By any stretch of the imagination, Norfolk is not the place to see quintessential English villages or mountains—it is flat with a low hill here and there. But it has other unique and interesting treasures that include a heritage coast, windmills, Broads National Park, and lots of opportunities to be on the water.
Norwich is the county’s main city. With a large pedestrianized area, it is easy to walk around. The cathedral, begun in 1095, is considered one of the finest complete Romanesque buildings in Europe. It has 1100 beautifully carved roof bosses and the second highest spire in England. Norwich Castle houses an interesting museum that tells the history of the keep and the castle, built 60 years after William the Conqueror’s one on the same site, but both are no longer in existence. In the museum is a large collection of teapots and Cotman watercolours. The guildhall dates from 1407, and the Bridewell museum is housed in a medieval merchant’s house. Dragon Hall is another medieval merchant’s hall with an outstanding timber framed structure.
14th century St Giles Church has a tall tower and an angel roof; St Mary Coslany church has a timber roof with angel carvings. St Peter and St Paul, built between 1390 and 1523, is one of the finest churches in England. There are 17th century clerestory windows, a decorated tower, and church treasures. St Peter Hungate Church is a museum on Elm Hill. Inside are treasures from redundant churches that include medieval illuminated books, church plate, carvings, and vestments.
King’s Lynn is a large town, but its historical part is compact. To visit are St George’s Guildhall, the largest surviving English medieval guildhall (now an arts centre), St Margaret’s church begun in 1104, and the remains of a Franciscan friary. Many nearby villages have churches of note, including West Walton, Terrington St Clement, Tilney All Saints, and Walpole St Peter, one of England’s finest.
Great Yarmouth is a typical seaside resort with amusement arcades, shops, nightclubs, restaurants, beach, and the Britannia Pier. The Nelson Museum gives many details of his life, while the Row III House is a museum in a row of 17th century rowhouses. The Time and Tide Museum tells the fascinating history of Yarmouth's herring industry. Three miles north of the town are the remains of a Roman fort, Caister.
Nearby, the Berney Arms windmill, seven stories high, is considered one of Norfolk’s best. The Sutton windmill is advertised as Britain’s tallest. It has a museum of social life. The Horsey Windpump is a drainage windmill.
Loddon is a market town on the river Chet. Loddon’s watermill is 400 years old and the only all timber mill in England. Within three miles of the town are 13 medieval churches. Holy Trinity church has a priest’s room over the porch where priests visiting from Langley abbey stayed overnight. Nearby is Thurlton with a 14th century thatched church. Hales has a Norman church full of treasures and craftsmanship. At Raveningham is a 13th century church.
The village church of St Helen is over 900 years old and mostly 14th and 15th century. The antiphoner is an illuminated service book written in medieval Latin. It contains 19 painted miniatures and fancy lettering. The church also has a painted medieval screen, the most complete and best example in the country.
Thetford is a large town with a central market area historically retained in the most part. The Ancient House Museum has finds from Iceni, Saxon and Roman periods. There are earthworks, old houses, and walks by the river. The ruins of Thetford Priory date back to the 12th and 13th centuries. The gatehouse is 14th century.
Ranworth Broad Nature Reserve is worth a visit. There’s a floating information centre reached by a boardwalk through the marshy land. In the centre are information boards on the Broads and their history. There are views of the reserve through purpose built windows.
Reedham is fun. To get across the water, you take a tiny two car ferry on a chain. The roads here are washboardy because of the marshy land. It has a very strong Norfolk atmosphere.
Wroxham is the capital of the Broads and a very busy tourist centre. Here you can catch any number of boat tours of the broads that last 30 minutes-1 hour. The most interesting part of the tour is right at the beginning where the cottages sit on piles sunk into the marshy ground. If you want to splurge you can rent your own boat.
Pulham Market is an attractive village with a green and a church. It, like many of the Norfolk towns, has a village sign. There is a medieval church, St Mary’s, with a tower.
At the busy and interesting town of Wymondham are the ruins of an abbey and a parish church sitting side by side. Don’t miss the church. The church screen and canopy are beautiful, all in glittering gold built between 1900 and 1919. In the north aisle are medieval screens and on the hammerbeam roof are carved angels and gargoyles. In the town are a heritage museum, an old pub, the 14th century Green Dragon, a lovely riverside walk, and a market cross. The railroad station, on the edge of the town, has old time train memorabilia in it and a restaurant that plays music from the 40s.
