Don’t be fooled by urbanites that write disparaging, snooty articles on Nelson’s County – if you’re looking to explore a part of the UK that’s worth its weight in gold, Norfolk’s your best bet. Tucked neatly away in the east corner of England, Norfolk is a destination that has remained unspoiled because it’s not a place you travel through – it’s a place you travel to. From sophisticated and fun-filled capital city Norwich, to the beauty of Cromer and Thetford Forest, there’s something for everyone – you just have to know where to look. The only thing you’ll need in order to get to grips with Norfolk properly is your own transport, so if you don’t own a vehicle, make sure you hire a car as Norfolk’s trains and buses aren’t known for their frequency.
If you decide to explore Norwich, don’t worry about time – it’s a small city that can easily be explored in a couple of days. Sights worth seeing include Norwich Castle, Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts (this is located near to the University of East Anglia) and Magdalen Street, which is packed full of chintzy cafes, charity shops and flea markets, and is a must for anyone who enjoys spending an afternoon looking for oddities and curiosities. If you’re thinking about evening entertainment, you can’t go wrong with a film in Cinema City, then a few drinks in Frank’s Bar – the staff there are incredibly kind.
If you’re after a bite whilst you’re in the city, there are plenty of cafes that will ensure you’re probably fed and watered without having to resort to a chain establishment. The Window Coffee in Wensum Street, Mustard Coffee Bar on Bridewell Alley and Olive’s (just off Elm Hill) are independent venues that’ll impress without breaking the bank. If you fancy going (and potentially staying) somewhere a bit more upmarket, Caistor Hall, which is located in the pretty nearby town of Caistor St Edmund, serves excellent food and has some wonderful rooms if you’re after a second honeymoon.
However, there’s more to Norfolk than just the bright lights of Norwich. The seaside towns dotted along the Norfolk coast range from the never-sleeping Great Yarmouth through to the picturesque towns Cromer (photo) and Holme. If you’re after somewhere with plenty of life, Sheringham is always worth a visit, as there are plenty of cafes and shops to peruse as you debate when to have your next ice cream. If you’re thinking about staying in Sheringham, try The Grove Guest house. It’s a beautifully secluded Georgian holiday home set within 3 acres of well-maintained gardens, with a heated indoor swimming pool if you’re after a place to practice your backstroke.
Finally, make sure that you don’t miss the opportunity to get some fresh air into your lungs and take advantage of all the wonderful walks that Norfolk has to offer. The Great Eastern Pingo Trail, which starts just outside of the village of Thomson, clocks in at just under 6 miles. It’s a great way to work off a roast dinner (talking of which, nearby pub The Chequers Inn sells fantastic homemade fare) and you’ll probably see plenty of wildlife. This trail is great for nature enthusiasts as there are plenty of places to sit quietly and wait to see animals make an appearance, and there are many shelters dotted around the circuit for avid birdwatchers.
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Vicky Anscombe is a freelance writer, based in Norfolk.