I am very aware that if you are reading this and are not native to the UK, you are probably thinking about Norfolk, Virginia and that could cause confusion. For all intents and purposes, let it be known that I am referring to Norfolk, the East Anglian County in England.
Norfolk is a hugely popular tourist spot for those of us already living in the UK but it is relatively undiscovered on a global scale. Naturally London is England’s main pulling point, but there is far more to this country than black cabs and open top buses.
Before I dive into all the great things about Norfolk, let me first make a confession. Having grown up here, it would be fair to say that I haven’t always appreciated my surroundings. In my experience I don’t think that this is unusual, I know many people who have taken their hometown for granted and only found a fondness for it later in life. Whilst I can’t honestly say I would want to settle in Norfolk (or anywhere else right now for that matter), travelling has taught me how to value my home. Here are just a few reasons to visit Norfolk, coming from a straight up local girl.
If you’re traveling to Norfolk, chances are the first place you will arrive in is the county’s capital, Norwich. This is the UK’s best preserved Medieval City and boasts not one but two cathedrals, as well as a castle! Put simply, Norwich is a fine city. The cobbled streets and quirky architecture give the city character whilst contemporary structures like the Forum and Chapelfield shopping complex, cement Norwich as an up and coming metropolis. Spend a day here learning about the city’s historic past followed by a spot of tea in the fabulous Biddy’s Tearoom.
Known as ‘Britain’s Magical Waterland,’ the Norfolk Broads consist of a large series of navigable rivers and lakes. Set in the heart of the Norfolk countryside, the Broads weave in and out of some stunning marshes and picturesque villages. In the summer it is well worth hiring a boat and touring a selection of the traditional waterside pubs. Much of the beer in Norfolk is produced in micro breweries from local malt so you are in for a treat if you enjoy a good tipple! Owing to the scenic backdrop of the Broads, it also doubles up as a great place for hiking and cycling.
The county’s beaches are often overshadowed by surfing hotspots in the South, although North Norfolk is home to more blue flag beaches than any other district in the country. This international accolade recognises the water quality and cleanliness of the beach amongst other factors, making the shorelines in East Anglia some of the best in the country. Whether you are looking for family days beside the seaside or leisurely strolls along the cliffs, Norfolk’s coast offers something for everyone.
When it comes to historic buildings, Norfolk has more than its fair share of grandiose estates. Perhaps the most famous of these is Sandringham House; the countryside retreat of the Royal family. The House itself is set in 24 hectares of stunning gardens which includes a museum complete with a collection of Royal vehicles. Adults can snag a ticket for the house, museum and gardens for just £15.50 and there is also an annual flower show which attracts as many as 15,000 people.
Norfolk is a fantastic place to come if you want to experience some of the UK’s wildlife, with a large number of birdwatching sites as well as the Norfolk Wildlife Trust. There are many places across the county where if you are lucky enough, you can spot deer, foxes and badgers in the wild. Titchwell Marsh, Snettisham Park Farm and Holkham Estate are all good places to check out if you hope to see some of these animals. During the winter months, seal birthing season occurs and the coast greets hundreds of new arrivals. Both Horsey and Hunstanton beaches are favourites amongst the seals and are great spots to observe these beautiful mammals in their natural environment.
Whilst Norfolk is a million miles from the hustle and bustle of London that most of us imagine when we think of England, it is an invaluable stop on any trip around the country. With its majestic wildlife and idyllic setting, the county offers a welcome retreat from the hum of industrial England and showcases the best of authentic British countryside. To find out more about Norfolk and keep up to date with current events, check out the Visit Norfolk website.
Have you ever visited Norfolk? What are your thoughts on the East Coast?