Ipswich Car Hire
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The county town of Suffolk in East Anglia, England, Ipswich is just 10 miles from the North Sea to the east, 45 miles south of Norwich, and 66 miles northeast of London. Occupied continuously since Saxon times, it’s one of the oldest town in England and is bordered by two Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). Its historic dock was once the most important in the country and it has now been regenerated as Ipswich Waterfront, which boasts a bustling marina full of chic cafes, quality restaurants and the main campus of the University of Suffolk. With a population of over 133,000, this is a vibrant town which has emerged as a tourist hotspot over the past few years, gaining plaudits from influential sites like TripAdvisor as a global destination. There’s never been a better time to visit and since the town is surrounded by beautiful countryside, it’s perfect for navigating by car. Prices for hiring an economy car like a Vauxhall Corsa in Ipswich start at just £23.53 (€25.91) a day if you book ahead of time and a compact car like a Fiat Tipo costs £28.12 (€30.97) a day. Meanwhile, an intermediate car like a Skoda Octavia costs £31.21 (€34.37) per day and a roomy Volkswagen Sharan seven-seater ̶ ideal for rolling out into the country ̶ costs £57.68 (€63.52) per day. With convenient car hire from enjoytravel.com, adventures on the open road in inspirational Ipswich await!
Guide to Ipswich
Situated on the banks of the River Orwell and a stone’s throw from the North Sea, the development of Ipswich is closely linked to the water and it has a proud history as a prominent trading centre, as well as a lively contemporary culture and cuisine scene. With a town centre that features many fine, ancient buildings and a buzzing waterfront primed for people-watching, this is always a delightful place to visit and to lay down roots ̶ just an hour’s commute from London, it’s regularly voted one of the UK’s best places to live.
Ipswich boasts close associations with several notable historical figures, not the least of whom is Cardinal Wolsey, who was born here in 1471 as a humble butcher’s son and became the Cardinal and Lord Chancellor to none other than King Henry VIII. Wolsey’s Gateway is the last remnant of a school founded by Wolsey and it’s now located on College Street, which runs alongside the Waterfront and is one of the town’s busiest roads. The gate was a grandiose ceremonial portal constructed for visitors arriving by the river and ornate decorative brickwork can still be seen above its arch. Other historical attractions include the Ancient House, a Grade 1-listed 15th Century building where King Charles II supposedly hid after being defeated in the 1651 Battle of Worcester, and the Great White Horse Hotel, where Charles Dickens, Lord Nelson, King George II of England and King Louis XVIII have all stayed the night. Another important edifice is The Cornhill, where the Ipswich Martyrs were burned at the stake in 1555 because of their adherence to the Protestant faith.
Awesome arts & culture
Ipswich has always punched above its weight in terms of arts and culture. The Corn Exchange and Ipswich Regent are iconic venues which host live music, comedy, plays and dances throughout the year and it’s also home to regional dance organisation DanceEast, which regularly holds performances at the Marina. It’s also a hive of thespianism and home to theatre companies including The New Wolsey Theatre, which offers workshops and classes as well as hosting plays and musicals, and the Red Rose Chain, an independent theatre and film company. Furthermore, the Grandma statue outside the Corn Exchange is a tribute to famous satirical cartoonist Carl Giles and it sits opposite his former office.
If you’re a thrifty tourist who loves bagging a bargain you’ll love exploring Ipswich’s iconic markets, and there are plenty to choose from. Ipswich Market is a town centre market with a history that stretches back to 1317. Today it sits next to the Town Hall and Corn Exchange and here you can pick up everything from locally grown flowers to fresh crab, fish and seafood, as well as fruits, vegetables and even household goods and fashions. Alternatively, the Saints Artisan & Craft Markets at St Peter’s Street and St Nicholas street is a collaboration between stallholders and independent shops and cafes in the area, so as well as unique art and homeware, you can enjoy lip-smacking food and refreshing drinks. Last but not least, the Farmer’s Market at Cornhill Square is a brilliant place to pick up artisan olive oil, gorgeous chutney, organic vegetables and brilliant baked goods.
