We check in to the Novotel Ipswich Centre in the afternoon. Later, we enjoy a welcome drinks reception hosted by our tour manager.
Monday: Kentwell Hall & Sudbury
Our first visit takes us to Kentwell Hall, a romantic, moated, mellow red brick Tudor mansion in a tranquil parkland setting. Once neglected, the Hall has been lovingly restored by the current owner, Patrick Phillips, slowly returning it to its former glory. We enjoy an exclusive guided tour of this much-loved family home and have time to explore the beautiful gardens before enjoying lunch here.
We continue to the historic market town of Sudbury, located on the River Stour, where we enjoy a guided walking tour. The town is known for its links to Thomas Gainsborough, England’s renowned 18th-century portrait painter, who was born here and was inspired by the glorious surrounding countryside.
After dinner this evening, we enjoy an interesting themed talk from a guest speaker.
Tuesday: Somerleyton Hall & Southwold
We spend the morning at Somerleyton Hall, one of the finest Victorian stately homes in the country. The original Jacobean manor house was lavishly rebuilt in the Italianate style by Sir Morton Peto and architect John Thomas. Now home to Lord and Lady Somerleyton, the inside of the house is a pastiche of styles from high Victorian splendour in the chintz ballroom to the dark Jacobean Oak Parlour. The house also contains many fine portraits of the Crossley family, tapestries and two stuffed Polar bears – souvenirs of Lord Somerleyton's 1897 excursion to the Arctic. Our guided tour brings this fabulous house to life.
Afterwards we visit the charming Suffolk seaside town of Southwold. Almost an island, being bounded by the sea to the east and rivers to the south and north, Southwold has its own unique character and history. During our visit we enjoy a tour of the working Southwold Lighthouse. Commissioned in 1890 and electrified in 1938, the lighthouse provides a waymark for vessels navigating the coast, and guides vessels into Southwold Harbour.
Wednesday: Glemham Hall & Helmingham Hall Gardens
Glemham Hall is a charming manor house, built around 1560 by the de Glemham family. On our guided tour led by the owner, we explore the depths of the cellars up to the servants quarters in the attic, an area largely untouched by restoration where we can get a real sense of life ‘below stairs’. Our tour also uncovers art, historical events and the lives of some of the hall’s previous occupants.
Next, we head to Helmingham Hall Gardens where we enjoy lunch before exploring the beautiful gardens, set within a 400 acre deer park surrounding the spectacular Tudor moated Hall. Named ‘Garden of the Year 2017’ by Historic Houses and extensively redesigned by the current Lady Tollemache, a well-known garden designer and Chelsea Gold Medallist, the gardens include a classic parterre flanked by hybrid musk roses, a stunning walled kitchen garden with exquisite herbaceous borders and beds of vegetables, a herb and knot garden as well as a beautiful rose garden.
After breakfast, we check out of the hotel for our journey home.