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Norfolk Tours - Norfolk & Norwich Explorer

Big is beautiful, so here’s an invitation to cycle out and explore all of Norfolk’s best bits under one enormous sky. Watch as rugged heaths and far-reaching farmlands, haunting creeks and wild coastline, rural village gems and historic Norwich - one of England’s finest medieval cities - unfurl beneath your two wheels.

Reach for your binoculars in The Broads National Park, to spot the seals at Blakeney Point or admire waterfowl and waders strutting their feathery stuff by Lord Nelson’s childhood sailing grounds on the unspoilt North Norfolk Coast.

Every gentle mile of this circular tour and its choice of day rides has history at every turn, as you cycle through low-lying landscapes along small roads, quiet country lanes and some traffic-free paths. Priory ruins, silvery flint churches, Georgian marketplaces and medieval quaysides, Victorian seaside resorts and steam railways all line up along the way - as well Royal Sandringham and some of East Anglia’s favourite stately homes like Oxburgh, Holkham and Blickling Halls. Enjoy!

Tour details

Tour Name
Norfolk & Norwich Explorer
Tour Reference
N11
Tour Duration
11 days and 10 nights
Start Day
Any Day
Tour Grade
3
Board Basis
Bed & Breakfast
Price
From £1364 to £1464 per person
Accommodation

is located near Watton, in Swaffham, Old Hunstanton, the Houghton Park area, Holt, near Aylsham and in Norwich. Selected properties include three 3 star and two 4 star hotels, a luxurious family run boutique hotel (unrated) and an unrated but very comfortable, historic inn. We are pleased to discuss details on request.

Tour at a Glance

Explore Norfolk’s best bits on this circular cycle tour which scoops from ancient Breckland heaths past West Norfolk’s stripey cliffs and North Norfolk’s wild, sandy and birdlife-rich coast to the Norfolk Broads and fine city of Norwich. Enjoy relaxed cycling on small roads, quiet country lanes and dedicated cycle paths which link the remarkable treasures of what was once one of England’s richest counties.

Highlights also include Royal Sandringham; Lord Nelson’s homelands; the Norfolk great houses of Holkham and Blickling; Georgian Holt and Swaffham and Wymondham Abbey. Circular discovery-ride options on two days give added 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 Watton in Norfolk’s sandy ‘Brecks’. The local town is known for two unusual gems - a 17th century fire-alarm clocktower and the only one in England that’s wider than it is long! To the south of the town is ‘Wayland Wood’, home of  the famous Hansel and Gretel-style fairytale, ‘Babes in the Wood’. Today the lost ‘babes’ can be found on Watton’s town sign.  Your bikes will be provided after breakfast the following morning.

Day Two – From Neolithic miners to Tudor Queens

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?

Our recommended route leads through gentle wooded and heathland landscapes in the area which Queen Boudicca’s Iceni tribe once called home, but after a few miles, Oxburgh Hall wants to share its connections with another queen. Constructed with red bricks and featuring a fine moat, Oxburgh is perhaps one of the most romantic English great houses of the 15th century. Built by a Catholic family, it hides a secret priest hole and has artefacts linked with Mary Queen of Scots. The Saxon church at Cockley Cley is a fascinating find too, before going in search of Swaffham’s two famous local lads who won the jackpot. In the market town’s museum, learn how artefacts at nearby Didlington Hall sparked Howard Carter’s interest in Egyptology, leading him to the eventual discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb. The famous Pedlar of Swaffham – who sought his fortune in London, but returned to find a crock of gold in a local back garden – is celebrated on the town sign. Swaffham has many fine Regency buildings clustered around an unusual wedge-shaped marketplace – it’s a fine and quirky sort of Norfolk place to enjoy, just like the boutique hotel where you will spend your overnight here.
Overnight in Swaffham. 

Mileage: Rec 22 Min 9 Max 36

Day Three –  Acres of history & right royal connections all the way to the coast

Before you fly off on two wheels, don’t miss checking out the amazing medieval angel roof inside Swaffham’s church of St Peter & St Paul. It’s just one of the historic gems worth stopping to discover as you head out to the place where England’s East Coast strangely faces west!