Felbrigg Hall has attractive large grounds with lots of trees and walks. The walled garden is a great place on a sunny day and has a dovecote (in use). The house is an amalgamation of different centuries with plasterwork of note. There’s a good restaurant and shop and walks in the park.
Holt is a busy and cheerful town with bric a brac and antique shops. In the town is a deli/café, Byfords, thought to be the oldest house in Holt. The cellar may date back to the 15th century. The building survived the Holt fire in 1708 and a further fire in 1906. For more than 100 years it was a hardware/ironmongers under the ownership of the Byford family from which the building took its name. In the late 1980s the building facade was covered in white render, the interior dry rot and original features hidden. The building features have since been restored.
Binham, in a haunting out-of-the-way spot, is the extensive remains of a former priory, founded in the late 11th century by a nephew of William the Conqueror. It was besieged by rebels against King John in 1212. Suppressed in 1539, it became ruined except for the church, still in use.
Blickling Hall is part 16th century, altered in the 17th. The dry moat is left over from an earlier Tudor house. The ceiling plasterwork is beautiful, especially in the long gallery. Look for the marmalade maker in the basement kitchen. Gravel paths lead through the trees and lawns where bluebells bloom in the spring. A self-serve restaurant serves delicious food.
Cromer is a Victorian seaside town with many hotels and boarding houses from that era. There is a large carpark by the sea, and walks along the cliffs. (Unfortunately many are defaced with ugly, huge trailer parks between here and Sheringham). Sheringham’s interest lies in the Sheringham to Holt steam train, a 20-minute journey that goes through National Trust woods where you can alight for a walk. The restored station at Sheringham has a tearoom.
Along Norfolk’s A149 coast road are marshlands with birdwatching areas: Cley next the Sea, Blakeney, and Morston marshes. Blakeney Point is a foremost bird sanctuary with a 3½ mile long sand and shingle spit (reach it by foot from Cley beach or ferry from Morston and Blakeney). Wells next the Sea is a large market town. Cley next the Sea has a windmill and a 14th century church, St Margaret, with much of interest.
The Burnham villages—Deepdale, Market, Norton and Overy—are pleasant to visit. Burnham Market has a village green and interesting little shops. Overy has old maltings and two windmills. Norton has a ruined friary. The interesting village of Stiffkey has a red road, red walls along it, and red houses.
Little Walsingham is a fascinating medieval place of pilgrimage, with a ruined window wall remaining. A little museum (Shirehall) shows bygone photos and boards provide information on the abbey. The village is full of old houses and is interesting to walk around.
Holkham Hall, worth a whole day out, is the home of the Earls of Leicester and has been for 250 years. It sits in a 3000-acre deer park that includes a lake. The house of yellow brick was built between 1734 and 1764 in the 18th century Palladian style. The entrance hall is impressive. The staterooms have gilded and decorated ceilings. There is a Bygones Collection in the former stables where 4000 items include steam engines, vintage cars, and kitchenware. Holkham pottery and two gift shops, a restaurant, cafeteria, plant nursery, and homemade ice cream provide other reasons to linger.
Across the highway from the Hall grounds are further attractions. Walk through the nature reserve to the beach where the final scene in the movie Shakespeare in Love was filmed. The large expanse of sand and dunes takes more than half an hour’s walking to reach the sea at low tide. You can continue down the beach (part of the Norfolk Coast Path) and head over the Overy Marshes back to the highway.
Norfolk’s other home of fame is Sandringham, the Queen's holiday home in 60 acres of landscaped grounds that it shares with a church. A tour allows visitors to see the dining room, drawing room, and two parlours. They are homey rooms, not grand, and have lots of family photos and collections in curio cabinets. There is a museum with photographs and vintage family cars in the grounds. Sandringham Park sits on the opposite side of the road and is free to wander in, have picnics, play ball games, and go for walks.
South of Holkham is Creake abbey ruins, an Augustinian abbey dating from medieval times, falling into ruin in 1506. Castle Rising is a high moated castle where Queen Isabella lived after Edward died. The keep, thought to be the finest 12th century preserved one in England, is huge and partially roofed. In the village are medieval almshouses and a church.
