Just 25 minutes from Bury St Edmunds, Clare, one of the Suffolk ‘Wool Towns’ has a lot to offer visitors including a monthly artisan market, independent shops, galleries, antique shops, cafes, festivals and the only railway station in a castle. We’ve picked out our ‘must dos’ below.
Clare Castle and Country Park
A visit to this beautiful town would not be complete without seeing Clare Castle Country Park, visited by around 200,000 people each year.
A 32.6-acre park which contains the remains of a 13th Century stone castle keep set upon its 70ft high motte overlooking the town, as well as its inner and outer baileys - it’s a beautiful spot for recreation and picnics with Roman, Saxon, Norman connections.
Inside the castle, located in the original 1865 bookings hall of Clare Railway Station, is Platform One, an atmospheric café in the heart of the park.
Historic Clare Priory, on the banks of the River Stour, dates back to 1248 and is one of the oldest religious houses in England. The priory has close connections with medieval nobility and royalty and the ancestors and relatives of King Richard III and his wife Anne are buried here.
They welcome day visitors but a great way to see the priory is at the very popular annual craft fair held there every year in July.
Ancient House Museum
Exhibitions in the Ancient House Museum, built in 1473, tell the 2,000-year history of the town, the Lords and Ladies who once lived in Clare including two de Clare earls were part of the committee of 25, enforcers of the Magna Carta in the 13th Century.
The West Wing on the High Street is believed to date from the 14th century, with he decoraged East Wing being built in 1473. The house was given to Clare in 1938 by local businessman Charles Byford and in 1979 the museum was established.
The museum is open from April to September on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays from 2pm - 5pm and on Bank Holidays from 11.30am - 5pm.
St Peter and St Paul Church
While taking stroll, don't leave town without seeing Clare's St Peter and St Paul Church, ranked as one of England's Thousand Best Churches.
Regarded as the finest example of Late Perpendicular Gothic architecture in England, it has (in some form) existed on the current site since Anglo-Saxon times.
The original church, would most likely have been made of wood, was rebuilt in stone in the 14th century. The chancel is the oldest part of the current church, having been constructed in c. 1340 and decorated with money from wealthy citizens.
The reconstruction of the church took place mainly between 1485 and 1525, the cost of the work was paid for by the local merchant families, who had become amongst the wealthiest in England. The same families continued to pay for the upkeep of the building, in some cases for centuries after its completion.
The Church is open daily from 8.30am to 6.00pm but visiting may be restricted during church services and other events.
With its fantastic circular walks and town trail, which take in architecture from every period in history, it's easy to see why Clare won Walkers Are Welcome status.
Situated in the Upper Stour Valley, Suffolk's smallest town is surrounded by dozens of footpaths and bridleways. For routes, pay a visit to the Clare Walks website!
For more information about Clare, visit the Visit Clare website.
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