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Norfolk Tours - Norfolk Castles, Minsters & More

Go for a gentle spin under Norfolk’s huge skies for some scenic cycling at its East Anglian best, with a rich helping of history at every turn on this great little circular adventure. From the rugged heaths of Queen Boudicca’s homelands transport yourself through time and the low-lying Norfolk countryside via the almost intact medieval village of Castle Acre to North Elmham with its treasure church and mysterious minster ruins.

Wymondham’s half-timbered architecture and its awesome abbey church are highlights on your return route, but first take your pick from our great selection of day rides to cycle the pretty river valleys and outstretched estates of a county which won its wealth through the medieval wool trade. From stylish Georgian Holt with its steam railway to the lakeside parklands of Jacobean Blickling Hall, from the revered pilgrimage sites of Little Walsingham to the lost village of Godwick, Norfolk has so many secrets to share. Which hidden treasures will you be heading for?   

Tour details

Tour Name
Norfolk Castles, Minsters & More
Tour Reference
N4A
Tour Duration
4 days and 3 nights
Start Day
Any Day
Tour Grade
3
Board Basis
Bed & Breakfast
Price
From £392 to £411 per person
Accommodation

is located near Watton and in North Elmham (2 nights). Selected properties include two 3 star hotels. We are pleased to discuss details on request.

Tour at a Glance

This two-centre Norfolk treat is a great way to get a sense of East Anglia’s rich history across the ages. Discover river valleys and little towns lost in time, great estates, mighty abbeys and impressive churches as you enjoy scenic cycling along mainly rural lanes.

Highlights include medieval Castle Acre and Wymondham Abbey as well as your choice of day-ride discoveries, from Blakeney’s quayside and nature reserves on the North Norfolk Coast or the Georgian market town of Holt to Saxon round tower churches, Jacobean Blickling Hall and Little Walsingham, a place of pilgrimage since the Middle Ages.   

Availability
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Itinerary

Day One - Arrive & relax
     Arrive at your hotel just outside the rural Breckland town of Watton which is home to the only church in England which is wider than it is long. Other unusual things to spot include the town’s 17th century fire-alarm clock tower. Relax and restore – your gentle Norfolk journey will start when your bikes are provided after breakfast tomorrow morning.

Day Two – Acres of history

Pedaling out through a landscape closely associated with Boudicca’s Iceni tribe truly sets the scene for a day with history around every corner. Little lanes lead alongside farm- and woodland to the Regency town of Swaffham, home to a wedge-shaped market place, fine Buttercross and impressive lantern towered church where the sight of a hammerbeam roof adorned with 190 carved angels is sure to give you wings enough to cycle on towards the historic walled gardens of West Acre and the tiny medieval town of Castle Acre.

This inspirational site by the River Nar simply oozes history from William de Warenne’s 12th century castle earthworks and the town’s Baileygate to one of England’s largest and best-preserved priories, dating back to 1090. There are more monastic connections in the form of ancient Abbey fishponds up at Great Massingham, if you fancy going that extra mile or two, but all of meticulously planned routes for the day ultimately lead to North Elmham’s mysterious ruined minster – and your hotel base for the next two nights.  

Mileage: Rec 33 Min 17 Max 37

Day Three – Choice of circular rides

We provide five short, easy-going rides (see below) for you to explore Norfolk from historic North Elmham in all directions. Which one will you choose?

Mileage: Min 23 Max 34 (Longer rides also available.)

Day Four – Winding ways & a wonder-full abbey

Whichever length of ride you choose today, there’s a myriad of small villages and flint-clad churches to admire as you cycle gently through the Norfolk countryside back to Watton in the Brecks. Why not explore our mid-length (26 mile) option to discover the ‘lost’ village of Godwick? Our recommended route is brim-full of history and mystery…

With the meandering River Wensum for company, start by pedaling to ‘outstanding’ Swanton Morley. You’ll soon spot its windmill tower, proud All Saints’ church and perhaps the Art Deco air traffic control tower of nearby Robertson Barracks, where Churchill and Eisenhower witnessed the 1942 launch of the first British and US combined bombing raid. Only history however gives the place away as the ancestral home of Abraham Lincoln.

Beyond timeless villages clustered around greens, commons and outstretched parklands, the twin towered abbey church of Wymondham later comes into view. It’s a charming market town with many half-timbered buildings including an octagonal market cross. But the abbey steals the show – über-impressive outside and in, don’t miss its 20th century golden altar screen, a truly golden wonder, and its medieval angel roof.  

But the final few miles of the day have more outstanding historic surprises in store too. Little Ellingham’s unusual Victorian clocktower cottages were built for the estate’s gardeners, but nearby all that remains of St Andrew’s Rockland is a lonely, ruined tower.

Mileage: Rec 34 Min 17 Max 35


About the circular rides:

Our suggested routes for this Norfolk tour cover distances from 23 to 34 miles. We have given them our Grade 3 listing, indicating that a moderate level of fitness is required to enjoy them to the full. We pride ourselves on sharing scenic routes which allow you to experience the best of the area at the same time as travelling distances most comfortable for you.

We offer five circular routes, each with their own Norfolk highlights from grand stately homes to museums, steam railways to castle and ecclesiastical ruins. The choice is yours and you are also free to choose which day you wish to enjoy them.

Head west where the Norfolk Rural Life Museum in a converted workhouse at Gressenhall is the perfect place to put your local discoveries in context. Explore the beautiful Nar Valley and the Saxon round tower churches of Lexham including St Andrew’s, believed to be England’s oldest.

Alternatively, take a tour combining Gressenhall’s museum with time out around Castle Acre in the Nar river valley.

To the north, discover a steam railway and Georgian delights in Holt on a day’s cycle ride which leads alongside deer parks, past impressive flint churches and charming rural villages.

Alternatively, head for the shrine of Walsingham which once vied with Canterbury as a place of religious pilgrimage. Pedal up towards the coast to enjoy this unusual, hugely historic destination. Walk amongst the abbey ruins, reflect - and  on route, visit Little Snoring, home to a church with a detached Saxon tower.

To the north-east head between the river valleys of the Wensum and Bure to discover the outstretched estate, lake, gardens and Jacobean mansion of Blickling Hall, a site connected to the ill-fated, Anne Boleyn. The medieval shrine of Reepham, one of only two places in Europe with three churches on one site, the church of St Agnes Cawston with its original medieval flooring and Bawdeswell, home of Geoffrey Chaucer’s Reeve and whose original church was destroyed by a WWII de Havilland Mosquito plane crash, are other highlights en-route.

Other circular routes with slightly greater mileages (suitable for cyclists with greater energy levels) can also be made available on request.

 

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