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Things to do in Norfolk, UK
The county of Norfolk, UK is tucked away in the east of the country. When people seem unsure of its location, I describe it as the top half of the bump. Only 2 hours drive or train from London, it is definitely an under rated gem of the UK. I am constantly torn between wanted to shout out about its beauty, and keep it as a little secret just for me.
However, I think Norfolk is somewhere that deserves to be appreciated. So I am going to share some of my favourite things to do in Norfolk. My home. An incredibly broad subject, and quite frankly this post will and can only scratch the surface. But, hopefully it will give you a taste!
A long post which covers:
- The Norfolk Coast
- The Norfolk Broads
- History and Heritage
The Norfolk coast is one of the most stunning areas in the county. If you want to fully appreciate it there is an amazing 83 mile long walk all the way from Hunstanton to Holme on sea, along the Norfolk Coastal path.
You could spend days exploring all that this part of the county has to offer. But there are gems along the way that deserve a call out, as a reason to visit Norfolk. Some specific places to put on your list:
This gorgeous little village, located in North Norfolk, is one of my favourite places in the county. Designated as an outstanding area of natural beauty, it is a well located place to explore the beautiful surrounding coastal area. When the tide is out, walk along the creek outwards the pit. Make sure you check tide times, so you don’t get cut off. There are plenty of walks – towards Morston or Cley. And if you are feeling indulgent treat yourself to a bacon sandwich from the caravan on the Quay.
The Quay is the heart of the village, with the three main roads leading off this. When you head towards this part of the village you will find pubs, a restaurant, as well as few shops selling local wares.
Blakeney | Map
A harbour town located about 1 mile in land from the sea. Wells is definitely somewhere to visit if you are in the county! It is home to lots of little boutique shops and restaurants. The quay side is a great place to sit and people watch. It is home to the Walsingham – Wells light railway and also hosts one of the prettiest beaches in Norfolk!
If you are in the town make sure to try the fish and chips from French’s and pop into Ground for some delicious cake! The finish the day with a delicious meal from the Well’s Crab House. A dream day of food!
French’s | 10 The Quay, Wells-next-the-Sea NR23 1AH | Map
Ground | 42 Staithe St, Wells-next-the-Sea NR23 1AF | Map
Well’s Crab House | 38-40 Freeman St, Wells-next-the-Sea NR23 1BA | Map
3. Steam trains
North Norfolk is home to some of the most amazing stream trains in the country. Definitely one for the train lovers. And even if that isn’t you, it is a really lovely way to spend an afternoon.
The Poppy line runs between the towns of Holt and Sheringham which means it gives you a really good mix of beach and town for a day trip. Named the poppy line after the term ‘Poppy Land’ which was used to describe the area of North Norfolk between Sheringham and Mundesley.
Start the day in the Victorian seaside town of Sheringham. At the station you can see, among others, a 1950’s waiting room and a traditional signal box. Board the train and disembark at the first stop – Weybourne where you can walk around the park or even the beach. Then carry on to the town of Holt. Wander around the charming town. Take a bite to eat at Byfords and shop in the local independent department store of Bakers and Larners of Holt. Before taking the train back to Sheringham.
On the train itself, the carriages are all different. Some are open and some have a corridor down the centre. Take your time to admire the glorious train and the carriages before sitting down.
4. Horsey Wind Pump
Following a 3 year restoration project, the wind pump is now reopened! This wind pump was once part of a network of 250 pumps that lined the Norfolk Broads and this is now one of the few you can step inside and visit. While there has been a pump on the site since the 1700’s, the current one was built in 1912. Surviving floods, lightening strikes and then falling into disrepair.
While this is part of the broads, it is located on a coastal part of the county and as such as another treat for you if you are visiting. After exploring the pump head to Horsey Gap, which is home to a large colony of Norfolk grey seals. During the winter months the seals give birth on the beach. But please, please, please, please do not approach them!
Horsey Windpump | Horsey Windpump, Horsey, Great Yarmouth NR29 4EF | Map
5. Old Hunstanton and Sandringham
Old Hunstanton is an old Victorian fishing village, and the quainter and prettier of the two Hunstanton’s! This is also the village that hosts the start of the Norfolk coastal path. Stroll along the cliffs, past the Old Hunstanton lighthouse and take in the ruins of St Edmunds Chapel which was built in 1272. The village is also home to shops, a craft centre, restaurants and two pubs. Well worth a visit for a traditional village vibe.
Four miles down the road from Old Hunstanton is the famous Norfolk Lavender. Somewhere I have never been but always wanted to! This is Norfolk’s premier lavender farm, and definitely a must in West Norfolk, for the photos in the fields along!
Norfolk Lavender | Norfolk Lavender, Caley Mill, Lynn Rd, Heacham PE31 7JE | Map
And then 10 miles away is the Queen’s Norfolk residence – Sandringham! Learn more about the wider estate, the history of the House and its Royal connections, enjoy the great outdoors in the formal gardens with water gardens, lakes and rockeries or browse the collection of Royal cars in our Exhibition and Transport Museum.