Castle Acre Priory ruins are much more extensive and include the prior’s house and a 12th century church. There’s an interesting audio tour and a small museum. Castle Acre, the village, is attractive with its treed village green running down the centre of the main street and the slight remains of a castle. It is the site of one of the greatest Norman settlements in England.
Oxburgh Hall is a medieval moated house (much altered but still retaining its priests’ hole) with a massive seven-storied gatehouse. The furniture is a hodge podge of bits and pieces put together from previous pieces and looks very Victorian—dark, heavy, and carved. There is a Catholic church with a beautiful 16th century screen in the grounds.
Heachem is home to Norfolk lavender. They have a shop that has a good selection of products. Old Hustanton is a scenic little village, but you will pay dearly to park there. There is a long beach in New Hustanton with old Victorian hotels.
Great Bircham windmill is near Houghton Hall, the former home of Robert Walpole, first Prime Minister. The windmill is five floors high. If you don’t mind climbing ladders, there’s a great view at the top. You can visit the staterooms, bedrooms, entrance hall, saloon, and dining room in the home. The extravagant ceilings are painted and gilded. The guides are interesting to talk with. Also on the grounds is a 12th century church and gardens.
Bressingham Gardens, near Diss, run a steam train through their gardens and have a large garden shop. You can view the six acre Dell and Foggy Bottom gardens. In Sheringham Park’s landscaped grounds are a woodland garden, rhododendrons, azaleas, and viewing towers. Mannington Gardens surround a medieval moated manor and are noted for their heritage rose and 20th century rose gardens. Raveningham Gardens have herbaceous borders, a walled kitchen garden, a Victorian glasshouse, a rose garden, and a 14th century church.
For something completely different, visit Grimes Graves on open heathland near Thetford forest. These are not graves but Neolithic flint mines dating c BC2200-2500, and their location can be seen by the 300 depressions in the ground at the site. One mine is open for viewing and has a ladder which you can descend to see the horizontal shafts. Some of the mines have yielded finds such as antler picks.
For opening times and full details of attractions see the Attractions section of our website.
Binham Priory (EH)
North-west of Binham-on-Wells
Tel. 0 1328 830 362
Bishop Bonner's Cottage Museum
St Withburga's Lane, Dereham, Norfolk
Tel. 0 1362 850 293
Blickling Hall (NT)
Blickling, 1.5 miles north-west of Aylsham
Tel. 0 1263 738 030
Bressingham Gardens and Steam Experience
Thetford Road, Bressingham
Tel. 0 1379 686 900
Web: Bressingham Steam and Gardens
Breydon Water, west of Great Yarmouth
Tel. 0 1223 582 700
Caister Roman Site (EH)
Caister on the Sea, 3 miles north of Great Yarmouth
Castle Acre Castle and Bailey Gate(EH)
Castle Acre, east end of the village
Tel. 0 1760 755 394
Castle Acre Priory (EH)
Stocks Green, 1/4 mile west of the village of Castle Acre
Tel. 0 1760 755 394
Castle Rising Castle (EH)
Castle Rising, 4 miles north-east of King's Lynn
Tel. 0 1553 631 330
One mile north of North Creake off B1355
115-123 King Street, Norwich
Tel. 0 1603 663 922
Elizabethan House Museum
No. 4 South Quay, Great Yarmouth
Tel. 0 1493 745 526 or 0 1493 743 930
Felbrigg Hall (NT)
Near the village of Felbrigg
Tel. 0 1263 837 444
Gressenhall Farm and Workhouse Museum
Gressenhall, 3 miles north-west of Dereham, on the B1146
Tel. 0 1362 860 563
For more information and photos see our article Gressenhall Farm and Workhouse Museum
Web: Gressenhall Farm and Workhouse Museum
Thetford Forest Park on a minor road off the A1065 and the A134, seven miles north-west of Thetford
Tel. 0 1842 810 656
For photos and more information see our article Grimes Graves
Tel. 0 1328 710 227
Web: Holkham Hall
