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Norfolk Tours - From The Wash to The Broads

They say King John lost his jewels in the marshlands of The Wash, but pedal out from historic King’s Lynn to the fine city of Norwich on this superbly scenic cycle tour and you’ll discover that Norfolk’s coast and countryside is just one enormous treasure trove. So what will catch your eye? The glinting creeks where Lord Nelson learnt to sail or the sparkling waters of the Norfolk Broads?

Medieval church rood screen golds or emerald village greens? Silvery flint facades, Georgian architectural gems or Palladian stately home piles? Take your time and your binoculars as you wind down quiet rural lanes, small roads and some traffic-free paths like one of Dr Beeching’s Norfolk legacies, the Marriott’s Way. With Hunstanton’s rare red cliffs, Holkham’s vast golden sands, bird-rich nature reserves and precious preserved steam railways as well as Royal Sandringham, it’s hard to choose one crowning glory. Perhaps above all, it has to be Norfolk’s big skies? A real breath of fresh air – quite priceless.

Tour details

Tour Name
From The Wash to The Broads
Tour Reference
N8KN
Tour Duration
8 days and 7 nights
Start Day
Any Day
Tour Grade
2-3
Board Basis
Bed & Breakfast
Price
From £975 to £1053 per person
Accommodation

is located near King’s Lynn, in Old Hunstanton, the Houghton Park area, in Holt, in the Aylsham area and in Norwich. Selected properties include three 4 star hotels, one with spa facilities, one 3 star hotels and two unrated but very comfortable inns. We are pleased to discuss details on request.

Tour at a Glance

Cycle from Norfolk’s west coast near Royal Sandringham to the fine city of Norwich via Lord Nelson’s homelands, the natural and historic treasures of the North Norfolk coast and the beautiful Norfolk Broads. Highlights also include Burnham Market, Wells-next-the-Sea, the Norfolk great houses of Holkham and Blickling, the North Norfolk ‘Poppy Line’ heritage railway and Georgian Holt near Sheringham where a full day for a circular discovery-ride of your choice adds the flexibility to tailor the tour to your own interests.  

Availability
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Itinerary

Day One - Arrive & relax
Arrive at your hotel, just outside King’s Lynn near area of sea known as The Wash. King’s Lynn is a fascinating, historic harbour-town which had to change its name from Bishop’s Lynn at the time of Henry VIII’s Reformation. The tower of its Greyfriars monastery – a beacon for sailors – managed to survive the great Dissolution. A powerful port in medieval times, Lynn is home to England’s only Hanseatic warehouse, boasts both a Tuesday and Saturday market place, a smart 17th century Toll house by the now fashionable waterfront quarter, and two fine churches including cathedral-like St Margaret’s with its impressive tide clock. George Vancouver who sailed with Captain Cook hailed from here and you’ll find England’s ‘sea henge’ in the Lynn Museum.

Of course if it’s too hard to choose, you can always just relax in the hotel’s gardens or sample the spa, lay back and imagine!   Your bikes will be provided after breakfast the following morning.
Overnight near King’s Lynn.

Day Two – Explore England’s right royal East Coast that faces west

The Wash – Norfolk’s large tidal inlet – looks rather like a big bay which scoops round from Norfolk to Lincolnshire. Known for its marshland and mudflats, it was the place where King John of Magna Carta fame reputedly lost his treasure during his famous flight north. Today the inlet provides a sheltered haven for wildfowl and a sunny, sheltered coastline popular for holidays with families – even royal ones. 

The Queen’s house at Sandringham will certainly be a highlight of today’s cycle ride up to ‘Sunny Hunny’ (Hunstanton), but if you fancy a few extra miles, our longer route option also includes 18th century Houghton Hall and its 450 acre parkland, built by England’s first Prime Minister, Robert Walpole. First up, Castle Rising has royal connections of a spooky kind – the ruined 12th century castle is said to be haunted by mad Queen Isabella who was imprisoned in the mighty keep in 1330. Swing off through the woodlands to visit Sandringham House and Park and the royal acres stretch for miles beyond. Even when your two wheels cross the old Roman Road /  Peddars Way and reach Great Bircham’s iconic windmill, the village church is still on the Royal Estate. Point your handlebars back towards the coast and the lavender fields around Heacham are on royal land too. Nip in to Norfolk Lavender for a nose around its plant collection and distillery – or perhaps even try a lavender scone or two before you coast up to the resort of Hunstanton and along past the stripey red cliffs to the stately greens and unspoilt beaches of the old town.
Overnight in Old Hunstanton

