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Norfolk Tours - Norfolk Coast & Countryside

Hugely historic, the world under Norfolk’s all-embracing skies is simply the stuff of legends. This circular coast and country cycle tour from Queen Boudicca’s ancient homelands through the county which once ranked amongst England’s richest thanks to the medieval wool trade, certainly has plenty of stories to share. Discover the secrets of Tudor Oxburgh Hall and lost-in-time Castle Acre; the tale of Swaffham’s lucky pedlar and even the ancestral villages of Abraham Lincoln.

Encounter the east coast strangely facing west plus North Norfolk’s haunting dunescapes and tiny harbour villages. Royal Sandringham, the homes of England’s first Prime Minister, Anne Boleyn’s family estate - not forgetting countless monastic ruins and church treasures - line your gentle rides along quiet rural lanes and low-lying landscapes. Pedal through this famously connected wool town county and you’re sure to leave with many great cycling memories and plenty of yarns to spin when you get back home. 

Tour details

Tour Name
Norfolk Coast & Countryside
Tour Reference
N8A
Tour Duration
8 days and 7 nights
Start Day
Any Day
Tour Grade
2-3
Board Basis
Bed & Breakfast
Price
From £930 to £996 per person
Accommodation

is located near Watton, Swaffham, the Houghton Park area, Holt and North Elmham. Selected properties include four 3 star hotels and a luxurious family run boutique hotel (unrated). We are pleased to discuss details on request.

Tour at a Glance
From the ancient Breckland heaths to the beautiful North Norfolk coast and into Norfolk’s historic heartlands, this tour leads you on a leisurely journey through so many of Norfolk’s best bits. Relaxed cycling on small roads and quiet country lanes joins together the legacies and legends of what was once one of England’s richest counties. A wide choice of circular discovery-ride options on two days gives added flexibility to tailor the tour to your own interests. Highlights include Royal Sandringham, Hunstanton where the East Coast faces west, the Norfolk great houses of Holkham and Blickling, Georgian Holt, Swaffham and Reepham and Wymondham Abbey.  
Availability
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Itinerary

Day One - Arrive & relax

Arrive at your hotel, just outside the town of Watton in Norfolk’s sandy heaths and woodland area known as ‘The Brecks’. The golden town sign celebrates the famous ‘Babes in the Wood’ fairytale, a Hansel and Gretel-style story connected with nearby Wayland Wood. Your bikes will be provided at your hotel after breakfast the following morning.

Day Two – From Neolithic miners to Tudor Queens

Travel across gentle landscapes full of time-honoured tales today, cycling through the area which Boudicca’s Iceni tribe once called home. Today, if your energy levels are high and you fancy going deep into the area’s history, you can start by including mysterious ‘Grimes Graves’ in your ride. It’s a challenge that’s worth the detour, a place where the strange pitted landscape is a story in itself - and how often do you get the chance to descend by ladder into a Neolithic flint mine? On our recommended route, Tudor Oxburgh Hall shares its stories first. One of the most romantic 15th century Great Houses in the country, the moated redbrick masterpiece built by a Catholic family has a secret priest hole and some surprising royalty-related artefacts. Cockley Cley has a Saxon church to explore and the gentle cycle ride leads on to the Georgian delights of Swaffham. One of Norfolk's most attractive market towns, it’s a great place to spend the night – and discover its own local legends.
Overnight in Swaffham. 

Mileage: Rec 22 Min 9 Max 36

Day Three – Country pleasures

So did you spot signs of Swaffham’s famous pedlar who sought his fortune in London, only to find his crock of gold back home in the garden? The museum tells tales of Tutankhamun too and the local legendary lad who located it. Saddle up and cycle out to make your own hoard of discoveries in Castle Acre – the fascinating medieval walled `town’ with the earthworks of a 12th century castle and even one of England’s largest and best-preserved priories. Pedal down by the River Nar to catch timeless views, before going in search of another ancient abbey site at Great Massingham, where only the impressive fishponds survive. Don’t miss the 13th century church here or the 14th century tower at nearby Little Massingham as you head to the fine stately parklands of Palladian pile, Houghton Hall, the first of several impressive places on this tour with connections to England’s very first Prime Minister. A couple of extra miles will bring the hall itself in view, or you can save it for the morning and pair it up with a home that’s a step further up the hierarchy - Royal Sandringham as you spend the next two nights in the area around Houghton Park.           