Houghton, east of King’s Lynn
Tel. 0 1485 528 569
Web: Houghton Hall
Hoveton Hall Gardens
signed off A1151, 1.5 miles north of Wroxham, Norfolk
Tel. 0 1603 782 798
Lifeboat Museum (Henry Blogg Museum)
Rocket House, the Gangway, Cromer
Tel. 0 1263 511 294
Market St, King’s Lynn; in former Baptist chapel (near bus and rail stations)
Tel. 0 1553 775 001
Mannington Hall Gardens
Signposted from Saxthorpe crossroads on Norwich-Holt road, B1149
Tel. 0 1263 584 175
Web: Mannington Hall Gardens
Museum of Norwich
Bridewell Alley, Norwich
Tel. 0 1603 495 891
Museum of the Broads
Stalham Staithe, off A149
Tel. 0 1692 581 681
Web: Museum of the Broads
26 South Quay, Great Yarmouth
Tel. 0 1493 850 698
Web: Nelson Museum
Norfolk County Windmills
For a list of windmills see our article Norfolk Windmills and the list below
Norwich Castle Museum and Art Gallery
Norwich city centre
Tel. 0 1603 493 636
12 The Close, Norwich
Tel. 0 1603 218 300
Web: Norwich Cathedral
Old Buckenham Windmill
The Forum, Norwich
Tel. 0 1603 727 922
Oxburgh Hall and Estate
Oxborough, King’s Lynn
Tel. 0 1366 328 258
Ranworth Broad Nature Reserve
Signposted from the village of Ranworth
Tel. 0 1603 270 479
Raveningham, near Norwich, off the A146
Tel. 0 1508 548 152
church; teas on Sun and BH Mon only
Web: Raveningham Gardens
Roots of Norfolk Museum of Buildings
Gressenhall, 3 miles north-west of Dereham
Tel. 0 1362 869 251
Row Houses—Row III House and Old Merchants House/Greyfriar’s Cloisters (EH)
117 South Quay, Great Yarmouth; signposted
Tel. 0 1493 857 900
Royal Norfolk Regimental Museum
Market Ave, Norwich, by Castle Museum and Castle Meadow
Tel. 0 1603 493 650
Web: Royal Norfolk Regimental Museum
Sandringham Estate and House
On B1440 north-east of King’s Lynn
Tel. 0 1553 612 908
Web: Sandringham Estate
Sea Life Sanctuary
Southern Promenade, Hunstanton
Tel. 0 1485 533 576
Web: Sea Life Sanctuary
Sheringham Park (NT)
Off A148 Cromer-Holt Road by car or by local train from Sheringham town station
Tel. 0 1263 823 2778
St George’s Guildhall
27 Kings St, King’s Lynn
Tel. 0 1553 765 565
St Margaret’s Church
Saturday Market Place, King’s Lynn
Tel. 0 1553 772 858
St Peter and St Paul Church
Charing Cross, Norwich, near city centre
Tel. 0 1603 493 636 (booking line) or 0 1603 667 229 (general enquiries)
Thetford Priory (EH)
Thetford, west side of town near the train station, close to the A11 and the A134
For photos and more information see our article Thetford Priory
Time and Tide Museum
Tel. 0 1493 743 930
For photos and more information see our article Time and Tide Museum
Tel. 0 1493 745 526
Walsingham Abbey Grounds and Shirehall Museum
Tel. 0 1328 820 259 (Walsingham Estate) or 0 1328 820 510 (TIC in the museum)
For photos and more information see our article Walsingham
Near Eppingham village off A140
Tel. 0 1263 584 175
Wymondham Heritage Museum
10 The Bridewell, Wymondham
Tel. 0 1953 607 494 or 0 1953 600 205
Web: Wymondham Heritage Museum
Wymondham Abbey: St Mary and St Thomas
Church St, Wymondham
Tel. 0 1953 607 062 (parish office)
Web: Wymondham Abbey
Norfolk Tourist Information Centres
Bure Valley Railway Station
Tel. 0 1263 733 903
Prince of Wales Road, Cromer
Tel. 0 1263 512 497
Meres Mouth, Mere Street, Diss
Tel. 0 1379 650 523
The Priory Centre, 78 Priory Road, Downham Market
Tel. 0 1366 387 440
Marine Parade, Great Yarmouth
Tel. 0 1493 842 195
Station Road, Hoveton
Tel. 0 1603 782 281
Town Hall, The Green, Hunstanton
Tel. 0 1485 532 610
The Custom House, Purfleet Quay, Kings Lynn
Tel. 0 1553 763 044
2 Station Road, Mundesley
Tel. 0 1263 721 070
The Guildhall, Gaol Hill, Norwich
Tel. 0 1603 666 071
Station Approach, Sheringham
Tel. 0 1263 824 329
Staithe Street, Wells-next-the-Sea
Tel. 0 1328 710 885
Insider Tip: Norfolk villages do not, as a whole, cater to the tourist. There is a dearth of corner shops, post offices, cafes, and tea stops. You are best to pack a picnic lunch if you are out exploring the backroads for the day.
