Travel: Let’s staycation in...Hadleigh 

Hadleigh Town Hall

Hadleigh Town Hall - part of the historic Guildhall complex - Credit: Keith Bailey

Sitting in the Brett Valley surrounded by some of the hilliest landscapes in Suffolk, Hadleigh really does offer the best of everything you’d expect from a historic market town. 

A bustling centre, bursting with independent traders. A clutch of some of the most important buildings in Suffolk (including a church where Viking King Guthrum is said to be buried). And mile after mile after mile of truly scenic rural pathways. 

It is a superb base for walkers and cyclists – who will find several bike parking spots around the town, on the high street and even at some of the cafes and shops. 

Stuart Service, who runs accommodation in Hadleigh and set up the Visit Hadleigh website

Stuart Service, who runs accommodation in Hadleigh and set up the Visit Hadleigh website - Credit: Archant

Where to stay in Hadleigh 

Stuart Service has run The Gables guest house in Hadleigh for many years, and also offers self-catering at Mulberry Cottage and 127 High Street in the town. 

He says: “If you’re thinking of coming to stay in Hadleigh you should definitely take a look at the Visit Hadleigh website. It has all the accommodation in the town on there, and all the shops, places to eat and a diary of what’s on.” 

Stuart also recommends stopping by the Visitor Information Centre, set up during lockdown. “We do guided walks if people are really keen history buffs. Jane will take you around the town and you’ll get to know the in-depth knowledge of our town’s past. 

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“I love this town. I love the high street and the people and the fact it’s convenient for going off and exploring other areas. There are so many things to do within half an hour’s drive – people are never bored when they stay with us. I love the charming messages we get left in our guest books – notes for future guests of what to do, and even booklets and leaflets with information. How wonderful is that?” 

On your first day in the town, Stuart highly recommends getting acquainted with the high street. “It’s an eclectic mix with so many lovely lovely businesses.” 

Mulberry Cottage - self-catering accommodation in Hadleigh, Suffolk

Mulberry Cottage - self-catering accommodation in Hadleigh - Credit: Stuart Service

The accommodation: Mulberry Cottage sleeps five people in three bedrooms, with an en suite shower room, family bathroom, downstairs toilet, large living room and dedicated parking. 

And 127 High Street also has three bedrooms, two shower rooms, a large sitting room, dining room, kitchen and large garden. “It’s been so popular. Lots of people are making repeat bookings.” 

Where to eat in Hadleigh 

The Jet Lounge – A friendly café/restaurant set within a beautiful historic building. The Jet Lounge is open for breakfast and lunch, as well as popular themed evenings, where customers ‘jet off’ to various destinations. Extremely sought-after are tables for the Bubbles ‘n’ Brunch, served daily until 1pm. For £21, you can choose a brunch dish, and enjoy unlimited prosecco, Bloody Mary cocktails or juice for one hour 15 minutes. 

Cobblers  - A relative newcomer on the high street, Faye and Rob’s café and wine bar, set across two floors, with a contemporary terrace, is always bustling. The menu spans breakfast, through to paninis, baguettes and jacket potatoes, and generous portions of tapas, and sharing platters. There’s regular live music. And they’ve just introduced a new cocktail menu – including a fantastic Pornstar Martini. Look out too for their sister business around the corner – a waffle and pancake house. 

Battlebury’s at The King’s  Head - Interesting ales, a large range of gins, and high quality pub food made using prime local ingredients await in this large town centre pub, which has plenty of outside dining space. Whether you fancy a steak burger, or something a bit fancier, the extensive menu has something for you – and families are welcome, with a children’s menu provided. Pizza-maker extraordinaire Giorgio has just made a return, offering eat-in and takeaway authentic dishes. Keep an eye on the pub’s Facebook page for opening times for pizza. 

Tito’s - An Italian spot, where the food isn’t, strictly speaking, authentic, but it’s generous and tasty – spanning pizza, pasta, meat dishes and more. The team are super friendly and welcoming. Takeaways are available. 

Jo sells old fashioned cuts of pork as well as haslet, terrines and rillettes at Hadleigh Market Pi

Jo sells old fashioned cuts of pork as well as haslet, terrines and rillettes at Hadleigh Market on Fridays - Credit: Archant

Shopping in Hadleigh 

The town is well-served by a large Co-op store in its centre, where you’ll find lots of local produce. There’s a Morrison’s supermarket too, and all the other major supermarkets deliver to the town. 

