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Maritime Ipswich

Explore the best of Ipswich old and new on this easy stroll down to the docks.

Distance 2 miles (3.2km)

Minimum time 1hr

Ascent/gradient Negligible

Level of difficulty Easy

Paths Town streets, lanes and dockside promenade

Landscape Ipswich town and its port

Suggested map Ipswich street map from tourist information centre

Start/finish TM 162446

Dog friendliness Not very suitable

Parking Town centre car parks, or Park-and-Ride car parks off A14

Public toilets Buttermarket shopping centre

1 From Cornhill, with the post office behind you, turn right to walk along Tavern Street, once filled with pubs but now a pedestrian shopping street. On your right you pass The Walk, a mock-Tudor shopping arcade built in 1933. Turn right along Dial Lane, passing St Lawrence's Church. At the crossroads with Buttermarket, note the Ancient House opposite, with its carved woodwork and decorative pargeting.

2 Keep ahead into Arras Square, passing between St Stephen's Church, now the tourist information centre, and the Buttermarket shopping centre. At the end, turn left along Dogs Head Street and right at the crossroads along Lower Brook Street. Turn left along Rosemary Lane between the red-brick Peninsular House, offices of the P&O shipping company, and Haven House, home to Customs and Excise. Continue around a multi-storey car park to emerge opposite some almshouses. Turn left here and then right along an alleyway beside the ruins of 13th-century Blackfriars Priory, set in the gardens of a block of flats.

3 Cross Lower Orwell Street by a pink timber-framed cottage and turn right along Fore Street. Cross Star Lane via the pedestrian crossing and walk past the Fore Street Baths. At the next junction, fork left past the half-timbered Lord Nelson pub and continue along Fore Street. Cross the road and turn right through Neptune Walk to reach the Wet Dock, the largest in England when it opened in 1842.

4 Turn right to walk beside the marina, passing old maltings and dockside inns. After walking beneath the modern glass extension to Waterfront House, a 19th-century warehouse, you come to the Old Custom House where you can climb to the terrace for the best view of the docks. Continue along the quayside to the end of the dock, then turn right along Foundry Lane and left along College Street past the gateway of a 16th-century college founded by Cardinal Thomas Wolsey.

5 Turn right beside St Peter's Church and continue up St Peter's Street, which soon becomes St Nicholas' Street. Turn left down a pair of steps along a narrow passage leading to the Unitarian meeting house (1699), one of the first nonconformist chapels in England. Walk round to the right of the church to reach the Willis-Corroon building, a remarkable black glass structure designed by Sir Norman (now Lord) Foster in 1975. Cross the road and turn right along Princes Street to return to Cornhill.

The county town of Ipswich makes for a pleasant day out and there is easy walking along the pedestrianised streets of the historic centre. Founded as the Anglo-Saxon trading port of Gipeswic around ad 600, it retains much of its original street plan. A dozen medieval churches survive in the town centre, surrounded by modern offices and shops. There are half-timbered houses and inns and the remains of a medieval priory, but also one of the most spectacular modern buildings in Suffolk.

This short walk begins in the town centre and works its way down to the docks, built in the 19th century on the site of the original Saxon shore. In common with dockland areas in other English cities, the Wet Dock is in the process of gentrification and now houses a mixture of wharves, warehouses, apartments, yachts and waterside pubs.

Cornhill is the starting point of the walk, and the focal point of Ipswich- the historic setting for markets, fairs and executions. In 1555, the so-called Ipswich Martyrs were burnt at the stake here for their Protestant beliefs. The square is dominated by the Town Hall, erected in 1868 and crowned by female figures representing Commerce, Justice, Learning and Agriculture. The old post office, now a bank, is also Victorian and has more female figures depicting Industry, Electricity, Steam and Commerce.

On the corner of St Nicholas' Street and Silent Street, note the fine timber-framed house with a plaque to Thomas Wolsey (1475-1530), the son of an Ipswich butcher who became Lord Chancellor of England under Henry VIII but was eventually charged with high treason. Two doors along, another plaque marks the birthplace of the author VS Pritchett (1900-97).

Where to eat and drink

A 17th-century dockside pub has been turned into Cobbold's On The Quay, where you can enjoy lunch overlooking the marina. At the far end of the quay is the Brewery Tap pub, attached to the Victorian Tolly Cobbold brewery. The Golden Lion and Manning's are two medieval inns on Cornhill with tables out on the square.

While you're there

The Ipswich Museum on High Street contains a full-size reproduction of a woolly mammoth, based on a skeleton discovered in Suffolk. Also on display in the natural history gallery are a giraffe, a rhino and a group of gorillas, all mounted in their original Victorian cases.

What to look for

On the corner of Princes Street and Queen Street, close to the end of the walk, is a sculpture of a large woman with a handbag and an umbrella. This is Grandma, the best-known character of the cartoonist Carl Giles (1916-95), who lived in Ipswich and worked in the office across the road.


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