An old fishing village, haunted by strange tales from the past

An Introduction to Orford in Suffolk

Orford Ness Lighthouse
Orford Quay
Orford Castle
Orford Butchers
Merman Prayer Mat

Orford is situated on the River Ore and has an active leisure boating scene. The village was once a thriving coastal port, but with the growth of Orford Ness (a large shingle spit of land) access to Orford Quay became more restricted and Orford lost its commercial edge. The village itself is situated up a small hill from the quay and contains an attractive collection of cottages, that at one time were situated around a market square. Historic buildings include the impressive 12th century Orford Castle and the 14th century church of St Bartholomew. You will also find a small collection of shops, a couple of pubs, a post office and a village hall. The surrounding area consists of attractive rural Suffolk countryside and is a good place to explore on foot.

Orford District Map

Orford Map

Orford Guided Picture Tour

We start our tour of Orford at the quay, a peaceful gateway to nature - but that wasn't always the case. It's thought that, many centuries ago, the vegetated shingle hadn't yet formed, and the harbour looked directly out to sea. It was a busy place that welcomed travellers and traders from far and wide. Fishermen have operated here for years too. Seafood is caught in all seasons, from lobsters in spring to herring in winter. Orford's oysters were particularly renowned, but they disappeared from these waters in the early 1900s. It fell to a local man, Richard Pinney, to being them back. He imported oysters from Portugal, and successful reintroduced the hatcheries. They, along with other fresh catches, are widely available in local restaurants and for sale from a shed on the quay. Today, Orford is still a bustling boating centre, with pleasure boats by far the majority. The quay contains a riverside tea tearoom and a National Trust boat takes visitors over to Orford Ness.
Orford Quay
Orford Quay at low tide, exposing various wrecks!
Orford Boats
Boats of all kinds at Orford
Riverside Tearooms
Orford Quay Riverside Tearooms

Orford Ness is a rare example of a vegetated shingle, a fragile type of habitat for certain birds. It's a long, thin strip of land, separated from the mainland by the River Alde. For several decades now, the National Trust have run it as an official Nature Reserve. The landscape is easily damaged, so access is limited to certain open days. This is still more than was possible in the 30s, when the shingles were owned by the Ministry of Defence. They carried out all sorts of strange, secret experiments here, including explosive demonstrations and the development of radar. Many of their old buildings still dot the landscape like ominous ghosts. There's only one way to get to Orford Ness, and that's by boat from Orford Quay. Some people swear blind that they've seen ghosts in the Orford Ness' old World War bunkers. Others have mistaken the lighthouse for a UFO!
Orford Ness
The view over Orford Ness from the Castle
Orford Ness Lighthouse
Orford Ness Lighthouse
Orford Boat Trips
Boat Trips to Orford Ness and along the river

Historically, such an important coastal settlement as Orford, needed to be kept secure. It's been defended from the very beginning by Orford Castle, a stout, 12th century fortress built by King Henry II. The design of its keep proved to be quite unusual; it's halfway between a classic square shape, and a more modern circular structure. This is the only part of the castle still standing. It's maintained by English Heritage, who open the building to the public. Visitors can explore the inside of the castle, climbing the many stairs down to the basement and up to the roof. But If you do go inside, try not to get lost in the notoriously confusing maze of passages and corridors!
Orford Castle
Orford Castle
Castle Door
The entrance door to Orford Castle
Orford Castle Keep
Orford Castle Keep
Inside Orford Castle
Inside Orford Castle
Orford Castle Room
One of the many rooms inside Orford Castle
Orford Castle Staircase
Staircase to the Castle Basement
Orford Castle Basement
The Basement of Orford Castle
Orford Castle Knight
A Knight in Orford Castle
Orford Castle Roof
The roof of Orford Castle

Within the castle is Orford Museum. It collects information and artefacts from the local area, showing its development over time. So far they've accumulated a wide variety of weapons, decorations, clothing and photographs. The collection has been very helpful to historians, but some aspects of the town's past remain somewhat mysterious. As one exhibit explains, the castle was supposedly the brief home of the Wild Man of Orford. He was pulled out of the sea in a fisherman's net and, while he looked like a normal man, his behaviour was more like that of an animal. The creature was kept here for half a year before it escaped. His image is still visible today, in various paintings and carvings across Orford. Some say this was one of humanity's rare encounters with a real merman.
Merman Sign
A restaurant sign showing the Wild Man of Orford
Merman Prayer Mat
A prayer mat in the church showing the Wild Man of Orford

Orford Village is full of pretty cottages and buildings, which at one time were collected around a market square (a market is no longer held). Among the collection you will find a few shops, plus a couple of pubs. These are congregated on a handful of streets that connect the village with the quay and the outside world. The village also contains many footpaths that are ideal for walkers to explore the local area. All this makes Orford a very attractive place to visit and stay.
Orford Cottage
A pretty cottage in Orford village
Orford Craft Shop
Orford Craft Shop
Orford Butchers
Orford Butchers Shop
Jolly Sailor Pub
The Jolly Sailor Pub
Kings Head Pub
The King's Head Pub
Quay Meadow
Quay Meadow, wild flower meadow near the quay
Orford Walking
Walking along a footpath near Orford

Another building you may like to explore while in Orford is the parish church of St Bartholomew. This medieval church dates back to the 14th century, with significant repairs undertaken in the 19th and 20th centuries. The church has a fine interior, with many interesting artefacts, and it is well worth exploring. The church is best known for it's connection with Benjamin Britten, who first performed some of his works here and a memorial can be found in the church.
Orford Church
The parish church of St Bartholomew
Orford Church Inside
The view inside Orford Church
Church Lady Chapel
The Lady Chapel to one side of the church



Orford Village Sign



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Castle Window View
The view from a window in Orford Castle
Moses Painting
A painting of Moses, found inside the church
Moses Painting
A clubman, carved on the font in the church
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