No motorhome road trip in Suffolk is complete without a foray onto Shotley peninsula, a tongue of land between the Rivers Orwell and Stour.
Let’s find out what there is to see and do on this corner of the Suffolk coast and whether the tiny Suffolk lanes are suitable for motorhomes.
How to get to Shotley
To head out onto the Shotley peninsula, leave the A14 at junction 56, Wherstead, onto the A137 then at the bottom of the hill take the second exit at the roundabout and join the B1456 to Shotley.
You soon leave the outskirts of Ipswich and the Foxes marina with the magnificent 3,300ft span of the Orwell Bridge in front of you. This part of the road, known as The Strand, runs along the Northern edge of the peninsula. There are stopping spaces here to allow you to admire the wide shores of the River Orwell and the huge bridge spanning the river.
Carry on along the road to Freston. Look left towards the river to see Freston Tower – a six storey red brick Tudor folly which now provides quirky holiday accommodation within the grounds of Freston Manor.
Keep looking left, you may also notice stone monkeys on a pair of gate posts. The story tells of a fire at Woolverstone Berners Hall (now Ipswich High School). A pet monkey raised the alarm and the Berners family were saved.
This main route through to Shotley marina is motorhome friendly although our suggested onwards travel from Shotley may be tight for a 6-berth unit for the first few miles until the road widens.
So let’s look at some of the villages you’ll pass through…
On to Woolverstone which has a marina and chandlery – always handy for repairs to the habitation areas of motorhomes!
For most of the route from Freston to Shotley marina, you will lose sight of the river unless you risk one of the tiny side roads – many of which can be challenging for the wider vehicle.
One good example – though the reward being worth the risk – is in the village of Chelmondiston where a left turn leads towards beautiful Pin Mill and the Butt and Oyster pub on the riverbank.
There is a small pay and display car park (without height barriers) about 100 yards before you get to the pub. But negotiating the road and indeed the car park itself is awkward if you are driving a 4+ berth unit and the car park is busy. We say arrive early!
Signposted walks and cycle routes take you along the banks of the Orwell.
Thames barges were repaired at Pin Mill; sometimes one will be at the yard or on the river. You may see some hulks too – much loved of photographers and artists.
Arthur Ransome, author of Swallows and Amazons wrote the 7th book, We Didn’t Mean To Go To Sea, around Pin Mill.
Alma Cottage sits near to the Butt and Oyster. And, looking about, you may understand why Eric Arthur Blair changed his name to George Orwell.
Onwards! Drive through Shotley village down the hill to Shotley Gate and the marina. You’ll know when you arrive – you’ll face a river! Oddly not the river you have been tracing during the journey thus far – read on for an explanation!
Turn left past the Bristol Arms and along into the Marina. You’ll see parking spaces facing the river.
There is no overnight parking here – if you are late leaving, the barrier will rise when you approach it to let you out.
Look across to the massive port of Felixstowe with the huge container ships. You can also see Harwich. It takes a little while to place Shotley, Felixstowe and Harwich unless you are holding a map…you are looking at the Rivers Orwell (on the left) and the Stour (on the right) becoming one then pouring into the North Sea.
Where you are standing is the tip of the Shotley peninsula tongue. Suffolk to one side, Essex the other.
See if you can spot the yellow foot ferry as it completes the triangular journey between Felixstowe Landguard Point, Shotley marina and Harwich.
Parked up, you can walk left past The Shipwreck pub and cross the lock bridge towards the shores of the Orwell. This is a natural shore and stands in harsh comparison with the industrial port opposite.
It is possible to walk for miles along the riverbank but watch the tide if you want to avoid wet feet.
From the carpark you can also walk back to The Bristol Arms and across the road to another footpath, this time alongside the Stour. There are paths up the cliff away from the water to complete a circular route back to the marina.
Hopefully, you have had time to stop and explore…so let’s get on with the road trip.
Drive out of the car park and back up the hill from the marina…
Out of Shotley, turn left just before Corner Garage along the southern shore of the peninsula beside the Stour, towards Erwarton and a tiny settlement called Shop Corner.
Shotley peninsula was where the last outbreak of the plague in England occurred 1906 – 1918. Erwarton’s St Mary’s church holds the graves of two victims. Mrs Bugg and Mrs Garrod, who died in June 1918, were probably the last in the country.
