A popular corner of Norfolk with plenty to see and do
An Introduction to West Norfolk
West Norfolk has been discovered by visitors more than other area of Norfolk and the road running north from Kings Lynn can actually get quite busy during the summer months - busy in Norfolk terms that is! All these visitors already know just how much West Norfolk has to offer, from sandy beaches to beautiful woodland and historic buildings. West Norfolk is also great for walkers and has paths that take you through some of the most beautiful countryside in the country. You will also find castles, tranquil villages, wildlife and plenty of country pubs to discover. With lots of wide open skies, this beautiful corner of Norfolk is great to forget your busy life and get some fresh air!
Our tour of West Norfolk starts in Kings Lynn, which competes with any town in Britain for its history. It is relatively undiscovered containing a wealth of historic buildings and tales to go with them. Highlights include the Historic Quarter, Purfleet Quay, Customs House and the fabulous Town Hall.
Looking along King Street past the Custom House
The Town Hall
Purfleet Quay and Custom House
The Corn Exchange
Just to the north of Kings Lynn is Castle Rising. The keep at Castle Rising is one of the largest medieval castle keeps in the country and is very similar to the one at Norwich Castle. To the north of the castle is a ruined church that dates to around 1100, and both this church and the keep appear to have been rendered and whitewashed during the early medieval period. The earthworks surrounding the castle keep are one of the largest in the country, although it should be noted that both the castle and the earthworks were originally half their current size. Their present appearance is the result of a major building program in the late 12th or early 13th century. The castle is in remarkably good condition despite being over 850 years old. English Heritage manage the site and allow visitor access. There is a gravel path at the top of the built-up area, which enables the visitor to walk right around the castle, getting not only a good view of the castle itself, but also of the surrounding countryside.
The Entrance to Castle Rising
The magnificent Sandringham Estate is the country retreat of Her Majesty The Queen, and has been the private home of 4 generations of British monarchs since 1862. The house, set in 60 acres of stunning gardens, is perhaps the most famous stately home in the East of England and is at the heart of the much larger Sandringham Estate, including woodland, heath and Country Park, open to the public free of charge every day of the year. Thousands of visitors each year come to see the House, Museum and Gardens or just to enjoy the Country Park; so enjoying Sandringham is not just for the Royal Family!
The view of Sandringham House over the lake from the gardens
Standing in the heart of West Norfolk's undulating fields, Bircham Windmill now looks as it did over 100 years ago. At that time over 300 mills ground corn for horse and cattle feed and bread-making in Norfolk. Today, very few windmills are left, and Bircham Mill is considered one of the best still remaining: it is the only windmill in working order in the area open to the public. Visitors can climb the five floors up to the fan stage and, when possible, on windy days, visitors can also see the sails and the milling machinery turning. There are also many items of interest to see in the tearooms, bakery and grounds.
The view over the fields towards Bircham Windmill
Moving towards the West Norfolk Coast, we find the resort of Heacham, where you will find a wonderful beach with far reaching views over the Wash. The village today is full of holiday caravan parks, but has a fascinating link to Pocahontas, the early 17th century native American princess, known for assisting colonial settlers in present-day Virginia. Pocahontas met and married John Rolfe, from Heacham, who was in America cultivating a new form of tobacco plant. The couple returned to England, where unfortunately Pocahontas became ill and died in Gravesend, Kent. John Rolfe returned to Heacham and is buried in Heacham church. Pocahontas is depicted on Heacham village sign.
The view over the Wash, from the beach at Heacham
A caravan park in Heacham, backing on to picturesque dykes
Heacham Village sign, showing Pocahontas
Next we come to the seaside resort of Hunstanton - or Sunny Hunny as it is often known! This seaside resort has the unusual distinction of being an east coast resort that faces west and as a result gets more than its fair share of sun and enjoys some lovely sunsets. You can enjoy all the traditional seaside attractions, such as donkey rides on the beach, or if you’re feeling more adventurous a ride on a sea buggy, which trawls up and down the coast. There is also a swimming pool, an indoor leisure centre, a theatre and Sealife Centre.
Hunstanton Chapel ruins and Lighthouse
Hunstanton Funfair, West Norfolk Coast
The Wash Monster
Sea Life Sanctuary, West Norfolk Coast
Where the West Norfolk Coast meets the North Norfolk Coast, you wil find Holme next the Sea. Here you will find a magnificent sandy beach, which is an ideal place for a family day out. There is plenty of golden sand which is a great place in summer to throw down your towel and get sunbathing or building sand castles. On cooler days, you may like to take advantage of the footpaths that exist in the area area and go for a walk. Holme next the Sea is starting point of 2 long distance footpaths - the North Norfolk Coast path to Cromer (44 miles) and the Peddars Way to Knettishall Heath (46 miles). Adjacent to the beach is the northern edge of the Hunstanton golf course and a convenient car-park, with a stall selling refreshments in season.
Enjoying a family day out to the beach at Holme next the Sea
We complete our tour of West Norfolk just around the top corner at Brancaster Staithe, which is a lovely spot for a walk. You will find plenty of fishing boats and equipment; you can buy their catch from a fresh fish stall. The harbour is also home to Brancaster Sailing Club, with many sailing dinghies stored in and around the harbour.