BALLINGDON MILL, SUDBURY, SUFFOLK
WHAT’S THE SCOOP? Check in and chill out at this 18th Century windmill on the outskirts of Sudbury, a historic market town in Suffolk. It has been lovingly converted into an artists’ retreat providing basic yet cosy accommodation. We visited in winter – the perfect time to curl up in front of the wood-burning stove with a good book. It’s such a wonderfully quirky place, bands have even been inspired to record albums here.
ARE MUDDY PAWS WELCOME? Yes they are. Dog bowls are provided but you will need to bring your own bed, food and blankets. Be aware that there are quite large gaps between the stair slats to get to the living area on the first floor – Ernie wasn’t too sure about them so needed to be carried up and down. A bigger dog may be more able to manage but it’s worth being aware of, just in case. Dogs must also be kept on lead in the garden area because there are free-ranging chickens.
AND WHEN I’M DOG TIRED? Ballingdon Mill is billed as an artists’ retreat so is simply furnished and decorated. The loo is not located inside the property – which may be a dealbreaker for some – but if you don’t mind nipping across the drive to the owners’ house, where your private bathroom is located, you’ll get on just fine here.
Inside, the mill is surprisingly spacious. On the ground floor, you’ll find the kitchen, which is well-stocked with all the basics and a dining table for four. The main living area is upstairs, however, and it’s all heated by a large wood-burning stove. The simple accommodation consists of a comfy double bed, a sofa (that can also be used as a bed) and a couple of occasional chairs. There is also a flatscreen TV and DVD player, as well as a selection of films, books and games to wile away the evenings.
Although the mill is essentially “off-grid” and encourages you to chill out, it does have wifi so you don’t have to cut yourself off from the rest of the world completely. There are also bikes that can be borrowed and lots of information about walks and cycling routes in the area to help you explore the local area.
HOW ARE THE SCOOBY SNACKS? Ballingdon Mill is a self-catering property but guests are provided with everything they need for a continental breakfast. When we visited, there was a whole host of items, such as tea, coffee, juice, milk, bread, butter, yogurt and muesli. A selection of preserves – such as jam and honey – were also provided, as well as kitchen essentials, like salt, pepper, oil and vinegar.
If you don’t feel like cooking, walk two minutes down the road to The Cyclist – a dog-friendly cafe-cum-pub run by the owners. Alternatively, stroll in to Sudbury. Dogs are allowed in the bar area of The Black Boy and I can highly recommend The Codfather for takeaways. The portions are huge, the chunky chips are delicious and the pies and pasties are homemade.
ANY FOUR-LEGGED FRIENDS TO PLAY WITH? No, but you are guaranteed to meet plenty of other dogs when you’re out exploring the area.
WHERE’S GOOD FOR WALKIES? Suffolk is heaven for dogs, and there are lots of walking trails and footpaths in and around Sudbury. The town is renowned for its “common lands” and ancient water meadows and the 3.5-mile Gainsborough Trail provides a great introduction to them.
Named after the painter Thomas Gainsborough – who was born in Sudbury – the circular route links all the town’s main wildlife sites and green spaces. The Stour Valley Path is also well worth exploring. This 60-mile route tracks the River Stour through Suffolk, Essex and Cambridgeshire. Parts of it follow the old railway line which, until the 1960s, linked Sudbury to Cambridge.
WHAT ERNIE LOVED: The wood-burning stove, having so many great walks on the doorstep, watching the chickens outside
WHAT I LOVED: The quirky building, the peaceful location, cosying up in front of the fire in the evening
GET ON THE DOG AND BONE: Ballingdon Mill sleeps up to five people. A night’s stay starts from £50. For more information or to book, check out the mill’s listing on Airbnb.