Couples share their tales of romance from the beautiful East Anglian countryside
PUBLISHED: 16:00 12 February 2017 | UPDATED: 17:36 18 October 2017
It's nearly Valentine's Day, love is in the air and people everywhere find their thoughts turning to romance. But where is the best place to woo your partner on this special day for l'amour?
Paris is often listed as the most romantic city on earth and Tom Hanks once said the moon is the single most romantic place in the cosmos (if a little hard to get to), but we think East Anglia can give them both a run for their money.
Shakespeare once wrote: “For where thou art, there is the world itself, and where thou art not, desolation.” In other words, the location doesn’t really matter; the right person can make your heart flutter anywhere - but is it a coincidence that he set that particular scene in Suffolk?
Beautiful landscapes, stunning coastline, cosy pubs and luxury boutique hotels, East Anglia boasts a wealth of romantic locations for those looking to spend a little quality time together.
We asked some local couples where they go to find romance in East Anglia and they told us their favourite locations for love.
Mariam and Russell Claydon: The Abbey Gardens in Bury St Edmunds
Mariam and Russell got engaged in the Abbey Gardens in Bury St Edmunds, which is well known for its stunning floral displays, abbey ruins and position next to the River lark.
Mariam says: “On the morning of our 4th anniversary in May 2011, I noticed that one of my rings had been moved and let myself wonder ‘what if’ a proposal was on the cards for later in the day. After work, we met for a pre-dinner stroll in the Abbey Gardens and my now-husband, Russell Claydon, took me to the Rose Garden - always a favourite place as it is a haven of tranquillity bursting with beautiful roses. Sitting on a bench overlooking the cathedral, he got down on one knee and, of course, I said yes. Shortly afterwards some American tourists stumbled upon us and took some photographs. It didn’t need to be Paris, Rome or the top of a mountain - what I love is that this special place is a stone’s throw from my work and home and I can go any time I like.”
Neil and Emma Perry: Sheringham Park, Cromer
Neil proposed to Emma at the top of the viewing tower in Sheringham Park, North Norfolk. The park is known for its beautiful walks and tower offers breath-taking views of the Norfolk coastline.
Neil says: “My wife’s name is Emma and we had been together two years when I proposed. At the time our eldest was a few months old, so I knew whisking her off to a Paris or Barcelona for a proposal wasn’t really an option. I needed to find somewhere quiet and romantic within a half an hour drive of our home. I used to run around Sheringham Park when I lived in Cromer and remembered it as a nice spot. We dropped off the baby with the mother-in-law and went off for an evening walk on what was an ‘Indian summer’ September evening. We went to the viewing towner and, once all the other people had left, I went down on one knee on the pretence of getting my camera. I had stashed the ring at the bottom of my bag and when she turned around, I was still down on one knee with a ring in my hand. There was even a sunset to complete the scene!”
Caroline and Tremayne Johnson: Brancaster Beach, Norfolk
Caroline remembers enjoying a romantic day on the sandy beach with her new boyfriend before they spent a month apart as she went travelling. The couple have now been married for eight years.
Caroline says: “It was November and I was living in Ascot. I met Tremayne in the September at a wedding in Norfolk and we quickly became an item. I had planned a two month trip to French Polynesia to visit my sister while she was travelling and decided to cut it short as I had met Tremayne. Before I left, he wanted to show me some of the beautiful beaches that exist in Norfolk and Suffolk as I had never been to that part of the world and Brancaster beach is amazing – it is so lovely.
On the beach, in freezing cold November, at windswept Brancaster, I gave Tremayne a hat to keep him warm in England in winter while I was away in sunny Polynesia and it was very romantic. He still has it and it is still his favourite hat – even though it has a hole in it.
Brancaster beach is wild and untouched which is what I like. It’s upspoilt. You can just walk for miles and you see people with dogs and kitesurfers. I love the sea and we go back every winter for mussells. Brancaster will always have a special place in my heart.”
Patrick and Patricia Peal: Maison Talbooth, Dedham.
Mr and Mrs Peal spent their brief honeymoon at the hotel in 1986 and then returned to celebrate their silver wedding anniversary. Maison Talbooth is a small country house hotel and spa set in the heart of beautiful Constable country,
Patrick says: “My wife was a farmer and when we got married it was August - not a good time for farm work - so we had a very brief honeymoon at the nearby Maison Talbooth. We spent a wonderful three days at the hotel, visiting Snape Maltings and Aldeburgh. It was a very magical time and a lovely respite from the harvest. It was always in my mind, when we came to our 25th wedding anniversary, that we would try and relive our honeymoon. We went back to the Maison Talbooth and found it was just as lovely and magical as ever. If anything spending a couple of nights there for our anniversary was more romantic than our honeymoon. It was more reflective and more relaxing and also a lot better weather! We have a history of appalling weather on August 30 but we were very lucky on our 25th anniversary that the weather was terrific. The hotel is in a stunning setting with beautiful views over Dedham Vale and we sat in the outdoor swimming pool, drinking champagne and reflecting on 25 years of marriage. A lot of the romance of east anglia is the big wide open spaces where you can have space and privacy. You can take time to enjoy each other’s company. We tend not to revisit places but this was a very special location. A small, luxurious country house with attentive but unobtrusive staff. It’s a very luxurious way to spend a couple of days in each others company.”