Mileage: Rec 22 Min 20 Max 29

Day Three – Navigating Lord Nelson’s homelands

Start by taking your binoculars for a short walk this morning. At the nearby Hunstanton spot where Edmund landed in 855 before being made King of East Anglia, you might even get a glimpse of Lincolnshire’s Boston ‘Stump’ across The Wash if it’s a clear day. Then it’s time to pop the binoculars in the panniers and leave Old Hunstanton’s great green and distinctive brown carstone buildings for a day of exploration with plenty of coastal connections. Leave the east coast which faces west to work your way to Brancaster Bay and the haunting creeks around Thornham. Here, you’ll be reaching for the binoculars again by the famous RSPB Titchwell Marshes before setting your sights on Lord Nelson’s childhood sailing grounds around beautiful Brancaster and Burnham Overy Staithes.

Nelson was born at Burnham Thorpe parsonage in in 1758, but you’ll find reference to him everywhere in ‘The Burhams’. It has become a much sought-after and stylish Norfolk patch, with Burnham Market’s upmarket offer winning it the title of ‘Chelsea-on-Sea’ – the place for some celebrity spotting perhaps?

But somehow with its right royal, great political and naval hero connections, this area on the edge of the Fakenham hills is at home with all that. Even during WWII, local RAF airfields like the one near Docking saw screen stars Richard Burton, Warren Mitchell and Robert Hardy stationed here. You’ll find memorials to mariners and lost airmen alike in the local churches, but All Saints Stanhoe – where Nelson’s daughter, Horatia, was the vicar’s wife – has an enviable collection dedicated to Sir William Hoste, the notable sea captain who spurred his crew on to battle victory in 1811 by hoisting the signal ‘Remember Nelson’. Pedal past his Barwick Hall home en route to your hotel for the night, or why not go the extra mile to take a look at Houghton Hall, built by England’s first Prime Minister, Robert Walpole? Overnight in the Houghton Park area.

Mileage: Rec 26 Min 12 Max 31

Day Four – Abbey Roads

Beetle off on your bike to the county’s iconic North Norfolk coast to enjoy a day of scenic cycling full of coastal encounters, impressive parklands and ecclesiastical ruins. On the Norfolk uplands, discover the remains of a 13th century Augustinian Abbey perched beyond South and North Creake perhaps before entering the vast, beautiful parklands of the Holkham estate to the east. Pedal down awesome avenues, past an impressive obelisk to get selfie-worthy views of the pillar-perfect Palladian Hall and its fountains down below. Opulent home of the Earl of Leicester, it’s definitely worth a visit, even though Holkham’s huge expanse of beach and captivating dune coast are calling.

Nearby Wells-next-the-Sea has all the magic seaside ingredients from fresh fish and chips to beach huts on stilts hidden away behind the pines, from an historic quayside bobbing with boats to secret greens dotted with flint cottages. A miniature railway shuttles visitors alongside the beach road, but you’ll have to wait for the market town of Holt to find the North Norfolk coast’s famous ‘Poppy Line’ steam railway. Finish the day as you started perhaps, taking in more mighty priory ruins, this time beached in the remote farmlands of Binham, just a short ride away from the super-stylish Georgian grazing grounds of Holt, a town that’s much loved for its galleries, yards full of little shops and inviting eateries , where you spend your next two overnights.

Mileage: Rec 32 Min 28 Max 32 

Day Five - Circular route options

Take your pick from our selection of great rides today, each introducing a small element of rollercoaster ride as you dive down to the sea and back up again. They also set quite different North Norfolk Coast scenes from wild, natural beauty to the ordered world of grand estates and great houses, from quaint quaysides and beacon churches to parklands and piers.

Head north  to check out the tiny villages and timeless quaysides beyond Binham’s great priory ruins. At Morston, seal-watching is only a boat ride away and at Blakeney, tiny lanes lead to an ancient yet still busy little port. Its must-see church sits high above the quayside, topped with a strange second tower. The inside is coloured beautiful with fragments of medieval glass, rescued perhaps from Binham or from its own, long-gone Carmelite priory. Before climbing back up to Holt via Kelling Heath, don’t miss the little village of Cley-next-the-Sea with its fine windmill and bird-rich marshland reserves.  