In July this is also home to the famous Sandringham Flower Show. This one day show attracts about 20,000 visitors a year. Not just a flower show, but also full of family fun!
Sandringham | PE35 6ED | Map
6. Scolt Head Island
Scolt head is one of Norfolk’s top secret beaches. Accessed from either Burnham Overy Staithe in the east or Brancaster Staithe from the west. The only way to walk is at low tide, and it will involve a lot of mud! But when you get there, you are treated to pure white beaches and some wildlife. Make sure to heed the tide timetables though, as when the tide comes rolling in – it really is an island!
This area of the coast, near the Burnham’s, is probably most well know for it’s principle town – Burnham Market. Which is somewhat affectionately known as ‘Chelsea on sea’ and very popular with tourist from London. However, there are some really beautiful hidden gems to be found in this area of the coast if you look beyond the tourists!
Norwich, the capital city of the county, is packed full of things to see and do! It is said to be one of the best preserved medieval cites in the UK, as the industrial revolution never really hit! Some of the highlights are:
1. The Market
Norwich market is one of the largest and oldest open air markets in the UK and is open Monday to Saturday. It is such a treasure trove with a huge range of goods and services, from clothes, toys, flowers, fruit and veg to household goods. Some of the best food to be found in the city are from stalls in this market. Definitely check out Bun Box, for the most delicious Hirata buns and Japanese street food. Another fab stop is Bread Source for scrumptious bakery goods.
Norwich Market | 1 Market Pl, Norwich NR2 1ND | Map
Talking about food! Norwich is home to some amazing independent, local restaurants and eating your way around Norwich, is definitely a key thing to do in Norfolk!
There are wealth of restaurants to chose from and it would be impossible to name them all! However some awesome ones not to miss are:
- Roger Hickman’s for some fine dining
- Strangers: a coffee shop & café
- Figbar for some sweet treats
- Brick pizza for the best pizza
- Franks bar which serves amazing breakfasts and is also a fab bar in the evening
- Woolf and Social which just does the most incredible English style tapas. Do. Not. Miss.
The name suggests a rather morbid area of the city, but it is deceiving! It is nothing to do with tombs, but is from an old Scandiavian word meaning open space. Once the old market place of the city and now home to lots of bars and restaurants. Also the location of the Maid’s Head hotel – one of the oldest in the city and lots of old buildings as well! Definitely worth a wander to take in the history.
Tombland | Map
4. Elm Hill
A historic, cobbled lane in Norwich and one of the most famous images of the city. Many of the buildings date back to Tudor time and it is one of the best preserved streets in the country. Once home to all the wealthy merchants of the city, it was largely destroyed in a fire in 1507. The one surviving building is the Briton Arms, which is now a cosy coffee house. This street has been used in lots of films, including Stardust. Also now home to independent shops and restaurants.
Elm Hill | Map
5. The two Cathedrals
Norwich has not one, but two cathedrals. The first being the impressive cathedral located just off Tombland in the Cathedral Close, on which building started in 1096. It’s boasts the second tallest spire in the country, at 96 metres tall (second only to Salisbury). The cathedral is also home to a, very rare, pair of breeding Peregrine Falcons. You will often see a team of people camped out in the close watching for the birds, and they even have their own live webcam feed!
Make sure you don’t miss the cloisters when you visiting this part of Norwich – they are the biggest of their kind in the country and depict scenes from the Bible all over the ceiling.
The second cathedral in Norwich, is the Roman Catholic one located on the other side of the city. Construction began in 1882 and its style is Gothic Revival. It is also the second largest Roman Catholic church in the country.
Norwich Cathedral: 65 The Close, Norwich NR1 4DH | Map
The Cathedral of St John the Baptist: Unthank Rd, Norwich NR2 2PA | Map
6. Norwich Castle
Sitting high above the city, keeping watch over the city since 1067, is Norwich Castle. It was built by the Norman’s William the Conquer and in the Motte and Bailey style. The history of this building is fascinating, it was one of 48 castles mentioned in the Doomsday book and was then used as a jail for 5 centuries. Nowadays it is a museum and art gallery, stuffed full of fascinating exhibits.
Norwich Castle | 24 Castle Meadow, Norwich NR1 3JU | Map
The Norfolk Broads are a warren of over 125 miles of man made water ways which meander through the countryside. The perfect place to spend a summer’s day! They are formed from flooded path ways, which were caused by peat excavation in medieval times. Peat being naturally formed from decaying vegetation and was used for fuel. Amazingly it was only discovered that the broads were man made in the 1950’s. Previously it was thought that they were natural.
There are some parts of the broads that are definitely worth checking out and doing!
For those who fancy a bit of a climb, next to Ranworth Broad is a church known as the ‘cathedral of the Broads’. From the top the views across the Broads are so impressive. The village of Ranworth is on the edge of Malthouse Broad, Ranworth Broad is located to the left. This is closed to boats as it is an area of natural significance. There is also a lovely walk out of the village and access to South Walsham Broad.
