Norfolk features over 200km of inland waterways and a coast made up of shingly, pebble beaches fringed by traditional seaside towns such as Great Yarmouth – much of this region is AONB-designated.
The countryside, which is said to be the windiest in England, consists of remote heath-lands, marshes and dunes. Although primarily known for water-based activities, Norfolk’s bridleways and walkways prove popular with ramblers, horse-riding enthusiasts and cyclists. Waymarked trails such as The Peddars Way and Norfolk Coast Path are among the most noteworthy.
The Broads are used extensively for boating holidays and are perhaps the county’s most popular attraction. They were formed by Medieval peat diggings and are a large network of navigable waterways that link Broads villages such as Brancaster and Wroxham together. Along the banks lie a collection of nature reserves and bird sanctuaries, as well as a diverse collection of country pubs.
Notable villages include Horning, which is famed for its Venetian canals, and Rollesby with its Norman church. The county town, Norwich is also worth visiting and has an impressive castle, cathedral and a number of medieval churches – it is also known for its bustling nightlife.
History and Culture
The 900 year-old Norwich Cathedral is the town’s focal point and dominates the Norwich skyline – it has the second highest spire in England after Salisbury and an ornately sculpted Gothic roof, that is said to be the most impressive example of medieval masonry in the country.
The Bressingham Steam Museum is another popular historical attraction and includes a 3 gauge railway along which run vintage steam trains. There’s also a collection of traction engines and locomotives on display. Similar attractions are offered by the Bure Valley Railway which runs between Aylsham and Coltishall.
The Castle Acre Priory offers a good day out and is one of the largest monastic priories in England. Situated in the Norman town of Castle Acre, the priory includes a recreated herb garden and well-preserved chapter house.
Peddar’s Way and Norfolk Coast Path run through protected regions of Norfolk and afford some inspiring views of its countryside. Other long distance paths include the 57 mile Weavers Pass, which meanders from Cromer to Great Yarmouth and Angles Way, which takes in the valleys of the Rivers Waveney and Little Ouse for 70 miles.
Cyclists and ramblers may be interested in the new Wherryman’s Way – a 35-mile route that winds through the Broads along the River Yare. See the website for more information.
Towns and Villages
Norfolk boasts and abundance of idyllic towns and villages. We’ve highlighted five which we think epitimose the character and charm of one of England’s most easterly counties.
Like Great Yarmouth, Cromer is a bustling holiday resort. It was at one time a small fishing village known as Shipden, before the tourist boom of the 19th century took hold – eventually fishing was replaced by tourism as the town’s main industry.
The town has a strong Victorian heritage which is evident in its narrow, winding streets. It became a fashionable destination for holiday-goers during the late 1800s after an extended period of growth – the affluent also considered it an ideal place to establish their holiday homes and many of these are still present along the coastline.
Some of the main attractions found in and around Cromer include a Zoo, a boating lake, a Blue Flag Beach and a selection of scenic coastal paths and trails. These trails lead to nearby towns like Runton, as well as historical sites such as Beacon Hill’s Roman Camp.
Cromer Pier with its Pavilion Theatre is another focal point and hosts concerts throughout the year. It’s one of the oldest of its kind in England and dates back to 1391.
Cromer’s strong reputation for crab fishing is still evident – the fishermen can often be seen on the eastern end of the beach preparing their baits. The alleys and streets towards the centre of town are also reminiscent of bygone times and contribute to the overall picture-postcard ambience.
Great Yarmouth is situated on the Norfolk Coast and sits at the mouth of the River Yare. It is one of England’s oldest holiday resorts attracting holiday-makers since the 1800s. The town has rich maritime traditions and is an important herring fishing port. It was also a naval base for Admiral Lord Horatio Nelson who set sail from its harbour on a number of occasions.
In addition to the bustling seafront, there are plenty of visitor attractions and landmarks to be enjoyed. The Tolhouse Museum for example, provides a fascinating insight into one of the oldest prisons in the country. Other places of interest include Great Yarmouth Market which is one of the biggest in the UK with over 80 stalls and the award-winning Time and Tide Museum.
Many of the sandy beaches that run between Hunstanton, Winterton and Hopton are Blue Flag Award winners and provide visitors with a safe, clean environment in which to enjoy their holiday. They are also well suited to outdoor pursuits such as hiking and walking with a number of fitness trails that run near Gorleston Cliffs.
Mundesley is a small town on the North East coast of Norfolk. Like many villages and resorts in this region, Mundesley was once a great seaport, before the advent of the railways brought Victorian holiday-makers in their droves. Still popular today the town retains an unspoilt, secluded charm which seems detached from other busier resorts on the East Coast.
The picture-postcard seafront, with its colorful beach huts and little fishing boats, provides a more tranquil alternative to the busier resorts found further along the coast. And despite tourism being Mundelsey’s primary industry fishermen still harvest the local waters, launching their boats from the beach in search of their daily catch.
Mundesley lies within the Norfolk Coast Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty – its award-winning Blue flag beach offers safe, clean bathing. But although shallow, the waters around Mundesley have eroded much of the cliffs, fields and houses found around these parts. And sadly the sea’s incursion continues unabated.
The town centre includes a small collection of shops, pubs and tea-rooms as well the Maritime Museum; one of the UK’s smallest. All Saints Church sitting atop the nearby cliffs is one of the town’s most historically significant buildings as is the restored 19th century Stow Mill, found on the outskirts of the town.
The fishing village of Weybourne is situated on the AONB-designated coast of North Norfolk. Weybourne’s deep waters make it popular amongst anglers and the surrounding countryside is crisscrossed by paths well-suited to nature lovers and ramblers. Notable attractions within the town include a charming country inn, a village shop and a fine restaurant.
Weybourne, originally known as Wabrume, also has a selection of historical landmarks including the remains of an Augustinian Priory. Weybourne Camp is another site of historical interest and was used as a practice firing range for anti-aircraft batteries during the Second World War.
The North Norfolk Steam Railway runs from Sheringham to Holt, via Weybourne. The well-preserved station includes a shed for locomotives and a carriage repair and maintenance centre. Weybourne station dates back to 1900 and is very close to the town centre. The railway runs for 10 miles and affords passengers some wonderful views of the Norfolk countryside.
The magnificent Sheringham Park, with its beautiful gardens and scenic country paths is another major attraction and is only a few miles from Weybourne. The ‘Muckleburgh Collection’ is also worth seeing and consists of the largest private collections of tanks and military vehicles in the UK.
Wroxham is set on the Norfolk Broads next to the River Bure. Considered to be the Capital of the Broads it also consists of Hoveton which is located on the opposite river bank.
As boating holidays became popular during the 19th century, Wroxham flourished. The town’s location made it an ideal base for pleasure-seekers looking to explore the the waterways of the Norfolk Broads, and it began to attract visitors from all over the country. It’s still a popular location today and is considered to be one of the main tourist centres in the region.
Wroxham has a good selection of shops including one that claims to be the biggest village store in the UK. There’s also a wide range of restaurants, riverside pubs and teahouses. Notable attractions include Hoveton Hall Gardens, which offers a picturesque, tranquil retreat and consists of 15 acres of parkland.
Hoveton Barns craft centre is also worth visiting and has a selection of studios that produce clothes, pottery and stained glass. The Bure Valley Railway runs through Wroxham and provides a scenic 18 mile round trip, through the meadows and fields of the Broads National Park. It is Norfolk’s longest non-standard gauge railway.
If you would prefer to travel on the waterways, you’ll also find a variety of boats available for hire near the town.
View Our Hand-Picked Norfolk Holiday Cottages.