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On my freewheeling odyssey into its heart Norfolk spoke to me

Daily Express Travel News 17th August 2013

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SQUEEZING through the grand gateway, I felt like a stranger entering upon a privileged land. From around a mile away, the standing finger of an obelisk beckoned through the watery morning light down a gentle roliercoaster of a drive.

On my first day, near Swaffham, I stopped at Oxburgh Hall, a beautiful Jacobean mansion.

Twenty minutes later I was relaxing in a pew in the 13th century interior of St George·s Ghurch in the village of Gooderstone, and 15 minutes after that I was approaching the reconstructed Iceni village at Gockley Gley. Three periods of history and all in less than an hour.

There’s modernity here, too. In the relaxed town of Swaffham, setting for the?2009 TV drama Kingdom, starring Stephen Fry, my stay was at Strattons, a delighHul 18th century villa turned into a bewitching boutique hotel by a couple whose eclectic taste mixes vintage and modern to spectacular effect.

After Swaffham I found myself wheeling through canyons of green and across the wandering River Nar stopping off to admire the art collection at Houghton Hall, once home to Prime Minister Sir Robert Walpole.

My schedule was relaxed, around 25 miles a day and I could afford to dawdle.

I found myself in the early afternoon chilling out in the walled gardens at West Acre, next to yet another Norfolk mansion, this one recenlly bought by the artist Antony Gormley.

The first hint of coast was in that nighl”s destination, Burnham Market, a handsomely Georgian lillie town whose art galleries were filled with seascapes.

Here The Hoste Arms looked like a rustic country pub but past the bar I moved into a sophisticated labyrinth of spas and fine dining where relaxed elegance was the menu of the day.

Aller Burnham came my Holkham experience, and then the boardwalk to one of Britain·s broadest beaches, where the sea was so far away across the sands it could have been a mirage.

For a day I was in a new world of creeks and saltings, dunes and shady pines, and into the fishing port of Wells, where fickle tides had left a ramshackle collection of eccentric boats stranded by the harbour wall.

Aller Wells I consulted my map at a rural crossroads, before turning inland and heading south again.

Ahead of me lay the pilgrimage shrine of Walsingham and the giant abbey at Castle Acre.

By the gateway was a basket of eggs and an honesty box. But not normal eggs, silly me, they were quail’s eggs.

Next time anyone tells me that they’ve got a house in Norfolk, I’m going to be dead impressed .

THE KNOWLEDGE

Cycle Breaks (01449 7215551 cyclebreaks.com) offers a four-day Truly Great Norfolk break from £493pp.

Price includes B&B accommodation, bike hire, route maps and luggage transfers.
Walking breaks are also available in Suffolk and Norfolk.

www.cyclebreaks.com    www.walkingbreaks.com

To request a brochure, please call 01449 721555.

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