This was my first visit to Woodbridge in Suffolk. It’s an English county on the right-hand edge of the map of England and comprises the bottom half of that roundy bit that sticks out into the North Sea. The coastline is a draw, but there are so many reasons to visit this beautiful county, as I was to discover.
Flatford Mill will be a name familiar to all of us who have ever even heard of the artist John Constable. Flatford Mill (Scene on a Navigable River) is an oil painting that English artist executed in 1816; it shows a lad on a horse dragging working barges up the River Stour from Dedham Lock to the mill. The Hay Wain shows the buildings at Flatford Mill, and one can still see them today. This is a remarkably unspoilt corner of England.
Snape Maltings is one of the world’s leading centres of music, covering all genres from classic to folk, world and jazz. But there is more in this complex of restored buildings. There are galleries, sculptures from the likes of Barbara Hepworth and Henry Moore, and there are some rather classy home décor and gift shops. One could spend a whole day here… but that might mean missing out on Woodbridge.
Over 100 boutique stores
But why Woodbridge? Well, it happened to be the town where one finds The Crown – now one of my favourite small hotels; but what else is there? Over 100 independent boutique stores with some outstanding clothes shops, and one in particular which sells 1920s-style hats – what a revelation. It’s an estuary-coastal town and one which appeals to the yachting fraternity who evidently appreciate quality. There is a working tide mill, and quaint houses and pubs.
I mentioned The Crown. And it is a small but perfectly formed inn – or is it a hotel with a restaurant; or is it a restaurant with superb rooms? There are ten of those rooms and they are all individually and tastefully presented. Ours was so well-appointed that it has actually given us some design inspiration for our own home bedroom make-over, OK, perhaps without the tea and coffee station… although…
Our bathroom was of a size appropriate for a tea dance and garnished with some rather fine toiletries. The bed was substantial, pillowy, crisp with white linen, and warm. The sofa was inviting and there were antique books to enjoy while there. Plenty of the aforementioned tea and coffee, and even real milk and cookies to welcome the travel-weary.
Location by the water
Yes, this is a 16th century building and it retains many original features, but it has carefully introduced modern technology and, thankfully, plumbing. There are design nods to its location by the water. There is a boat floating above the bar and fishing tackle outside our door, but the ambiance is cool-contemporary with rustic elegance. A new outside terrace edged with wattle hurdles is ideal for tranquil evening drinks.
The restaurant at The Crown is worthy of the rest of the hotel. It sports the same neutral colours and a rather good breakfast menu. They use cast iron Japanese teapots, they offer local produce and even the jam is from around here. They’ll prepare filled baps for those who want an early start in order to explore.
The Crown at Woodbridge is intimate, friendly and charming, and right in the middle of town. It’s professionally run with staff who are evidently well-trained in the finer points of hospitality. It’s a real find and I’ll be back!
The Crown at Woodbridge
Suffolk IP12 1AD
Phone: 01394 384242
Hotel review by Chrissie Walker © 2018