This 17th-century Suffolk abode is a converted water mill in 12 acres of land, enhanced with a sleek, minimalist restaurant and super-stylish boudoirs with high-spec Starck-fitted ensuites. Tuddenham Mill is somewhere to while away a lazy sunny afternoon playing boules by a swan-studded pond, or cosied up on hand-picked statement furniture in a spacious lounge bar under original exposed beams.
Get this when you book through us:
A Mill Bag (a small gift from the kitchen to take home); members staying three nights or more will also get a bottle of champagne
11am; check‑in 3pm; both are flexible for £30, subject to availability.
Double rooms from £130.50, including tax at 5 per cent.
Rates include breakfast.
Praise be: bathroom toiletries are courtesy of Espa, and they're a decent size, too.
At the hotel
Twelve acres of gardens, boules pitch, DVD/CD library, Merida Crossway hybrid bikes and board games to borrow, laundry. In rooms, six‑foot Presotto beds, minibar with free water and juice, free WiFi, Loewe flatscreens with Apple TV (including Netflix), Bose sound system and iPod dock, Espa toiletries.
Our favourite rooms
We love the three large, airy rooms in the main mill: exposed beams, dinner‑plate‑sized shower heads and double‑ended stone baths big enough for a crowd – definitely worth, ahem, splashing out on. The tubs in the Mill Room and Mill Room East have views of the pond through picture windows. Of the Loft Suites we have soft spots for Loft South and Loft West (although shyer types should note the latter's bathroom opens doorlessly into the bedroom).
Indigestion tablets: you won't be able to stop eating the chef's delightful (and generously portioned) food, especially since it's everywhere you look (including dangerously moreish home-made biscuits in your room).
There’s a two‑night minimum stay on Saturday nights; three nights bank holidays.
Dogs are welcome in the Mill Stream and Water Meadow rooms and public areas (except the restaurant) for a charge of £25 a night – give advance notice. A bowl and bag of treats will be waiting for them on arrival. See more pet-friendly hotels in Suffolk.
Extra beds or cots can be provided for under-16s for £30 a night. There’s a children’s menu, and the chef is happy to adapt the main menu (only breakfast is included in the extra-bed rate, though). Highchairs, pencils and crayons are always to hand.
Babies and up – children of all ages welcomed.
The best rooms for families are the Mill Room or one of the four Loft Rooms. All are large and have plenty of space for an extra cot or bed.
There's masses to see and do in the area, including exploring the Fens by boat, riding (from age five up) at Barrow Hall Stables, swinging times at Go Ape in Thetford, or trying quad biking at the nearby WildTracks off-road activity park. The High Lodge (also in Thetford) has an adventure playground that will amuse little Smiths for hours.
Children are allowed in the restaurant at all times, and it opens for the evening at a family friendly 6.30pm. There's a dedicated menu with lots of favourites, including pasta, sausages and mash, fish cakes and home-made ice creams.
No need to pack
Highchairs are provided in the restaurant, and wee ones can practice their art skills with paper, pencils and crayons while you wait for the food to arrive.
There is a DVD player in each room, and a large selection of child-suitable DVDs to borrow.
Alfresco, by the pond; upstairs in the restaurant at a window seat with upstream views; or at the raised and curtained off 'Jockey's table'. Mind your head though! There are two private dining rooms, too; we like the Terrace Room (it has a balcony).
Relaxed: unstructured shift dresses and polo shirts (suitable for disguising a greedily stuffed belly) should strike the right sartorial note.
At Tuddenham Mill's award-winning restaurant – which won a Good Food Guide gong in 2018 – chef patron Lee Bye calls upon his country upbringing to conjure up tempting tasting and à la carte menus, showcasing hearty British fare, inspired by seasonal ingredients. Dishes include trumped up traditional fare such as crispy beef shin with avocado carpaccio, crispy pig’s head with clapshot potato and Lancashire baked apples with mead ice cream. A Continental and full English breakfast are offered, each made using excellent locally sourced produce.