Erwarton is strongly reputed to have been where Anne Boleyn requested that her heart was buried after her execution in 1536. Anne’s Uncle and Aunt held Erwarton Hall. A small leaden casket was found within the church in 1837. Had Anne’s heart come home to where she was happy? There is a church in Norfolk which makes a similar claim by the way!
Erwarton Hall is a lovely building – it is a nice surprise as you round one of the many corners. The gatehouse is unaltered since its construction in 1549.
Suffolk’s ancient landscape
Shotley peninsula is of designated outstanding natural beauty with ancient historical sites and landmarks. If you recognise post-medieval field boundaries and Roman field patterns then this place is for you!
It may not please the motorhome – the field boundaries mean tight, right-angled bends along the narrow roads. The van will fit but you may need to make room for any oncoming traffic.
Geographical-historical elements still visible, and less challenging to the motorhome, are ancient estate farms and woodlands with intertidal mudflats and salt marshes along the riverbanks – important wildlife habitats.
Continuing along the little roads dripping with Suffolk charm between thick hedges you will find Harkstead. This village has protected scheduled monument status with ring ditches and the ancient field systems.
You will catch glimpses of the river Stour on the left with small dead-end lands leading down. There is little room for a motorhome to turn round so you’d need to be brave to venture down these tiny roads!
Holbrook and Stutton
Lower Holbrook then Holbrook is next along the Stour – a larger village with amenities, a lovely creek to enjoy a walk along its southern fringes, and a huge school complex!
Most importantly? Space by Holbrook Creek large enough for motorhomes which allows exploration on foot! Drink in the scenery of Holbrook Bay AONB. (Postcode IP9 2JR).
The Royal Hospital School is set in 200 acres. It was a school for training seafaring families’ children in seamanship. It transferred to Holbrook in 1933. Although it now covers the full curriculum, elements of Navy traditions are retained
Head towards Stutton, home to the impressive Elizabethan Stutton Hall and a 17th century watermill. The Stour riverbank is a lovely walk from here. You will be tracing Iron Age footsteps as a refuse pit was exposed after erosion bit into the banks. Leaving refuse is frowned upon now!
The Tattingstone Wonder
Next village is Tattingstone whose claim to fame is the Tattingstone Wonder. From one side you are looking at a church. However, walk around the building and you soon realise that it is actually three cottages with a façade wall and tower. Squire Edward White had it built to improve his view!
Tattingstone also boasts a Victorian workhouse and a church. On the playing field is a pavilion constructed from the timbers of a dismantled boat house.
And between (or on top of, maybe?) these lovely villages is Alton Water – a reservoir caused by flooding the valley of the Orwell/Gipping river. Opened in 1987, the reservoir drowned homes and public buildings along with Alton Hall.
Find out what we think of Alton Water here.
The well signposted reservoir is now a water park and nature reserve with foot paths and cycle paths ringing it. It is a lovely place to visit. Parking is ample and not overly costly. There is also a large campsite!
Many of the villages have been split in half by the body of water. Tattingstone benefits from Lemon’s Hill bridge which spans the water – with a small car park at one end.
If you have not turned off to explore further, you will finally spill out from the peninsula into Brantham and Cattawade along the A137 in Essex along the banks of The Stour. Or you can turn right to head back towards Suffolk and Ipswich.
Can I park my motorhome on Shotley peninsula?
This is a question all motorhomers ask when visiting somewhere new. The good news is that there are several places to park on Shotley peninsula.
The Strand under the Orwell Bridge has generous laybys if you get there early enough. In the villages on the way to Shotley marina there will be roadside parking and Holbrook Creek car park is big enough for most motorhomes.
Shotley Marina has parking spaces which can accommodate motorhomes.
The Alton Water visitor centre car parks are big enough for manoeuvring with no height restrictions.
There are several village pubs you can park at on the peninsula but at busy times it might not be easy to park a large motorhome.
Are there any campsites on Shotley peninsula?
And if you’d like to set up camp for a night or two check out the campsite at Alton Water.
There are also pubs and restaurants on the peninsula that may allow motorhomes to park up overnight (if you buy a meal). Just ask.
We hope you’ve found this road-trip guide to Shotley peninsula helpful.
If you’ve already been to the area what did you enjoy the most? Drop us a line in the comments section below or contact us via email.
Remember to check out our other favourite places to visit along the Suffolk Coast