Historical pubs in Suffolk: 9 old inns with a fascinating heritage

Ferry Boat Inn, Felixstowe Ferry (c) Ben Redsell, Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Ferry Boat Inn, Felixstowe Ferry (c) Ben Redsell, Flickr (CC BY 2.0) - Credit: Archant

The next time you’re out for a drink, why not take in some history too. We pick 9 of the oldest and most historical pubs in Suffolk, where you can take in the beautiful traditional architecture and as you enjoy a pint of local real ale


1) The Black Lion, Long Melford

Located near the Holy Trinity Church, the property has been used as an inn since 1661 and a close, long-lasting relationship has existed between the two sites throughout their existence. There are even rumours of secret passages connecting the two, evidence of unpaid bills for communion wine and also the carpenter's beer tab from 1684.

It has been beautifully restored to include a bar overlooking the green, a dining room, conservatory, drawing room and ten stunning bedrooms. While you're there enjoying the award-winning locally brewed Nethergate beer and locally distilled gins, you can indulge in the delicious food from the extensive menu and then sleep it off upstairs!


2) The Alderton Swan

After an extensive Heritage Appraisal it was surmised that The Alderton Swan has been in existence since the 17th century, despite many changes to it and the surrounding properties.

The Grade II listed building was completely refurbished in the last couple of years and now offers a warm and welcoming place to catch up with friends, consume delicious local produce and relax after enjoying one of the many local walks or cycle routes around Alderton. Dogs are also welcome inside the Swan, so feel free to bring them along for a refreshing drink after your long walk.


3) The Swan at Lavenham

Nestled deep within the charming and historic medieval village of Lavenham, the stunning 15th century luxury Swan Hotel is bursting with history and offers a multitude of ways to treat yourself. Featuring an indulgent spa, beautifully restored bedrooms and a modern British brassiere, you will find all sorts of reasons to stay a little bit longer.

The real treat, however, is the Airmen's Bar. Stepping inside the snug bar is like taking a trip back to the 1940s, when servicemen and women from RAF Lavenham would come to relax. An inspiring collection of signatures and mementos adorn the walls, turning the bar into a living piece of history.


4) The Six Bells, Preston St Mary

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Situated in the heart of the Suffolk countryside, the Six Bells is a charming Grade II listed pub that prides itself on a warm welcome, local cask ales and fantastic food.

The pub is locally-owned and believes in providing customers with a connection to the history and heritage of Suffolk by hanging local artists' work on the walls and employing local produce in their menu. They are also dog-friendly and have a lovely west facing back garden which is an ideal resting spot to watch the sun set after a long walk around our beautiful county.


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5) The Bull Inn, Bury St Edmunds

A fascinating building rich in history, this 16th century coaching inn was an important staging post on the route from Norwich to London. The Bull Inn is over 500 years old and simply oozes with character with its quaint gables and dormer windows, its picturesque courtyard and stagecoach archway.

The Bull Inn boasts quite the royal seal of approval as legend says Queen Elizabeth I slept there one night in the days when her Earl of Leicester romance was in full flower. Although sympathetic to the original features the pub now has a funky, contemporary feel to it including designer wallpaper and handmade furnishings covered in amazing fabrics. The Bull Inn was bought in May 2007 and serves not only great pub grub but also thoroughly modern dining in their AA rosette restaurant. Mix the old with the new and book your table now.


6) The Ferryboat Inn, Felixstowe Ferry

After a bracing blast along the coast or a more peaceful meander through the links golf course, you will come across the quiet village of Felixstowe Ferry and this stunning local public house.

Situated in an area of outstanding natural beauty at the mouth of the River Deben, the Ferryboat was originally built in the 15th century as home to the Ferry Master, later becoming a hostelry for travellers and fishermen alike in the 16th century. Now serving up delicious home cooked food and cask ales, The Ferryboat is the perfect place to rest those weary feet after a walk in this estuarine environment.


7) The Dolphin, Thorpeness

Formally known as the Crown Inn, The Dolphin and some of the surrounding village architecture dates back to Tudor times when the building used to be attached to six cottages known as the West Terrace. The inn was renamed when the cottages were demolished and the building was extended to include bedrooms. Sadly the building was consumed by fire in 1995, but it was restored and reopened in 1998, eventually being taken over by David and his daughter Kerry in 2007.

Since then they have made a big impact in the village, ensuring the Dolphin became an important part of the community. With the arrival of Chris as Head Chef and the addition of the village store, The Dolphin is a great stop off after a countryside walk.


8) The Nutshell, Bury St Edmunds

With a bar that measures just 15ft by 7 ft, The Nutshell reputedly holds the title of smallest pub in Britain and has appeared in the Guinness Book of World Records. Located in the heart of historic Bury St Edmunds, The Nutshell has been serving customers - of which around only 15 can fit inside at any one time - since its first pint was poured in 1867.

Now a major tourist attraction for local and worldwide visitors, the pub continues to serve some of the regions finest ales and intrigues customers with its collection of interesting historical items, photos and memorabilia. It's definitely worth a visit but on a busy night be prepared to get up close and personal with the locals.


9) The Fox and Goose, Fressingfield

Formerly a guildhall first built back in 1509, the Fox and Goose is a beautiful Grade II listed building which has now been run by Paul and Sarah for over a decade. The fox and Goose is a traditional country pub and an award-winning restaurant which has and has been featured in both Michelin's and Harden's good eating guides.

Paul and Sarah are very proud of Suffolk's local produce and most of their suppliers live and work within a six-mile radius of Fressingfield. The free range eggs, the meat and fish, fruit and vegetables and even the wine is from the same village. So if you are looking for a high standard of traditional and modern cooking in a historical setting, you can't go far wrong with a visit here.


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