Pedal off to Holt station for a steam train ride east to the Victorian resorts of elegant Sheringham and on to the land of pier and proms, Cromer, famous for delicious crab suppers. The day starts and finishes with forays close to beautiful parklands in Sheringham and Felbrigg, home to a 17th century stately home with a walled garden.

Alternatively, take the steam train east from Holt to the resort of Sheringham, before climbing inland to mop up a cluster of estate villages and impressive stately piles around Robert Walpole's Wolterton estate and Anne Boleyn's ancestral homelands at Blickling. Norfolk market town classics, Aylsham and Cawston with its must-see medieval church and curious ‘duel stone’ are highlights on the route back to the Georgian town of Holt.

Fancy a cycling ‘pilgrimage? Pedal out west to the ruins of Binham’s great priory with its impressively restored Priory Church of St Mary and the Holy Cross to see history revealed layer by layer within its fascinating rood screen. Cycle on to Little Walsingham, an unusual place full of history and mystery. Visions and miracles turned the little Norfolk town into one of the most important pilgrimage sites in medieval Europe, alongside Canterbury and it is still a significant place of religious pilgrimage today. Enjoy a walk in the abbey grounds and meadows or explore the eccentric town where even the railway station has been made into a chapel! Or walk to the ‘Slipper Chapel’ along an old railway trackbed. Return to the Georgian town of Holt along Norfolk’s quiet country lanes and sleepy villages like Great Snoring.
Overnight in Holt. 

Mileage: Min 19 Max 34

Day Six – Exploring great estates & getting on track for the Norfolk Broads

No trip to Norfolk is complete without experiencing the unique, watery landscape of the Norfolk Broads, the area of natural-looking, shallow lakes and waterways created by peat being dug out for fuel during the medieval period. Today you can choose your route to your next accommodation to include time on the water, a nostalgic railway ride or numerous country estates depending on your interests and energy levels.

Enjoy a gentle day cycling from Holt to Hoveton for a boat trip on the Broads from the busy little nearby waterside town of Wroxham. Later you can choose to travel in style on Norfolk's longest narrow gauge railway (with your bike) from Hoveton to Aylsham, or pedal along the dedicated traffic-free trackside cycle path (max mileage route).

Alternatively, a pedal out eastwards from Holt reveals the creepy shell of 15th century moated manor, Baconsthorpe Castle before cycling by the grand estates of Barningham Park, Mannington and Wolterton to arrive at stately home show-stopper, Blickling Hall. This beautiful lakeside Jacobean mansion – the National Trust flagship property in East Anglia - was home to the Bullen family whose daughter, Anne ‘Frenchified’ her surname to fit in at court and ended up marrying Henry VIII.
Overnight in the Aylsham area

Mileage: Rec 25 Min 13 Max 34

Day Seven – On track for the fine city of Norwich

Enjoy more traffic-free cycling today along parts of the Marriott's Way - an old railway line featuring many peaceful and secluded stretches. Take in the impressive loneliness of the enormous church at Salle and medieval pilgrimage site, Reepham, Norfolk's Georgian market town with not just two whole churches on the same site, but the remains of a third too! Norwich, allegedly once had a church for every Sunday of the year – and a pub for every day. Many of its surviving medieval churches have been repurposed into everything from a puppet theatre to antique centres, yet the 900 year old cathedral still stands tall and proud alongside the River Wensum.

Just like King’s Lynn, Norwich is awash with medieval masterpieces and merchant’s houses. Don’t miss Dragon Hall, Strangers Hall or the old Bridewell - all now museums - or follow the Lanes Trail to explore the historic streets of little shops and fine flint-fronted buildings. To top it all, there’s even an imposing Norman castle with galleries full of everything from archaeology to fine art and the largest and most comprehensive collection of British ceramic teapots in the world!   
Overnight in Norwich.

Mileage: Rec: 23 Min 23 Max 23

Day Eight - A fond farewell

Depart Norwich after breakfast - or perhaps treat yourself to an extra night or two and enjoy more time exploring the sights, market stalls, shops and theatres of this fine, historic city.

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