Package holidays have their place, but there’s no comparison between a bland one-size-fits-all itinerary put together by a stranger and a self-catering holiday in Norfolk personally hand selected by you to suit you! Create exactly the Norfolk experience you want, following your nose into some of the country’s best farmers’ markets and restaurants, marvelling at sights that have remained unchanged for centuries and soaking up the unique atmosphere.
One of Norfolk’s biggest attractions is its relatively low population. Much of it is farmland, countryside, or coastline. Settlements are focused around the capital city of Norwich and the three major towns of Thetford, Kings Lynn and Great Yarmouth. It’s neatly sandwiched between Cambridgeshire, Suffolk and the North Sea. As well as its beautiful Blue Flag beaches, The Broads – over 100 miles of navigable lakes, rivers and broads, make sailing and water sports a popular past time with locals and visitors alike.
Why fight the crowds in Cornwall, or battle for parking in Brighton, when Norfolk has 90 miles of clean, unspoiled beaches? The best known resort is Great Yarmouth. It’s a traditional British seaside resort with sandy shores, dunes and the Golden Mile – a rainy day delight of arcades, rides, entertainment and attractions. Families especially love Great Yarmouth because the beach is clean and safe and patrolled by RNLI lifeguards during the summer months. Don’t miss a trip to Scroby Sands to see the seals. It’s the type of place your kids will return to with their kids in decades to come.
Great Yarmouth has an illustrious history as an important naval and fishing port. This can be seen in the medieval town wall and beautiful buildings which remain around South Quay. There are several museums where you can learn more about the town’s history. The Lydia Eva was once one of many steam powered herring drifters seen in this area but is now the last of its kind in Britain. It has been preserved as a floating maritime museum moored on South Pier and is open during spring and summer. Across the way is the Elizabethan House Museum with a beautiful secret garden, or you could go on a Guided Heritage Walk.
The Norfolk Broads
Slightly inland from Great Yarmouth, between the sea and Norwich, are the Norfolk Broads. Managed by the National Parks Authority, this vast series of rivers and lakes make up England’s largest protected expanse of wetland. Providing a haven for countless species of birds, The Broads attract those who love to watch them in their natural habitats around Strumpshaw Fen, Berney Marshes, and Buckenham Marshes. Fishing is another pleasant activity for locals and holidaymakers. The larger areas of the Broads, including Barton Broads, Hickling Broads, and Heigham Sound are only accessible by boat, and vessels of all sizes are readily available for hire. Walking, cycling, kayaking, sailing, and shopping are all popular pastimes, though we would understand completely if all you wanted to do was stroll through a picturesque Broadland village and find your favourite café or pub.
Norwich’s location made it one of England’s most important cities for seven hundred years. Produce flowed through the city on its way to other parts of Britain and the world, bringing enormous wealth and status which is visible as you walk around its streets and parklands today. The River Wensum flows through the city and has been designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and a Special Area of Conservation (SAC). Five original medieval bridges still exist, including Bishops Bridge which was built in 1345. A five mile walking route, which can be broken into smaller sections, takes in some of the city’s finest bridges and buildings.
While many of its historical buildings are still intact, Norwich is a busy, modern city with a fantastic choice of shops that cater for every taste, whether you prefer huge department stores, or quirky independent boutiques. The Norwich Lanes are a shopaholic’s paradise with plenty of excellent cafes, pubs and restaurants to rest your feet and fill your stomach in between shops. Norwich Market is open Monday to Saturday and is the largest open-air market in Britain. It’s a favourite place to browse and pick up all those essentials you never knew you needed, as well as delicious fresh local produce for cooking back at the cottage.
While in Norwich you should also see the magnificent castle, take a tour of St George’s Distillery, and catch some live music. The city hosts an impressive calendar of festivals as diverse as they are exciting. Plan your visit to see the Norfolk and Norwich International Arts Festival in May, the nation’s second oldest Lord Mayor’s procession in July, or the Norwich Beer Festival in October.
As England’s first designated UNESCO City of Literature, Norwich is justifiably proud of its literary heritage, as well as its support of current and emerging writers. Bibliophiles should certainly take time to visit the Norfolk and Norwich Millennium Library. The University of East Anglia holds an annual literary festival and the city has a number of excellent independent bookshops selling new and specialist antiquarian books.
West Norfolk & Kings Lynn
In medieval times Kings Lynn was a buzzing port which saw much of England’s imports and exports flow through its docks. There are numerous beautiful merchant’s houses which stand as testament to the wealth many past residents enjoyed, which can be seen as you walk the Pilgrimage Trail. The Green Quay on the River Ouse was once an important Tudor warehouse but now hosts exhibitions and is home to a small museum covering the history of the local area.
The Fens wetlands are a must-see for bird watchers and nature lovers. They are easily accessed from Downham Market, which is a beautiful Anglo-Saxon town. The Welney Wetland Centre is incredible, especially in winter when flocks of geese and pochard make it their home. The Wash is another popular place for bird watchers and also offers endless sailing opportunities. It is a designated European Marine Site and Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), which means its character is protected for all to enjoy.
Sandringham House, where the Queen and her family spend their summer and Christmas holidays, is near Hunstanton and you can visit the estate throughout the year. Snettisham is perfect for visitors who like to stay active outdoors. As well as Snettisham Park which the kids (and adults!) will love with deer safaris and farming activities, you can visit the beach, the RSPB sanctuary and the sailing club.
North Norfolk beaches are some of the best you’ll see anywhere in the world. Cromer has a wonderful Victorian Pier and a spectacular clifftop path, while the stretch of Holkham and Wells beach is arguably one of the best in the country. There are lots of holiday cottages in north Norfolk. Hunstanton and Burnham Deepdale are convenient bases for exploring the region’s many attractions, including Scolt Head Island National Nature Reserve and Holkham National Nature Reserve.
Planning Your Trip
If you only have a few days and you want to cram as much in as possible, staying near Norwich is a good choice. It’s a lively, sophisticated city that’s ideal for a family break or a romantic weekend away. Norfolk’s coastline and Broads are the best place for a summer holiday, while Thetford with its enormous forest to the south of the county is perfect for cyclists and walkers who want to get active and off the beaten track. Wherever you choose to base yourself for your Norfolk holiday you can’t go wrong. It’s a beautiful county with stunning scenery, welcoming locals and so much to see and do.
If we have tempted you to visit this beautiful county, let us help you find your accommodation and take a look at our self-catering cottages in Norfolk.