Norfolk is an amazing part of England - perhaps not the first place you think of heading for a weekend away, but it is so full of hidden gems that we wish more people would make the trip to this area. We've already written about towns like King's Lynn, Holt, and Cromer, but there are so many little gems in Norfolk that we wanted to publish a separate guide about them. Let's get into it:
A very pretty little place, despite being a small town there is plenty to see and do during your time in Thetford. We've highlighted a few of our favourites below:
These ruins might look like something from Macchu Picchu, but they're actually right in the middle of Thetford. These are the remains of a monastery built in the early 12th century, and it was once considered to be one of the most important monasteries in East Anglia. Visiting these ruins is very relaxing and interesting, and wandering around the area always feels very peaceful. The notice boards around the area give you an overview of the history of the monastery, but to be honest, we think using your imagination to fill in the gaps is the best way to enjoy this site. The ruins are very well maintained by English Heritage, and it's free to enjoy. Learn more here - english-heritage.org.uk
Castle Hill & Park
You might be a little confused if a local recommends you visit Thetford Castle and all you find is this grassy area, but this is what the locals refer to this place as. This hill is the second largest man-made mound in Europe and was once the site of Thetford Castle, which was destroyed in the late 12th century by Henry II. There are 88 steps up the hill, and the view from the top is worth the effort. The rest of the park is great for a walk around too, and a number of information boards scattered around the place help to give you an idea of what the castle looked like.
Ancient House Museum
This interesting-looking building on Whitehart St is actually home to a small, fascinating museum. The building itself is very enjoyable to explore and has some really interesting Tudor features, but the exhibitions - which range from a section about Vikings to an area about the exiled Maharaja Duleep Singh - are the real gems (including the amazing Viking jewellery found). The staff here are really friendly and always happy to explain anything further. It costs about £5 per ticket and we think it is well worth the price of admission, learn more here - museums.norfolk.gov.uk
Charles Burrell Museum
Another excellent museum to visit in Thetford is the Charles Burrell Museum, which is also small but also very interesting. The museum is packed with steam-powered vehicles and lots of information about steam engines. This is also where you'll find Jones's van from Dad's Army. The building itself was once where Charles Burrell & Sons built steam engines, and is a listed building which is interesting to explore. We were impressed by this small museum, which is also run by very enthusiastic volunteers. Learn more here - charlesburrellmuseum.org.uk
Dad's Army Museum & Trails
Dad's Army is a classic British tv show, and much of the sitcom was filmed in Thetford, so there are quite a few things related to the show throughout the town. The Dad's Army Walking Trail is a great way to take in all of the filming locations from the show. The trail starts and ends at the Charles Burrell Museum. As for the Dad's Army Museum, its packed with interesting props and items from the tv show. We have to admit, we're not huge fans of the tv show, but even we found the museum interesting. Learn more here - dadsarmythetford.org.uk
Weybourne is a small village in the Norfolk Coast Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty which is very pretty and has a surprising number of things to see and do. Here are some of the highlights:
North Norfolk Railway
The North Norfolk Railway stops at Weybourne on the line between Holt and Sheringham, so if you're in Weybourne you can easily hop onto this train at Weybourne Station. The station itself is actually really interesting to visit - it has been restored to its original condition as an early 20th century station, and everything feels very authentic. There is also a very interesting replica World War Two allotment here which includes an Anderson shelter.
The station is actually located about a mile from the centre of Weybourne which is worth keeping in mind if you're planning to catch a train from here.
Muckleburgh Military Collection
If you're interested in military history then a trip to the Muckleburgh Military Collection is an absolute must - here you'll find quite an incredible selection of tanks and other military machinery from throughout the years. Amazingly, most of the tanks are in running condition, and you can actually book to drive a tank if you wish.
As well as the tanks, you'll also find an extensive collection of weapons and missiles (thankfully not in working condition), as well as radar equipment and more. There is also a cafe here which is actually really good.
Just to the North of Weybourne, you'll find Weybourne Beach, which is considered to be one of the best beaches in Norfolk for fishing. It's a shingle beach and although you might not think it would be good for sunbathing, it actually is (the rounded pebbles are surprisingly comfortable). It's interesting because the beach is steeply shelved - this means there is a big dropoff quite close to the shore, which almost always leads to big crashing waves here. It's definitely not what we'd describe as a typical beach, but that is what makes it so special.
All Saints, Church
The All Saints church in Weybourne is very simple but a peaceful and pretty building to visit - the oldest parts of the church date back to the 15th century, but most of the exterior of the church was restored in the 19th century, and there was a major refurbishment of the interior in the early 20th Century.
The standout feature of the church is the ruins of the Augustinian priory outside the East end of the church, which was built in the 12th century. It's quite amazing to explore these ruins and makes a visit to the church well worth the effort.
We'll start by clarifying that although Weybourne Windmill was once open to the public, it is now privately owned, so you can't actually enter the windmill to explore it. But it's still very impressive to look at from a distance - built in the 19th century, the windmill was used to power millstones. It's made from red brick and the distinctive reddish look is very attractive.
Norfolk and Suffolk Coast
The coastline which stretches from Norfolk down to Suffolk is one of the prettiest parts of the UK, and features some of the best seaside towns and villages that you'll find anywhere in the UK. We've written about a number of them across your website, here is a collection of guides that we've published about this area:
Mundesley - a seaside village with bags of charm
Cley Next the Sea - another seaside village which is well known as a hotspot for seals
Cromer - perhaps the most popular seaside town in all of Norfolk
Hunstanton - a lovely seaside town which is one of the sunniest towns in the UK
Cley next the Sea
Cley next the Sea might be a village, but there are a few things to do here which are well worth your time. Let's get into it:
We included a section about Cley Marshes in our guide about Holt, but it's even closer to Cley next the Sea. This is a haven for birdwatching enthusiasts and is an excellent place to head to for the chance to see rare birds. Over the years, very rare species like white-crowned sparrows and red-necked stints have been spotted at this reserve. This place attracts more than 100,000 keen birdwatchers per year and there are only 6 hides, so it might be a little busy when you visit. But a ticket is only £5.50 and if you spot a rare bird, a visit is well worth it.
