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Discovering the castles of Suffolk

For most holiday makers, a break in Suffolk means enjoying the comfort of a hotel or holiday cottage, from which to explore the rolling green hills of this pretty county. But while Suffolk affords visitors a high level of accommodation, what many people are in search of is windswept castles with the odd ghost wandering down their stony corridors.

Fortunately, visitors to Suffolk can enjoy both. Suffolk has 13 castles in total (depending on what you call a castle – some are but a small pile of Norman slabs), ranging from the modest ruins of Clare Castle to the well-kept and history-rich Framlingham Castle. These castles represent a whole raft of great days out for the family – and are sure to fire the imagination of both children and grown-ups.

Clare Castle

This castle was built after the Norman Conquest by a certain Richard Fitz Gilbert. It then passed to Elizabeth de Clare, one of the richest women in England at the time – who gave the building its name. The castle then passed into the hands of the crown, where it did rather badly – lying in ruins by the 16th century. The Motte of Castle Clare remains intact and is certainly worth a visit. Sadly a certain tract of the site was destroyed to make way for the Great Eastern Railway, but plenty of interest remains.

Framlingham Castle

Completed by 1148 near the town of Framlingham, this castle has seen a great deal of action over the centuries. It was destroyed by Henry II during the revolt of 1173-4, but was rebuilt by the Earl of Norfolk, Roger Bigod. The castle design is unusual in that it has no keep, only a defensive curtain wall, where inhabitants lived. After being besieged by King John in 1216, it became a luxurious residence. By the 15th and 16th centuries the castle stood at the heart of the Mowbray and Howard estates. It then became, by turns, a poor house, a military drill hall, a county court and a defence against potential German invasion during World War Two.

There are many other intriguing castles around Suffolk, such as Lidgate Castle, whose chapel, it is thought, became the chapel of St Mary’s Church, which was built inside the castle’s bailey. Orford Castle, meanwhile, offers visitors "one of the most remarkable keeps in England”, according to historian R. Allen Brown. 

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