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Norfolk Tours - Great Houses & Golden Wonders

Norfolk loves to do things on a grand scale. But on this tour you never need to cycle many miles before your next great discovery. Low-lying landscapes turn every church tower into a mighty beacon, whilst wrap-around skies seem to dwarf even the vastest estates. Pedal out from the beautiful Brecks for a three night stay in Norfolk’s historic heartlands, cycling out along quiet country lanes via Castle Acre, home to one of the largest and best-preserved monastic sites in England and taking in Wymondham’s magnificent golden abbey treasures as you return.

With our wide choice of day rides, Norfolk’s coast and countryside is your oyster, even though Cromer crabs are on nearly every menu! Take your pick of impressive Great Houses at Holkham, Houghton and Blickling. Seek out smart Georgian market towns and steam railways, quaint coastal quaysides and beaches of golden sand, lost villages, Saxon round-tower churches or Little Walsingham, a hugely historic place of pilgrimage which once rivaled Canterbury in its importance.

Tour details

Tour Name
Great Houses & Golden Wonders
Tour Reference
N5A
Tour Duration
5 days and 4 nights
Start Day
Any Day
Tour Grade
3-4
Board Basis
Bed & Breakfast
Price
From £463 to £487 per person
Accommodation

is located near Watton and in North Elmham (3 nights). Selected properties include two 3 star hotels. We are pleased to discuss details on request.

Tour at a Glance

Explore more on this superbly scenic, two-centre Norfolk cycle break to the heart of the historic county where the choice of circular day-ride discovery routes is yours for not just one, but two full days. Cycling mainly on rural lanes through gentle countryside, discover Norfolk’s treasure churches and mysterious Saxon Minster ruins, its castle-village and golden Wymondham Abbey, plus your pick of places from Holkham Hall or the village of Blakeney on the North Norfolk Coast to Jacobean Blickling Hall or Little Walsingham, a place of pilgrimage since the Middle Ages.  

Availability
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Itinerary

Day One - Arrive & relax
     Arrive at your hotel in Norfolk’s sandy ‘Brecks’ located just outside Watton, a town known for two unusual gems - a 17th century fire-alarm clocktower and the only church in England that’s wider than it is long! Your bikes are provided after breakfast the next morning.

Day Two – Acres of history & golden discoveries

There’s history every pedal push of the way as you set off along rural Breckland lanes through a landscape closely associated with Boudicca’s Iceni tribe. First stop, Swaffham has its own tales to tell of legendary local lads who hit the jackpot. The town sign is the place to spot the famous Peddlar of Swaffham who sought his fortune in London, but returned to find his crock of gold in a local back garden; whilst the museum shares the story of Howard Carter, famed for his Tutankhamun finds in 1922, who grew up here and was originally fascinated by a friend’s  Egyptian artefacts at nearby Didlington Hall. St Peter & St Paul’s church is a treasure trove too with its awesome angel roof dating from medieval times and there are Regency delights to relish around by the wedge-shaped market place.

Back on the trail, beyond the wonderful walled gardens of West Acre, discover one of Norfolk’s real hidden gems - Castle Acre where you’ll find history in microcosm by the River Nar. The clue’s in the name, but as well as William de Warenne’s great 12th century castle earthworks and one of England’s largest and best-preserved priories, there’s a tiny, almost intact medieval town too. It’s the perfect place for a picnic and where you can resolve either to swap out onto a slightly shorter route (33 miles) for a longer stay if you wish, or perhaps to return on a ride another day. Pedaling on northwards, to the ancient abbey fishponds of picturesque Great Massingham, guided by the village’s mighty beacon of a church tower is certainly worth the few extra miles. Finally there are more village church gems to admire all the way to North Elmham,

Mileage: Rec 37 Min 17 Max 37

Day Three – Choice of circular rides

We provide a selection of superbly scenic rides for you to explore Norfolk from historic North Elmham (see below). Most include the chance to spot or visit a Great House along the way, but there are many other gems too. Which route will you choose today?

Mileage: Min 23 Max 45

Day Four – Choice of circular rides

Enjoy another great ride out from North Elmham. Don’t forget, if you fancy a gentler day, our selection includes shorter or less challenging circular routes to explore too.

