A visitors guide to the charming seaside village
of Orford in Suffolk, with its mix of quaint cottages
and elegant houses. Orford lies on the River Ore
and is yet another port that was eventually cut off from
the sea when a large shingle spit grew across the
harbour mouth. This ten mile shingle spit named
Orford Ness is the largest vegetated shingle spit in
Europe and a haven for wildlife.
It was once used as a secret military site and there are
still some buildings left over from the Cold War years.
Orford Ness is now managed by the National Trust and at
its easterly point is a red and white lighthouse that
has not been used since 1627.
The village has an attractive quay where you can take a
number of boat trips ranging from one to four hours.
Some of the trips are across to Havergate Island and
Orford Ness. Havergate Island houses one of the oldest
colonies of avocets and is owned by the Royal Society of
Protection of Birds.
The village has a butchers, a supply stores with a
delicatessens, off licence, pubs/inns and a renowned
This area offers sailing, fishing, walking, bird
watching and is popular with artists and photographers.
Orford is also famous for its oyster beds and many of
the pubs and restaurants offer fresh fish and oysters on
their menus. Eateries include The Kings Head Inn; The
Crown and Castle; Butley Orford Oysterage and The
Jolly Sailor Inn.
The historic town of Orford is set around the impressive
ruins of a 12th century Norman castle with a five storey
Great Tower still intact. Built by Henry II
as a coastal defence against invaders from the sea as
well as putting out of joint the nose of Hugh Bigod the
owner of Framlingham
Castle. Henry drained the nearby marshes to build the
castle, which in turn changed the coastal geography and
turned Orford into a sheltered port.
Orford castle is one of the earliest castle whose entire
building accounts still exist, the Castle is now looked
after by English Heritage. Great views can be enjoyed
from the top of the Great Tower, which is some ninety
feet in height. In the time of King Henry II in the
early 1200s the fishermen of Orford caught a merman in
their fishing nets.
Bartholemew de Glanville was in charge
of the castle at Orford at this time and it was to him
that the fishermen of Orford dragged this naked man. He
had a long shaggy beard and was covered in hair and
seemed to be more at home in the water than ever he was
on the land. He was confined to the dungeons in Orford
Castle and did not speak even when he was tortured so
the story goes. His captors allowed him to swim in the
sea but guarded him with nets. Despite these precautions
he easily swam under the nets but returned to his
captors of his own free will. Then one day he dove
under the nets and was never seen again.