Ruff Guide to… Ipswich

Ipswich, the county town of Suffolk, has a fascinating history that dates back almost 1,500 years. It was founded as a small trading settlement during the Anglo-Saxon times but the waterfront town has since flourished to become one of the key hubs in the south-east. Whether you want to stroll alongside the River Orwell, explore the town’s beautiful green spaces or get to grips with its ancient past, Ipswich has something for every man, woman – and their dog.

Ipswich waterfront
Ipswich waterfront ©

Dog-friendly Ipswich: the must-sees

Start by exploring the town’s historic riverfront, which has been used by tradesmen since the 7th Century. The modern dock was built in the 1800s though and nowadays, the Neptune Quay area is the place to be. Not only is it where you’ll find the University of Suffolk’s main campus, but also several dog-friendly bars, cafes and restaurants. Keep reading to find out more.

Ipswich is also home to some lovely green spaces that both you and your dog will love. Christchurch Park, in the middle of the town centre, has an arboretum, duck pond and small cafe. At its heart lies Christchurch Mansion, where you’ll find work by local artists Thomas Gainsborough and John Constable but sadly, the house is not dog-friendly. The 125-acre Chantry Park, on the outskirts of the town, is a big hit with dog walkers too. There is plenty of space for off-lead walks as well as an enclosed area.

Chantry Park, Ipswich
Beautiful Chantry Park

Jimmy’s Farm, owned by farmer and TV presenter Jimmy Doherty, is well worth a visit too – and it’s just a 10-minute drive from Ipswich. It’s a working farm, but there is also a wildlife park where you can feed the animals and enjoy keeper talks. There are great facilities for kids, plus a lovely restaurant and shop. Dogs are welcome onsite but must be kept on a lead. They are not allowed in the restaurant but there is plenty of covered seating outside. Adult tickets cost £10.

Don’t forget that Ipswich is close to Suffolk’s 50-mile coastline, either. Here, you’ll find lovely beaches and seaside towns such as Southwold, Woodbridge and Aldeburgh. To find out more about dog-friendly things to see and do in the area, check out our Ruff Guide to the Suffolk Coast.

Ernie and Nick walk past a graffitied wall by the River Orwell in Ipswich
Ernie and dad Nick enjoy the River Walk

Dog-friendly Ipswich: the best walks

Check out Ipswich’s River Path. It may not be very long – the whole thing only takes about 30 minutes to walk – but it follows the River Orwell down to the town’s historic waterfront. Sure, it’s a bit urban but you’ll pass buildings both old and new along the way, which will show you how the town has grown.

You can also follow the town’s Blue Plaque Trail, which commemorates some of its famous sons and daughters. The plaques were introduced by The Ipswich Society and take you on a tour through history. Look out for the ones dedicated to Henry VIII’s Lord Chancellor Thomas Wolsey, who was born in the town, suffragette Constance Andrews and artist Thomas Gainsborough. For a map of the trail, click here.

For great views of the Orwell Bridge though, Orwell Country Park is the place to go. This 470-acre site, a 10-minute drive from the centre of Ipswich, runs down to the estuary and is made up of three main areas – Piper’s Vale, Bridge Wood and Braziers Wood. The National Trust also recommends the two-mile nature walk at nearby Pin Mill. Here, you can stroll through peaceful woodland and go right down to the River Orwell. Look out for the wrecks beached on the foreshore.

One of the delicious vegan burgers at Hanks Pub, Ipswich
One of the delicious meat-free burgers at Hank’s Pub

Dog-friendly Ipswich: the best pubs and cafes

Be sure to visit The Woolpack, on Tuddenham Road, which serves a great range of cask ales and traditional home-cooked food. The pub, near Christchurch Park, has previously been shortlisted for Pub of the Year in the Suffolk Food & Drink Awards. Dogs are welcome inside and they’re also allowed at The Greyhound, in Henley Road, and The Arbor House, in the High Street. But if plant-based food is your thing, make a beeline for Hank’s Pub in St Helen’s Street. Here, everything on the menu is 100% vegan, from the beer to the burgers.

For a brew with a view, head to Isaacs on the Quay, which overlooks the regenerated waterfront. Parts of this rambling venue date back to the medieval times but it is now named after Isaac Lord, who bought the historic building back in 1900. Isaacs serves food and drink all day and is open until late. Dogs are welcome throughout the ground floor and will likely get lots of fuss from the staff.

Isaacs is also linked to Briarbank Brewing Company, which can be found right behind it on Fore Street. The award-winning microbrewery has a bar right above it where dogs can join their owners for a pint. Cult Cafe, in the nearby James Hehir Building, also welcomes pets. And The Steamboat Tavern, in New Cut West, loves having doggy visitors. There is a special treat station on the bar and the homemade sausage rolls and Scotch eggs come highly recommended.

Riverside terrace at the Pentahotel Ipswich
The riverside terrace at the Pentahotel

Dog-friendly Ipswich: where to stay

If you’re travelling on a budget, check out the funky Pentahotel, on Ranelagh Road. The riverside hotel, which is close to Ipswich Station and Ipswich Town FC’s Portman Road stadium, attracts a cool young crowd. Pets are welcome here, and can also snuggle up with their owners in the Instagrammable lounge.

Further along the river, in Neptune Quay, you’ll find the luxurious Salthouse Harbour Hotel. The staff at this artsy boutique hotel love dogs and the food – especially the afternoon tea – is fabulous. It makes a great base for anyone wanting to take to the water. Many of the rooms look out over the regenerated marina, too.

Kesgrave Hall, a short drive from Ipswich town centre, is also incredibly dog-friendly. The Grade II Listed Georgian mansion, which recently opened a new spa, is part of the Milsom Hotels group. Go for one of the deluxe courtyard rooms, which have easy access to the hotel lawn and 38 acres of woodland – ideal for walkies.

Ipswich station
Ipswich station

How do I get to Ipswich?

The town, which is around 80 miles from London, is easily accessible by road and public transport. If you’re coming by car, there are two main roads you will need to follow – the A12 from London or the south or the A14 from the Midlands or the north.

Direct Greater Anglia trains leave London Liverpool Street and Stratford and take around an hour. However, rail travellers coming from the north or west will need to change at Peterborough. You can also reach Ipswich by coach. National Express run daily services from across the country.

Where can I find out more?

For further tourist information, visit All About Ipswich or check out the official Visit Suffolk website.

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