Suffolk is rich in good-sized family houses and still retains its sleepy rural air, despite its proximity to London. This is largely thanks to a slow road and rail network: the south of Suffolk is just within everyday commuting distance of London, but the north is out of reach: here are some of England’s most charming small towns.

The county was important in medieval times and had a thriving wool trade. Today, the principal industry is agriculture; the low rainfall and relatively flat land is ideally suited to arable farming.

Many artists have drawn inspiration from the Suffolk landscapes, including Gainsborough, Munnings and Constable, who painted the gentle countryside on the Essex border. The composer Benjamin Britten lived in Aldeburgh, which has a festival of music each summer.

On the coast, the landscape is flat and marshy, and much frequented by birdwatchers. Inland, it is more undulating, with many river valleys; to the east of the county, around Newmarket, there is rolling downland with beech avenues and rides. Building materials range from timber and red brick to the traditional but austere white brick.

Transport links

Train: Liverpool Street to Ipswich 1hr 5min, Saver return £24.20; Liverpool Street to Newmarket 1hr 55min, Saver return £24.60.

Car: Ipswich is 74 miles from London, via the A12; Newmarket is 65 miles, via the M11 and A11.

Public schools

Culford School, Bury St Edmunds +44(0)1284 729308. Co-educational, age range 11-16, day and boarding. www.culford.co.uk/

Framlingham College, Woodbridge +44 (0)1728 723789 . Co-educational, age range 4-18, day and boarding. Associated preparatory school.

Ipswich High School +44(0)1473 780201. Girls only, age range 3-18, day. www.gdst.net/ipswichhigh/

Ipswich School +44 (0)1473 408300. Co-educational age range 11-18, day and boarding. Associated preparatory school. www.ipswich.suffolk.sch.uk/

Orwell Park School, Nacton, Ipswich +44(0)1473 659225. Co-educational, age range 3-13, day and boarding. www.orwellpark.co.uk/

St Felix School, Southwold +44(0)1502 722175. Girls only, age range 11-18, day and boarding. www.stfelix.suffolk.sch.uk/

St Joseph’s College, Birkfield,Ipswich +44 (0)1473 690281. Boys only (co-educational sixth form), age range 11-18, day and boarding. Associated preparatory school. www.stjos.co.uk/

Woodbridge School +44(0)1394 615000. Co-educational, age range 11-18, day and boarding. Associated pre-preparatory and preparatory school. www.woodbridge.suffolk.sch.uk/

Leisure

Golfcourses: Aldeburgh +44 (0)1728 452408; Thorpeness +44(0)1728 452176.

Hunts: the Suffolk; the Essex and Suffolk.

Yachting clubs: Royal Harwich Yacht Club; Royal Norfolk and Suffolk Yacht Club.

Fishing: rivers Alde, Blythe, Deben, Waveney