It is so worth spending a while trawling the independent shops in the centre of town though. There are two brilliant butchers. Andrew’s is known for its award-winning pies. While Innes Family Butchers is currently renovating, and has loads of locally-sourced meats and quick dinner solutions. 

Sticking with a food and drink theme, in Hadleigh there are two delis. Julie’s much-loved Ferguson’s is stocked floor-to-ceiling with goodies from around the world – from the finest olives and tapenades, to Italian biscuits, and Thai sauces. While the counter boasts British and continental cheeses, cured meats, pates, pies, and more. The sandwiches are immense. 

Over the road, Fork Deli & Kitchen makes pretty much all its own produce – be it ice cream, ready-to-bake cookie dough, fresh pasta, jams – you name it. Award-winning chef Justin is running workshops in the space upstairs, which can be booked for private dining. 

In the centre of the high street is the Adnams store, stocking the full range of their beers and spirits, wines, and kitchenalia – look out for regular wine tastings. 

Hadleigh is very lucky to have so many independents. You'll also discover fashion stores for all budgets – from Ruby Moo, to Rachel, or Papillion for men, a very reasonably priced jewellers, a bike store selling top range models, eco-friendly goodies at Adore Nature, and gifts within First Class Greetings and Plum Green. 

Looking up the River Hadleigh Picture: BARRY PULLEN/IWITNESS

Take a walk alongside the river in Hadleigh - Credit: BARRY PULLEN/IWITNESS

Things to do in Hadleigh 

As already mentioned, the town is brilliant for cyclists. But also for walkers. There are multiple off-road routes accessible from the centre. Popular are the short riverside walk, which can be extended up into the nearby hills, and the old railway walk – a two-mile linear trek to Raydon. 

A lovely route can be walked from Hadleigh, via fields, to postcard perfect Kersey, where the Bell Inn awaits with proper pies and a decent pint. 

If keeping fit’s on the agenda, the brand new swimming pool has opened for lane swimming and family fun sessions (with a sauna available) and you can book out tennis, basketball, football and netball courts via Abbeygate Leisure. 

Don’t miss market day on Fridays. Starting early and running until 1pm-2pm depending on trade, there’s a brilliant continental feel to the event in the marketplace, where you’ll discover award-winning bread and pastries from Wooster’s (as loved by Nigella), fudge, fruit and veg, fish, pies, cheese, meat, vegan ‘honey’, plants, crafts and more. 

Elliott, Evelyn and Laurie having fun on the tractor on the Hollow Trees Farm Trail.

Families adore Hollow Trees Farm Shop, with its cafe and trail in Semer, near Hadleigh - Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown

10 minutes away 

Take the family to Hollow Trees Farm Shop where a café, lots of stunning local produce and a brilliant farm trail await. Young children love it here! 

Polstead is a beautiful village with stunning woodland walks – especially in springtime, when thousands of bluebells come into bloom. 

Stoke By Nayland is equally good for walks, and is home to a hotel, spa and two superb golf courses, open to all. The main restaurant has just been renovated, and revered chef Alan Paton has returned to the kitchen – watch this space. 

15 minutes away 

Stop by Bridge Farm Barns in Monks Eleigh where you’ll discover an art and craft gallery, plant shop, gift store, patchwork shop, antiques and collectibles, and a café serving very good homemade food and afternoon teas. 

20 minutes away 

Take a trip to medieval Lavenham, with its gloriously wonky buildings, fantastic eateries (including The Great House and Number 10), art galleries and ice cream parlour. There’s an old off-road railway walk here too, signposted from the northern end of the main street. 

Flatford and Dedham are a must. Park at one and walk to the other, taking in Constable Country along the way. See where the Haywain was painted. Take a boat trip. Launch your own kayak or paddle board on the river. Or hire a row boat from The Boathouse in Dedham. Both are gorgeous locations for picnics. There’s a café at Flatford (with several pubs in nearby East Bergholt). And multiple pubs and tearooms in Dedham. 

Locals say... 

Matthew Hodges - “There’s plenty of eateries. Country walks minutes from the high street. And it’s an extremely dog-friendly town. 

Teri Gavin-Jones - “I love a mooch around Adnams and usually end up with something for ‘new wine Wednesday’ - it’s a thing in our house! Since Fork opened by food bill is ridiculous – who can resist homemade pasta? And don’t get me started on Wooster’s bread on Friday morning at the market.” 

Alice Munson - “Where to start? Hadleigh has so many beautiful places to visit. The Row Chapel, The Guildhall, The Deanery. There’s miles of countryside to explore and we’re perfectly situated for the bigger towns in any direction. But who needs those when you have such a great high street with mostly all independent businesses?”