A civil servant by day who has a passion for exploring what Great Britain has to offer in my spare time.
Published January 11th 2015
Exploring Suffolk's smallest town, but a very fine one
Clare is situated in the south western corner of Suffolk on the border with Essex. The town made its money through the wool trade. Its fortunes have risen and declined over the centuries. However, today Clare is an excellent thriving town, the smallest in Suffolk.
Nestling above the town are the remains of Clare Castle, built by the Normans in the 13th century. It was once the home of Elizabeth de Clare, whose fortunes helped to establish Clare College, Cambridge. In the 19th century, a railway line was built over part of the castle's bailey with its own station. Clare lost its railway connection in the 1960s and became a relic of the past in its own right. However, the former station and part of the track bed now forms a superb place for walking and cycling as part of the Clare Castle Country Park trail. This is a superb way for escaping outdoors where you'll get to explore woodland and wildlife as well as the banks of the River Stour.
Nearby, one building that has survived in use to this day is the beautiful Clare Priory, one of the oldest religious houses in England. Established in the 14th century as an Augustinian Friary, the Priory is still used as a place of worship. Many visitors enjoy exploring its beautiful gardens.
The church of St. Peter and St. Paul is a fabulous building worth exploring if you're interested in church architecture. In the ceiling of the porch is a rare carving of a "Green Woman". This is the female counterpart to the more well-known "Green Man". The interior of the church is spacious with plenty of historic features. It serves the town as a place of worship as it's done for hundreds of years.
Just opposite the church is the Clare Ancient House Museum, housed in a beautiful Grade I listed building, with magnificent pargetting on the outside of the building. The history of the town is covered with a wide range of objects on display. Please see the website for opening times.
It's worth taking some time to explore the small but busy town centre which has a number of independent shops and businesses. For lovers of antiques there are several shops in the town; the biggest of them all being the fabulous Clare Antiques and Interiors centre housed in a former mill just beyond the town's main car park on Malting Lane. There are also a number of cafes and restaurants with plenty of choice of cuisine to be had.
The main road leading into Clare is the A1092. Whilst most visitors to Clare arrive by car, a regular bus service also serves the town. Parking can be found just off Maltings Lane and this is a short stroll to the town centre and right on the doorstep of Clare Castle Country Park.
So why not take some time to explore this very idyllic part of England; a great place for all the family.
The stationmaster's house has been renovated and now houses a cosy cafe, with a fireplace in winter, outdoor seating in summer. A part of the moat has been de-silted and the Lady's Walk above it has been cleared. The former goods shed is currently being renovated. In town, look at the beams for beautifully carved beams probably re-purposed from the castle or priory church. The Bell Hotel has some great ones (and also, fireplaces and fine food and beers).