Spectacularly adorned by the beautifully up‑lit original mill wheel, the Mill’s intimate, relaxed bar serves drinks as long as you stay up…
9.15pm in the restaurant. Lunch, 12–2.15pm; then light bites until 6.30pm when the dinner sitting starts.
24 hours: choose from the restaurant menu when the kitchen is open, otherwise it’s light snacks and drinks.
London Stansted is 44 miles from Tuddenham Mill. The hotel also isn't far from the airport in Norwich.
The nearest stations for rail travellers are Newmarket and Bury St Edmunds. Cambridge and Ely both offer swift regular services to London, Stansted, the North and Midlands as well.
The hotel is just off the A11 and A14.
There's a helipad if you have a chopper and need one.
Worth getting out of bed for
The hotel's grounds are amply equipped to bust boredom – borrow a Merida Crossway hybrid bike to bomb over the greenery on or play a few genteel rounds of boules. There are plenty of routes made for walking, too – pull on your wellies and get rambling, or get your motor running at nearby WildTracks, where you can thrash all manner of vehicles, from quad bikes and karts to tanks, around challenging courses. Bury St Edmundsis not far, and is packed with browsable shops as well as hosting regular markets: there are street markets every Wednesday and Saturday on Cornhill in the town centre; at the Corn Exchange, there’s a craft market on Wednesdays; and the first Sunday of every month sees the town’s Athenaeum fill up with bric-a-brac, antiques and collectibles. Children as young as five can learn how to ride at Barrow Hall Stables in Bury St Edmund's; single sessions are available. Thetford's attractions will keep kids amused for hours, whether you Go Ape in dense Suffolk forest or go wild in High Lodge's playground.
With Tuddenham Mill’s delicious food confronting you at every turn (homemade biscuits in your room; jars of pickle at reception), you’ll hardly go hungry, but for a change of scene, take your pick from Newmarket’s restaurants and cafés, or head into Bury St Edmunds: Maison Bleue’s fine French fare focuses on seafood; later, cosy up in Thumbelina‑scale pub The Nutshellfor an intimate nightcap. Just outside Bury, at stately‑home hotel Ickworth, Frederick's offers family‑friendly fine dining, overlooking lovely Italian gardens.
We’re late leaving the city. Usually it’s a flat battery or an evasive passport. This time, concerned that we might be heading for the coast, Mrs Smith has a bikini wax. I remind her we’re off to Suffolk, not Copacabana. We hurtle down the M11 with all the Stansted traffic. The delight is that we’re at our destination in 30 minutes, rather than the 30 hours it’ll take the rest of them. From a turn?off just after Newmarket, we wend our way along winding country lanes to the village of Tuddenham. There’s not another car in sight and relying only on moonlight, we wonder if we’ve missed a signpost. Then we spot the Mill’s chimney standing to attention.
There’s been a mill here for close on 1,000 years, but this 18th-century abode is thoroughly modern. About as close to Manhattan as you’ll get in Suffolk, it’s akin to a downtown NY hotel – set in 12 acres of gorgeous Brecks-borders land. The reception, with its generous glass double doors, welcomes you into a large lobby with cool greys and flagstone floors. Catching our eyes in the corner is a blazing fire; the ambience is relaxed and inviting and we are entirely ready to collapse onto the clean-lined furniture. This is a proper, manly building. Nothing fluffy in sight (although we have yet to see the emperor-sized beds).
The current property, created by Collins Millwrights of Melton, dates from 1775 and its brickwork possesses the warmth of Cotswold stone with hues of soft pink running through. Aged oak beams float stylishly above minimalist interiors on every floor. Outside, we spy a lone swan gracing the millpond. A member of staff informs us that he lost a wing in a scrap with a fox (although this hasn’t prevented him hooking up with his own Mrs Swan). When we catch sight of him later, the rosy light that tints the encircling trees has also transformed him, so he appears like a ghostly ballerina.