Saint Margaret's Church
There are some beautiful religious buildings in this part of England, and we definitely think that Saint Margaret's Church is one of our favourites. Firstly, the setting of the church is really picturesque and we love the surrounding headstones which have a charming almost chaotic layout. The interior of the church is full of interesting artwork and carvings, including many intricately designed details on the walls and ceilings which are wonderful to admire. We highly recommend a trip to this Church during your time in the village.
This amazing grade II listed building was built in the early 1800s, and is very impressive to see in person. Now used as a B&B and for hosting events such as weddings (yes, you could get married here), you won't be able to actually enter the windmill unless you've booked it for a stay or for an event. But even if you haven't planned a stay here, even seeing it from a distance is still quite amazing. This windmill has become quite an iconic structure and in many of the local shops, you'll find greeting cards and tea towels with pictures of the windmill on them. Learn more here - cleywindmill.co.uk
Visit the galleries
Cley might be small, but it is home to 2 excellent galleries which are well worth a visit. Even if you're not a huge art buff, you'll find something to appreciate at these galleries as much of the artwork is inspired by the local surroundings. Firstly, the Pinkfoot Gallery is home to an excelent mix of paintings and scultpures, and is also home to the very impressive Pinkfoot Bronzes, created by Robin Bouttell. Made in Cley is the other gallery which is home to some beautiful pottery and other interesting items like lamps and jewellery. Learn more here:
Blakeney Point seal trips
We won't publish a guide to Blakeney on our website as there is already quite a bit online about the village, but many visitors to Cley don't realise how close Blakeney is - just a few minutes by car. There are lots of things you can do while you're in Blakeney, but the real highlight is definitely taking a boat out to Blakeney Point to see the seals. Blakeney Point is a nature reserve which is managed by the National Trust and which is really special to visit. It's home to the largest grey seal colony in England, and it's really amazing to see them. There are a few different tour operators you can use for taking a boat out to Blakeney Point, we won't recommend a specific service as the prices change fairly often. Learn more about Blakeney Point here - nationaltrust.org.uk
The Wherryman's Way
The Marriott's Way is one of the most popular walking routes in Norfolk, and the guide we published about it recently has been very popular. But there are lots of other walking routes in Norfolk which we feel deserve a bit more attention, and The Wherryman's Way is a prime example of that. We wanted to highlight this route for anyone looking to tackle it in 2023, let's get into the guide:
Where is the Wherryman's Way?
The Wherryman's Way is a route which is around 35 miles in length and which follows the course of the River Yare between Norwich and Great Yarmouth. On the way, the route takes you through some really incredible areas within this part of England, including the Broads, Britain’s largest protected wetland. It also takes you through and past a number of different villages and towns, including:
Rockland St Mary
Why is it called the Wherryman's Way?
The route takes its name from the wherry – a large cargo-carrying barge which was once a very common sight in the waters of the Broads. You actually pass 3 different Wherry graveyards as you move along the Wherryman's Way, where you can spot parts of a wherry poking out of the water.
What can you see and do as go along the Wherryman's Way?
Despite being just 35 miles in length, there are a number of things to see and do as you walk along the Wherryman's Way. This is not extensive, but here are some of the highlights:
Whitlingham is a tiny place, but was once known for its "brickfields". These were areas which, according to many locals, supplied the finest brick and tile earths in all of Norfolk. You can still find former chalk pits and very well-preserved limekilns in the woods at Whitlingham.
Surlingham was an important location for wherrymen as when the River Yare would freeze over, they would collect ice and store it in a large ice house here, so it could be used at fish markets in Great Yarmouth. The ice house is no longer in Surlingham, but you can still find a number of interesting things to see here. Surlingham Church Marsh is an excellent area for birdwatching, and you can enjoy amazing views of the Yare Valley from St Saviour's Church.
Rockland St Mary
Rockland St Mary is where you can spot one of the first and most dramatic of the Wherry graveyards along the Wherryman's Way, known as The Slaughters. At low tide on Rockland Broad, the remains of around 12 wherries are revealed. This area is also very good for birdwatching, and it's not uncommon to hear and see Cetti’s warblers, hen harriers, and several species of owl.
Wherries would often be spotted in this area as it was a good place to catch Smelts, a type of fish. Nowadays, this area is an excellent place to head to if you're looking to spot wildfowl and other wading birds. You can also visit Burgh Castle, a 3rd century Roman fort.
Loddon and Chedgrave
It is this part of the Wherryman's Way that you might like to pause for a break - you'll find plenty of amenities here, including restaurants, pubs, and shops. You'll also find a former wherry staithe and 2 very nice churches.
Reedham was once the location of the best boat building yard in Norfolk, and lots of the locals worked as Wherrymen. Times have changed, of course, but you'll still find a bustling quayside here. Reedham Swing Bridge is also well worth a look, and it is in Reedham that you have the best chance of spotting a rare Bearded Reedling.
What should you know before you head along the Wherryman's Way?
As you can probably tell from our guide, there is definitely a defined route to follow, but it is by no means rigid. Veering safely from the route is encouraged, particularly as it allows time to explore the locations we've mentioned above. You can walk this route, but expect that to take a couple of days at least. Many people like to complete it via bike and foot depending on the terrain. As with all of the routes we recommend, please come prepared for bad weather.