Cambridge is not the most convenient hub for day trips using public transport. I've found that out through hours of research resulting in carpal tunnel. You end up needing to travel south back through London in order to get to other destinations. That's not to say it can't be done- but expect 1.5-3 hours by train and/or bus one way for a day trip. First on my list were Bury St Edmunds and Lavenham. Lavenham I didn't know much about, I came across a blog on page 4 of Google (it exists, trust me) and it mentioned it had Harry Potter ties so I said "take my money!" before doing any further research. Bury St Edmunds was... how do I say this nicely talked up.
Bury St Edmunds
Catching a £12.20* (off-peak open day return ticket) train from Cambridge, I arrived in Bury St. Edmunds on market day (Saturday) and the stalls were okay. I was expecting spectacular and it was a little less than average I'd say. This feeling was exasperated by an incident at the Greek olive and feta stall.
What transpired, you ask?
The ole free samples turned overpriced-purchase-situation. They entice me over with feta. Well played. Then they give me some free olive samples, again yum. So I agree to purchase some olives. The guy pours a massive scoop into a bag and keeps asking, neh pressuring me to get more- feta? Other olives? No. No. No- I say. He then weighs the olives in the bag and it amounts to £12.20 (yes, it was the same price as my return train ticket, cruel hands of foreshadowing fate)- as my heart stopped, my eyes instinctively tried to find prices, scanning the stall to cling on to something of this earth because I swear I had just died.
I see a wee sign saying £3.99 for 200g.
I pay and walk away. You'd think I'd feel lighter since I just dropped my trust fund (I don't have one) but I had to lug around a kilo of fricken olives the entire day as my burden of stupidity.
Bury St Edmunds (pronounced Barry not bury) is fine, I mean it didn't offend me or anything but there just isn't much to see apart from the cathedral and grounds. No, I didn't pay to go inside anything so maybe I missed out (probably not).
Food: Wright's bakery
The one redeeming quality of Bury comes in the form of a bakery called Wright's. I had the most unreal Suffolk Reuben sandwich here (£6 I believe). The meat was divine, the homemade sourdough bread a blessing- this did more for me than the cathedral.
The Nutshell pub is said to be one of the two smallest pubs in the UK. With Covid spacing of 2 meters, it was too small to allow anyone inside so they had no entry signs and tables set up outside.
There are free, clean toilets at the Arc Shopping Center.
On to the good stuff: Lavenham
You'll need to catch a 40-minute bus from Bury St Edmunds to Lavenham if you want to get here from Cambridge (I think you can also do a bus to Bury, then another bus). There is a stop right next to the Arc Shopping center, which is where I got on. A return ticket was £8, which I bought from the bus driver using a debit card. Make sure to keep your receipt for the return, especially since the windows were all open with signs saying let's blow away Covid (not joking).
There are three stops within the town of Lavenham. The first one is residential. The second I saw stunning houses so I pressed the red stop button quicker than when I heard the words free sample earlier in the day (will I ever learn?). This time around I got off at the Goldilocks- just-right stop. This village is magic. Not only because one of the houses here was used in the Harry Potter films as Godrics Hollow (De Vere House but you can't miss it). Yes, here is where the boy who lived, lived.
The entire village is made up of these picturesque medieval wooden beam houses (aka Tudor houses) and it melts my heart. I was so giddy the entire time.
I spent about 2/2.5 hours in the town and could have spent longer if I went into the museums and got myself tea and scones but alas I didn't. I did get ice cream from a cute, delightful shop called The Parlour. Expect the classics and some fun summer flavours like the one I tried- elderflower and lime; surprising at first, then delicious.
There is a small footpath at the end of Prentice St (to Lower Road) and cross a small bridge over the stream you can go into the wheat farm fields and get a delightful snap of the village (a lady who lives there told me about it).
Lavenham has become one of my favourite English villages. I definitely could have spent an entire day there, especially if I treated myself to a sit-down something (I heard Lavenham Blue Vintage Tea Rooms is YUM). The bus ran every hour and I needed to connect in Bury St. Edmunds to get back to Cambridge so I decided to dash but I wished I stayed longer. If I had a car and wasn't poor I would have fo sho.
Cambridge day trip: Bury St Edmunds and Lavenham
It was a long day but a solid day. If you want to high-tail it to Lavenham and basically pretend Bury doesn't exist, you totally can. It is still a slight walk from the Bury train station directly to the bus station that will take you to Lavenham but you can definitely spend a full day there.
*how to get cheap train tickets in the UK side notes: I've bought most of my cheap UK train tickets from Greater Anglia. They don't charge a service fee and have the same cheap train tickets as the trainline. I will also check train split for long journeys, just to cover my basis. Train split isn't illegal or anything I don't think but it basically searches for cheap point-to-point fares then groups them together for your full journey. You end up having multiple tickets but you don't have to get off the train. I did it once from Edinburgh to York and it worked out fine- I didn't get beaten with a baton.
In the UK, train prices seem to fluctuate like flights so I try to find out what the cheapest or average train price is and then compare my search results to that. If it's way more expensive then I won't go to that destination on that date. I found booking in advance is good but that may not be an always rule. For Bury St Edmunds I booked 2.5/3 weeks early.