We’re sleeping in the upper eaves of the mill, and it turns out to be a huge, double-height, beamed barn of a bedroom, resplendent in sleek, Italian-designed minimalism. The iron brace holding up the ceiling is also perfect for those inclined towards pull-ups, dispensing with any need for a gym. Mind you, it’s clearly all about relaxation here and a complimentary bottle of Fleurie helps us settle onto the six-foot bed. We can’t help but wonder what the mill-workers that used to toil their lives away here would make of our lazy-lubber weekend.
Knowing that this hotel revolves around its restaurant, and wizard Scots chef Gordon McNeill, we’re thrilled it’s time for dinner. Besides, it’s a car journey to the nearest eatery, and after seeing that most of the other diners aren’t even guests, we’re keen to find out what the fuss is about. Centre stage, behind the bar, is the original waterwheel; it becomes a real showpiece by night when its full glory is illuminated by pulsating up-lights. Even patrons who take a table upstairs can peer down, through a glass floor-panel, at the mighty and beautiful machinery – lovingly restored, yet still resolutely functional.
The kitchen team doesn't disappoint, delivering inventive, courageous, witty and hearty fare – not suited to the squeamish, though: Gordon’s signature dish, ‘A Taste of the Highlands’, features haggis spring roll and shin of beef stovi. It far surpasses the modest ‘Taste’ of its title. Opposite me, a seafood salad is being devoured – Cromer crab, crayfish tails, king scallops, peeled prawns – a reminder that we’re not far from fleets of fishing vessels. The wine list is not only excellent, but also reasonably priced, with carefully chosen producers showing off their gems. Even the glassware is fabulous; bulbous bowls that fill your palm, perfect for each slug of shiraz. Clearly, Tuddenham Mill is a place that’s perfectly suited to foodies who like proper portions and are happy to hole themselves up in this culinary fantasyland.
The following morning, we discover another feather in Tuddenham’s cap is that there’s no chance of bed-head. Why? Goosedown duvet and pillows mean we arise crinkle-free and refreshed. Greeted by duck?quacks, we peek out after our 10-hour slumbers. A huge egg-shaped bath (hatched in South Africa) sits next to the bed, with views over the pond. The Starck-fitted ensuite couldn’t be more designer-savvy, stocked with Jo Malone pampering materials and Missoni dressing gowns.
Just when you thought we’d been spoiled enough, we discover that breakfast is the biggest treat. Mrs Smith and I think it the best we’ve ever had. The ‘Kickstart’ smoothie has more oomph than a Suzuki GSXR. Just as well, since I was going to need every morsel of energy it provided to get me through the enormously portioned ‘Full Mill’.
Tuddenham is nestled neatly between two of the country’s most historic towns: Cambridge and Bury St Edmunds. The toss of a coin took us east to the cathedral town of Bury but rather than view its architectural treasures, we headed straight for the world’s smallest pub – the Nutshell. It was full to the rafters, although not with the expected hordes of tartan-togged American tourists jostling for a photo opportunity, but three local patrons. Despite the dimensions of this shoebox-sized inn we get seating sufficient to enjoy a swift half of ale and an eavesdrop – gleaning tips on how to sleep surreptitiously on a factory production line.
Back at the mill, Sunday lunch trippers are flowing in to relax in the swish interiors and revel in the delights from north of the border. It’s a venue that smacks of ‘special occasion’, a step above your gastropub or country-house hotel. The staff are young, friendly, professional and yet suitably unfussy. Everyone, from the owners down, seems genuinely happy working here, creating a jovial vibe that seeps into every corner. As for guests going home contented, that’s a given – particularly as you can parcel up some of that Tuddenham magic, to go. Keep the culinary dream alive and buy Gordon’s jams, chutneys, relishes in the lobby. Then, to go with the lime-basil-and-mandarin-scented toiletries squirreled away in your suitcase, give your ablutions back home a designer boost: pop a stripy Missoni robe on your room-service bill. This is a hotel that exemplifies those golden hospitality ingredients – quality and attention to detail. So, when it comes to giving satisfaction to sophisticated sensibilities, a run-of-the-mill chic countryside retreat, this is not.