The Norfolk Broads and Norwich Castle
You’re spoilt for choice when it comes to days out in Norfolk. Whether you’re looking to learn about local history, want some peace and quiet, or fancy a thrill, you’re bound to find something to do.
The Broads is one of Norfolk’s most spectacular sites and there’s so much you can do around this area. A day out in Norfolk should include a walk of some kind and the Wherryman’s Way takes you on a grand tour of some of the county’s finest countryside. The 35-mile route follows the course of the River Yare between Norwich and Great Yarmouth and covers many of the Norfolk Broads, letting you get up close with this beautiful and important landscape. Of course, you don’t have to walk the whole thing. Instead, why not try one of the 10 circular village walks along the way? This is the easiest way to spot the trail’s floating namesake, the wherry.
A great way to see this area is by boat. You can hire little motorboats for cruising through the Broads and connecting canals, or you can hire something larger for an overnight stay. Families will enjoy the relaxed pace of a day on the water but there’s still so much to see and do. Stop off for a shopping trip in Wroxham or pause at Fritton Lake to try your hand at archery and bushcraft.
For the more extreme amongst us, why not hire a canoe or kayak and explore the Broads under your own steam. This is a really rewarding way to visit new places and perhaps even reach areas that a larger boat can’t. In South Norfolk, there’s the Bressingham Gardens and Steam Museum to visit if you fancy a stroll around the picturesque area or have an interest in trains. You can learn about Norfolk’s railways and take a trip on the museum’s four lines. The collection of working locomotives gives you an idea of the mighty power of steam engineering throughout the years.
History buffs will love Norwich’s Castle Museum – you can’t miss it sitting atop the hill in our capital city. Not only is it a spectacular place to get a 360-degree view of the surrounding area, but you can also discover Norwich’s Anglo-Saxon and Norman heritage. Dust off that National Trust membership (or pick one up!) and head to one of Norfolk’s most spectacular Jacobean buildings, Blicking Hall, for another dose of history. This is where Anne Boleyn lived – and supposedly still haunts – making it the perfect place to visit around Halloween. Explore the fantastic rooms and extensive gardens while you discover some interesting facts about life in Norfolk at this time.
The Broads is one of Norfolk’s most spectacular sites and there’s so much you can do around this area
England’s first whisky distillery
Learn more about the rural way of life at Gressenhall Farm and Workhouse near Dereham. Whatever the weather, you can learn the ways of farmers in the local countryside with a historic workhouse, traditional farm and lots of indoor displays. The Lynn Museum in King’s Lynn is home to the bronze-age timber structure Seahenge, one of Norfolk’s ancient wonders, but you’ll also find more of West Norfolk’s history here.
Just off the King’s Lynn to Fakenham road is Houghton Hall & Gardens. Houghton Hall was built in the 1720s for Britain’s first Prime Minister, Sir Robert Walpole. The parkland is home to white fallow deer as well as a collection of contemporary sculptures by world-renowned artists. Thetford might have been the filming location for Dad’s Army but the real history comes from a day spent visiting sites such as the Castle Mound and the priory ruins. You could spend a full day in this town exploring its history as a very important British settlement, and perhaps even incorporate it into a visit to Thetford Forest. Either explore on foot or hire bikes from Bike Art at the High Lodge Forest Centre.
Get your adrenaline pumping with a paintball session or, if you fancy something more relaxed, just go for a stroll and admire the Lynford Stag, a large structure that makes for a great photo opportunity. If you love to drive, this area is a real joy with amazing roads that wind through the trees and there’s even the chance to do a little off-road driving around the Elveden Estate with Explore 4×4.
Not far away eastwards is the home of England’s first whisky distillery, The English Whisky Company, which offers tours for lovers of the water of life. If you enjoy wilder days out, Norfolk has plenty of zoos and parks. Start with Thrigby Hall, a little wildlife park tucked away in the East Norfolk countryside. It’s situated in the grounds of a gorgeous hall and features all kinds of exotic animals. You can easily spend a day marvelling over the monkeys swinging around their enclosures, the leopards padding up and down, and crocodiles scything through the water in the reptile enclosure. There are plenty of places to eat on site, too, and the whole park is a fantastic place for children eager to learn a bit more about the conservation of our planet’s animals.