Mileage: Rec 32 Min 17 Max 34

Day Four – Choice of circular routes – To the coast & through royally connected countryside

Both route options for today are packed with fascinating finds and right royal storylines. Either pedal across the parklands to Robert Walpole’s 18th century prime-ministerial pad at Houghton that’s still in the family today and combine it that other West Norfolk royal family favourite, Sandringham, or take in the royal residence on route to the coast to make even more right royal discoveries.

Sandringham may be the Royal family’s residence of choice at Christmas, but the Victorian-built Jacobean-style house and its 600 acre park are beautiful throughout the year. With its grounds, house and museum packed with royal memorabilia, there’s plenty to while away the day, or you can pop in and enjoy on route to the only part of the east coast which faces west. By the sea, there are Heacham’s connections with native American princess Pocahontas to discover and the Hunstanton site marked with a now ruined 13th century chapel, believed to be where Edmund, the legendary king and martyr, landed in 855 before being made King of East Anglia. Explore the seaside charm and striped cliffs of ‘Sunny Hunny’, being sure not to miss Hunstanton’s old town with its great green surrounded by buildings made from rich brown local sandstone, before pedaling back through the Norfolk countryside dotted with more ‘carstone’ and flint cottages and the occasional windmill.
Overnight in the Houghton Park area.            

Mileage: Min 21 Max 31 

Day Five – Abbey Roads

Time to beetle off on your bike to the county’s iconic North Norfolk coast for a day dotted with ecclesiastical ruins, more coastal encounters and Palladian home and parklands number 2.  The 13th century Augustinian ruins of Creake Abbey are only a pedal push from the hauntingly beautiful rural landscapes of North and South Creake - like the mighty ruins of Binham Priory near the route later in the day, they have so much to say about the scale of Henry VIII’s Reformation. In contrast, Holkham Hall and its almost endless estate seems pristine and pillar-perfect with the superb ride across the neat parkland, giving plenty of selfie-worthy views past the Palladian home of the 1st Earl of Leicester towards the sea.

It’s hard to resist the call of Holkham’s huge expanse of beach and captivating dune coast, but the historic quayside at Wells-next-the-Sea has to be the go-to spot to get a taste of what Norfolk’s coast really has to offer, from fresh fish and chips to seafood specialties. It’s a charming little town full of flint-faced cottages and hidden greens, with iconic beach huts standing of stilts on the beach to the west which can be reached by a miniature steam train ride. Finally coast across to one end of North Norfolk’s most scenic steam-railway - the must-experience ’Poppy Line’- in the Georgian market town of Holt. Super stylish, full of delicious discoveries and just a short ride to the bird-rich coast, it’s a great place to stay for your next two overnights.

Mileage: Rec 32 Min 28 Max 32 

Day Six – Choice of circular routes

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, ancient pilgrimage sites and beacon churches to parklands and piers.

Head north to discover the North North Coast’s famous tiny villages and timeless quaysides. At Morston, a spot of seal-watching is only a boat ride away, whilst at Blakeney, tiny lanes lead to the ancient port that’s still busy with craft small enough to make the passage up the narrow channel from the sea. Don’t miss its church, set apart some 100 feet above the quayside with its strange second tower and fragments of medieval glass, rescued perhaps from Binham or from its own, long-gone Carmelite priory. Return to Holt via 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 resort of Sheringham, where  Cromer is just a pedal push away. They’re both fascinating seaside towns - one, once visited by Albert Einstein, the other a favourite with Sir Arthur Conan Doyle who is said to have found inspiration for his ‘Hound of the Baskervilles’ in local devil dog legend, Black Shuck. Return to Holt by bike 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 to Sheringham and cycle off inland to mop up a cluster of estate villages and impressive stately piles at Robert Walpole’s Wolterton and Anne Boleyn’s ancestral homelands at Blickling. Delightful Norfolk market town classics, Aylsham and curious Cawston with its ‘duel stone’ and must-see medieval church are further highlights on the route back to Holt.