Beyond the beautiful walled gardens of West Acre, Castle Acre is an invitation to view England’s history in microcosm. Nestled by the River Nar, William de Warenne’s great 12th century castle earthworks are impressive enough, but as well as a tiny and almost intact medieval town and bailey-gate, you’ll soon discover one of England’s largest and best-preserved priories hiding quietly here too. Continue north and Great Massingham’s mighty beacon of a church tower leads towards some intriguing little lakes, the final ‘stew pond’ reminders of the town’s ancient abbey. After Henry VIII’s dissolution of the monasteries, noblemen acquired Norfolk lands and many of their fine great estates are still very much in evidence today.

Whether you swing coastwards to cross the ancient Peddars Way and Norman Road or opt for a more direct route to Hunstanton via Bircham’s historic windmill, you’ll soon be cycling on the Royal Sandringham estate. The beautiful 600 acre country park makes for a delightful ride, with the chance to stop off and enjoy the 1870s Jacobean-style country house built for Edward VII where the Royal Family love to spend Christmas each year. Weave your way north and even the Norfolk lavender fields outside Heacham are still mostly on the Sandringham estate, but the coastal town has its own connections of the royal kind – with the native American princess, Pocahontas, who married a Heacham mariner and is remembered on the town sign.

A few coast-hugging miles finish the day as you cycle north to the popular resort of Hunstanton, where seaside family fun rubs shoulders with stripey red cliffs and a great green edged with brown buildings made of local carstone.
Overnight in Old Hunstanton

Please note that if the recommended mileage to see all of the above is more than you’re comfortable with, then our 30 mile routes allow you to choose between visits to Castle Acre, Sandringham or the coastal ride into Hunstanton.

Mileage: Rec 38 Min 27 Max 38  

Day Four – Navigating Lord Nelson’s homelands

Set out for a day full of coastal connections where you’ll want to have the binoculars to hand in the top of the panniers. Start by checking out the Hunstanton spot where future King of East Anglia, Edmund, landed in 855. A chapel once stood on this site and on a clear day, you may even glimpse Boston’s beacon church tower aka ‘The Boston Stump’ across The Wash. Leaving the east coast which faces west, cycle to Brancaster Bay where the haunting creeks around Thornham and RSPB Titchwell Marshes will have you reaching for the binoculars again. The beautiful creeks you’ll discover at Brancaster and Burnham Overy Staithes were Lord Nelson’s childhood sailing grounds.

Born at Burnham Thorpe parsonage in in 1758, Lord Nelson has brought fame and fortune to ‘The Burhams’, with Burnham Market now attracting such a fashionable following that it’s home to smart galleries and eateries and often nicknamed ‘Chelsea-on-Sea’.  

Turning your handlebars inland, the area on the edge of the Fakenham hills revels in its connections with royalty, great political players and naval heroes. The village of Docking recalls wartime days when stars of the silver screen like Richard Burton did their bit for Blighty and found themselves stationed in RAF airfields nearby. The local churches remember mariners and lost airmen alike. At Stanhoe, where Nelson’s daughter Horatia was the parish priest’s wife, All Saints boasts fine memorials 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 if you fancy an extra mile or two, 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 Five – Abbey Roads

Beetle off on your bike to discover some of North Norfolk’s most impressive parklands, ecclesiastical ruins and natural coast. First up, beyond South and North Creake, the 13th century remains of Creake Abbey and inviting coffee shop are a great place to fuel up before coasting through the expansive parklands of the Holkham estate. Pedal down awesome avenues, past an impressive obelisk to get selfie-worthy views of the pillar-perfect Palladian Hall and its fountains down below. The huge and opulent home of the Earl of Leicester is definitely worth a visit and Holkham’s beach and dune coast are arguably vast and awesome.

Next up, Wells-next-the-Sea is cute in comparison and brim-full of all those magic seaside ingredients from fresh fish and chips to beach huts on stilts hidden away behind the pines and a charming  historic quayside. Finish the day as you started with a visit to the remote priory ruins at Binham which are lost in North Norfolk farmlands, or steam ahead and take a look at the North Norfolk coast’s famous ‘Poppy Line’ railway – it’s station is in the super-stylish Georgian town of Holt, where you spend your next two overnights.