Mileage: Min 23 Max 45

Day Five – Winding ways & a wonder-full abbey

Back to the Brecks today, but if you’ve already explored Wymondham’s wonder-full abbey or fancy a gentler return ride to Watton, our mid-length (26 mile) option will lead you via the ‘lost’ village of Godwick and 18th century Bradenham Hall where Lord Nelson once stayed and author of King Solomon’s Mines, Sir Henry Rider-Haggard, was born.

Our recommended route is packed with plenty of golden nuggets to discover too…

Take to the saddle and sidle up to the River Wensum for starters, heading for Swanton Morley, ancestral home of Abraham Lincoln. There are other American connections here too – at nearby Robertson Barrracks, Eisenhower stood alongside Churchill to witness the launch of the first British and US combined bombing raid in 1942. The Art Deco air traffic control tower still stands proud to this day, just like the village’s great church and windmill towers. 

Pedal through timeless villages clustered around historic greens, commons and outstretched parklands and it’s not long before the twin towered abbey church of Wymondham comes into view. The market town of Wymondham may have its fair share of half-timbered buildings including the fine, octagonal market cross, but it’s the great abbey founded in 1007 steals the show. Uber-impressive on the outside, inside its 20th century altar screen is a real golden wonder, but the medieval angel roof has to be its crowning glory. 

Look out for the Victorian clocktower cottages at Little Ellingham, built in a timely fashion to house the local estate’s gardeners and the sad, creeper-clad ruins of St Andrew’s Rockland, before edging Wayland Wood of ‘Babes in the Wood’ fairytale fame on the final miles to Watton. 

Mileage: Rec 35 Min 17 Max 35 


The circular rides:

Our suggested selection of meticulously planned routes for this Norfolk tour covers distances from 23 to 45 miles. Out of these rides, recommended routes of 36- 45 miles have been given our Grade 4 listing, indicating that a reasonable level of fitness is required to enjoy these more challenging rides. Our aim is always to provide scenic routes which share the best of the area, travelling the distances most comfortable to you.

Our shorter or less challenging circular routes are made available to provide the widest choice of great rides and just in case you fancy a more gentle day in the saddle or more time out visiting villages and attractions along the way.

Our recommended selection of circular routes detailed below include options to visit the coast or stay in the Norfolk countryside and discover highlights from grand stately homes to steam railways, historic market towns to abbeys and ecclesiastical ruins. The choice is yours and you are also free to choose which day you wish to enjoy them.

Head north to the grand Palladian pile and extensive parklands estate of Holkham, home of the 1st Earl of Leicester and pop along to pay homage to the North Norfolk coast at Wells-next-the-Sea, taking in Walsingham, that time-honoured place of pilgrimage too, of course! The River Wensum, thriving Norfolk market town Fakenham and the 13th century Augustinian ruins of Creake Abbey are all on route as well as the charming, sleepy villages of Great – and Little – Snoring.

Alternatively, flock to the bird-reserve rich, North Norfolk coastlands around Cley-next-the-Sea and the hugely historic, yet tiny harbour village of Blakeney with its oh-so-impressive flint-faced church. Check out the Georgian town of Holt, the awesome remote remains of Binham Priory or the medieval earthworks and 1750s River Glaven watermill at Hunworth, where the golden wonder has to be the church’s bronze filigree sanctuary lamp, rumoured once to have belonged to the Lady of the Lamp herself - Florence Nightingale!

To the south, pedal through the Norfolk parklands of Kimberley estate to discover the golden abbey treasures and half-timbered delights of Wymondham. There’s a chance to track down the Mid-Norfolk Railway Preservation Trust railway line between Wymondham and the Breckland town of Dereham, or perhaps enjoy a nostalgic ride on board. This route also explores WWII heritage area Swanton Morley and goes through Gressenhall where the old workhouse is home to the fascinating Norfolk Rural Life Museum.    

Go east and let the scenic Norfolk cycling lead you Blicking Hall - the Jacobean masterpiece, flagship of the National Trust in East Anglia and site of the Bullen family home, whose famously ill-fated daughter, Anne (‘Boleyn’) married Henry VIII. Fascinating discoveries on route include  medieval shrine site, Reepham, one of only two places in Europe with three churches alongside each other; Cawston’s ‘duelling stone’ and Bawdeswell, home village of Geoffrey Chaucer’s ‘Reeve’ in The Canterbury Tales, and whose old church was destroyed by a WWII de Havilland Mosquito plane crash, to be replaced by one in Neo-Georgian style.

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