Pedal out west on a cycling ‘pilgrimage’ to Binham’s great priory ruins and wonderfully restored Priory Church of St Mary and the Holy Cross to see history revealed layer by layer within its fascinating rood screen. Next up, Little Walsingham is an unusual place, where visions and miracles turned the little Norfolk town into one of the most important pilgrimage sites in medieval Europe, alongside Canterbury. Still a significant place of religious pilgrimage today, it is a timeless spot where even the railway station has been made into a chapel! Walk to the ‘Slipper Chapel’ along an old railway trackbed before returning to Holt along Norfolk’s quiet country lanes and sleepy villages like Great Snoring.
Overnight in Holt. 

Mileage: Min 19 Max 34

Day Seven – Twin peaks or double trouble?

Norfolk may be remembered as Nelson’s country, but it might seem that the first Prime Minister of England owned half of it!  Set out via the villages of Mannington and Wolterton and both great houses here still have Walpole connections. Flinted hall Mannington with its famous rose gardens is still in the family today, whereas Palladian mansion, Wolterton Hall, plays home to a room full of Walpole portraits even though it was recently sold out of the family. Wolterton’s links with Lord Nelson seem normal for Norfolk, but down the road the Blickling pyramid (a mausoleum) seems rather out of place. Look out for the two rows of double yew hedges in front of magnificent Blickling Hall and stop off to enjoy its beautiful gardens perhaps, before cycling back in time to the ‘filmset’-style redbrick estate village of Heydon.

At Cawston, the church boasts time-honoured treasures; at Booton, the double pinnacles of village folly church aka ‘the Cathedral of the Fields’ seem madness enough, but the nearby market town of Reepham goes one further, with two whole churches on the same site – and the remains of a third too! Stories tell of a shrine here, making it an important place of medieval pilgrimage. Could the mysterious early ‘cathedral’ at final stop North Elmham have been the same perhaps? Ah, but that tale has two sides to the story too. Not so very far away in Suffolk, South Elmham also has a ruined minster. Which one was the real Saxon cathedral? Only history knows.
Overnight North Elmham

Mileage: Rec 32 Min 16 Max 32 

Day Eight – Back to the Brecks via telling tales & golden wonders

Our recommended route below is packed with plenty of golden nuggets, but we are also pleased to offer a mid-length (26 mile) option with its own storylines 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.

World War II tales first, just a weave along the River Wensum away at Swanton Morley. The village – notably the ancestral home of Abraham Lincoln - has other American connections. It was here at Robertson Barracks that Eisenhower reputedly stood alongside Churchill to witness the launch of the first British and US combined bombing raid in 1942. The airfield’s Art Deco air traffic control tower still stands proud to this day, just like the village’s great church and windmill towers too. 

Cycle through charming rural villages, past historic greens, commons and estate parklands and soon the abbey church of Wymondham shares its twin towers on the horizon. Market town, Wymondham, has many half-timbered buildings including the fine, octagonal market cross, but it is the early 11th century abbey which undoubtedly steals the show. Awesome from the outside, be sure to go inside too to experience a space canopied by one of Norfolk’s finest medieval roofs and crowned with a 20th century altar screen which is a real golden wonder. 

Even the last few miles are full of puzzling tales - what’s the story behind the Victorian clocktower cottages at Little Ellingham or the creeper-clad ruined tower of St Andrew’s Rockland? Finally, finish by edging Watton’s very own woodland of fairytales - Wayland Wood.

Mileage: Rec 35 Min 17 Max 35

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