Mileage: Rec 32 Min 28 Max 32 

Day Six - Circular route options

Choose from our selection of great routes today, each including a bit of a gentle rollercoaster ride as you dive down to the sea and back up again. They also introduce quite different North Norfolk Coast scenes from wild, natural beauty to the ordered world of grand estates, historic quaysides and towering churches to rhododendron-filled parks and colourful seaside piers.

Head north to explore coastal villages and quays beyond Binham’s great priory ruins. Jump onboard at Morston for a seal-watching trip to Blakeney Point or cycle down Blakeney’s narrow lanes to watch the boats in its tiny ancient port. Don’t miss the impressive church, towering high above the quayside, a marker to mariners for centuries and reminder of wealthy trading times past and be sure to go inside, to view the medieval glass, possibly rescued from Binham or Blakeney’s own, long-gone Carmelite priory. Head finally to Cley-next-the-Sea with its iconic windmill and bird-rich marshland reserves, before climbing back up to Holt via Kelling Heath. 

Love seafood? Then a trip to Cromer, famed for its crab suppers is a must! Pedal off to Holt station for a steam train ride east to the Victorian resorts of elegant Sheringham and cycle via Beeston Regis to land of pier and proms, Cromer. This delightful day ride starts and finishes with forays close to beautiful parklands at Sheringham and at Felbrigg, where a fine stately home and walled garden also warrant a visit. Just pedaling to Holt station and letting the steam train transport you for a day out in Sheringham and walk to Cromer is also a great day out.

Alternatively, take the steam train east from Holt to the resort of Sheringham, before mopping up a cluster of estate villages and impressive stately piles inland at Robert Walpole’s Wolterton and Anne Boleyn’s ancestral homelands at Blickling. 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 to Binham 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 to Little Walsingham where visions and miracles turned a little Norfolk town into one of the most important pilgrimage sites in medieval Europe, alongside Canterbury. It is still a significant place of religious pilgrimage today. Take a walk by the abbey ruins through beautiful informal gardens;  explore the eccentric town where even the railway station is now 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 Seven – Exploring great estates & getting on track for the Norfolk Broads

Time to head for one of England’s newest National Parks – The Norfolk Broads. It’s a unique watery landscape, where the natural-looking, shallow lakes and waterways were actually created by man – peat diggers, sourcing fuel for their medieval homes. 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. Norfolk may be Nelson’s county, but Robert Walpole, England’s first Prime Minister, has certainly left his stamp on it!  Flinted Mannington Hall still belongs to the Walpole family today, but they sold off their Palladian pile, Wolterton Hall recently. But the real stately home show-stopper is the beautiful lakeside Jacobean mansion, Blickling Hall. The National Trust’s flagship property in East Anglia, this 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 Eight – Discover the Norfolk Broads - Choice of circular rides

The Norfolk Broads is strongly associated with boating holidays, but the cycling here is so superbly scenic and the options to add railway rides and ferry crossing so enticing, that chances are you’ll be asking the Cycle Breaks team if a third night in Aylsham is an option!

Whether you’re into nature, Norfolk’s medieval wool trade and weaving history, enjoy being by the water and watching the boats or discovering an extra stunning section of the Norfolk coastline, there’s a day ride here for you.

Enjoy some gentle off-road cycling along the Weavers Way to the characterful market town of North Walsham, where Nelson went to school and medieval Flemish weavers left their mark. Look out for cottages with Dutch-style gables and wonder at the one of the largest parish churches in England built on the wealth of ‘Walsham’ summer cloth which complemented ‘Worsted’ heavy winter cloth woven nearby. Weave your way through the countryside, the length of the Dilham Canal before winging back round to discover fine medieval treasures in St Michael’s at Swanton Abbotts before following the Bure Valley Railway cycle path (or giving you bike a break on the train) back to Aylsham.

