My Suffolk - Robert Gough
Businessman and hotelier Robert Gough is the owner of three iconic properties in Suffolk - The Angel Hotel in Bury St Edmunds, The Salthouse in Ipswich and he’s recently purchased The Pier at Southwold and he’s our latest subject for “My Suffolk”
Have you always lived in Suffolk?
Well I was born just over the border in Great Yeldham in north Essex but I spent the whole of my childhood in Suffolk. We lived in Hartest and I went to school at Nowton Court before going to Uppingham. I was a keen member of the Suffolk Hunt Pony Club and attended many of its events at Ickworth. I went to university in London, where I studied history and then worked for a short time and abroad before returning to Suffolk in the early 90s.
What do you like about Suffolk?
So many people, including friends seem to spend their lives driving round the M25 and when I’ve been to London it’s always great to get back to Suffolk because of its open spaces, beautiful views, calmer pace of life and of course the friendliness of the people who live here. It’s really the first open countryside outside London and yet it’s near enough to be able to enjoy what the capital has to offer.
Do you enjoy walking?
Well actually my favourite pastime is cycling. I am what they call a MAMIL - a middle aged man in lycra. I’ve been cycling now for about five years and I go out three or four times a week covering anything from 20 to 70 miles. We currently live near Stowmarket so I cycle to places like Orford, Snape, Framlingham and down into South Suffolk along the back roads and through beautiful villages. What I like about cycling is that I am only dependent on my time so I can be up in the summer at 6am and get out when everyone is asleep. It’s so peaceful and I’ll be back and finished by 10am.
Apart from your own hotels where do you like to eat out?
I’d choose The Brewer’s Arms in Rattlesden, the pubs in Walberswick and The Crown in Hartest.
Adnams or Greene King?
Adnams, Aspall and Greene King. I’ve listed them in alphabetical order because each have their own strengths.
Suffolk is a county of many secrets - is there a particular area you like?
Apart from the coast and Lavenham we have some particularly pretty villages - places like Bildeston, Chelsworth and Monks Eleigh, areas around Bury St Edmunds like West Stow and then on to the Brecklands where you move away from that classic image of Suffolk cottages. Having grown up here you can sometimes take what we’ve got here for granted - our villages and the historic aspect of our churches.
Is there one picture that perfectly illustrates Suffolk?
Yes - one Saturday evening my wife, Claire, and I were standing in the car park at Walberswick looking up the River Blythe taking in the quayside, beach houses and fishermen’s sheds. It was about 9pm, the sun was setting and it was warm - about 25oC. We were completely on our own - I suppose everyone else was at home or eating in the local pubs and the picture wasn’t just a beautiful Suffolk sight it was a fantastic idyllic English scene.
Have you got any other hobbies?
I help my wife with her riding. She has a thoroughbred horse, called Ted, which was once owned by the Queen. They have a speedy pace - but they also break rather easily.
If you had to take newcomers on a tour of Suffolk where would you go?
Well obviously Bury St Edmunds. We’d certainly take in St Mary’s Cemetery which has some fascinating gravestones from the 1700s that feature scull and crossbones and angels too. It might sound strange but apparently it was very common in those days. We’d then go into the shopping area because it’s got such a great range of independent and national shops. Then we’d go to the River Deben at Felixstowe Ferry to the cafe and having eaten we’d buy fresh lobster tails at the fish stalls and take the boat across to Bawdsey and back. You wouldn’t be able to miss out on coffee and cake at Pump Street Bakery in Orford and then on to sample the beach attractions in Walberswick and Southwold. It would be a long day but we’d end up at The Brewers Arms in Rattlesden.
Are you involved in the Arts?
Well yes I am on the board of Dance East and of course am a keen supporter of all its work and performances in Ipswich and at Snape Maltings too. It’s a hard sell, not everyone gets dance but once you’ve been to four or five performances you really start to understand what it’s about and how incredible the performances are. I rely on my wife, who did her degree in in drama, to direct me because I’m so busy but we enjoy a wide range of culture including dance, comedy at The Regent and film at The Picture House, in Bury St Edmunds.