, taking the seasons into account. And do save room for pud.
Shops in Orford
Overlooking the quay, this multi-award-winning shop has its own smokehouse, supplying the store, and other farm shops and restaurants in East Anglia and beyond with everything from beautifully silky salmon, to mackerel, eel, and homemade pates. The full range can be found here, including smoked chicken. And take a look at the wet counter to see what’s come off their day boat that morning. The shop also sells thoughtful gifts and cards.
Orford General Stores
Quite possibly one of the best village shops in the country. It’s a Post Office. They’ll have your papers and magazines. You can pick up that dog food you forgot. Or logs for the wood burner. But, more importantly, there is good food. A meat counter is replenished regularly by Friday Street Farm Shop. Bread and cakes come in from three local bakeries. Milk is delivered daily. The deli counter is filled with fine cheeses, cured meats and more. You’ll find local fruit and veg. Wine. Beer. Everything you could possibly need to pull a very good breakfast, picnic or supper together.
Pump Street Chocolate Shop
Perched on the other side of the street from the bakery and café, this place is a chocolate-lover's dream. Alongside their own bean-to-bar chocolate (try the one with finely milled rye crumb) are bars from other artisan makers, chocolate-inspired books, and kitchenalia.
Orford Country Market
Held every Saturday from 9.30am to 1pm in the Town Hall. You’ll discover hyper-local meat, fish, eggs, pies, jams, home-grown plants, and crafts. Entry is free and you can buy refreshments there.
Things to do in Orford
Orford Castle – Open daily from 10am to 5pm and operated by English Heritage, this is one of the best-preserved castle keeps in the country, with staggering views from the top over the local landscape. Work your way up from the basement, travel through the maze of passages, and see the old kitchen and chapel. There’s a display of Roman brooches, seals and coins within too.
Lady Florence Cruises – Indulge in a breakfast, lunch or (depending on the season) supper cruise along the rivers Alde and Ore in this ex-admiralty fishing boat. Seating just 12, the dining room is warmed by a wood burner, and a simple menu of dishes made using local produce is at the heart of every trip. Commentary is provided along the way, with nuggets of history gold – tales of smugglers, and cows being floated across the river for grazing – forming a part of the journey. The cruises circumnavigate Havergate Island, with multiple opportunities to see seals and birdlife – including avocets. Rivercruiserestaurants.co.uk
A trip to Havergate Island – Pull on your woollies and set off on an RSPB boat excursion to this island – recognised as a sight of special scientific interest for its bird and plant life. Check out the RSPB website for up-coming journeys. Typically you’ll get five hours of free time on the island, with a guide present for any questions you might have.
10 minutes away
Snape Maltings is home to a world-revered concert hall, which attractions international singers and musicians to perform. Also on site are a collection of homeware, food, gift, fashion and antiques stores. Take a boat trip out on the river. Eat in one of the onsite restaurants, the pizza tipi, or in one of the two village pubs. Or simply enjoy a stroll alongside the reed beds, taking a moment to admire sculptures by Barbara Hepworth and Henry Moore. The river Iken nearby is ideal for paddle boarding –and you can hire craft from Iken Canoe.
Explore one of the off-road woodland cycling and walking trails in Rendlesham Forest – including the UFO trail – named for the infamous ‘sighting’ here over 40 years ago. There are superb playgrounds for children. And a BMX track. Parking is £5 all day or £3 for up to two hours. It's open every day from 9am to 6pm, except Christmas Day.
20 minutes away
Stylish Aldeburgh is a short drive from Orford. We’re talking pebble beaches. Fishing huts. Elegant seafront properties to coo over. Award-winning bakeries and cheese shops. Much-talked-about fish and chips. Pubs. Oodles of independent shops (including a superb book store). There’s even a cinema. Thorpeness is an easy seaside walk away from the town.