John and Jane Biggs: The Blakeney Hotel in north Norfolk & The Swan Hotel in Lavenham
John and Jane chose two locations, one for winter and one for summer. The Blakeney Hotel is situated on the quayside and boasts magnificent views across the estuary to Blakeney Point, which has been designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Their winter choice, the 15th century Swan Hotel, is in historical Lavenham and features oak beams, open fires and cosy decor.
John says: “Our absolutely favourite place for romantic celebrations is the upstairs lounge at The Blakeney Hotel in North Norfolk, overlooking the salt marshes. We’ve had afternoon tea at the Ritz and the Waldorf in London but nowhere compares to this hotel. It’s so comfortable and has a lovely atmosphere. We go for a walk then enjoy the champagne afternoon tea - the waiters lay a white table cloth and you get three tiers of cakes and sandwiches. If it’s a lovely sunny day, the view and ambience make it very romantic. The lounge has lovely comfortable armchairs and a wonderful view. We also love the Swan at Lavenham too and celebrated our golden anniversary there. On a cold winter’s day you can’t beat a morning coffee by the fire at the Swan. Lavenham is one of the most beautiful towns.”
Miranda Godfrey and Dave Barrett: Theobalds Restaurant, Ixworth
Friday is date night for Miranda and Dave and they like the quiet romance of Theobalds. The cosy 16th century house was converted into a restaurant by it’s owners Simon and Geraldine Theobald in 1981 and features an abundance of beams and a fire-lit lounge.
Miranda says: “My partner Dave first took me to Theobalds when we started going out and it is now a firm favourite. It gives us chance to talk and spend time together. Friday evenings are special for us as we take time to be alone, no kids, no noise and no rush. Theobalds is a small country restaurant and there are only ever a few people so it is wonderfully intimate, and the staff are attentive but not intrusive. I hate places where they don’t leave you alone or you feel rushed or overheard - privacy is very important on a romantic night out. The fire gives a cosy ambience and when you add delicious menus, a good wine selection and excellent coffee it is the perfect choice for date night.”
Stuart and Martine Silkstone: Abbeygate Cinema & Ickworth House, Bury St Edmunds
Stuart and Martine can often be found kissing in the back row at the movies...
Martine says: “We both love movies and have always enjoyed date nights at the cinema so when we discovered the Abbeygate (or Picturehouse as it was initially) it quickly became our favourite spot. There is a wonderful restaurant attached with cosy booths where you can enjoy a meal beforehand or maybe just a slice of cake and cup of tea - then head into the darkness to enjoy a couple of hours of movie magic. When we worked for ourselves we would often sneak off for the afternoon, while the children were at school, and watch a film together – taking time to be a couple not just parents and colleagues. There are just two screens and seating includes sofas where you can snuggle up with a glass of wine and just relax. To make it extra romantic, each Valentine’s Day the Abbeygate shows a special film and hands out chocolates to couples. But if it is a sunny day and just too lovely to be inside, it’s hard to beat a romantic stroll around Ickworth Park, holding hands of course.”
Other suggestions include:
Jordane Roberts: “My boyfriend and I always head to Pensthorpe as our go-to date on our days off. It’s so peaceful and beautiful and even when it’s busy peak season there are still places you often find yourself alone with nature.”
Charlotte Clark: “Felixstowe docks watching the sun set.”
Gary Silkstone: “The River Ant in parts is as untouched and unspoilt as I have ever seen an inland waterway. Very pretty and beautiful. I kissed my wife there when we were dating.”
Michelle Barber: “Gt Yarmouth in the winter when the beach is deserted and you can snuggle up in a cafe or pub.”
Martin Peartree: “The Ramsholt Arms is a lovely setting. We like to sit outside after a meal and watch the sun set.”
Liz Nice: “I think the mere at Great Livermere is the most romantic place in the world. For me, it echoes childhood; I grew up around there and loved to walk from Ampton across the footpath down to the mere. Every time you reach the brow of the incline (in Suffolk you can hardly call it a hill), the mere, in all its glory, is a surprise. I also love the way the two churches sit superfluously at each corner - and am especially fond of the redundant one which serves no purpose, other than to mark the passage of time and decay. Now, the mere is beloved of bird watchers but it is almost always deserted whenever I go there and I often feel that it belongs just to me. I have never shared it with any man but my sons, but what greater love is there than that one, anyway?”
James Marston: “As a favourite place to stroll, the Spa Gardens in Felixstowe ticks all the boxes. They are peaceful, colourful and over look the sea, and there’s even some out of the way corners to cuddle up in. Even the poet John Betjeman was entranced by their romantic atmosphere:
Here in the gardens of the Spa Pavillion
Warm in the whisper of a summer sea,
The cushioned scabious, a deep vermillion,
With white pins stuck in it, looks up at me
A sun-lit kingdom touched by butterflies
And so my memory of winter dies.
Jo Ward: I was working at Butley Priory, near Woodbridge, on a photoshoot for a bridal magazine and couldn’t resist trying on one of the dresses! It is so beautiful there, quaint and very English. I actually married my husband Steven at Ufford Park and it was a wonderful day, but when I discovered Butley Priory I thought, it’s too late for me, but what a beautiful place to get married this would be.
Do you have any favourite romantic spots in East Anglia? Let us know below.