Thetford might have been the filming location for Dad’s Army but the real history comes from a day spent visiting sites such as the Castle Mound and the priory ruins
Zoos, nature reserves and funfairs
Banham Zoo, near Attleborough, is another great place to visit if you want to see some animals and learn about conservation. If you want to get up close and personal with the likes of giraffes, lemurs, monkeys and more, go for the Keeper for a Day experience, which gives you behind-the-scenes access to the zoo. For a varied yet still animal-packed trip, visit Wroxham Barns. A day here should start with a poke around the gorgeous shops. You can find clothes, jewellery and accessories; beautiful art in The Norfolk Gallery; fudge from Courtyard Confectionery; and gifts and items for the home from Coastal Stained Glass. Don’t leave before heading into the Junior Farm, preferably with a bag of feed so you can make friends with all the goats, sheep, cows, horses and donkeys. Make sure you’re around at lunchtime to watch the animals being fed, too. This is a lot of fun during spring when there are piglets and lambs at the farm – you can even try feeding them yourself!
Bird lovers should head to Sculthorpe Moor Nature Reserve, managed by the Hawk and Owl Trust, and look out for tawny and barn owls, buzzards, kingfishers and woodpeckers, amongst others. If you fancy a bit of a thrill, head on over to Highball Climbing Centre north of Norwich for a climbing session. Here you’ll be able to try your hand at scaling the wall, ropes and all. Or, for the more physical of you, try some free climbing.
If your idea of fun is a little less active, visit The Pleasure Beach in Great Yarmouth. This traditional British seaside funfair makes for a brilliant day out for all the family. Make sure to pick up some wristbands for you and your family as these will give you unlimited access to the rides all day – although some attractions, such as the simulator, do carry an extra charge. The wristbands make it much more cost effective than paying for each ride separately. Don’t leave without at least one ride on the wooden roller coaster, one of Britain’s oldest; built in 1932. If you fancy the log flume, make it your last ride as it’s not as tame as it looks. You will get wet!
For families with small children, there’s a slightly tamer funfair called Joyland a little way down the seafront – you can’t miss its giant toy mountain. There’s also an American diner here, making it a great place to stop for a bite to eat before you ride the world-famous snails. To learn about Norfolk’s most famous son, Horatio Nelson, visit the Nelson Museum in Great Yarmouth’s quayside area. The museum contains a vast collection of memorabilia and historical items.
If your idea of fun is a little less active, visit The Pleasure Beach in Great Yarmouth. This traditional British seaside funfair makes for a brilliant day out for all the family
A day with the dinosaurs or seaside excursions
Whether you love spending time in the countryside or are a fan of steam trains, work a trip down the Bure Valley Railway into your day. The beautiful 15-gauge steam train runs from Aylsham to Wroxham and covers nine miles in one direction. A jaunt down the line is about so much more than the journey, it’s a great way to see two of Norfolk’s loveliest towns and, if you’re feeling energetic, you can walk the length of the line and get the train back.
One of Norfolk’s quirkier attractions is the Dinosaur Adventure Park. This is a full day out for anyone who wants to get close to these prehistoric creatures. It’s 10 miles outside Norwich in Lenwade off the A47 so you’ll need a car to visit but you won’t be disappointed. There’s a life-size dinosaur trail, deer safari, fantastic play areas, the Jurassic Skywire, and plenty to learn about these giants of the past.
If you want a day out by the seaside then you really do have a huge amount of choice – you can lounge on the beach during the summer in Mundesley or go for a long dog walk along Wells-next-the-Sea’s swathes of pale sand. The best way to make the most of the coast is with a drive down the North Norfolk coast road where you can see Norfolk’s varied coastline; from Cromer’s cliffs all the way to Stiffkey marshes and Snettisham’s mudflats.
All the villages and towns dotted along the coast offer something special, be it Hunstanton’s glittering, traditional seaside feel; Cromer’s No 1 Fish and Chips run by Michelin-starred chef Galton Blackiston; Cley’s Marshes – Norfolk Wildlife Trust’s oldest nature reserve; Blakeney’s seals; or simply the enjoyment of the drive along the coast itself. Families will love BeWILDerwood near Wroxham. Children can experience the story behind this treehouse adventure park, while playing among the treetops. Adults will relish the chance to climb trees, play in the treehouses and swing down the ziplines – not that you need an excuse!
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