What to do in Ipswich?
From scenic river views to eclectic harbourside attractions and fine art in sublime settings to rural delights down on the farm, Ipswich offers a bouquet of brilliant things to see and do for visitors of all tastes.
Ipswich Waterfront is the jewel in the crown of the town’s leisure and social spaces, a dynamic district where you can choose from a fantastic variety of eateries, explore the river by boat, spend the night in a boutique hotel or simply stroll around Neptune Marina and soak up the serene atmosphere as pretty yachts jounce and jiggle in the breeze. Noah’s Ark is the world’s only floating museum of Bible stories and it’s a half-scale replica of the original legendary vessel covering 2000 square metres and four floors. The 70ft long boat is docked on Orwell Quay and showcases Biblical stories like Adam& Eve and David & Goliath as well as that of the main man Moses himself. Don’t leave without taking an Orwell River cruise on the Orwell Lady ̶ these sightseeing tours take three and a half hours, depart from Neptune Marina and Harwich Harbour and the Port of Felixstowe, where you’ll pass by massive container ships at close quarters. Fancy spending a romantic night here? The Salthouse Hotel is an attractive hotel and restaurant with salubrious suites and the whole waterfront playground on your doorstep.
If you love fine art and classic country piles, you can’t miss Christchurch Mansion. This stunning 16th Century red brick Tudor Residence is set amidst manicured lawns and sylvan glades, but it also hosts an amazing collection of paintings and artefacts from dazzlingly diverse genres. The décor of each room represents changing styles and tastes from the Tudor through to the Victorian era and displays include glassware ceramics, toys and musical instruments. Meanwhile, the Suffolk Artists Gallery includes the world-famous collection of John Constable and Thomas Gainsborough paintings as well as works from John Crome and George Vincent, and the Wolsey Art Gallery hosts a programme of changing exhibitions, with contemporary pieces on contemporary local celebrities like Ed Sheeran and a treasured display of Constable’s personal effects, including his paint brushes and palette and his wife Maria’s wedding ring. If you’re a culture vulture there are rich picking here and if you’re yearning for some fresh air after imbibing all the arty delights, you can bring yourself back down to earth with a cathartic stroll around the grounds.
Jimmy’s Farm is located on the outskirts of Ipswich and it featured in a popular UK TV series several years ago. It’s a working farm, wildlife park and top tourist attraction that’s well worth the effort of a short drive from the town centre. The farm and wildlife park has over 80 animal species onsite, including guinea pigs, butterflies camels, reindeer, wallabies, meerkats, goats, capybara, crocodiles, snakes, emu, peacocks, pigs, sheep, cattle, chickens and more ̶ whew! Kids love the WonderWood play area where they can explore freely in the fresh air and crate their own forest den and there’s a wonderful restaurant and tea room in an expansive converted barn where the menu includes delicious gluten- and dairy-free dishes. If you’ve got a designated driver you can cool off with a refreshing beer or wine in the Hair of the Hog woodland bar, there’s a snack shack offering light bites and on hot days look out for the mobile ice cream vendor cycling around and cool off with a tasty cone!
Eating out in Ipswich
Whether you’re a pernickety purist when it comes to food or you’ll settle for anything tasty and filling, Ipswich has plenty to satisfy every palate, from spicy aromatic menus from the Indian subcontinent to traditional English fare and haute cuisine to sizzling street food, eating out here is always an eclectic experience.