Ranworth | Map
2. Hire a boat
Definitely the best way to see the broads! The are so many different options available from day boat hire, to hiring a wherry and entire Broads boating holidays! The paths and rivers of the broads are seemingly endless, so even on the busiest of days – you will still be able to find riverways to have all to yourself. One of the best things to do is pub hop along the river. Moor up beside the edge of the pub garden to stop and have a drink.
Quite an unusual village, and perhaps not one of the prettiest in Norfolk but it’s still a fun place to visit. The entire town seems to be owned by a guy called Roy – who own’s the shopping establishment Roy’s of Wroxham. See how many buildings you can spot with this name! Interestingly, however, Wroxham sits side by side with another village – Hoveton – so much so they blur into one. They are on each side of the River Bure, with a steep bridge connecting them. Roy’s is actually located in Hoveton!
Wroxham is very much the heart of the broads, and it is from here (among other places) you can hire boats and stock up on supplies. This is very much the hub of the Norfolk boating community.
Wroxham | Map
Reedham is a village in several parts, laid out along the Northern bank of the River Yare. Either end of the village provides a river crossing of some sort. One of the interesting parts of Reedham is the ferry, which is the only vehicle chain ferry on the Norfolk Broads. To the east of the village is a swing bridge taking the railway over the river. In between the two, you can find a pretty quay lined with moored boats, cottages and a couple of riverside pubs. This quay was once the heart of the local boatbuilding industry with several wherries built here.
Reedham | Map
History & Heritage
It’s hard to know where to start with this section, the options for historically significant sites in Norfolk are endless. You could literally spend weeks discovering the stately homes, castles, museums and churches. But I wanted to pick out a few of my favourite places to share, just to give an idea of the huge variety Norfolk has to offer!
1. Caistor Roman town
One of my favourite spots to go for a walk in Norfolk. Located very close to the city of Norwich, it is a very interesting place! Here you can explore what is left of the Roman town of Venta Icenorum. It is one of three major Roman cities, which are not now buried under current cities!
There are information boards situated all the way around the edge of the city, and if you are interested you can buy a guide book at the nearby village shop of Stoke Holy Cross.
Caistor Roman Town | Caistor St Edmund, Norwich NR14 8QN | Map
2. Church Ruins
I had no idea that Norfolk was home to such an abundance of church ruins, until I spent a few weeks trying to discover them all. The reasons behind their disuse and ruin are varied and multiple, from the villages no longer existing, to a plane flying too low and the resulting sonic boom meaning the nave fell down, to fire and arson and beyond! There are so many to discover and it absolutely fascinating.
3. Blickling Hall
A National Trust owned stately home, it is a very impressive building and stunning gardens. The birth place of Anne Boleyn, and having been working at weddings there late at night – I am fairly sure the place is haunted!
The history of the building is over 1000 years old. You can explore the beautiful inside of the house, before wandering round the endless gardens and then grabbing a refreshment in one the cafes!
Blickling Hall | Blickling, Norwich NR11 6NF | Map
4. Castle Rising
A recent discovery of mine in Norfolk. An elaborately decorated medieval castle and fort dating from 1138. It was one of the most important castles of the 12th century, and is one of the finest surviving examples of its kind to be found anywhere in the country. During it’s history, it acted as a hunting lodge, a royal residence and was even home to a mental patient for a brief time in the 18th century. The most famous period in its history was when it passed to the mother of Edward III, Queen Isabella, following her part in the murder of her husband Edward II. The castle then came to the Howard family in 1544. It is still owned by them today, the current owner is a descendant of William D’Albini II, the Norman baron who built the castle.
Castle Rising | Lynn Rd, King’s Lynn PE31 6AH | Map
5. Binham Priory
The most complete and impressive ruins monastic ruins in Norfolk. It was founded in 1091 and home to a Benedictine community of monks for 400 years. After it was destroyed in Henry VIII’s dissolution of the monasteries, the local community still use the nave as Binham Parish Church. The ruins and the remaining church show the quality of the buildings lost. Very easy to walk around, and there are boards dotted around the site telling you what everything once was.
Binham Priory | Warham Rd, Binham, Fakenham NR21 0DQ | Map
6. Castle Acre
Finishing with another Norfolk ruin, another castle and another Monastic site!
The village of Castle Acre itself is a very rural, tranquil one. And also packed full of history. It is a rare and complete survival of a Norman planned settlement, including a castle, village, parish church and one of the best-preserved monastic sites in England, the ruins of Castle Acre Priory.
Castle Acre Castle was founded soon after the Battle of Hastings by the first William de Warenne. It is a fantastic example of another motte-and-bailey castle, and remains one of the most impressive Norman earthworks in the country. The Bailey Gate is one of two stone gatehouses and the main road into the village still runs between its towers.
Make sure you head to visit Castle Acre Priory, which was again destroyed during the dissolution of the monasteries. There is a lot to see at priory including the west end church gable, the prior’s lodging and the remains of buildings around the cloisters. This was one of my favourite school trips, ever!
Castle Acre | Map
If you want to explore the North Norfolk coast more, take a look at this post: The Ultimate Staycation – Norfolk
Interested in visiting Norfolk? Or finding out more? Let me know! And if you liked this post, please pin it for later.