Holidays and trips to the Norfolk Broads
Planning a trip to the Broads this summer? Pete Waters of Visit Norfolk tells us how to make the most of ‘Britain’s Magical Waterland’.
Norfolk is possibly most famous for the man-made Broads, over 125 miles of navigable lock-free waterways set in beautiful countryside and with many charming and picturesque towns and villages. The big skies and sparkling landscape of marshland fields, feathery reeds and tangled woodlands are a perfect canvas for adventure and relaxation – time to reflect, space to explore and a magical opportunity to enjoy a fabulous break.
Now a National Park, the only one with a city, Norwich, in it, the Broads offers visitors an experience unlike any other, both on its rivers and lakes, and alongside them, on peaceful paths and cycle ways.
Walking, cycling and by water are all great ways to get around the Broads, and it won’t be long before you’re on your own feeling that you have the entire area to yourselves! If you stay in your car, you’ll only see a fraction of what the Broads has to offer.
The UK’s largest nationally protected wetland, the Broads are a fragile wetland of international importance, with rare wildlife such as the huge swallowtail butterfly, the booming bittern, frolicking otters and beautiful white water lilies. The birdlife here is amongst the best in the country.
Things to do on the Norfolk Broads
Visit in May and you can take part in the Broads Outdoors Festival, there’s a range of activities, walks and sightseeing.
Considered by many to be the capital of The Broads, Wroxham is a lively town and very popular with visitors. During the summer months it is bustling with activity with many heading for Roys – ‘the largest village store in the world’.
Wroxham is the perfect place for boat hire, whether just for an hour or the whole day. From the river, you can see so much more and a leisurely cruise downstream will reveal picture postcard thatched cottages and lodges lining the banks.
Nearby, if you’re feeling energetic is BeWilderwood, a huge award-winning forest of family fun and outdoor adventure, with treehouses, zip wires, jungle bridges, boat trips…and Crocklebogs, Twiggles and Boggles! Broadland Bike Hire is at BeWilderwood too.
Wroxham is also a terminus for the Bure Valley Railway, an 18-mile round trip on a steam locomotive to Aylsham, passing through beautiful Norfolk countryside, with stop-offs at Brampton, Buxton and Coltishall.
Places to visit on the Norfolk Broads
The delightful village of Woodbastwick is well worth a visit, even if just for a short period to soak up the peace and tranquillity away from the busier towns. Having twice won the ‘Best Kept Village Award’, it is a beautiful place with a stunning medieval flint church finished with Norfolk thatching. The Woodforde’s brewery tap The Fur & Feather is a great place for lunch or supper – try the huge Yorkies! If it’s a nice day, sit outside by the duck pond.
The town of Potter Heigham is another favourite with visitors and is an excellent place for boat hire. A treat is to watch sailors attempt to travel under a tiny medieval bridge, renowned for being the most difficult to navigate in the area.
The village of Ranworth is an excellent place to visit, where those feeling energetic can climb the winding, spiral stone staircase of the magnificent St Helen’s Church, known as the ‘Cathedral of the Broads’. Once at the top your efforts will be rewarded with spectacular views over this special landscape. The church has one of the finest examples of a medieval rood screen in the country and an exquisite 15th century illuminated songbook.
There are many beautiful towns and villages to be discovered throughout the Norfolk Broads including Stalham, a small market town where you can visit the Museum of the Broads and marvel at Hunsett Mill.
The picturesque village of Horning is situated on the bank of the River Bure. Stop off at Coltishall to sample some local ales and food at a riverside pub, and explore the village with its old buildings and church.
Acle has some very charming 17th and 18th century buildings and a church which is more than 900 years old while Reedham has a beautiful riverside and many pubs where you can enjoy some excellent home-cooked food. The only remaining car and passenger ferry in the Broads operates in Reedham, taking people across the River Yare.
Aylsham is a traditional market town in the north of the Broads. A twice-weekly market is still held here and there is a weekly auction of fine art, books and antique furniture where you can seek out treasures and bargains.
Just outside Aylsham is the National Trust run Blickling Hall & Gardens, one of the country’s finest Jacobean houses, with an evocative ‘Downton Abbey’ period interior. The Bucks Arms, a pub in the grounds, is great for lunch (and it has rooms too). If you’re lucky (depending on your view) you might also see the headless ghost of Anne Boleyn – Blickling was the Boleyn’s family home.
Walking around Reepham is like stepping back in time. With its pretty market place, bordered by 18th century houses, this charming town has been the setting for a number of period TV productions, including Poirot. There’s good all-day dining at The Dial House, and it has rooms too.