Cliff Cottage, Iken
Open, spacious, airy, barefoot; you'll kick your shoes of when you arrive, who knows where they'll be a week later. Welcome to Suffolk.
CLIFF COTTAGE, IKEN, SUFFOLK
Hidden down a sandy lane, we’re minutes from the tiny hamlet of Iken, perched high above the River Alde. Expect endless estuary views and big sunsets. Are we in the UK? Really? It feels far wilder and more exotic — East Africa maybe, or New Zealand.
Cliff Cottage sleeps 7: a master bedroom with en-suite, a smaller room with a double bed, a twin bed-room with another bed under the eaves and a family bathroom. Bookings are Friday to Friday.
Open, spacious, airy, barefoot; you’ll kick your shoes of when you arrive, and who knows where they’ll be a week later. That view follows you everywhere and sunlight pours into the open-plan, glass-fronted kitchen.
The sitting room feels cosy, family riffing on a nautical theme; deep sofas, board-games, maps and a model sail-boat. No surprises that the Alde Estuary is renowned for its boating.
Visiting in summer, we were outside most of the time, but I imagine that this space comes into its own when temperatures drops: Monopoly, wine, dear friends & a roaring fire. *Sigh… checks availability for NYE*
Come evening, we sat round the picnic-table for chats, cheese & rosé to the honk, squawk, shriek of avocet, curlew and heron… plus the occasional whooping water-skier.
Call me middle-aged and stick binos in my hand, but I was in birdie heaven.
The River Alde is an SSSI* and renowned for its avian life; be sure to pack mossy spray though, the midges are vicious
OUT AND ABOUT
Left to our own devices, Mr MH and I would happily spend all week lazing, reading, eating and drinking. But no, we have young children, so activities must be planned.
This arts complex on the River Alde is an easy walk from Cliff Cottage. It has its own concert hall, art gallery, café (for ice-cream bribery) and a half-decent gastropub called The Plough and Sail. Snape Proms and Aldeburgh Festival are held here, but there are concerts, art exhibitions and children’s activities all year round.
The walks really are stunning and you won’t see a car for miles, either head down the steps from the garden to the waterline and bear right towards Iken church in the distance.
Or for Snape Maltings (more on this below), head back up the sandy drive then follow the raised, wooden walkway which takes you through the estuary, surrounded by rushes.
It’s flat, stark, wild and very different from anything I’ve come across in the UK. The walk itself, though, is an easy, pushchair friendly twenty-minutes. My eight- and three-year-old managed it, with the promise of ice-cream at the end.
If you’re a runner like me, then bring your trainers. Cliff Cottage to Snape Maltings to Iken church and back, is a good, hour-long, flat run through dreamy countryside.
The question is why walk when you can canoe? My eight-year-old and I hired ours from Iken Canoe based next door to Cliff Cottage.
We spent a happy morning meandering along the estuary to Snape Maltings.
Highlight for me? Watching a rare marsh harrier on the hunt. For Bbell? Watching mum wade through thigh-deep estuary mud to rescue our grounded craft.
My 8- and 3- year girls had a ball, so much so that my youngest still talks about “holiday ‘ouse.”
However there is a steep drop-off at the end of the garden, namesake and all of that, so you will need to watch very small ones all the time.
The house itself isn’t rarefied and feels like a family home, but a toddler at peak marauding stage could do some damage — bring a playpen.
As always the brilliant National Trust did us proud, this time with Sutton Hoo (rhymes with “Moo”) where a huge Saxon hoard was discovered last century.
My girl loved it; lots of dressing up, easy walks, and a creepy ghost story or two.
We also spent a happy, bucket-and-spade day at the coast in Aldeburgh with its clean sand and colourful beach-huts.
THE MUDDY VERDICT
Good for: Groups of friends and/or families. Lovers of nature, books, boardgames and long walks.
Not for: Those who want 24/7 action-packed facilities, although within walking distance you have nature, history, world-class music, art and good food. A day at the seaside is only a shortish drive away.
The damage: ££ Prices start at a very reasonable £525 per week going up to the £1400 during peak season.
Cliff Cottage, Iken, Suffolk, IP12 2EN. 01264 738 533, 07810 568 450; cliffcottage.co.uk, firstname.lastname@example.org
Words & images: Muddy Hants Editor, Mary Malyon
*Site of Special Scientific Interest