17 of the best things to do in Norfolk
Can’t be bothered trekking to Provence? Heacham on Norfolk’s west coast is where you'll find the colour purple at its finest at Norfolk Lavender, then cross the road to coo and ahhhh over the chickens in the rare breeds centre. Quite possibly the most impressive and unusual chickens you’ll ever see.
Opened in 2006 as St George’s Distillery in Roudham, Norfolk, England’s first whisky distillery in more than a hundred years offers enjoyable tours and tastings, as well as a range of enticing single malt whiskies. It’s made using English produce, with grain and water from Norfolk and yeast from Yorkshire.
Set across a 50-acre adventure park, Bewilderwood’s beautiful treehouses are the kind of attractions that you imagine modern kids wouldn’t be interested in, but they tap into the sense of wonder we all have, whatever our ages. It’s a magical site, filled with zipwires, jungle bridges, inventive trails and all kinds of fun for little ones. Don’t have any? Borrow your friends’; you’ll all have a whale of a time.
Overlooking beautiful Winterton beach, just north of Great Yarmouth are a bunch of lovely huts. Supposedly modelled on similar huts seen by the original owner in the Hermanus region of South Africa, they form part of an old-school holiday park that comes complete with an outdoor heated pool, open till September.
The imaginative couple, Alan Gray and Graham Robeson, bought East Ruston Old Vicarage in the mid-’90s and turned its 30 acres into arguably Norfolk’s finest coastal garden, include a breathtaking wildflower meadow and a Californian garden of rainbow colours. Unmissable.
Bag a lovely spot on the beach in Hunstanton, with the unusual striped cliffs behind you and the Wash in front of you, and you’ll be in the unique position of being in the only spot in east England from which you can see the sun both rise and set.
Climb the castle (near King’s Lynn) – or at least its impressively steep 120ft-high earthwork. The twelfth-century Castle D’Albini keep is a stunner, not least because it hides its splendours until the last moment. Roofless, it still has all its walls and some intact rooms, making the sense of medieval life palpable.
Held annually as part of the village fete in Congham, this highly contested affair attracts about 200 entrants, all of them with their eye on the prize at the end of the 13-inch course. Look at that escargot!
Cley Marshes Nature Reserve is one of Britain’s best birdwatching sites, with hides looking out over reed beds and tidal pools that attract avocets, bitterns, terns, oystercatchers, marsh harriers and more. Stop in at the award-winning sustainable visitor centre for info, binoculars and the obligatory shop/café. Nearby, Snettisham RSPB Nature Reserve is also definitely worth a stop.
Sandringham Estate (six miles north-east of King’s Lynn) is where family photos and horrible ornaments make you realise Queenie's not that different to the rest of us. Though if you visit during the flower show in July, when military bands, dog and horse displays and plant exhibitions make a grand day out, you’ll discover her garden is quite a lot bigger than yours.
Easily one of the county’s most beautiful beaches, Holkham has deservedly starred in many a film and pop video, including ‘Shakespeare in Love’andAll Saints’s ‘Pure Shores’. Go a step further and pretend you’re a posh celeb with an overnight stay at Victoria Inn, located close to the beach on the grounds of the very posh Holkham Estate.
This excellent clothing brand in Holt (one of Norfolk’s most interesting towns) is a real treasure, offering unusual ‘workwear’ (think Muji) made in its workshop using British cottons, woollens and linens wherever possible. Choose your fabric and design from a selection of dresses, jackets, waistcoats and shirts and it will be delivered to you once it’s been made. And, because it’s made to order rather than made to measure, you can even return your finished item if you don’t like it.
A 10.5-mile trip by steam train (vintage diesel trains on some journeys) that puffs its way through a delightful coastal and countryside area of outstanding natural beauty. At each of the stations you can explore quaint stations and tea-rooms, wander off for some great walks through woodlands or along nature trails, or, at Holt, admire the ‘Broad Sidlinch’ a 300-square-foot model railway.
Like a mini-British Museum with a bit of the National Gallery thrown in, the SCVA (Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts) in Norwich's permanent collection includes stunning artefacts dating back thousands of years, as well as works by Picasso, Degas, Bacon and Modigliani. An always-worth-seeing programme of temporary shows is the icing on the cake.
Yarmouth Stadium may look like something you’d find in the American Midwest, but as home to both Great Yarmouth’s stock car racing scene and greyhound racing, it’s a determinedly British seaside attraction.
Or, more accurately, a staithe or a Broad. With more than 200 square kilometres of navigable waterways, there are plenty of opportunities for getting out on the various Broads and stopping off at country pubs. If you don’t want to take to the water, you could just explore nature reserve trails running alongside them, or enjoy activities like the Dragon Boat festival on them.
Norwich Cathedral, Wymondham Abbey and St Mary in Barton Bendish are just three of this county’s clutch of very impressive churches. While Norwich’s eleventh-century Romanesque option lords it over the trio in terms of height, the torrid history of Wymondham’s Norman abbey is well worth uncovering. But it’s probably the tiny, unassuming thatched-roof church of St Mary in Barton Bendish, with its fourteenth-century wall paintings, that will stay with you. Sometimes less is definitely more.
Or just stay put in the capital instead
London is a treasure trove of brilliant days out and activities worth boasting about. Find great new ways to fill your free time with this list of our favourite things to do in the capital.