National Trust locations to visit with the family
PUBLISHED: 09:35 05 May 2019 | UPDATED: 16:08 08 May 2019
Getting outdoors and exploring the local history around Suffolk and North Essex is easy if you know where to go.
Luckily there are plenty of beautiful National Trust locations that are ready to discover, from Lavenham Guildhall in Constable Country to Bourne Mill in Essex.
Our reporters and readers have been telling us about the National Trust properties that they have visited. Handily they've also let us know the ideal amount of time you should spend at each - and even if you should pack a picnic!
"Nestled in the peaceful landscapes of rural west Suffolk, the stunning Italian architecture of Ickworth House marks an impressive landmark for lovers of stately homes," writes Jason Noble.
"It was established at the turn of the 19th Century, and visitors can enjoy the gloriously labyrinthine corridors of the servants cellars, kitchens and living quarters before ambling upstairs into the impressive rotunda."
Laura Hutton and Ally Smith both enjoy taking their children to Ickworth park. Laura says: " We often visit and walk the long route from the entrance of the main gate.
"There are also several geocaches along the route, which eventually lead you to the walled gardens and play park which is perfect for the kids."
Ally is a big fan of all the events that are organised by the National Trust in the school holidays.
Find more about Ickworth House, including planned events and how much it costs to take a look inside the stately home here.
Picnic rating: We recommend you stay for a minimum of an afternoon and if you are exploring the grounds definitely pack a picnic.
Some National Trust properties are a day out in their own right - you pay your entrance, park the car and don't leave until it's time to go home, writes Paul Geater.
Lavenham Guildhall isn't one of them! But it is a must-visit for anyone interested in visiting what is arguably England's best-preserved Medieval/Tudor Wool Town.
Because Lavenham IS somewhere worth visiting for a day out - to see historic buildings that are oozing history from the days before the Battle of Bosworth through to the birth of Harry Potter!
And the National Trust-owned Lavenham Guildhall is absolutely central to any visit. It tells the story of the town and explains while other wool centres were "modernised" and had their old buildings replaced, it remained essentially preserved in aspic.
During the Second World War it was even used as the basis of a propaganda film showing the English idyll we were supposed to be fighting for - a film on show at the Guildhall.
There is something there for everyone, rooms of information, clothes for youngsters to dress up in, and that staple of National Trust houses, a cafe.
But you only need about 90 minutes to see everything in the Guildhall before exploring the rest of the town. The church is one of the most spectacular in Suffolk and the individual houses are a delight. Outside shots of De Vere House were used in Harry Potter films to show the young wizard's birthplace.
And if you haven't filled yourself up at the National Trust cafe, there are plenty of other tearooms and pubs to enjoy in the town!
Prices for the Lavenham Guildhall and information about their new children's garden trail can be found here.
Picnic rating: Who needs a picnic when you can have a cream tea?!
This is possibly one of the smallest National Trust properties we have been to (rivalled by Tintagel Old Post Office) but still worthy of a visit, writes Natalie Sadler.
If you are not a confident driver, I would avoid the 'car park' - which is actually an area of grass between the mill and the composting toilet with room for three cars. If it is a busy day, you could find yourself reversing up a steep hill.
The mill building itself is beautiful and you can see the workings from the top, the side and the bottom, which helps children grasp the concept of a water mill. The grounds are equally stunning and the team have gone above and beyond to make it child friendly with bug hotels, compost heaps that help them learn about how waste is broken down and there are seasonal trails so you can discover the frogs spawn, the ducklings and other wildlife.
The mill pond is tranquil and the perfect backdrop to a well-earned coffee and slice of cake.
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Be warned, there are two options if you need to use the facilities - the composting toilet outside, which is clean, does not smell and well lit but can be slightly unnerving for smaller guests, or the flushing toilet upstairs which involves navigating a steep stair case.
Picnic raiting: Sounds like an idyllic picnic location if the weather is good - it will make a perfect morning or afternoon trip.
It was at Sutton Hoo that my family and I really fell in love with the National Trust, writes Natalie Sadler.
We visited last year before the refurbishment got underway and loved it so much we became fully signed up members of the National Trust - which came in handy during a wet week camping in Cornwall last summer.
Sutton Hoo has been described as "just a load of mounds" and while, essentially, that is all that makes this site significant, so much has gone into the visitor experience that we were there all day and were actually the last family on site at the end of the day.
The visitor centre brings the history of Sutton Hoo to life, from the Saxon's arrival in England to how they lived, worked and travelled. The mock ship at the centre gives an idea of the scale of the burial mounds and going inside allows you to envisage what the passage over was like.
There are videos, dress-up stations, interactive learning and guides on hand to re-tell history, which all helped keep our 11-year-old enthralled as we read the information boards.
She did comment that there were a lot - but didn't need to read them all to understand the history.
There are various routes taking you up to the mounds, depending how far you want to walk, and the woodlands at the top of the trail are fun to explore. There will soon be a new viewing platform to give a different view of the mounds.
Tranmer House was almost an after thought for us, a little something extra to see before we headed home. But once inside we were captivated. As the house itself is not of architectural importance the rules are more relaxed than in other properties, we could sit on the sofas, the children could roam more freely and we could relax as we listened to the volunteers recount the story of how the last owner came to own the property, and how the mounds were discovered.
You also learn more about the running a house of this scale and the families that lived there.
After all of that exploring, we needed some sustenance. There was is a vast, modern eatery at Sutton Hoo as well as a great picnic area, which is where we opted to stop for sandwiches.
Next to the picnic area is a huge adventure play area to help youngsters burn off excess energy, this place really does have everything.
Sutton Hoo is currently undergoing a major transformation, so the landscape (burial mounds and walks) as well as the cafe and shop, are all open. However, the exhibition hall and Tranmer House don't open until later in June.
Find out opening times and prices for Sutton Hoo - right here.
Picnic raiting: Sounds like a day long outing and substantial picnic to us.
Let us know your favourite National Trust property by voting in our poll and don't forget to let us know if we should pack a picnic!