Family Outing: Sutton Hoo, Suffolk

Page one of history: see where pagan kings were laid to rest
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The Independent Travel

The venue

The venue

Back in 1939 in a field overlooking the River Deben at Sutton Hoo near Woodbridge in Suffolk, local archaeologist Basil Brown found a 90-foot long burial ship that had lain undisturbed for 1,300 years. It was one of the most important archaeological finds in British history. Within the ship, thought to be that of Raedwald, King of East Anglia, lay the most amazing collection of treasures, including a warrior's helmet, shield and gold ornaments. The 245-acre estate was donated to the National Trust in 1998 and opened to the public in March 2002.

Something for children

At some point most children will learn about Sutton Hoo in school and here they can see it for themselves. It's a short walk to the burial ground, with a choice of two longer circular walks through the woods for those feeling more energetic. Anglo-Saxon dressing-up clothes are provided in the exhibition hall, as is a children's quiz. Outside there's a play area, including a zip wire (from which adults are unfortunately banned) and a hi-tech bouncy seesaw. There's a regular programme of weekend activities for families, plus children's activity sessions a couple of times a week during the holidays. These include arts and crafts, and storytelling in the woods.

Something for adults

If you want to know more about the history of Sutton Hoo the best bet is to join a guided walk. These take place most days (phone first to check) and last about one and a quarter hours (adults £2, under-16s £1.50). The exhibition hall houses a full-sized reconstruction of the burial chamber found in the ship and tells the story of the site - described as "page one of English history". Objects from the Sutton Hoo collection are on loan from the British Museum.

Refreshments

There's a purpose-built, light and airy 80-seater restaurant with a terrace that has views across the Deben valley. The menu makes the most of the historical connections with dishes such as Anglo-Saxon meat balls and rice (adult portion £7.95, children £3.25) and a Potato Longboat (half a jacket potato with sausages and baked beans, £3). Hot food is served from 11.30am to 2.30pm, and soup and baguettes until 5pm. They also offer home-made cakes and cream teas. There are high chairs and a few toys for younger children. There are picnic tables near the playground.

Souvenirs

The shop offers the usual National Trust fare of guide books and postcards, T-shirts, hand cream, jam and biscuits. Pocket money spends include Sutton Hoo bookmarks (£1.50), Anglo-Saxon helmet key rings (£3) and press-out cardboard Anglo-Saxon helmets (£4.99). History books for children include the newly published Sutton Hoo, The Anglo-Saxon Way of Life and Death by Paul Dowswell (£9.99 National Trust).

Admission and access

You can visit the burial grounds and walks every day except Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Year's Day (10am-6pm, £2.50 per car). The exhibition hall and facilities are open daily from March to October but only from Fri-Sun (10am-4pm) to the end of the year, and weekends only in January and February. Adult entry is £4, children £2. National Trust members and under-5s are free. There is 50p off for those arriving by bicycle or on foot.

As it's a newish site for the National Trust and relatively flat, disabled access is good. Disabled parking is provided, as are electric buggies for use on the path around the burial mound. Wheelchairs are available from reception, there are braille guides and hearing loops. Dogs on leads are welcome but are not permitted on the burial ground field because of grazing sheep. There is "dog parking" on the edge of the field where they can be tethered while their owners explore.

How to get there

Sutton Hoo, Woodbridge, Suffolk 1P12 3DJ (01394 389700; www.nationaltrust.org.uk)

By car: Sutton Hoo is off the B1083 Woodbridge to Bawdsey Road and signposted from the A12.

By train: Melton station is just under a mile away. Trains from Ipswich run about six times a day (One Anglia: 08700 402020 )

By bus: No 71 and 73 buses from Ipswich to Bawdsey stop at the entrance. (08706 082608 )

By bike: There is cycle parking in the car park and secure lockers at reception.

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