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127km (79 miles) NE of London; 43km (27 miles) E of Cambridge; 19km (12 miles) N of Lavenham

Bury St. Edmunds is "a handsome little town, of thriving and cleanly appearance." That's how Charles Dickens described it in Pickwick Papers, and it remains true. This historic town, founded around the powerful Benedictine Abbey in 1020, derives its name from St. Edmund, king of the East Angles in the mid-9th century. The barons of England met here in the Abbey at Bury St. Edmunds and agreed to force King John to sign the Magna Carta, but the actual ceremony took place at Runnymede in 1215. Though it's sometimes hard to tell, Bury is filled with many original medieval buildings. (Many buildings were given face-lifts in the 17th and 18th c.; it's only when you step inside that their medieval roots become clear.) During the 18th century, this market town was quite prosperous and had a thriving cloth-making industry. The large number of fine Georgian buildings bear testament to the wealth of the day.

Upon the Vikings' arrival to the area, they dubbed it "the Summer Country." And, indeed, the summer, when the town bursts into bloom, is the best time to visit. Most of the historic sites and gardens open for the season on Easter.