17 curious reasons to visit Norfolk

Between cute coastal villages and scores of wholesome attractions, there’s splendour aplenty in the East-Anglian county
17 reasons to visit Norfolk, 17 reasons to visit Norfolk, Hunstanton Beach
Hunstanton Beach © Rod Edwards
By Yolanda Zappaterra |
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Forget Delia Smith and Alan Partridge, Norfolk is so much more than an 80s TV chef and fictional radio DJ. This is the county that gave birth to Boudica the fearless warrior, after all. It's also home to pretty beaches, awesome cliffs and the Norfolk Broads national park where you can find a quarter of the UK’s rarest plants and animals. Go explore for yourself, with these seventeen curious sights in Norfolk.

RECOMMENDED: Ideas for great day trips from London

17 of the best things to do in Norfolk

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17 reasons to visit Norfolk, 17 reasons to visit Norfolk, Hunstanton Beach

Head to Heacham to find the colour purple at its finest

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.

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17 reasons to visit Norfolk, 17 reasons to visit Norfolk, East Ruston

Take tea in a treehouse, or three

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. 

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17 reasons to visit Norfolk, 17 reasons to visit Norfolk, East Ruston

Find a little bit of California in East Anglia

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.

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17 reasons to visit Norfolk, 17 reasons to visit Norfolk, Hunstanton Beach
Rod Edwards

Watch the sun set over Lincolnshire

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.

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17 reasons to visit Norfolk, 17 reasons to visit Norfolk, Castle Rising

Scale the battlements of Castle Rising’s Castle

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.

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17 reasons to visit Norfolk, RSPB Nature Reserve

Spot some top birds

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.

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Check out Queenie’s country pad at Sandringham

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.

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17 reasons to visit Norfolk, Holkham Beach

Pretend you’re a celeb on Holkham Beach

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.

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17 reasons to visit Norfolk, 17 reasons to visit Norfolk, Old Town

Take a sartorial trip back in time at Old Town

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.

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17 reasons to visit Norfolk, 17 reasons to visit Norfolk, Poppy Line

Board the Poppy Line for a gorgeous round trip from Sheringham to Holt

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.

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17 reasons to visit Norfolk, 17 reasons to visit Norfolk, Sainsbury Centre

Admire 5,000 years of human creativity at Norman Foster’s handsome SCVA

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.

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17 reasons to visit Norfolk, Yarmouth stadium
John Fielding

Watch some bangers get mashed

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.

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17 reasons to visit Norfolk, 17 reasons to visit Norfolk, Dragon Boast Festival

Mess about on the river

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.

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17 reasons to visit Norfolk, 17 reasons to visit Norfolk, church spires

Spot some spires

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

Whispering Gallery, St Paul's Cathedral
© Matt Biddulph
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101 things to do in London

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