There’s nothing like a wholesome curry spiced to your specification for a gastronomical experience that caresses the senses with colours, scents, tastes and textures ̶ add your favourite rice and lip-smacking sides like peshwari naan, onion bhaji and veggie pakora and you’ve soon got a feast fit for a maharaja. For many Ipswich locals, A Passage to India is the best curry restaurant in town because of its vast selection of high-quality Bangladeshi and Indian dishes as well as a wonderful wine menu. The chicken tikka masala and chicken jalfrezi are highly recommended and the customer service is second-to-none. Main courses range from £8-£17 and they’re extremely filling ̶ rice portions are large enough for two people to share and traditional sides are also hearty. If you’re out for a few drinks in Ipswich, a pro tip is to save your curry experience for the end of the evening otherwise there simply won’t be enough room for beer wine or cocktails afterwards!
Got your sea legs and fancy fine dining with scenic views? Allen Gardiner, the River Cruise Restaurant will surely float your boat! This floating restaurant cruises down the River Orwell and caters for up to 12 passengers at a time, serving sumptuous dishes with a superb selection of South African wines, with brunch, lunch, supper and candlelit dinner sessions available that last for 2-3 hours apiece. Starters include smoked mackerel dressed with mixed leaves, or roasted roots & five bean soup and delish mains include melt-in-your-mouth Moroccan lamb with warming spices, or rich roasted vegetable and butternut lasagne layered with creamy cheese sauce, while the triple chocolate brownie or sticky toffee pudding for dessert rounds off a ravishing meal. Two courses cost £18.95 and three courses are £21.95, which is excellent value considering the consummate quality.
Aqua Eight is an exceptional Asian Fusion restaurant with delightful décor that’s suited to a romantic meal or a stylish feast with friends and family. There’s an A La Carte menu, set lunches and dinners and vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free options are available, and the over 25s bar serves a wide range of beers, wines, spirits, champagne and cocktails. Small eats include Thai satay chicken skewers, baby back ribs with fig and mango, and crab and prawn katsu with wasabi mayonnaise, while magnificent mains include stir fry black pepper fillet beef, roasted duck with mango and passion fruit sauce, and signature Alaskan black cod with miso. Main courses range from £12.50-£23.50.
Transport in Ipswich
The nearest airports to Ipswich are Southend (SEN), London Stansted (STN), London Luton (LTN) and London Heathrow (LHR), which are 39.3 miles, 40 miles, 66.7 miles and 80.4 miles away respectively. Enjoy Travel partners with top car hire providers like Europcar, Keddy and Enterprise at these air hubs, so there’s always a wide choice of quality vehicles at your disposal.
Buses, trains and park & ride
Public transport in and around Ipswich is fairly reliable and efficient. Buses are operated by First Eastern Counties Buses (mostly country buses) and Ipswich Buses (mostly town buses) and the no.37 is a free Ipswich shuttle bus which operates in a loop around the town centre Monday-Friday.
There’s a train station at Burrell Road around 10 minutes’ walk from the town centre and it’s on the main line to London, with connections to other locations like Colchester, Stratford, Cambridge and Norwich too.
If you don’t want to pay city centre parking prices, park up your vehicle and hop on the park and ride bus, which is regular and hassle-free.
You should always drive on the left-hand side of the road in Norfolk, as is the case everywhere across the UK. Speed limits are: 70 mph (120 km/h) on motorways, 60 mph (100 km/h) on non-motorway main roads and 30 mph (50 km/h) or 20 mph (40 km/h) if you’re in busy built-up areas, or close to buildings such as schools.
Seatbelts are must be worn by the driver and all passengers, drink driving is not tolerated, and mobile phone use is not allowed (unless the system is hands-free and doesn’t distract the driver).
With so much lush countryside around Ipswich there’s lots of great driving. Here are just one of many road terrific road trips available:
Felixstowe is under 15 miles from Ipswich driving southeast along the A14 and it’s a delightful drive which takes you over the Orwell Bridge and alongside the river past charming settlements like Wherstead and Trimley St Mary. Once you reach Felixstowe you can visit attractions like the Landguard Fort, the lovely seafront gardens and Felixstowe Pier, where you can treat yourself to fish and chips and ice cream.
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