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Marriott’s Way – our guide to this excellent 26 mile Norfolk route

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We write about lots of walking routes on our website, many of which extend for well over 100 miles. While this can be great if you have the time to complete a 100-mile trip, for most of us it isn't really doable. That's why we love shorter routes like Marriott's Way - it's only 26 miles long, but there is plenty to enjoy along the way. You can walk or cycle this route, it really depends how you want to experience it. We'd recommend walking as the slower pace is better suited to admiring your surroundings. This route takes you between two disused railway lines and runs between the historic market town of Aylsham and the medieval city of Norwich. We wanted to publish an updated guide about Marriott's Way for anyone looking to complete it in 2023, let's get into it:

Where is Marriott's Way?

The route runs between the town of Aylsham and the city of Norwich. You can go along the route in either section, but we find people often prefer to start in Aylsham and finish in Norwich, where there are a few more places to enjoy a well-earned drink or meal. If you're starting in Aylsham then the start point is on Norwich Road, opposite the Bure Valley Railway station.
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What sections are there?

We should start by saying that there is definitely not a "right" way of following this route, and you might find it ends up being slightly less or more than 26 miles, but you'll pass by these locations so the route can be split into the following sections:

 

Aylsham to Cawston (5 miles)
Cawston to Reepham (4.5 miles)
Reepham to Lenwade (5.5 miles)
Lenwade to Drayton (6.5 miles)
Drayton to Norwich (4.5 miles)

What is there to see and do as you walk along Marriott's Way?

Despite not being a particularly long route, there is quite a lot to see as you move along Marriot's Way, especially if you're willing to deviate off the route a little bit. We've picked a few points along the way which we think are really worth seeing if you have the time, let's break it down section by section:

Aylsham to Cawston

As we mentioned above, we think the route is best started in Aylsham. From here, one of the first points of interest that you'll pass by is the Bure Valley Railway station near where you start. Here, the Steam Driver Experience really is the highlight - you can learn how to drive an authentic steam train engine, which is quite an amazing experience. But if you don't want to hang around in Aylsham for too long and you're keen to get going on the route, you'll enjoy an interrupted walk straight to Cawston. Expect to spot some wildlife, including woodpeckers, and possibly kestrels along this stretch too.
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Cawston to Reepham

This shorter section of the route is another chance to just enjoy the surrounding scenery until you reach Reepham where there are a number of places to stop for a bite to eat and a drink. The Station Cafe serves up great homemade cakes and also does a great breakfast. The Crown Public House is a charming pub where, after 10 miles into Marriot's Way, you can enjoy a well-earned pint.
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Reepham to Lenwade

As you pass Reepham and head towards Lenwade, you'll start to pass through some of the prettiest parts of this entire route - the Wensum river valley and the Whitwell Common. If there is one section of Marriot's Way where you'll want to set aside time for diversions, this is it - from Reepham, you head towards Themelthorpe, where you're technically on part of the Themelthorpe Loop. Here you'll find the Norfolk Birding birdwatching area. This is an excellent place to stop for a guided birdwatching tour, and the chance to spot some really interesting species. As you head from Themelthorpe to Lenwade, you're walking through one of the prettiest parts of Norfolk and the surroundings are stunning. You may wish to stop at the Whitwell & Reepham Railway Station, not just to see the interesting machines but also to stop at the excellent cafe. From here, the last stop of note before Lenwade is Whitwell Common, a nature preserve which is a Site of Special Scientific Interest and where you might have the chance to spot really rare animals such as otters or kingfishers.
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Lenwade to Drayton

As you leave Lenwade, you'll walk alongside the River Wensum, again another chance to spot some interesting wildlife but you'll also probably see some people fishing and maybe even kayaking. If you've got time before you reach Drayton then a slight detour to The Mystical Woods is definitely worth the effort - it's not very well signposted so don't wander too deep into the woods or you might have a hard time getting out, but the horses and deer that you'll likely spot make it well worth a wander.
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Drayton to Norwich

As you enter the last section of Marriot's Way, you might already be looking forward to reaching Norwich for some well-earned R&R. But there are a few locations in this section which you might wish to stop at for a look - Costessey Woods is about a mile along the section, which is a small but really lovely woodland area, especially during the Autumn months. Marlpit Woods, a little further along the route is very small too but also lovely to explore. If you go even further along the route to Eaton Park then you can can enjoy a game of Crazy Golf at the excellent Eaton Park Crazy Golf, a great way to finish your journey along Marriott's Way.
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What should you be aware of before heading along Marriot's Way?

As with all of the routes we write about, probably the most important thing to be aware of before heading on the Marriot's Way route is that you need to plan your accommodation if you don't plan to complete the route in a day, and always have a backup plan! Always let plenty of people know where you're going, and ideally tackle the route as part of a group. If you can, complete the route in spring or summer when the weather is less harsh. If you're walking then you'll need to be extra careful with how you prepare, as you probably won't be completing the route in a day. Even though Marriott's Way isn't too long, you should still make sure that you're in good shape before trying to complete it. We've written guides about supplements which cyclists may find useful to consume in the months prior to a big cycle, such as greens powder.
Hopefully, this guide has inspired you to tackle this great route. As we mentioned, we've also got guides about other routes like the Hadrian's Cycleway, the Borders Abbey Way, and the Exe Estuary Trail.

Finn is the editor of You Well and has been writing about travel, health, and more for over 10 years.

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