Alternatively, explore the coast beyond North Walsham on a ride all the way to Happisburgh (Haz-bruh) to view its unusual red and white striped lighthouse – East Anglia’s oldest and Great Britain’s only independent working light. The church tower here is a great beacon too – second only in size to that of St Peter & St Paul Cromer. Visit the village then cally by East Ruston’s Old Vicarage Gardens – a favourite refuelling stop – to see beacon tower and lighthouse, courtesy of the garden’s beautifully designed vistas. Dive off on a detour if you wish, to market town Stalham and Stalham Staithe for the Museum of the Broads, before returning via Swanton Abbotts and the railway path to Aylsham.

Get a real taste for the Norfolk Broads on a ‘figure of eight’ route which takes you right to its watery heart – and includes a brewery known for aptly named local ales like ‘Wherry’ and ‘Nelson’s Blood’. Take your bike on Norfolk’s longest narrow gauge railway to Hoveton, then cycle to the busy boating haven of Wroxham.

Round Wroxham Broad, the charming estate village of Woodbastwick awaits with its thatched church, well house on the green and much-loved brewery tap. Take a foot / bike ferry across the waterway and it’s well worth the quick whizz down and back to visit Ranworth whose church has a fine medieval rood screen and, literally above all, an accessible tower offering one of the best views of the Broads. Finally cycle through the Bure Marshes National Nature Reserve to bustling Horning on the north bank of the River Bure on the route back to Hoveton for a pedal along the traffic-free and railway track-hugging cycle path  - or a train-ride if you prefer- back to Aylsham .    

Mileage: Min 23 Max 39

Day Nine - On track again – this time for the fine city of Norwich

Start the day with traffic-free cycling along peaceful and secluded parts of an old railway line track-bed path, The Marriots Way, before encountering the impressive loneliness of Salle’s huge church stranded in the Norfolk countryside. Next up, Georgian market town Reepham has a history as a medieval pilgrimage site and clocks up not just two whole churches on the same site, but the remains of a third too! Destination of the day, Norwich however allegedly once had a church for every Sunday… and a pub for every day of the year. There are still a great crop of both to explore, including medieval church, rambling inn and merchant house survivals sitting alongside all the modern day razzmatazz of a vibrant city full of big name stores and excellent arts offerings.

A visit to the 900 year old cathedral is must and there are great walks through the precincts alongside the River Wensum. Dragon Hall, Strangers Hall and the old Bridewell are fine buildings and museums too, but to top it all, the imposing Norman castle right at the heart of the city boasts fascinating galleries full of everything from archaeology to fine art and the much-loved Twinings teapot collection.   
Overnight in Norwich.

Mileage: Rec: 23 Min 23 Max 24

Day Ten  – Back to the Brecks via more real treasures

With its many fine medieval buildings, Norwich is a fitting flint finale to a cycle tour starting and finishing near the Neolithic flint mines of the haunting Brecks. Of course there’ll be even more Norfolk flint finds on today’s pretty ride as you return to Watton through a myriad of little country villages clustered around historic greens, commons and outstretched parklands. Pedal southeast from Norwich and it’s not long before the mighty twin-towered abbey church of market town Wymondham comes into view. Wymondham has many half-timbered buildings to its name including its fine, octagonal market cross, but the great ‘abbey’ – originally a Benedictine priory founded in 1007 - steals the architectural show. Built from Caen stone like Norwich Cathedral as well as local flint, it’s über-impressive on the outside. Inside, the golden 20th century altar screen is opulent and breathtaking and the medieval angel roof is truly magnificent. 

Back on the Norfolk country lanes, detour perhaps to Georgian market town, Hingham, which saw half of its population emigrate to The New World in the 17th century. Amongst them was Samuel Lincoln, grandson of Richard Lincoln of Swanton Morley and ancestor of Abraham Lincoln who is celebrated in St Andrew’s church. Either way, you’ll spot Little Ellingham’s strange Victorian estate cottages. Built in a timely fashion, the clocktower cottages were home to the gardeners of the estate. No doubt they would have had something to say about the creeper-clad ruins of St Andrew’s Rockland further along the road towards Watton.
Overnight near Watton.

Mileage: Rec 31 Min 29 Max 31

Day Eleven – Depart after breakfast

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