The fourth largest county in England with a long coastline protruding into the North Sea and gentle rolling countryside. A great place to visit!
An Introduction to the County of Norfolk
The county of Norfolk is the fourth largest in England and with its long coastline protruding into the North Sea, it has tended to become isolated from the rest of the country. This was especially true in times gone by, when the fens to the west were flooded, forming a natural barrier and Norfolk people have therefore acquired a sense of independence. In medieval times Norfolk was the most populated and achieved great prosperity, leading to the building of some of the finest churches in England. Since these times the population has steadily declined and over 100 villages have been lost. Norfolk was also a great sea faring county and it developed strong links with Northern Europe, which has influenced the architecture. Fishing has declined over the years, but the crabs from Cromer remain world famous to this day!
The gently rolling countryside of Norfolk has inaccurately been described as flat, however not much rises above a few hundred feet. There is great scenic interest from woodland, forests, rolling chalklands, coastline and the watery patchwork of the Norfolk Broads. This landscape is filled with ancient churches, windmills and picturesque villages decorated with attractive signs and thatched cottages. The many activities that visitors to Norfolk can enjoy include, walking, cycling, shopping, sightseeing, boat trips, canoeing, sailing or just relaxing on a beach! Norfolk also has many local attractions and facilities including arts, crafts, gardens, museums, zoos, fine hotels, restaurants, tea-rooms, pubs and inns. It is a county definitely worth exploring!
We start our overview tour of Norfolk on the Norfolk Coast, where you can still see fishing boats operating from pretty harbour's. At one time, all the villages along the Norfolk Coast had a substantial fishing fleet, with some forced to move to nearby Lincolnshire due to overcrowding. Today, most of the ancient ports have silted up and have left miles of mudflats and marshes - the Norfolk Coast path makes a lovely walk across these on a sunny day.
Burnham Overy Staithe
Fishing Boats on the Norfolk Coast
Norfolk Coast Path
Did you know that Norfolk is one of the driest parts of the UK? Average annual rainfall in Norfolk is roughly half that of Cornwall and substantially less than the Lake District
Norfolk contains many pretty villages, such as Burnham Market, known locally as "Chelsea on sea" as it attracts visitors from upmarket London and has the sort of shops that you would normally find down the Kings Road!
Norfolk Living Shop, Burnham Market
The Hoste Arms, a famous 15th Century Coaching Inn
Norfolk is famous for its wonderful open countryside and magnificent sandy bays - all wonderful for fresh air and a walk! No wonder it attracted our ancestors to build so many stately homes in the area!
A panorama of Holkham Bay at low tide (click to open the full picture)
Blickling Hall and Lake
Holkham Hall, Norfolk
There are plenty of coastal villages, such as Blakeney, with pretty flint cottages (many for holiday rent), shops, tea-rooms, restaurants, pubs and inns. Many of these villages have some great stories to tell, including stories of smuggling and even piracy. During the middle ages, the North Norfolk ports would have been filled with the aroma of imported spices and the colour of fine silks.
Blakeney Harbour and Quay
Fisherman's Cottage in Blakeney
Norfolk is famous for two types of building. The first is the windmill and the second is a medieval church. Norfolk has the greatest concentration of these in the whole of the UK - Cley next the sea for example has both!
Medieval Church, Norfolk
Norfolk also has has plenty of examples of Dutch influenced architecture, a reminder of its close ties with our Dutch friends through its trade links - including fishing and weaving. Norfolk is closer to Amsterdam than London and in times gone by, it only took a day to sail to Amsterdam, compared with 4 days to travel to London.
Flemish Architecture, Norfolk
Dutch Style Property, Norfolk
Around Weybourne, Sheringham and Cromeryou will actually find a ridge of heathland, giving fabulous views out over the sea and marshes below - who said Norfolk was flat!
A footpath winds its way through heathland in the Brecks
The Marriott's Way a little out of Reepham
The Norfolk Broads National Park is the UK's largest and finest wetland landscape. Wroxham is known as the "Capital of the Broads" and from here you can hire a boat for the week, weekend, day, hour or take an organised cruise.
Wroxham Bridge, Norfolk Broads
Moored up outside a pizza restaurant in Wroxham
Putting the kettle on in the middle of Salhouse Broad
Broads Tours, Norfolk Broads
Pretty Broadland villages, such as Horning, Ranworth or Ludham, invite you to stop for a refreshment and watch the world float by! Many have riverside pubs and beautiful cottages with gardens that run down to the river.
The River Ant at Irstead
The Swan Inn at Horning
Alfresco Tea Rooms at Ludham
With miles of lock free, scenic waterways to explore, you will never get bored (lost, yes probably, unless you have a good map!). The Broads are a great place to explore by dinghy, canoe, kayak and also on land,walking or cycling.
Thurne Dyke meets the River Thurne
The River Ant at How Hill
Boat Moorings at Martham
The Norfolk Broads are full of pretty windmills, where traditional Norfolk Yachts float by - it's like time has stood still and it's a real escape from fast modern living.
Norwich is considered the capital of East Anglia and an outstanding city for a weekend or city break. It has one of the best Cathedrals in the whole of the UK, a Norman Castle, cobbled streets and more tudor buildings in one single area than in the whole of London! For hundreds of years it was England's second city and its ancient city walls enclosed a greater area than ANY other English city - including London!
Norwich City Centre Skyline
Norwich Cathedral, Norfolk
Norwich Castle, Norfolk
Elm Hill, Norwich
Tombland Alley, Norwich
Modern Norwich includes a state-of-the-art public library and media centre, and 2 modern shopping malls - one is even built under the Castle! You will also find plenty of restaurants and entertainment such as cinema, clubs and a bowling alley.
The Forum, Norwich
Shopping Mall, Norwich
Norfolk's second town is Kings Lynn in the west of the county. Kings Lynn competes with any town in England for history. It is relatively undiscovered containing a wealth of historic buildings and tales to go with them. Highlights include the Historic Quarter, Purfleet Quay and the fabulous Town Hall.
Looking along King Street past the Custom House
The Town Hall
Other places not to miss in Norfolk are Wymondham, with its lovely Abbey ...
and Holt a fabulous Georgian town, with absolutely loads of great shops!