Norfolk Windmills Trust List of Mills
(information courtesy the Trust)
Berney Arms Mill
3.5 miles north-east of Reedham
Tel. 0 1493 700 605
Open: April-end Oct, daily, 9am-1pm and 2-5pm
English Heritage property; seven floors; one of county’s largest
O.S. TM 167 786
Tel. 0 1603 222 705 for details of opening times
Boardman's Drainage Mill
O.S. TG 370 192
This open-framed timber trestle drainage mill with miniature cap, sails, fantail and turbine is situated on the east bank of the River Ant at How Hill and is visible at all times from the river and public footpath.
Clayrack Drainage Mill
O.S. TG 369 194
Situated 200 metres north of Boardman's Mill and visible at all times from the river and public footpath. This unique hollow post drainage mill has a full set of patent sails, which drive a scoop wheel and can be seen in operation occasionally.
Cley next the Sea Mill
Tel. 0 1263 740 209
Open: daily, 2-5pm, Easter-end Sep
Tel. 0 1366 384 009
Open: April-end Oct, Mon-Sat, 10am-5pm, Sun 12-5pm; Nov-end March, Mon-Sat 10am-4pm, Sun 12-4pm
Tel. 0 1362 693 821
Open: Sunday afternoons
Tel. 0 1953 681 593
Open: by appointment
Great Bircham Mill
Tel. 0 1485 578 393
Open: daily 10am-5pm, April-end Sep
Web: Great Bircham Windmill
Gunton Park Sawmill
O.S. TG 224 335
This extremely rare water-powered sawmill will be open to visitors and working on 4th Sunday in the month April - Sep inclusive 2-5pm. Members of the Norfolk Industrial Archaeology Society will be running the waterwheels and sawing timber on the open days.
Tel. 0 1493 393 904
Open: April-end Sep, daily, 11am-5pm
Tel. 0 1263 713 153
Open summer season - Whitsun-end of first week in Sep, Mon-Fri, 10am-5pm; Sat 9am-1pm Winter season: Mon-Fri, 9am-4pm; Sat, 9am-1pm
Milling only when flour required; demonstrations Tue-Fri afternoons
Little Cressingham Watermill
O.S. TG 870003
This combined wind and water mill is unique. The exterior of the mill can be viewed from the Trust's land immediately surrounding the mill.
Old Buckenham Cornmill
O.S. TM 062 90
Open: April-end Sep, second Sun in each month, 2-5pm; organised parties may be accommodated at other times by appointment
This cornmill has the largest diameter tower in England.
Paston, Stow Mill
Tel. 0 1263 720 298
Open all year, daily from 10am-dusk
St.Olaves Drainage Mill
O.S. TM 457 997
This tiny, timber boarded trestle drainage mill with a scoopwheel is visible from road and river and can be approached by footpath from the bridge. It is situated on the east bank of the River Waveney, just below St Olaves' bridge on the A143.
Stracey Arms Drainage Mill
O.S. TG 442 090
Situated on the A47
Open: Easter-end of Sep, daily, 9am-8pm; visits at other times by arrangement with the Trust
Free moorings; shop selling refreshments; exhibition on Drainage Mills of the Broads
Starston Mill can only be viewed from the outside.
O.S. TG 401 159
Tel. 0 1692 581 195
Open: April-end Sep, daily, 10am-5.30pm
Thurne Dyke Drainage Mill
O.S. TG 401 159
O.S. TG 076 026
Tel. 0 1603 222 705 for opening times
To stay in Norfolk we recommend Shrublands Farm
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Some of our Norfolk Articles
Norfolk Windmills Trust
Walsingham Village and Pilgrimage
The Beach at Holkam Hall
Holkham Hall, Norfolk
The Broads National Park Time and Tide Museum
Castle Acre Priory
St Margaret’s Church, Hales
Castle Rising Castle
Castle Rising Church
Gressenhall Farm and Workhouse Museum
Other England Articles
A lovely farmhouse b and b in a quiet location in Norfolk